The Heart vs Ronda Rousey – HR Training

Great heart rate monitor, Polar FT4, light and reliabile. Great for forgetting about how fast you are going and how far, just go for time.

Great heart rate monitor, Polar FT4, light and reliabile. Great for forgetting about how fast you are going and how far, just go for time.

The brain is the most powerful tool in the universe, you will need all of that power to make it through this blog post.  From the Frontal Lobes ability to render creative ideas, problem solving, and intellect.  To the Medulla Oblongata, a portion of the brain stem that controls vital functions such as heart rate and breathing.  As a runner, both parts of these are very crucial.  You will need all the creative ideas the frontal lobe as to offer to get your sorry self outside for a run on days when you don’t want to.  Whether that means striking a deal with the devil, or deals with Danny, the neighborhood German Shepherd that will gladly chase you down the street for a lousy hot dog.  Note:  Just be sure to really have the hot dog for him, he knows where your carotid artery is,  and your powerful tool of a brain needs that artery.    The heart and the brain interact together, they let each other know what’s up.  The harder you run, the more your brain tells you how much pain you’re in.  Your brain, then picks up the phone and tells its friends the legs to shut it down a little, all while the heart is fiercely trying to keep up.  The brain is pretty much in control of this relationship, it wears the pants.  After a short case study of my peer group, most of the men have less control than the women in their relationships.  So what happens when you have an alpha brain?  It’s tough, loves to make you suffer, always can get you to push harder, can always get you out of bed in the morning.

My brain is Ronda Rousey.  I love running, but nothing stresses the body quite like cross country skate skiing.  Cross country ski legend Bjorn Daehlie has a v02 max of 96, Lance Armstrong is nestled in right below Steve Prefontaine at 84.   The physical output of the sport pushes the cardiovascular system and the brain to its limits.  An athlete’s v02 max is highly genetic, but can be improved via training by upwards of 15%.  A sport like marathon running and cycling don’t rely on v02 max like cross country skiing, and the insane heart rate some of the racers endure.  So what happens when your brain is Ronda Rousey, on someone with a body like mine?  Nothing good. ** Ronda Rousey is a bad ass MMA fighter, who can most likely kick your ass, unless you are Holly Holm **

I’m not a professional athlete, I will never be one.  I wanted things bad enough so I pushed as hard as I could go to get them, I’m probably quite average physically for an athlete.  I always said that if you are going to pass me in the last quarter mile of a race, it’ll be because I’m on the ground from blacking out.  A fight to the death mentality.  For one whole ski cross country ski season, I wore a heart rate monitor.  During that time I only kept tract of how far I was going and the time, I kept the heart rate semi hidden except for a few glances at the 190+ efforts.  During the 40 xc ski sessions I naturally pushed much harder than I should have.  Bear in mind this includes warm ups and cool downs, here is the data:

Average Heart Rate Overall:  164 (40 xc ski sessions)

20 Hours at Max Effort

7 hours 34 minutes at Very Hard Effort

2 hours 38 minutes at hard effort

62 minutes at moderate effort

19 minutes at easy effort


One of the most truly miserable races of my life, flat out from the gun.

So what happens when you torture the body like that?  You blow up.  You start running poorly, weight goes up, hair falls out, you get crabby, you tend to avoid people because the world is moving at about half the speed you would like it to be.  You start questioning your ability to run, you question even if you like running anymore.  You question the meaning of life.  The diet starts to slip, beer is now something that takes the edge off daily.  Pizza and beer go much better together than feet and running shoes.  Before you know it, the words, “I used to be a runner”, are all that’s left.  So what now?

Being so far out of shape, the only thing to turn to is a relationship counselor. Ronda was beating up my heart and body, and I needed a mediator.  The heart rate monitor. So following the Maffetone Method of 180 minus your age to stay aerobic, I rebuilt my base.  For a 30 year old man (I wish I was that young), that means 180-30 = 150.  If you work out actively for more than 2 years in a row without injury you can add 5 beats per minute.  Bringing the total to 155.  In 2.5 to 3 months I rebuilt my running base (“You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe”), keeping my heart rate at 155 or less for every run.  So what happened?  My body relied more on burning fat than sugar, my weight started to come down, and I was running 2:30 per mile faster at the same effort.  On top of that my legs always felt rather fresh, and recovered quickly between runs.  After 2-3 months you can resume intervals and speed work and higher intensity workouts or you stagnate in fitness.  Long slow runs, create a long, slow runner.  Click here to learn more about the Maffetone Method

The benefit of a heart rate monitor for someone who is over training, has a tendency to push too hard too often, and pushes too hard on long runs is a very valuable tool that can really save their running.  I find that many people run their long runs too fast, and their fast/hard runs too slow.  People who don’t understand physiology say that heart rate isn’t an accurate gauge and that you need to listen to your body.  I listened to my body jackass, look where it got me 🙂  If your body is stressed, or lacking sleep you may go for a run and it may be a tough run.  Your heart rate is probably higher than normal, putting stress on the body and getting you to your lactate threshold that much quicker.  If you wore a heart rate monitor you would see this.  If you are extremely anxious about a race, and you get to the start line and go out and crash, your heart rate was probably higher than normal at the start, pushing you to lactate threshold quicker thus shutting down your legs sooner.  The higher the temperature outside and humidity, the higher your heart rate will be putting more stress on the body.  Your heart rate is a tell all, for how your body is responding to the physiological and psychological stimulation that one is enduring.   I believe that in ultra marathons of 50-100 miles, running with a heart rate monitor using the Maffetone method, will keep you from exceeding your aerobic threshold and having a more stabile race throughout.

With any tool, you have to know how to use it.  When using a heart rate monitor you have to realize that while you warm up, it’s naturally going to be lower, don’t just go out and try to hit your upper aerobic limits.  You will also encounter cardiac drift, where after a certain time running the same effort, your heart rate will increase.  These are things you need to learn to take into account.

Think of a car, you can redline a car and get some more speed out of it right?  You can push that accelerator to the floor racing a quarter mile drag car, blowing past the redline and the competition.  Sometimes the engine will blow, sometimes you will succeed and set a new record.  When racing with a heart rate monitor its really important to consider which races are worth pushing yourself past the redline, just to finish a minute or two faster.  For many athletes a big, “A” race or a Boston qualifier is that race.  You want/need a certain time, and it’s a do or die effort.  Leave the heart rate monitor and home, use a running calculator and figure out your splits according to the course elevation, and leave it all out there.

If this article helps just one person pull themselves out of a deep rut with running, or to help avoid a burnout then it was worth writing.  A heart rate monitor is a great tool, give it a shot.  Congratulations, you have just finished what 85 percent of readers who started this article didn’t.  You finished!  Onward!  Go get some coffee.


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