Low HR Training


Too soon to panic? (Read 218 times)

Chasing the bus

    I've been running low HR for at least 11 weeks. I got my HRM about 9/11 after starting slow running without. My paces with the HRM showed my pace before to be pretty much spot on, or even slow (12mm). I am not getting faster yet. I actually thought i was getting slower, but there seems to be a lot of variability in my pace. I often start at 10mm, usually finish long runs over 11:30mm (avg.), and shorter runs vary quite a bit, but that might be terrain and stuff. I've been slowly building mileage, trying to get to 30-40 MPW. Finally there, now (30 last week, 33 this week).


    I didn't really know about not eating before a run, but I've never been able to run with food on my stomach, and LOTS of them, have been first thing in the morning, just coffee (I don't run decaffeinated, more later). Two weeks ago, i ran 11 miles, my longest run ever. It wasn't hard. the last mile, though, I was decidedly stoned. It really felt like hypoglycemia (I know that feeling pretty well). In an effort to preclude that, this week i ran 12 miles on my long run, had a light breakfast before, and a few jelly beans during the run. No hypoglycemia.


    A few years ago, I tried Atkins. First go around I could not transition to "ketosis" (Atkin's term for fat burning), no matter how long I waited. I went off the diet, gave up caffeine, and after a week of pain (every joint hurt!), I tried again...presto! I fell right into "ketosis". After that, Atkins was easy, and I enjoyed fat burning, for the endless energy, but tired of the diet and missed coffee.


    I mention all this in an effort to figure out what is going on. I wonder if my caffeine intake (down to 2 cups a day for the last month) is again interfering? if that's the case, I'm pretty sure I don't care. I like coffee. I don't like decaff. I DON'T WANT TO QUIT! (emphasis intended) I don't do soda, eat reduced carbs as a habit, now, and don't worry about fat intake unless I'm trying to drop a coupla pounds quickly, and even then, I don't worry much.


    Yes, lots of my runs have had HR creeping above 131 (my 180-age). My local runs have lots of hills. It gets there before I know it. I also have lots of spikes, even using Buh-Bump, so it's hard to know when to take those spikes seriously, though usually I can tell just by my breathing.  Sometimes, though, late in a run, it's hard to believe its as high as it is, as slow and easy as I'm running and breathing.


    I've scheduled myself to go off in a couple of weeks and start some anaerobic training, and do a couple of small races while on vacation in Hawaii. My plan was to try this, check my paces against pre-maffetone, and go from there. After reading the faq, here, I could be convinced I need to be even more disciplined controlling my HR, and need more time at low HR.


    So, if anyone has experience with the caffeine side of this, or any other observations, I'm open. I don't have much for resting HR history. I just keep forgetting. It is 10 bpm lower now than when I started running 18 months ago.





    My log; http://www.runningahead.com/logs/08b78dba209146deae05029c867b321b

    “You're either on the bus or off the bus.”
    Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

      I drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day, and thought it might be affecting my heart rate during morning runs. So lately, I've been limiting myself to half a cup before morning runs, and drinking the rest to warm up when I get back. That does seem to help. I occasionally do a late afternoon or evening run, and find my HR is lower then, too, presumably since it's been many hours since the coffee. 

        Hi John,


        I'm writing to you over a delicious hot cup of organic coffee from a foreign land.

        Welcome to LHR-land.


        Do you have any runs, like an MAF test, that you've run on the same exact course at MAF? Are you on a plateau or are you slowing down?


        If you are on plateau and haven't improved your aerobic speed (speed at MAF), then that means adjustments need to be made. It's always a training load issue. Here in Maffetone-land, your training load is not just the tie miles you put in and how fast, but is the sum total of your training, diet, and life stress.


        Caffeine does affect the adrenals, which are one of the glands, that when overstressed, will affect your aerobic speed. Too many stress hormones, if chronic, can slow you down. Abnormally high stress (for you) that lasts for weeks on end can retard your aerobic system. Too much caffeine can add to that stress load. The interesting thing is that caffeine helps the body use fat for for energy, which is what LHR training is about. But it all depends on those  other stress factors. Like every human eventually faces, I've been through really stressful times, and in those times, my speed at MAF jumped of a cliff. Bigtime slowing at the same HR. I still drank coffee, it's a constant. For many years now, I keep the caffeine at low levels. I drink a half-caff blend, with a total of about 2-3 tablespoons of regular coffee a day, and perhaps 3-4 of decaf---all mixed together--about two 16 ounce coffees a day. I've done this through easy/regular as well as stressful times. During regular times, my aerobic speed has improved despite drinking coffee.


        Now there are other possibilities why you would be on a plateau:


        1) Not of enough aerobic volume. 20-30 isn't enough, where your sweet spot might be 40-50. But I've seen improvement on 20-30 miles per week. Then it becomes not enough, and I have add more volume.


        2) Your MAF calculation is incorrect, and perhaps you should be using (180-age) -5 beats as an MAF. Some people come to this training with a very poor aerobic system, which means your MAF is 5+ beats or more lower than your 180-age. Clues to this are slowing down in race and training times. Injuries and sore spots. Feeling tired and overtrained. Dr. Phil Maffetone has seen stuck people begin to improve when they take the recommended adjustments. Think of the MAF as the point where your anaerobic energy system or fibers (type 2) begin to kick in ever so slightly. Just a few beats over and it increases a lot. If you were to get a respiratory quotient test (RQ), and graphed your fat/sugar burning/heart rate, you would see a steep increase in sugar burning and HR as your intensity increases past your MAF. In Maffetone world, this means your becoming more anaerobic and less aerobic. It's about the fuel being used for energy. A person with a horrible RQ can have MAF's as much as 10+ beats below 180-age. A person in such a state needs to keep the intensity very easy. Even just a few beats over their MAF for too long a time can set them back. Check this out:


        From the famous "Want Speed, Slow Down" article by Dr. Maffetone article floating about the internet:


        a. If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness (heart disease, high blood pressure, any operation or
        hospital stay, etc.) or you are taking medication, subtract an additional 10.

        b. If you have not exercised before or have been training inconsistently or injured, have not recently
        progressed in training or competition, or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, or have
        allergies, subtract an additional 5.



        3) You need to add a tempo run or speed work. Not sure how long you were running slow before you came to LHR training with the HRM, but sometimes a plateau means it's time for including intensities higher than your MAF. Like marathon-pace tempos, lactate threshold work, or racing.


        4) Not warming up properly. Take at least 15 minutes, raising your HR slowly to your target zone. Make sure to cool-down with a walk afterwards.



        So, John, if you're feeling good with no soreness or elevated resting heart rate (monitor your RHR daily), then it's a matter of experimenting. Increased volume at MAF might do the trick. Or lowering it 5 beats might. With coffee, try going half-caff and see if that does it. Maybe the coffee is a tipping point for you in terms of stress hormones. You might have a coffee sweet spot of just one tablespoon less a day.


        And if you're feeling good, try a tempo run at MRP heart rate,  or a 20 minute run in the 80-90% MHR range once a week. That might get you moving. If your aerobic speed gets worse, then it wasn't the answer.


        Monitoring aerobic speed is the key. MAF test. You need to have a run that you do the same way every time at MAF that you can monitor.


        I hope this helps a bit. Feel free to ask questions.



        Chasing the bus

          Thanks for the responses. I've been reading them and researching.


          Re; MAF test - no, not formally. Since, however, I run one of four courses, as close as possible to my aerobic HR, every time,  each run over 4 miles is pretty much an MAF, no?


          Stress - yes, of course. Everyone has it. It's how we get stronger, I know. My primary stresses are work and training (running).


          I work in a remote location, 7x12 hr days, then fly home for 7 days off. My work is not usually physically stressful, but for August and September, it was. Our busy season has passed, and it's been slow again for about 4 weeks. I tried to keep running through that, but the volume was only about 15 mpw. I also work shift work occasionally, 6pm to 6am. This is also a lot of stress, changing sleep cycles. I've only worked one other night shift in the last three months (that was middle of Oct., and I'm on nights now).


          I've been training Maffetone style for around 11 weeks. I started after feeling tired and sluggish around August during training, and getting slower. I had been running nearly all 'quality" workouts all summer. I decided to slow down, do some base-building, and maffetone dovetailed nicely with that. I read the book. I've been building my volume to over 30mpw now, planning to consolidate at 35 for a couple of weeks.


          My web research did not turn up what I remembered about caffeine and endocrinology from reading Atkins book years ago, so I may be remembering wrong. Maffetone is right about reducing those low blood pressure dizzy spells (standing too fast, usually), by reducing caffeine. That's why I went back to 2 a day, from 4, about a month ago. I kept nearly blacking out several times a day. it's better now.


          I used the log tools, here to look back at my paces, and noticed something that seems to have an effect, and seems obvious now. My night shift paces are slower...duh. Sleep cycle disruptions are stressful...duh. I also wonder about the stress of increasing my mileage. I could be glad I've increased training volume while maintaining my aerobic pace?


          Responses to jimmyb's points;


          1) Volume:  I've been trying to build volume without getting injured. I did have a setback in the spring with a hip injury that sidelined me for 3 weeks. Doc's never did give me a good diagnosis, but I'm running on it without NSAIDS, only occasional twinges.


          2) MAF: Quite possibly, I've no idea. I started running seriously about this time last year. At the time, I knew it was late in life to be starting a career in distance running (I'm 49). Prior to that I'd been slacking for nearly a decade, gaining too much weight. I'm used to being fit, though. The last decade was anomalous. I did make very good progress, initially, and was quite happy with my performance, right up until August.


          3) Anaerobic work:  I'm looking forward to it. my current plan is for three more weeks of LHR work, then mixing in some anaerobic sessions.


          4) Warm ups: ...are a problem, especially with my work sched. Working 12 hrs, and running 1 hr, with time for a shower and eating, it gets crowded. I usually ramp up slow the first mile, and call it good. It's not optimal, but I'm running still.


          FWIW, I tried running this "morning" (working nights, here) no coffee or breakfast...5 miles - no real difference, except possibly it took just a little longer for my HR to come up, and I was dumber than usual. I'll try it again a couple more times.


          Of course, repeating any run with consistency is a problem, this time of year, with weather being a bigger factor. I ran tonight at -5F, which is fine, but I'm wearing SO MUCH GEAR! And my phone, which is my HRM, dies in those temps...still working on a workaround.


          BTW; this is a nice place. Glad I found you all. Of course, your only enabling my latest obsession. Thanks!



          “You're either on the bus or off the bus.”
          Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

            In the summer of 2010, I gave up caffeine.  I was very sick with some kind of stomach flu, and could not eat much.  So, I stopped drinking coffee, and as a result, I had the withdrawel symptoms, which were headaches.  I offset that with tylenol for about a week and a half.  Once I got better, I stayed off of the caffeine.  I was definitely not dependent on it anymore, but psychologically, I missed it.


            Especially at work.  I sit in front of a computer, most of the day, and always liked the boost I got from caffeine.  I started drinking non-caffeinated teas instead. 


            So, I was now completely caffeine free.  And the affects on my running were very positive.  I definitely had my best Fall running season with PRs.  But, the most noticeable affect was on training.


            The main difference is that I no longer experienced sessions where it seemed like it was hard to get my heart rate up.  When I drank a lot of coffee, it just seemed to throw off my system so that I could not predict what my sessions would be like.  They varied so much.  Sometimes, I would go for a run, and my heart rate would just come right up and the run would feel effortless.  Other times, I would go for a run, and I could feel my whole system was off.  It would feel like it was a great effort to get the HR up, and the effort felt much harder, even with a lower HR.


            This was especially true if I ever tried to run in the morning before eating and having caffeine.  I always had attributed my problems with running first thing in the morning, to the fact that I did not have food yet.  But, after I gave up caffeine, I was able to run first thiing in the morning without a problem, even though I did not have food.  So, I knew it was the caffeine, not the food that was the issue.


            I recall reading something about how we have a central governer that controls our aerobic system.  It definitely felt like caffeine interfered with the central governer, for me.


            Caffeine definitely throws of my system, but after the 2010 season, I started to only have a little caffeine, mixing decaf and caffeinated coffee together, which I still do now, so my caffeine intake is not too much now, but I know that no caffeine would be better for me.  I would like to go back to that, but it is really hard to give up.


            The other nice thing about not having caffeine at all, was that when it came to racing, a single cup of coffee really provided a nice boost for that race.  The caffeine definitely can boost a running performance in the short run.  But, only if you are not drinking it regularly.