As a runner, you may have considering tracking your heart rate while running, but didn’t know why you should do it, or how it could help. In order to get the most out of any workout, it’s important to understand your body and how it responds to exercise. One of the best ways to gauge whether you’re pushing yourself too hard, or not hard enough, is to measure your heart rate.
Running is a great way to stay fit and healthy, but it can also be hard on your body. Knowing what your average heart rate is while running can help you set realistic goals and stay in the optimal range for achieving them.
Keeping track of your heart rate during a run allows you to use different heart rate training methods that will change your running results! As with all training it won’t happen over night, but will happen over the course of a full race training cycle.
The average heart rate while running is between 120BPM to 150BPM, but what does that mean? It’s a much larger discussion to know where you should be! I’m going to do my best to help you understand and maximize your running time. Because remember average doesn’t mean ideal.
In this article, we will discuss why you should consider tracking your heart rate while running, what the benefits are for heart rate training, and the two different heart rate training methods you can use to train better starting today.
What is Heart Rate Training?
Heart rate training uses the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm) to track how hard you’re working while running, or your effort levels.
This can be a very effective way for runners to train because it helps them stick to certain levels of intensity and effort. This ensures you are getting the right impact from each workout. For easy days that’s building your aerobic engine without over taxing the body, while on hard days we want to truly tap in to intensity!
Using both ends of the spectrum can help you reach your training goals more quickly and efficiently.
We’ll describe the different types of HR training below.
It’s important to keep in mind that the average heart rate while running is not set in stone. It can vary from person to person, and even from day to day for the same person. Factors such as stress levels, sleep patterns, and hydration levels can all affect heart rate.
Which once again just proves that HR training is a great way to really pay attention to how your body is feeling and let that guide especially your easy run days over pace.
Checkout this resting HR for runners article to understand more of what heart rate call tell you!
Why Consider Heart Rate While Running?
An effective running or workout plan will include a variety of workouts with varying frequency, duration, and intensity that are spaced out to allow for recovery.
This implies that some workouts should be quick and intense, others should be long and light, and still others may be long and challenging. Variety is what makes your running routine effective.
One of the most accurate measures of how hard your body is working during a run is your heart rate.
There are three indicators that we commonly use to effectively measure a running or workout session:
- Frequency: It’s simple to understand what frequency is. It’s the number of times you work out over a given period of time, like a week. (i.e. running 4 days or 6)
- Duration: Duration is also straightforward. It refers to how long you exercise at a time, typically measured in minutes. (i.e. 45 minute workout or 2 hour long run)
- Intensity: Intensity is a little trickier, which is where the heart rate zones come in. During a run, your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working.
Your heart rate, like the frequency and duration of your workouts, is something objective that can be quantified instead of evaluating it on subjective terms.
It’s more accurate than other measures such as RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and can help give you accurate results over time.
Who Should Use Heart Rate Training?
Heart rate training can be very helpful for most runners. A complete beginner, might prefer starting with rate of perceived effort (RPE) while running.
When a runner first starts out, their heart rate rises quickly. This can be frustrating because it appears that the only way to reduce it is to slow down to a walk or even stop. And 100% I often recommend that new runners, go back and work on power walking then transition to run/walk.
In doing that, you truly build a better base that allows you to run without your HR spiking so quickly!
The average heart rate while running depends on a variety of factors, including age, sex, body composition, fitness level, weather, elevation and the intensity of the workout. Generally, the higher the intensity of the workout, the higher the heart rate.
What are the Benefits of Heart Rate Training?
Since everyone has a different resting and maximum heart rate, training based on that information provides a more personalized workout.
Each runner determines their own zones based on the results of a few tests. This means that the zones you train in are tailored to your individual training needs, age, fitness levels, and gender.
If we go into a workout with predetermined heart rate zones, we can more easily maintain those zones throughout the entire workout. It can shake us out of a sluggish patch and ensure that we are exerting the appropriate amount of effort, or it can help us avoid fatigue and overtraining by preventing us from exerting ourselves needlessly.
When training, most of us overextend ourselves, so knowing our limits ahead of time allows us to back off when necessary.
Once you’ve determined your own specific heart rate training zones, you can modify your watch’s settings so that it not only displays the beats per minute delivered by your monitor but also constantly indicates you which zone you’re in.
This makes things even simpler, since you no longer have to learn the ranges of each zone, as your watch automatically shows them.
You can check your watch to see where you are in your current zone during your run as you stick to the particular directions for each session. You can even set up alarms that will go off if you leave a certain zone.
Since we’re more likely to remain in our target zones when using a heart rate training approach, it can help prevent overtraining and decrease the risk of injuries. Running at the right pace and intensity also makes it easier for us to stay on course and achieve our fitness goals.
What Equipment Do I Need to Heart Rate Train?
If you’ve been training for a while, you probably already own a running watch that measures pace, distance, and time. A heart rate monitor can be connected to most training watches, and many of the more recent models come with one already built in.
If a monitor is already integrated into your watch, the reading will be taken from your wrist. If it doesn’t have one, you can buy a separate chest, arm, or ear heart rate monitor that will measure and send the information directly to your watch so you can keep track of your beats per minute while training.
There are quite a few options on the market when it comes to heart rate monitoring. Check out my complete guide to the best heart rate monitors to find the one that’s best for you.
You will get the most reliable reading if you make sure the monitor is securely fastened in place. It’s possible to get a skewed reading if the monitor is too shaky and loose.
How to Train Using Heart Rate While Running
There are two main methods you can use to train using heart rate while running. Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
1. Maffetone Method (Low Heart Rate Training)
The Maffetone Method, also known as low heart rate training, is a popular approach to running that focuses on maintaining a low heart rate while running.
This method was developed by Dr. Philip Maffetone and is based on the idea that running at a lower intensity can help you become more efficient and reduce your risk of injury.
The Maffetone Method involves calculating your maximum aerobic heart rate (MAHR) and then running at a pace that keeps your heart rate below this number.
This is calculated using the ‘MAF 180 formula’ by subtracting your age from 180, and then making further adjustments based on your current fitness level.
I’ve explained this method in detail in my guide on how to implement a low heart rate training method. It’s my preferred method of training since it forces runners to build a base for running in LHR.
I’ve been personally following this method since 2011 and have documented and shared all the results of my LHR training I’ve experienced along the way, to give you a better idea of what it can do for you.
If you’re trying to figure out the Maffetone method is right for you, what the benefits and drawbacks are, as well as how to exactly calculate your your heart rate using the 180 formulate, check out my complete guide to Maffetone Training.
I’ve also shared LHR training results for a client I trained, to help you better understand how LHR method works and what you can expect from it.
How to Train Using Low Heart Rate Method (Maffetone Method)
Maffetone Method (low heart rate method) is a great for training, but what you’ll find after hours of Googling is that he doesn’t provide a training plan and there isn’t a set template either.
But after years of doing this myself as a running coach and by helping others train, I have a system that seems to work. I’ve put it all together along with some basic tips to help you easily implement the Low Heart Rate training method.
That’s how I came up with my Low Heart Rate Training plans that’ll give you everything you need to train with this method all in one place.
Who is this for: Anyone who’s tried of hitting the same wall over and over again, or just fed up of the constant fatigue during training. Or anyone who’s looking to build a foundation for running that will truly last.
What’s included: Level 1 and Level 2 half marathon plans, Level 1 and Level 2 marathon training plans, tips for implementation, how to incorporate speed workouts in MAF program, and other things you’ll need such as dynamic warm up routine, cross training options, and core training workout.
2. Heart Rate Zones
The second method of training with heart rate while running is to use heart rate zones. This approach involves dividing up the range of your heart rate into different zones and then running at a pace that keeps you in the desired zone.
The most common way to divide up the range of your heart rate is to use five zones, which are:
- Zone 1: 50-60% of your maximum heart rate
- Zone 2: 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
- Zone 3: 70-80% of your maximum heart rate
- Zone 4: 80-90% of your maximum heart rate
- Zone 5: 90-100% of your maximum heart rate
Each zone has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to understand what each one is used for and how it can help you reach your running goals.
For example, Zone 2 is great for recovery runs and easy days, while Zone 5 is best for sprinting and pushing yourself to the limit.
I’ve written a complete guide to heart rate zone training that goes into the uses of training in each heart rate zone, as well as the benefits.
How to Train with Heart Rate Zones
If you’re looking to use heart rate zones for training, it’s important to understand how to calculate your maximum heart rate since each of the zones are calculated based on your maximum heart rate.
That’s another thing I’ve explained in detail in my guide since there are five different methods you can use to calculate it.
Once you have your heart rate zones set up, it’s time to start training. Depending on your goals, you can use different combinations of the five zones to reach them.
Read about the benefits of training in different zones and their uses in my complete guide to heart rate zone training to learn everything you need to know about this method and how to train using it.
Normal Heart Rate for Running
When running, it’s difficult to pinpoint a normal heart rate because heart rate varies from runner to runner. And it’s going to really depend on what type of workout you’re doing.
HOWEVER, in general if you’re doing an easy run that should start in Zone 1 and stay in Zone 2. The better aerobic base you build, the more you’ll be able to run with a lower HR. On easy days, you absolutely shouldn’t be seeing 160BPM, ideally it’s at least under 150BPM.
Because I’ve focused on HR since 2011, my easy runs are often 120-135 and that’s no walk breaks needed, just often a 10 minute mile.
NOTE: If your HR is always high, but you can easily chat that’s often a sign your watch is wrong. A chest strap is the gold standard for accurate measurements.
What one runner thinks is “normal” might be very high or very low for another runner. Instead, it might be better to think about your target heart rate while running. As noted above, this range is determined by a percentage of your maximum heart rate.
For a run of moderate intensity, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends keeping your maximum heart rate between 50 and 70 percent. One study they conducted with 657 participants found the average heart rate while running to be 140-150 BPM. Which is higher than the recommended! For a 40-year-old, that’s 90 to 126 beats per minute.
So SLOW your roll folks.
For speed work, like a tempo run, you can go up to 85% of your max heart rate, as long as you don’t already have any pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.
And in general, you don’t want to work out for too long at 90–100% of your max heart rate, so do it in short bursts like sprint interval training.
Factors that Influence Average Heart Rate while Running
The body requires more oxygen when running. In response, the heart rate increases to allow for a greater blood circulation throughout the body.
Your heart rate will increase as you work harder during exercise, such as by working out with heavier weights or running faster.
The average heart rate while running can be affected by a number of factors, just like the resting heart rate (RHR). These include many of the same variables that influence RHR, such as age, level of physical activity, hydration, sleep, and any medications you may be using currently.
Additional considerations include the environment, stress levels, and caffeine intake.
Heat and Humidity
The heart has to work extra hard in hot and humid conditions to help the body maintain a comfortable temperature. This additional strain causes the heart rate to rise sooner into a run than it would on a cooler day.
Increased cardiovascular stress manifests as a number of physiological changes, including a higher heart rate, in response to hot and humid environmental conditions.
Proper hydration also affects heart rate in hot and humid environments. A study in the Journal of Athletic Training showed that for every 1% of body mass lost through sweat, heart rate can increase by 3 to 5 beats per minute (BPM).
While caffeine (yes that coffee as pre-workout) has been shown to improve performance, it can also cause an increase in heart rate, especially when taken in large amounts.
If you are interested in using caffeine as a tool before or during your races, it is recommended that you test its effects during training, as caffeine tolerance during exercise varies among individuals.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that caffeine can increase heart rate, cause anxiety, upset stomach, and increase irritability, all of which are not ideal conditions for running.
Your body can suffer physically and mentally as a result of stress and stressful situations.
Chronic stress, which shows up as high cortisol levels in the blood, is linked to a number of health problems, and short-term acute stress can also affect the health of the heart, including the heart rate.
According to an article published in the Journal of American Medical Association, increased heart rate is just one of the many physiological responses to increased emotional and physical stress.
Can Your Heart Rate Be Too Low As a Runner?
Runners often have a lower resting heart rate (RHR) than less active people, and it is normal for RHR to go down as aerobic endurance goes up.
Most runners and other endurance athletes have a RHR between 40 and 60 beats per minute, but it could be as low as 30 beats per minute.
Unfortunately this can throw off some doctors. So just let them know you are an athlete.
Even though this is normal, you should see a doctor if your heart rate is dropping and you don’t feel well and have symptoms of any illness.
What If My Heart Rate Is Too High While Running?
If your heart rate is too high while running, it could be a sign of any of the things we mentioned above!! It is important to monitor your heart rate during exercise and take breaks when needed.
Remember that it’s going to change by the day.
There could be a number of reasons why your heart rate is high when running. After getting tons of messages from all of you about running with a high heart rate, I wrote a post to answer all those questions that I recommend you check out.
If you are still having issues with a high heart rate while running, it is best to consult with your doctor.
How to Optimize Your Heart Rate When Running
Attention to heart rate during runs can be a helpful tool to dial in your training. I’ve pointed to a number of resources because this alone is a massive topic. But I’ll give you a few places to start.
Here are a few ways to optimize your running heart rate:
If you’re just starting out, getting back into it after a break, or building up to a longer distance, try run- walk. A run-walk method can help you maintain a healthy heart rate as your body adapts to the new workload
When running, your heart rate should remain within a certain range in order for you to get the most out of your workout. If your heart rate is too high, it can be a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard and need to slow down.
On the other hand, if your heart rate is too low, it could mean that you are not pushing yourself enough. Paying attention to your heart rate while running can help you optimize your performance and reach your goals.
Dehydration is a major factor in determining your heart rate while running. When you’re dehydrated, your body has to work harder to maintain its normal functions. This puts additional stress on the heart.
That leads to an increase in your heart rate during exercise, making it difficult to maintain a steady pace and reach your goals.
To prevent dehydration-related increases in heart rate while running, make sure to stay hydrated before, during, and after your runs.
Yes that means even DURING your runs, you should be carrying water in a hydration pack or running belt.
Regular aerobic exercise like running, walking, or swimming can have a significant impact on heart rate.
During exercise, your heart rate increases as your body works harder to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscles that need it. Over time, regular aerobic exercise can reduce your resting heart rate. The heart becomes stronger and more efficient at pumping.
When you first start running, it’s important to be consistent with your workouts. This will help you build up your endurance and optimize your heart rate while running. As you’d expect with consistency the body wants to adapt. It wants to perform better.
Whew that was a massive amount of information about heart rate and I gave you a ton of additional resources. I hope it helps you better understand the average heart rate while running and how you can work on it.
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish