Monitoring your resting heart rate can be a valuable tool for evaluating your fitness and performance goals in running. The heart is a muscle that with training will be able to provide adequate blood to the body at rest with a lower number of beats per minute. Since the amount of blood the heart is moving will stay the same at a resting level, the fitter heart is able to snap out more blood on each beat after the effects of training have been absorbed by the body.

How to take resting heart rate: To take a resting heart rate count your pulse on your wrist or neck for 15 seconds and multiple by 4. Do this before rising at the same time each morning. If unfeasible to do before rising in the morning lie down at the same time each day and relax for 20 minutes. At the end of this rest period take the pulse rate on a 15 second count. Document this value in your training log each day.

Why is this useful: In addition to enjoying the reinforcement that your fitness is improving by observing a lower resting heart rate from your regular running the consistent record keeping of your resting heart rate is important for your training and your coach in 2 ways.

1. A resting heart rate 5 or more beats above normal is an early indication of overtraining, stress or impending illness. By catching the symptoms early you or your coach can modify training as needed to alleviate larger problems resulting in more time away from running.

2. Along with an accurate maximum heart rate, resting heart rate can be utilized to develop heart rate training zones specific for your current level of fitness. To use your resting heart rate to accurately hit a goal heart rate zone follow these steps

a. Maximum heart rate – Resting heart rate = Heart rate reserve

b. Heart rate reserve x Goal exercise intensity (%) =% of heart rate reserve

c. % of heart rate reserve + resting heart rate= Goal heart rate for workout

Employing heart rate training zones that utilize a known resting heart rate along with an accurate maximum heart rate will ensure you are training at the proper intensities for your current level of fitness. Training intensities that do not take into account your resting heart rate will be significantly less accurate.

If you do not know your maximum heart rate I recommend the following equation. HR max = 205.8 - (0.685 * age).

Although no equation will accurately predict your maximum heart rate, this equation was shown to have the lowest range of error (+/- 6.4 beats per minute) when evaluated against 43 other calculations for maximum heart rate.

Using heart rate to monitor exercise intensity is most useful at the lower running intensities and should be used in conjunction with your corresponding training paces. My future articles will address ways to calculate maximum heart rate and use heart rate training zones most effectively.

Regularly monitoring resting heart rate is a simple and effective way to prevent over training. By ensuring enough recovery between workouts you will be less likely to become injured or chronically fatigued because of your training load and life stresses.

To get started using your heart rate data to train more efficiently visit Custom Training Paces and Heart Rate Zones to receive your 8 Custom Training Paces and the corresponding heart rate training zones.

Long may you run,

Sean Coster
Head Coach
Founder-Complete Running Programs