In my first entry ( Running: what you should know before starting to run ) I told you about the benefits and advantages that we can get when practicing running, as well as offering you some brief tips that will be useful at the time you start in this sport.

Now, before starting to run, it is important that we know the intensity of work to which we must adapt, know how far we can go and what goals we want to achieve. Remember that the heart rate is an important variable in training.

Knowing and understanding the heart rate will help us to work on abilities such as resistance, speed, etc. The idea is to have a heart rate monitor that is programmed with your recommended beats. It will help you to see in which areas you move (I will comment on them below) and to warn you, if necessary, that you are overcoming the established pulsations.

Starting with the basics

The Maximum Cardiac Frequency (FCM) must be determined. We will learn (the one that does not know) to calculate.

  • Heart rate at rest (FCR): we can take the pulse in different parts of the body, but I personally prefer to take this in the neck (on the carotid artery) or with the heart rate monitor. What I do to take the pulse in the neck is to place lightly the index finger and the middle finger on the angle of the chin and count the beats during 15 sec. Then I multiply the pulsations obtained by 4. Tip: take heartbeats throughout the week.
  • Maximum heart rate (FCM): the most common equation to calculate the FCM, which is the “formula of age”, I do not recommend it too much because it is not well focused for athletes, but rather for sedentary people (220-age for men; 226-age for women).

I prefer to use this one, which is somewhat more complicated but is much closer to reality (Tanaka et al (2001)).

FCM both sexes = 208.75 – (0.73 x age). Others that I also consider very accurate (Ball State University). FCM male = 209 – (0.7 x age). FCM women = 214 – (0.8 x age).

Note that, apart from age and sex, other factors such as weight, height, diet, hours of work, rest, etc. are involved. It is best to do stress tests (under the supervision of a professional) to determine your heart rate and/or have a heart rate monitor, as I mentioned earlier.

Training areas

We will see the different ranges of effort according to objectives and physical condition. If part of a sedentary level (no sports), risk groups or the physical level is not too good, it is recommended not to force much and stay around 40% -75% of the FCM.

-Intensity A (50% -60%): a very low effort that will serve people who are starting and have a low physical level. It also serves for recovery work after having undergone more intense training, to perform warm-up and/or return to calm, for people suffering from some type of heart disease and for basic adaptations.

-Intensity B (60% -70%): a mild or moderate effort that is recommended to maintain a good habit both physical and health. Depending on the quantity/quality, we can start to burn fat and lose weight if it is the desired objective. It can also be used to start working basic physical resistance. If you start from an adequate physical level, this area can be worked without problems.

-Intensity C (70% -80%): adaptations very similar to those of the previous area, but adding more intensity we will be able to burn more calories and improve physical capacities such as aerobic resistance. This area is recommended for people who practice sports regularly and have a good physical level.

Notes: zone B can be a good method to work long distances since the effort to be moderate will allow us to hold more and will help us to complete the race in the best possible way. Zone C can be worked in short-medium distances or in changes of rhythm since the effort is greater and we will be spending much more energy.

In zone B we will be spending mainly fatty acids and carbohydrates. At higher intensity, as is the case of zone C, the use of HC will be greater, and therefore the energy will be lower.

-Density D (80% -90%): an intense effort that will help us improve performance and work with high intensity in future workouts. We can work very close to the anaerobic threshold (above or below) or even within it. It is recommended for short sessions or work on slopes. You should know that the consumption of calories in this area is very high, so it is advisable not to go over and measure the training well. The physical condition must be high to work in this range.
Notes: at high intensity, greater use of lactic acid. The workouts will be more complicated and at certain moments you will be able to perform with the absence of oxygen.

Intensity E (90% -100%): last area, very far for many. Here the effort is maximum or total. An anaerobic training that must be worked in very short periods of time. The physical level must be very high, and the training must be very controlled (by a professional, preferably) since in this range certain health risks can appear if it is not planned or executed correctly.
Notes: in this last area you will improve your speed and work above the anaerobic threshold. You will use much more oxygen than you can afford. Recommended for specific athletes or those dedicated to high performance.

Practical example

Ethan is a 27-year-old boy who wants to do 70% training. For this we must calculate the following:

FCR = 65 PPM

FCM (male) = 209 – (0.7 x 27)

FCM = 190.1 PPM

Pulsations for an intensity C (70% -80%):

Karvonen’s formula

FCR + ((FCM – FCR) x% intensity)

65 + ((190.1 – 65) x 70%) = 152.6 PPM

To work at that intensity, Ethan will have to set a pace at which he can maintain 152.6 PPM (beats per minute).

Remember that the formulas are used to estimate (are not accurate) physiological results, being able to avoid the so-called stress tests. Everything I have mentioned above can be applied to other sports, such as swimming.


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