Training by Numbers
When training by numbers, you may often have specific heart rate ranges, power ranges, or pace/mile indicators for a workout. These are often very specific to the athlete and can be utilized for maximized training, but they often take a back seat when the temps go up.
As the temperature increases, it requires a higher demand on your body to cool yourself during exercise. The bodies overall job during exercise in the heat is to keep the body cool to ensure you don’t overheat and hurt yourself. So while in cooler temperatures most of the blood flow is going to muscles to produce power/speed, in the heat most of the blood flow is going to the skin to try and cool the body. This results in higher heart rates for most individuals while also producing slower times or lower power numbers.
What Causes Heart Rate Spike or Lower Power Numbers?
In the heat as noted above, the blood flow focuses on your skin vs muscles to ensure a cooling effect is taking place. Also, as the heat continues and you become dehydrated in your training day, this puts more strain on your heart which can also result in much higher heart rates as your body now must work even harder due to your body being out of balance.
For example, if you are used to training in March and running 7:00/miles at 150 beats per minute, in the heat of July/August you may have a 150 bpm reading on your watch but you may be running 7:45’s or 8:15’s. This doesn’t mean that you are any less fit, it just means your body isn’t in ideal conditions to produce an optimal performance. This can often create a brutal psychological battle within many athletes minds.
Using Heart Rate in the Summer Months
With so many factors already contributing to heart rate (training levels, dehydration, caffeine, stress, sleep, heat, etc) I often only recommend using heart rate in the summer for low level (base) workouts. The reason why I only program in base workouts with heart rate in the summer is because if we are doing a base workout, we often want to make sure we don’t go too hard. This is a great time to ensure we are working at a certain intensity. However, as efforts bump up and you go outdoors for long periods of time, I find it better to use perceived effort in the summer months to ensure that you are hitting a specific intensity and not becoming too distracted by the numbers. It becomes increasingly difficult to get all factors correct in the summer months, however we can always control perceived effort which puts the ball back in the athletes court for successful workouts.
My Coach Gave me a Hard Workout With HR This Summer
While there are general rules that I practice, they aren’t always implemented with each athlete (specific athletes require specific workouts). If I gave somebody a workout such as:
1 mile warm up
5x 1 mile @ 165-180 bpm
1 min standing recovery
1 mile cool down
This athlete may experience 4 different things from this workout. The athlete could:
- Experience that their body will not push to these limits in the summer because the body can not cool itself and will find a reduced heart rate at which to work at.
- The athlete will think this is a threshold workout (speed focused) and find that they are running endurance pace (speed) at these ranges and deem the workout a failure
- Heart rate is going crazy and they are spiking above 180 bpm because they are exceptionally fit and light but focused on hitting prior speed marks they had run.
- They run in the desired range but find their pace is very slow and become discouraged.
The only time that I may be scheduling workouts such as this in the summer months are if someone is nearing their peak race and we need to get specific to race demands. These workouts often show the athlete/coach where they currently are and what realistic expectations should be for the race.
When training in the heat, you must realize that your body is going through many different factors. Your body in 55-60 degrees fahrenheit is completely different than your body in 90-105 degrees fahrenheit. Focusing on pace/heart rate during these tough periods of the year can often lead to discouraged athletes and questioning of fitness. With run paces getting slower or power numbers dipping as heat increases, you must understand that it isn’t the fitness you are losing, its the flow of blood to your muscles and that this is needed in order to cool your body for continued training. I would urge you to focus more on effort during these summer months and let the numbers be what they are. You will do much more for your own confidence as well as your fast numbers once cooler temps come back in the Fall!
Disclaimer: These blogs are written in generalized statements. Each athlete will have different needs based on their fitness, their experience, their peak race schedule, etc.
For More information, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join Jeremy Brown and I for a coaching hangout on Wednesday at 10 AM Est.