Thursday, November 20, 2014

Avoid the Target Heart Rate Trap for Walking Training: 2337.8 to 2378 miles: 11/20/14

Runners train to improve aerobic capacity using target heart rate. Is this equally effective for walkers or is it a trap?

Buy on Amazon
Virtual Hike
Animated Street View
Today's Weather
Completed Segment 36

I missed a couple days of posting so the distance appears long.

The route continues along Rt. 12 in central Montana. The shoulder is narrow with good visibility for about 10 miles and then gets wide again. There are no services along the road. 
Buy On Amazon

Avoid the Target Heart Rate Trap for Walking Training


Many runners use a target heart rate for training in order to improve aerobic capacity. This works well for running, but it cannot work well for walking. What can a virtual hiker use instead? 

The Mexican drug cartel murdered
43 students in September

What is target heart rate training?

Some runners measure their heart rate while training and attempt to hit specific goals based on their heart rate. The target heart rates are a percentage of maximum heart rate. I prefer to describe the levels using physical symptoms.

  1. Easy - Runners don't like to walk. The symptom for easy jogging would be as slow as a person can jog without walking. This is a recovery pace in between faster intervals. Personally, I always found it best to walk or sit down for recovery when I was a runner.
  2. In between. This would be a conversational "run." It is a little faster than jogging, but the runner should be able to carry on a conversation. The theory is to avoid this level as there is little aerobic training while the legs get more miles which can lead to injury.
  3. Anaerobic Threshold - This is a comfortable run, but fast enough so the runner cannot carry on a conversation. Breathing is controlled, but heavier. This is the speed where a "runner's high" often occurs after about 20 minutes or three miles.
  4. Pushing the pace - Breathing is still controlled but the runner can't run many miles at this pace.
  5. Puking fast - If the runner keeps this pace too long, they may puke when they stop. They will at least be uncomfortable. 
There were 43 bodies around the
university campus

It cannot work for walkers

For a healthy walker, it is impossible to increase the heart rate significantly by reasonable adjustments to incline or speed. If the person can increase their heart rate to the higher levels it's probably not safe because of other issues. For a healthy walker, the aerobic capacity will always exceed the leg capacity for walking. 

Yesterday I tested the target heart rate theory on a treadmill. My resting pulse is 56. I started by walking 75 minutes at 3.5 mph. My pulse the entire time was 80 beats per minute. Then I did mild random hill climbs at 3.5 mph for 25 minutes. My pulse remained at 80 beats per minute. 

Finally, I tried targeted heart rate training for 25 minutes. I set the target heart rate at 90 to see what would happen. It took a seven degree hill climb to get my pulse to 90. A six degree incline is the targeted maximum for trails in Colorado that don't go up mountains. This is about 600 feet per mile. Most people will decrease their stride rate to climb a hill like this. Those that don't incur knee injuries and Achilles tendon injuries after many miles. 

A "city deer" behind Loaf 'n Jug

A better way for walkers

Some walkers walk without thinking about it. Others want to feel like they are doing something to improve their walking. Both methods work equally well.

The easiest method is to walk naturally without breathing hard. Any speed other than this speed creates mechanical problems which lead to injury. The body will increase the stride rate and length when it's ready. It may take 100's or even 1000's of miles. 

Some walkers like to feel like they are doing something to improve. For this, they will need a Fitbit pedometer or other pedometer which measures their stride rate over a route with varied inclines. The goal is to find the minimum stride rate maintained for a minute. Toss out any steep hills on the route. Use a metronome to maintain the minimum stride rate. This gives alternating periods of stress and recovery on the uphill and downhill stretches.

For variety, the walker can change their stride rate each minute for 10 minutes. For example:

115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 119, 118, 117, 116.

In order to do this the walker would need to make a recording they can play on an MP3 player. I superimpose one over audio books. I have no evidence this variation is effective, but it's artistically satisfying.

When I use a click track, I set it at 115 and forget about it. Other times, I just walk and my stride rate is 120 to 135. Both methods are equally effective.


Forget about target heart rate for walking. If you want to use this type of training, add some running to your workout. 

No comments:

Post a Comment