Do I do anything bad physiologically with high heart rate runs?

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Jan 2016
2:23pm, 12 Jan 2016
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As some have noted / commented etc, whilst following the MyAsics training schedules for half marathons at around 1hr30 pace runs of approx 5.5 miles are often scheduled, and in the latter stages of the plan they are at "race pace".

For me, when I've raced with a HRM, I've averaged 172bpm across a half. I've never done a max HR test, but the highest I've ever seen (from a reliable trace) that I feel I can trust is 184bpm. As a 43 year old male, that feels in the right ballpark.

Running race pace 5.5m at the moment gives me a HR in the region of 168bpm average and consistent rates per mile in the low 170s (e.g. see

Am I still in the tempo threshold at those sorts of rates? I've seen plenty of other people doing "tempos" at mid-150s, which would probably feel like a casual jog to me in terms of heart rate (though my resting rate is about 52, I find it difficult to run with much lower than about 150bpm).

But perhaps putting my specifics aside, is there any damage to be done by training at higher than a proper "tempo" pace?
Jan 2016
2:27pm, 12 Jan 2016
11,606 posts
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no idea but I'm interested in what feedback you get and will lurk
Jan 2016
2:38pm, 12 Jan 2016
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I'm no expert here but I'll say, everyone is different, so you can't really compare heart rate values, even if you are the same age. I'm 45 have a HRmax of 176. 5K and 10K heartrate averages about 160, and its about 155 for a Half. Looking at Garmin they define their zones as:

Z1 61-70% (Warm Up) [108-123]
Z2 70-77% (Easy) [124-136]
Z3 77-84% (Aerobic) [137-148]
Z4 84-92% (Threshold) [149-162]
Z5 92-100% (Max) [162-176]

So I run 5 to 10K at the very top end of Threshold.

Jan 2016
2:47pm, 12 Jan 2016
574 posts
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Not "damage" exactly, but the theory is that in running too hard you aren't benefiting the same and/or might be adding stress/fatigue without any worthwhile benefit (compared to running a little bit slower).

Having said that, "race pace" for a half is probably about the right level anyway. I wouldn't worry too much about details of heart rates, though my max and racing rates are 10 beats below yours (say 173 and 162 respectively) I very rarely hit 150 in training, except for the shortest intervals.
Jan 2016
2:50pm, 12 Jan 2016
2,517 posts
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And I'm 55 with an HRmax of 202, my last raced 5K I averaged 178.

I'd suggest doing a search for the 5KRunner Daniels spreadsheet, go do a Parkrun and fill in the numbers.

The 'damage' is that each of the runs has a purpose and if you aren't running them at the appropriate pace then a) they aren't achieving that purpose and b) if you are running what should be the slower paced runs too fast then you run the risk of being too tired to achieve the faster paces.
Jan 2016
3:15pm, 12 Jan 2016
377 posts
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Cheers guys, I'm glad you understood what I was busy rambling on about! Yes, the bit I'm interested in is whether, say, running significantly (or even marginally!) harder than a certain threshold would be actual counter productive.

One of the reasons I've been a personal advocate for the MyAsics plans in the past is that they "allow" for just 3 or 4 runs per week, so I feel I get a good bang for my buck - run hard every other day or so, and then get at least 48 hours off (I tend to run 3 times per week with no other cross training usually, other than just being a dad!).

So barring "stress" on the body, I'm not causing red blood cells to do something wild and crazy and turn my body into some weird lactate processing factory then. Sounds good.

It does sound like I've got a reasonably high (and sustainable) heart rate when running, so as you say it may be just that I need to be more aware of my various boundaries of heart rates. Perhaps low 150s is actually my aerobic zone, whereas for others that might be top end of threshold.

I do do very very little slow running, something I've going to have a go at changing over the next few weeks in the build up to Cardiff HM just to change things around a little - having a go at Hal Higdon intermediate (modified by me!) rather than MyAsics for this 10 week cycle and see what that ends up like.

Really interesting using that 5krunner spreadsheet though - particularly ref age grading. It shows an almost 30sec change between aged 40 and aged 43 just to maintain age grading, which is bigger than I would have expected (not really relevant for me as I only started running aged about 38, so my progression up the age grading route is non-standard).
Jan 2016
8:35pm, 12 Jan 2016
47 posts
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I read somewhere that running well through your lactate threshold *too* often means that the increased acidity in the blood can reduce rather than increase your aerobic base.

I think this is more in the context of people racing too often rather than telling you to give up tempo runs and only every do long slow distance / easy running
Jan 2016
10:09pm, 12 Jan 2016
13,659 posts
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Hi - funnily enough my hubby had this chat with the top Cardiologist last week. He'd been referred for a something which turned out to be a nothing, but they talked about running and heart rate. The cardiologist said training at 170bpm for hubby (who is a reasonable runner and 41 yrs) was worrying and counter productive, that the heart wouldn't be filling properly and strongly advised training should be done around 150 bpm. Hubby used this as an excuse for a new Garmin with optical HRM and a new book on heart rate training ;)
Jan 2016
8:52am, 13 Jan 2016
379 posts
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Hey, what do doctors know about training, lol!

Thanks Tiggia - just the sort of insight I was looking to hear about. Though doubt it will actually change what I do!

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As some have noted / commented etc, whilst following the MyAsics training schedules for half maratho...

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