Heart rate diary week 6: Pain and gain

Highs and lows as the schedule starts to bite
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Welcome to my heart rate training diary – if you're a regular reader then thanks for coming back, and for all the comments you guys have been leaving.

If you're new: welcome. The idea of these articles is to follow my progress as I work out how that flashing green light on the back of your Fitbit Blaze, TomTom Spark or Garmin Forerunner can actually be used to make you a faster, better runner.

We've teamed up with Fitbit's ambassador and elite athlete trainer Greg Whyte who's built me a plan, and taught me to listen to my heart when training – and now I'm seeing whether my ticker is talking sense or a load of old bunkum.

Missing the top rate

So the first run of the week was a fartlek session (no laughing at the back). That essentially means that you run a steady pace, but then start bursts of hard/slow pace to build stamina. Greg wanted me to do 5 x 1 min fast/slow bursts, in a 45 min run. There's no real set pace, so learning from last week I set the pace at around 6 min/mile trying to get my bpm over 180.

Heart rate diary week 6: Pain and gain

And the session felt good. But the stats don't quite back it up.

Looking at the session, my pace for the one minute bursts don't quite break 6 min/miles and heart rate didn't quite get above 180. It can be hard with the lag of optical devices plus the natural way your heart rate builds to topple 180bpm over a single minute, but I would be expecting to see that by the fourth or firth interval.

In short, looking back I'm not all that happy with the exertion of the session. Perhaps the fact that I semi-enjoyed the run showed I wasn't working hard enough. But more data to learn from for next time.

King of the hill

Heart rate diary week 6: Pain and gain

The next session was designed to work me for 45 mins with 20 mins spent at AT2, which regular readers will know is a hard 10K race pace.

It can be a bit tough running the roads to keep your HR up, so I decided to hit some hills. That should get my heart rate right up to 175+.

And it did – but it wasn't easy. I actually felt on the run that I was running flat out, but was struggling to get my heart rate up that high. A very strange feeling that was replicated the next day, in my 10K "race".

Before we move onto that: a nice aside. The hill for this session is actually a beast, and has been logged (not by us) as a Strava segment called 'the Motherf***er' (not our words). My previous PB for the hill was 3:45, but this session I breezed it at 3:10. A sign that the training is paying off ahead of next week's MISO cycle test.

Heart rate diary week 6: Pain and gain

Breaking PBs

The next day I was out again. This schedule is heavy going. A 10K "race" was on the cards, and I was up for pumping in a PB. So I was out the door and looking to hold a heart rate of about 173 – which will be the bpm I'm looking to hold in the half marathon.

And I flew. I'm not sure what the issue was, but at 173bpm I was tearing up the hills, sub 8 min/mile all the way. I couldn't get my heart rate up, yet I was running at a pace I could feel wasn't sustainable. Three miles in, I was finished. Heart rate had let me down, I had to drop back to 165 and collect myself. That's not really how it's supposed to work. 173 should have been sustainable.

Heart rate diary week 6: Pain and gain

I clung on into the second half of the run, which is thankfully where those hills pay off. But that's when the niggles started. Shin pain (which I fought a long battle with and won), hip pain and knee pain. Basically, my legs were weak, probably from the MF the day before.

I actually registered a 50:24 10K PB, somehow. And I could have gone faster, but I knew a day off was needed. Mixed feelings, and a rest was needed.

Big fatigue

Even with a day off, getting out was tough for the last run: a 45min LT stroll. The easiest of the week, purposely left until last.

I actually ran with a friend, which made training quite difficult. He wanted to run faster than my pace, and while he accepted my need to keep it slow, he pushed for a ridiculously hilly run that caused my heart rate to soar. The opposite problem from the day before occurred: I couldn't get my heart rate down.

There are obvious reasons. Hills in the first two miles are one. Plus the heat and, clearly, fatigue from the week's regime could be inferred from the results. I averaged 9:40 min/mile at an average heart rate of 171bpm. To put that in context, two days before I averaged 8:02min/mile with the same average HR. Sure, there was almost double the elevation gain, but still – 9:40 min/mile feels like a big step back.

I think a bit more recovery time is needed before runs, so will be easing myself into the next week. I can write that run off as a bad day, but if there's any more high bpm/slow pace runs next week, I'll have to think about a response in my training.

Just one more note on heart rate training this week: socially, it sucks. When you run with other people, it's really annoying. You have to push your needs onto them, and they generally negatively affect your plan by either being too slow or too fast. It's a lonely game – but someone has to do it.

Check out the rest of the diary

Week 1: Getting assessed

Week 2: Feeling the heat

Week 3: HR making sense

Week 4: Interval fail

Week 5: The revenge of the interval

TAGGED Sport Running

How we test

James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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