Picking up Running again–analysis of Heart Rate vs Speed

In 2010, I started running.  I started at a max distance of 0.25 miles; ran into shin-splints; did a bunch of research, bought some Vibram Five Fingers, and ran my first 5k in 36 minutes or so.   I (too) rapidly progressed to running the Bourbon Chase that year, and in 2011, I competed in the Louisville Triple Crown of Running.  At the time, I was pretty well conditioned (for me). 

2012, nada.  I had a knee injury late in 2011, and didn’t do much of anything.

2013, I’m back in running form.. just barely.  I started a few weeks ago, I’m barely keeping up with the distance I need for the Triple Crown.   The 10k is tomorrow morning.


I have heart rate data from both years:


  • I have no idea what unit the speed is in. 
  • The Y Axis starts at 70, although for me it could start at 90.  If it were zero, I would be dead. Smile 
  • The Purple shows a training run (I think) from 2011 January, when I was running around 4-5 miles.
  • The Red shows me competing in the 2011 Rhodes Run (I think). Or, it was a long run.  You can see the significantly higher speed (to the right)
  • The Blue is my training run from last night.  I went REALLY slow – that’s probably 3-3.5, somewhere between 15 to 18 minutes per mile.

My take-away is that purple is shifted to the right of blue – I could go faster at the same heart rate, back then.

Here’s a slightly different view, courtesy of the free-compare tool at www.movescount.com – which came with my kick-ass Suunto t6d watch


  • Orange are all the runs from January to March of 2011.
  • Black are all the runs from 2013 (I haven’t “associated” the workouts with running, so they are still black)
  • Once again, same heart-rate, less speed.   
  • I have some room for improvement.

There is a direct relationship between heart rate and speed. 

Heart Rate Training

According to the book “Total Heart Rate Training” there’s also markers of heart rate zones to be found.   Here’s my interpretation of it, augmented with data collection devices:

  • Walk for at least 15 minutes first, to get the “jigglies” out.  
  • Start slow, on a treadmill, but at least jogging, like 3.5 mph.   Your jogging speed could be slower than your fastest walking speed! 
  • Slowly speed it up.  Let yourself adjust to each new speed.  I do a count to 8 or 16 before adding another 0.1 mph. 
  • At some point, you will feel yourself start to breathe a bit harder.  You will still be able to talk, just not as easily.   (There is no telltale thing on the graph for this).  Call this point “A”. 
  • This will last for a while.
  • At some point, it will start to get much harder much quicker, and you won’t be able to talk anymore, and you’ll be sucking for air.    Welcome to Anaerobic?  Aerobic?  THE OTHER ONE, the zone where you have 5 minutes of energy left, use it, loose it, and you’re done.  Call this point “B”
  • Charting the heart rate vs speed, you should see a bend where you switch to the other zone.   Up till that point, everything should be “approximately” a line.   When you switch to the other zone, there will be a “bend” and you’ll get a new (line/curve).   


  • These are from two this year.  I had a beautiful sample from 2011, BUT, I didn’t have any distance measuring equipment, so no speed data, only HR.
  • I’ve added an elbow in blue (older), and orange (more recent), as to where I think my transition point “B” was.
    • Another sign of transition:  Your heart rate does not slow down, so no “wobbles”.  Just unpeels upwards.
  • You can see my transition point move up – that’s me getting heart-toned, or, well, shaking the cobwebs out.
  • You can also see the orange is just a bit to the right of the blue – better speed at the same heart rate.    Although I suspect I was getting bored, hence there’s very few data points for 28 to 30.
  • I’m pretty sure my “A” point is somewhere around 145. 

Anyway, the heart rate training book talks about this in depth.   My understanding:

To improve performance, you need to keep your heart rate UNDER that elbow of “B” but near the top of it.  This helps nudge it upwards, which gives you more range to go faster for longer.   And it will get your muscles accustomed (built up) to that kind of workload.

To improve endurance, you need to train with your heart rate closer to “A” (just north of it).  This also helps improve “B”, but then your (leg) muscles will need time to catch up.

Caveat:  I tried this out with a friend who is VERY much out of shape.    While Walking, he got to his A point.  As SOON as he started jogging, he crossed “B”.  He needed a lot more heart toning before he would be ready for jogging.  My suggestion to  him was:  Get to walking 4 miles comfortably, before you start trying to jog for one.  And then when you jog, jog slower than you walk. 

Double Caveat:  The other really awesome exercise for running if you can stand it, is the Hundred Up.  Helps with all the muscles and landing your feet.

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