Heart Rate Based Training: Part Two

Part Two

Before you plunge back in; keep in mind you are learning something of amazing importance to your health and your athletic performance. If you are 20 and trying to qualify for the Olympics in the mile or 70 and trying to qualify to become a centenarian- someone who lives to be 100 years old- this will help you both.

Additional Foundational Concepts:

  • As there are three scales of effect- local, regional, systemic- there are different time frames for adaptive change of heart rate response to exercise. Some functions that affect heart rate response adapt within days-to-weeks, some adapt within weeks-to-months and some, you guessed it, adapt within months-to-years. You need to keep this in mind because you will need to tease out of your Heart Rate Profile (HRP) the time scale of the problem you are addressing in your heart rate response.
  • Understanding and improving your heart rate response to exercise requires a strict and clear understanding of basic scientific methodology. This is simpler than it sounds. Conventional science is: first develop an hypothesis- a theory if you prefer- next test your theory, evaluate the results and then reformulate your theory and test it. This is a repetitive, iterative, process whereby you generate a clear calibration of change and effect of that change at each step.
  • You must control the variables to know how to interpret the results. This is why you need to become an historian of your own behavior. A poor night of sleep is going to make your HRP look very different than it would after a good night’s sleep. Remember that pizza? It will show up on your heart rate response to exercise. Take notes, start a training journal. Sleep, diet, stressors, time of day, when you took your medications; all of these things need to be examined. Let me give you an example: I have a patient who was making great strides improving his heart rate response to exercise and then all of a sudden it got worse. I talked to him in detail; he was sure nothing had changed. Think, think, oops; it turned out his eye doc had changed the medicine, the eye drops, they were using for his glaucoma. Eye drops? Yes; his entire metabolism was changed. We were able to change to a different medication and ‘bang’ his training, and belly by the way, got better again.

Now I know your eyes are starting to glaze over because you want to get out to the track to run or on the water to row or to work on your snatch and want to be able to incorporate Heart Rate Based Training (HRBT) and this is starting to sound hard. It isn’t hard but it isn’t easy either. Medium. OK? It happens to be worth it so hang in there. Do this right and everything from your mitochondria to your testosterone will be better!

OK, now let’s talk about the actual profiles that will illustrate some of the essentials of interpreting your hear HRP. Below you will see a HRP of a 60 year old man in decent condition. He is relatively musculoskelatally strong (bench, squat, dead his body weight; out of ratio but not bad) has a decent VO2 max of 40 ml/kg/min. This profile represents a Concept II warm up of 5 minutes and then 3 max pull cycles of 20 seconds with 10 second recovery on the rowing machine and followed by about 25 minutes of 80% max. squats, deadlifts, and power cleans and finished with more limited whole body work of lighter cleans and body weight squat/thrust/throws. He was never rested between sets for more than the time needed for a 15 beat recovery after the first series of intense intervals on the rowing machine.

For this chart I will not remark on the warm up. The things to note are the trend across the whole work out; as we read from L to R  it trends up. Easy enough. The next thing we should notice is the slope of the take off with each set/rep scheme across the workout. Then notice the slope of the recovery from each set/rep scheme across the workout; again reading L to R.

The slope of the rise is telling you about a number of things:

  • The relative match between musculoskeletal power and cardiopulmonary fitness; wait, wait, wait I will explain this but for now notice the claim
  • The ability of the heart to respond to metabolic demand
  • Possible mismatches between heart, lung and muscle strength; this is slightly different from the above

I will explain each of the related variables after I lay out more of the overall features of the profile.

The slope of the recovery is telling you a number of things as well:

  • The capacity of the heart to track and respond to the metabolic information it is integrating from itself and the rest of the body
  • The relative degree of cardiac or systemic fatigue at any point in the workout; for example the recovery will become less and less, the slope decreases, as you become more fatigued.

The trend across the whole workout will help you understand the cumulative fatigue from the workout and will be one of your most useful tools in assessing over-training and under-training. This record is actually cut too short to be of as much help as ideal as you cannot see the full recovery cycle.

Now some other aspects of a heart rate profile need to be considered. Once the basic terms are in hand we can begin to unpack them and use them to shape your workout to the goal of increasing overall health and athleticism.

Additional features:

  • Overshoot or hang: this shows up as the heart rate staying high or even continuing to climb after cessation of exercise; how long is it? One or two seconds or 10-20 seconds?
  • Shoulder: this is a partial recovery; say down from 170 but hangs or shoulders at 155 for 15 seconds. There will sometimes be a second shoulder at 135 for example.
  • Tail: at the end of the workout your heart rate stays up at 110-130 for 1-2 minutes or 10-20 minutes. How long and how high matters.

Summary of things to first notice:

  • Trend across workout
  • Slope of take off
  • Slope of recovery
  • Overshoot or hang
  • Shoulder or secondary hang
  • Tail or delayed return to near resting heart rate

There is much more but this is a good list to start with. This list is enough to begin to really unpack all of the information in the heart rate profile and to realize the value of HRBT.

End Of Part Two

Back To Part One

Go To Part Three

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