Running and Heart Rate


While it is not a requirement that you monitor your heart rate while running, it is an excellent way to train and attain your goals. By paying attention to your heart rate as you run, you can keep yourself from pushing too hard or too easy, and help prevent injury or fatigue. Maximum heart rate, aerobic zone, anaerobic zone and VO2 Max are all terms you will become familiar with as you learn to use your heart rate when you run.

Calculating Methods

Dr. Tim Noakes in “Lore of Running” describes the method for checking your heart rate the old-fashioned way. Immediately after running, place three fingers on the artery on the thumb side of your wrist, and count the number of heart beats for 10 seconds. Multiple this number times 6 for your heart rate per minute. The article, “Heart Monitor Training” from says using a heart rate monitor device makes training simple for the average runner and is a most effective aid in tracking your running progress and development.

Heart Rate Monitors

The “Heart Monitor Training” article cites several reasons for using a heart rate monitor for running and exercise: Accuracy and ease, gauging your effort, under and over training prevention, gauging your training and racing pace, and even enjoyment. A heart rate monitor is only a tool, however, to help you train properly by giving you specific feedback about your heart rate while running.

Maximum Heart Rate

The one key element in using your heart rate for effective running training is your maximum heart rate. The standard formula that is especially good for beginning runners is subtracting your age from 220 to find your max heart rate. Your max heart rate is something you should only see very rarely when running. If you run too often at max heart rate, you are probably running too hard, too much, which will result in a negative impact on your running performance and body.

Heart Rate Improvements

As your running improves, so will the efficiency and effort of your heart. According to Dr. Jack Daniels in “Daniels’ Running Formula,” as your fitness increases, your resting heart rate will be lower because your heart does not have to work as hard. He suggests simply using the method of your finger on your pulse in the morning upon awakening to find your resting pulse rate. Also, your max heart rate eventually will be lower as your cardiovascular fitness improves from your running.

Average Heart Rate Zone

The American Heart Association’s Target Heart Rate Zone chart explains that, according to your age, you need to stay within 50 percent to 85 percent of your max heart rate to see fitness benefits while running or exercising. If you are 40 years old with a max heart rate of 180, your running heart rate should be between 90 to 153 beats per minute.

Advanced Heart Rate Zones

Experienced runners can use heart rate zones reflecting increased effort. The aerobic zone, a harder effort with increased blood flow and breathing, should be 70 percent to 80 percent of max heart rate. The anaerobic zone, run at close to race pace and using more oxygen than can be quickly supplied to your muscles, should be at 80 percent to 90 percent. The VO2 Max zone, defined as maximum oxygen uptake at maximum effort, is run at 90 percent to 100 percent for racing and speed workouts.

About this Author

Karl Gruber has been a freelance writer for 25 years, penning articles in various publications in Central Ohio. From 1996 to 1997, he successfully ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks. Gruber has also written a book about his marathon running, a sport he also coaches and competes in. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Ohio State University