Running is one of the most effective aerobic activities for improving cardiovascular health and general wellbeing. However, it can be challenging for many runners, especially in the early months of training, to understand the behaviour of their heart rate during exercise. Here are some tips and strategies to lower your heart rate at a certain pace and ultimately get faster.
Heart rate in running
Heart rate represents the number of beats the heart makes per minute to distribute blood to the blood vessels. During physical activity, it’s normal for the heart rate to increase as the heart pumps a larger volume of blood to the muscles and organs. Especially for sports people, it’s important to be aware of their resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, indicative values of training conditions and the overall health status of the athlete. The latter, in particular, plays a fundamental role in training, as it serves as a reference point for different training zones.
It’s worth emphasizing that heart rate is a very individual value, and you shouldn’t compare your heartbeat with that of other athletes. To obtain objective data, it’s necessary to undergo a maximal exertion test. You can also calculate it yourself using specific formulas and hill sprints, but the results will be approximate.
Many athletes train according to heart rate values. This method can be used to specifically control training and thus develop better body awareness. A common goal in running training is to lower the heart rate at a certain pace, as this reduces effort and optimises athletic performance.
We show you below six useful strategies for lowering heart rate.
1. Consistent and Progressive
There is a reason why marathon runners have a resting heart rate of 40-50 beats per minute: Consistent and focused training is the key to lowering your heart rate. The fitter you are, the lower your heart rate will be during a specific effort. Avoid starting too fast or training at too high a load: Start workouts at a moderate pace and gradually increase the intensity. This will allow your heart and muscles to adapt to the effort and reduce cardiovascular stress. Finally, don’t change the pace abruptly during your run (unless it’s interval training). Maintaining a steady and uniform pace allows your body to regulate heart rate more efficiently.
2. Vary the types of training
Long-duration workouts are essential for stimulating cardio-circulatory adaptations. This type of training allows the heart to adapt to sustained physical activity without intensity spikes. Consequently, the average heart rate during exertion will be lowered, as prolonged running increases both the volume and performance of the heart. For beginners, it is possible to alternate stretches of running with walking.
To improve the efficiency of the heart and reduce the beats, slow running is a crucial training. We are often asked whether there is a training effect despite the low intensity. Yes, the benefits in terms of improving cardiovascular work and optimizing fat metabolism are very important. We recommend running at 60-75% of your individual maximum heart rate to achieve the desired effects.
This may sound like a paradox, but it is not: high-intensity workouts, such as intervals and threshold runs, enable a lower heart rate. Indeed, the heart learns that the body is able to withstand more intense exertion, and consequently adapts. Gradually, it will become capable of sustaining higher and higher rhythms. Make sure you do this type of training gradually and always include recovery phases.
3. Alternative Training
Changing the type of sport can also help to improve cardiovascular endurance. Cycling and swimming are particularly suitable for this purpose: when cycling and swimming, the heart rate should be slightly lower than when running for the same “intensity”, as part of the body weight is carried by the bike or the water.
In any case, alternative sports allow the heart to adapt gradually and reduce the heart rate during running.
Proper breathing is crucial for maintaining a stable heart rate. Practice deep and controlled breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Focus on diaphragmatic breathing to increase the efficiency of your respiratory system and reduce stress on the heart.
5. Running Technique
Efficient running technique can help reduce effort and muscle tension, helping to keep lower heart rate. Maintain an upright posture, shorten your stride, and land lightly on the ground to reduce impact and improve movement efficiency. Also, avoid holding your arms up for too long. When they go above the level of the heart, their movement causes additional strain on the body, resulting in an increase in heart rate.
6. Nutrition and Hydration
Proper hydration and nutrition are essential for maintaining an optimal heart rate during running. Make sure to drink enough before, during, and after your workout. Choose light and easily digestible foods before running and after training, and incorporate complex carbohydrates and protein to aid muscle recovery.
The intake of stimulants such as coffee, chocolate and tea before training can also affect the heart rate. It is also advisable to avoid junk food and cigarettes if you want to keep your heart rate under control.
Lowering heart rate during running requires patience, practice, and awareness of your own body. The process is slow and may take months or even years. While a lower resting heart rate is generally indicative of better cardiovascular health, during exercise, a lower heart rate at a specific pace suggests improved aerobic fitness and efficiency, which can contribute to better running performance and overall endurance. However, it’s essential to consider individual differences and training goals when interpreting heart rate data during exercise.
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