Using Average Heart Rate to Adjust Your Training

Using Average Heart Rate to Adjust Your Training

Posted on January 12, 2021 by Carey Nelson

The primary Forerunners training schedule asks for three primary runs per week; long run, tempo workout and speedwork. The schedule is designed to prepare you for races by gradually improving your fitness with a low risk of injury. You can accelerate your improvement in fitness by adding more runs per week or by adding extra distance to the workouts. When you increase your training volume you may want to monitor your progression and adjust your training. Running watches collect useful running data you can use to adjust your training to improve fitness. They sync with software programs that provide useful information about your body’s response to your training.

Heart Rate Data

Training Average Heart rate – average per week from Garmin connect

Resting Average Heart rate – average per week from Garmin connect

On a short term basis of 4 to 6 weeks – Average training heart rate and average resting heart rate will likely increase if you have been training more than usual. 

On a long-term basis they will decrease and level off if your fitness level is improving.

Wrist based heart rate monitors are less accurate than chest heart strap monitors but when looking at the averages over the week the wrist based monitors are more than sufficient.

Combining Heart Rate With Other Statistics

Garmin VO2 Max – based on speed, heart rate and distance

TrainingPeaks Fitness Score – based on training distance and intensity

TrainingPeaks Fatigue Score – based on training distance and intensity

The Fatigue Score will decline faster than the Fitness Score if you reduce training and recover for a week or two.

Based on the statistics you are collecting you can modify your weekly running schedule to fine tune your training and improve your fitness level faster over time.

You can increase your training by:

1) Running more times per week

2) Increasing the pace of your long runs and workouts

3) Running longer for the same number of workouts

4) Add more cross training workouts

You can decrease your training by:

1) Running fewer times per week

2) Decrease the pace of your long runs and workouts

3) Run for shorter duration for the same number for workouts

4) Complete fewer cross-training workouts

Q& A

Q: I usually average 50km per week but recently have increased to 60km. Can you explain why there is variation in my Heart Rate and Garmin VO2 max over the past few weeks. I would expect my VO2 Max to improve?

A: The variation in Heart Rate and VO2 Max can be related to the amount of training every week. Can you send me your Average Heart Rate while working out, Garmin VO2 Max,Km per week, Training Peaks Fitness and Fatigue Scores for the past 4 weeks?

Q: Here are my numbers for the past 4 weeks. Why is there variation?

Week 1: 

Average Heart Rate – 129

Garmin VO2 Max – 48

Km per week – 60

TrainingPeaks Fitness Score – 60

TrainingPeaks Fatigue Score – 74

Week 2: 

Average Heart Rate – 138

Garmin VO2 Max – 48

Km per week – 61

TrainingPeaks Fitness Score – 63

TrainingPeaks Fatigue Score – 84

Week 3: 

Average Heart Rate – 146

Garmin VO2 Max – 46

Km per week – 51

TrainingPeaks Fitness Score – 64

TrainingPeaks Fatigue Score – 78

Week 4: 

Average Heart Rate – 131

Garmin VO2 Max – 46

Km per week – 53

TrainingPeaks Fitness Score – 64

TrainingPeaks Fatigue Score – 74

The Garmin VO2 Algorithm is a function of speed, distance and heart rate. An elevated heart rate is an indicator of higher fatigue from workouts. Average heart rate and VO2 Max are inversely related. If the average heart rate goes up it causes the Garmin VO2 Max to go down when training is increased either by intensity or distance or both. 

VO2 Max – This week your average heart rate dropped to 131 so I expect to see your VO2 improve by the end of next week. To improve your VO2 Max over time you would need to increase average weekly training pace without increasing average heart rate by more than 5 percent.

Fatigue indicators – Your Fatigue Score in Trainingpeaks was the highest at 84 on the week ending Dec 27 when you ran 61 km for the week.The following week your average HR was highest at 146. Your Fatigue Score is now 74 points.

Recovery – The following 2 weeks you ran 50km and your average HR dropped back down to 131.

Fitness indicator – Your current Fitness Score is 64 which is higher than 4 weeks ago when it was at 60. Now the Fitness Score has leveled off at 64.

This analysis suggests you may want to run more than 60km once or twice every 4 to 5 weeks to increase your Fitness Score then back down to 50km to allow the Fatigue Score to drop off; and, your Garmin Average HR and VO2 can act as second indicators as well.

Recommendation – Run 60km per week until Average Heart Rate increases by more than 5 percent for the week. Also use your Fatigue Score as a secondary indicator, and, when it increases over 75 points reduce weekly mileage to 50km per week.

Conclusion – This master athlete Fitness Score improves at a moderate rate by running 50km per week. They may benefit from running one or two weeks in a row at 60km per week followed by 2 or 3 weeks at 50km per week. This cycle of high volume followed by lower recovery volume should increase the Fitness Score at a faster rate than constantly running at 50km per week. The lower volume of 50km per week allows for recovery without the Fitness Score dropping too much. Recovery is indicated by the Fatigue Score dropping below 75 and Average Heart Rate returning to normal at approximately 130. It is time to increase training to 60km per week.