Marathon Training With a Heart Rate Monitor


Maximize your marathon training with a heart rate monitor

Marathon Training With a Heart Rate Monitor
Successfully running a marathon requires extensive training and preparation. Throughout your training, maintaining workout intensity can help promote performance gains so you run the best race possible. Marathon runners can use heart rate monitors during the workouts to track performance gains and intensity. Calculating your maximum heart rate and training intensity zone can help target the desired intensity for every workout.


Heart rate monitors provide accurate, instant feedback on your intensity during a workout. Your numbers show up on a digital watch. After your workout, you can upload the heart rate data to a computer. That information can be tracked and recorded throughout the marathon training.


Calculating your target heart rate and heart rate zones is the number one key to productive heart rate training for marathons. You can get a rough estimate of your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, a 40-year old runner will have an MHR of 180 beats per minute. However, people’s heart rates vary, so this calculation has a wide margin of error. Another method for calculating maximum heart rate is the field test. As you are wearing your heart rate monitor, warm up for a workout and run two to three three-minute intervals. Increase the intensity during each run, working up to your hardest effort. Immediately following the last interval, check the heart rate. That recording should approach your maximum heart rate.

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Most heart rate monitors will feature a wireless strap that wraps around the chest and syncs with a wrist watch. Some newer and more advanced designs require only the watch. You can set the desired heart rate zone so that when your heart rate leaves the desired range the watch beeps to warn you. After completing the workout, upload the data to a computer to graph your performance over time. Other features include water resistance, stopwatch, alarm and timer.


You can adjust your target heart rate for any type of workout; intervals, tempo runs, recovery runs or long runs. Each workout has a recommended percentage of MHR to achieve maximum results. To calculate the percentage, take the MHR and multiply the percentage. For recovery and long runs, maintain 65 to 75 percent of MHR. Tempo runs are more intense and should vary from 87 to 92 percent of MHR. Interval workouts will reach 95 to 100 percent of your MHR.

Following a marathon heart rate training program allows you to track performance gains and the intensity of every workout.


Heart rate training for a marathon has several benefits, including the ability to track your improvement leading up to the race. This allows you to track your resting heart rate to prevent over-training—a physical and emotional condition that reduces workout intensity while increasing resting heart rate. Overtraining can lead to overuse injuries that could prevent you from running the marathon.


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