By Peter Park


How did Week Two go? If you live in Santa Barbara, there was a thick marine layer hanging around all week, cooling things off. Easy training weather. But things are heating up for Week Three. And that’s good. Gibraltar usually cooks on Labor Day weekend, and you need to know how it feels to run uphill in an oven.

Perceived exertion, Heart rate monitors, and Maximum heart rate

Before I get to this week’s program, I want to talk about perceived exertion – the educated guess you’re making to hit 60-70% of your max effort during recovery runs, and 80-85% max effort during key runs. Do you perceive or feel that you’re hitting those percentages? Because sometimes it’s hard to know. Yet you have to get it right. You don’t want to overtrain; nothing sucks more than getting injured right before a race. Except maybe dying a slow, painful death on Gibraltar because you undertrained. Here’s a simple solution that takes the guess work out of it: Get a heart rate monitor (HRM).

HRMs are the truest measure (except for a VO2 max oxygen consumption) of your exertion. And using an HRM to pace yourself is like having a personal coach strapped to your wrist (and around your chest). I use an HRM during almost every cardio workout. And I’d never run a race without one to pace me. Never. Have I piqued your interest? If not, scroll down and get your workout. But if I have…

The first step is getting your HRM. I recommend you head over to Santa Barbara Running. Joe Devresse and the other guys there know what they’re talking about; they’ll tell you how HRMs work and get you all set up. But if you’re an Amazon Prime devotee, here’s a link to a basic Garmin HRM that costs around $100.

Maximum heart rate

Once you have your HRM, your next step is determining your maximum heart rate (MHR) – how fast your heart beats per minute at 100% exertion (such as an all-out sprint). You don’t need to be an MIT grad to figure out your MHR. There’s a workable (though imperfect, more later) formula for it: 220 minus your age. I’m 52, so 220 – 52 = 168. That’s my MHR.


Figuring out your percentages

Now, to determine what heart rate you should hold to achieve a 70% effort during a recovery run, whip out your iPhone, tap “calculator,” and multiply your MHR by 0.7. For instance, since my MHR is 168, I multiply 168 x 0.7 = 117. That’s 117 beats per minute I should hold during my recovery runs (or, somewhere in the range of 117-125.)  For the 80%-effort, race-pace runs up Gibraltar, I should hold 168 x 0.8 = 134 beats per minute (or, somewhere in the range of 130-140.) Pretty straight forward, right? The best coaches are.


True MHR

As you experiment with your HRM, you’ll hone in on your true MHR – the top-end number you hit during an all-out sprint. When you find your true MHR, recalculate the numbers and adjust.

With an HRM, you now have a running coach who will never berate or manipulate you. But it will tell you the honest-to-God, painful truth every step of the way. If you want to know more about HRMs, here’s a link to everything you need to know – and more.


Here’s your Week Three workout. Have fun in the sun!

About Peter Park

Peter Park is a former Ironman triathlete, ultramarathon runner, and has been a strength and fitness trainer for twenty-five years. He’s also the co-author of “Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence,” and the upcoming, “Rebound: Regain Strength, Move Effortlessly, Live Without Limits.” Peter lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Kelly, and two sons, Hayden and Carter.



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