top of page

Low Heart Rate Training for Peaking on Race Day with Coach Pamela Gutsch

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

How can we time low heart rate training to peak on race day?

Coach Pamela explains:

For effective growth in your running capacity, you need a thick, aerobic base to nourish your future speed goals. Keep it low and keep it slow. Train your heart to optimize every pumped volume of blood with as much oxygen and energy as possible!

Encourage your mitochondrial "food sources" to provide plentiful storage for future speed training demands.

Keep your heart rate down in regenerative zones of 119-132! Yes, this low! You may feel like you're taking your pet snail for a walk, but with diligence and consequence, you'll begin to quicken up the pace, while your body's cells emerge and grow bigger in number and capacity!

This is a process that happens over years, but even after 6-8 weeks, you may start noticing changes happening.

Higher heart rates mean your body needs more blood pumped from your heart in order to provide the muscles with the proper amount of "the goods": Oxygen & Energy. In running in low, regenerative zones, we are providing our lungs with bucket-gulps of beautiful, fresh air and teaching our little mitochondria, that they need to adjust themselves to be able to store it all!

If you had a load of gold, would you throw it away because you didn't have the room for it? Or would you find a way to make room! You'd attain more boxes or maybe even more and bigger boxes, so all that precious stuff can be stored to use later!

It's exactly the same for our magical pot of "Base". The more mitochondrial "boxes" we supply our bodies with, the more we have to spend down the road!

So what does Low Heart Rate Training look like?

Patience and Trust in the bio-mechanisms of our body's system will bring you farther in the long run.

Keep track of your heart rate levels, as your monitor on what's going on inside, and log your improvements or setbacks. Monitor your resting heart rate at least 3x a week, if not every day. Measure your pulse when you've just woken up, but are still lying in bed, your deepest possible heart rate.

If you want to take it a step further, measure again in the first 30 seconds and again at 60 seconds, after you first stand up. This will tell you if your body is ready for more, or is still slightly tired in even the smallest movements, like standing up.

You can have a low resting heart rate, but if you stand up and your pulse is beating faster than normal, your body is still working on the inside!

Maybe it's over-trained, still tired from the training 2 days ago, or maybe your work day has been tiring lately or you have an illness coming on.

As you get to know your body better, you'll soon learn to "read" your bio rhythm as a good indicator for a successful training journey.

This all centers around the size of your base. 80% and not less! Tempo training and higher heart rates fill the rest. This goes for all sports you do, not just running. If you go ski touring on the weekend or hiking or biking, it all counts!

"Athletes with a large capacity can and must do much more Utilization Training (speed work) to maximize results. This explains why elite athletes do more and harder training than do novices, who have less capacity. It also explains one of the most common mistakes made in training, which is for amateurs to copy the elites." (Scott Johnston, et al.)

December 2021 1

How does all this work when it's time to race?

Super! Done! It's now the beginning of pre-race season. Now what? Remember that same 80%/20% rule and observe your intervals! Take note after a session of 30 second intervals with 30 second recoveries or 400's and see how your heart rate responds and how it changes over the course of your training.

There are different methods of training cycles and important in all of them is recovery!

Be it short term, post-interval recovery or general one-week regeneration, they each fulfill their function. This is the time your body needs in order to change its cell structures necessary for you to improve.

In addition to noticing how long your heart rate needs to recover after an interval session, take note of how long it needs to recover from, for example, a three-week progressive training cycle.

Observe your 4th week as a regenerative week and note how long your resting heart rate needs to come back down again.

If it's not coming down? Overtraining, illness or general stress may be the reason.

The bigger the base you have, the more "stress load" your mind and body can handle.

Keep track of it all and listen to what your body tells you!

Now, here's the trick and the point, to this whole article: How to time your training for that perfect peak on race day and perform your best (or even PR!):

You've built your base and kept track of your training and heart rate levels, and you've integrated a four-week training cycle, in which the hardest training week is the third and the fourth week is normally regenerative.

How to build your cycles properly is a whole other subject matter. In general, however, remember you'll need a regeneration week after the race. You know from all the speed training you've been doing, how long your heart rate needs to regenerate, after intervals for example. It's normally between 1-3 days.

Watch what happens!

You'll notice that one of those days, your heart rate will be very low! (unless you're over-trained and/or lack sufficient base for the amount of speed training you've been doing). In any case, if you ran a long run on that day, you may feel like your legs are flying or they're feather-light! If you're trained well, this will be a regular observance!

YES!! This is your magic key to those boxes of gold you've been storing!

The formula for peaking on race day:

Say your race is Saturday. You've tapered appropriately for the week and now you need to give your body that little boost that will rocket you on race day!

You've noticed, for example, that it takes usually 2 days for that magic low heart rate to happen. Plan then, a moderate interval session for Thursday! Friday will be rest day or jog just a short little bit in your regenerative zone, not going over 30-40min. Even 1-2 kilometers is enough, with maybe a few little quick sprints to prepare your body.

Experiment! Some do better with sprints, some do better without them.

By Saturday (day 2 after Thursday's moderate session), if you've done all the right steps, you should find yourself in that magic low heart rate space where your legs are flying!

Remember everyone is different. One person may need 2 days, another 1 or 3. But, if you've paid attention and gotten to know how your heart rate responds to training, you'll know exactly what your body thrives on best!

Pamela Gutsch

December 2021

Follow Coach Pamela on Instagram @scrimshaw97

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page