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How to start running with a heart rate monitor

Here’s how to start running (and eventually, start enjoying) with a heart rate monitor. You will become faster, lose some weight and generally feel awesome by training within your limits.

Just follow the steps below, which is mainly taken from Phil Maffetone, but with a few of my personal tweaks.

Disclaimer: This is my personal experience, I’m not qualified. Seek the advice of a qualified health professional before following the steps below.

Terms and Conditions

  • You have to go all in with this. It’s nothing radical or too ‘new age’, but total commitment for at least 3mths. Think long term play. Big picture.
  • You need a heart rate monitor, a cheap one is fine.
  • Your heart rate is your coach – nothing else.
  • You need to assess your diet. This does not mean dieting. 
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates, high sugar foods and general ‘crap’. There is no point training your body to burn fat, and then loading up on sugar.
  • Eat things like:
    • Eggs, butter, natural yogurt, chia seed, berries, fruit (2-3 pieces/day), tonnes of vegetables, nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews), seeds, salads, avocados, tomatoes, spinach, fish, meat. Think natural, organic stuff like our grandparents ate.
  • Avoid eating things like:
    • Any ‘diet’ or ‘light’ products (e.g. yogurts), refined carbs (bread, pastas etc – opt for wholegrain if you do), obvious high sugar items (chocolate, haribo) and things generally found in the middle aisles of a supermarket (sauces, salad dressings etc).. its mainly processed and laced with sugar.
  • Eat some protein and fat after you finish your heart rate run. Your body needs it within 30minutes.
  • Fats are not bad, but balance the different types of them in your diet. Fats are the proverbial ‘logs on the fire’ for the long slow burning of energy, while carbs are the kindling to start the fire.
  • Don’t ‘carb load’.
  • Drink water often and in small quantities throughout the day. Particularly important on the days you run – 1litre of water for 1 hour of exercise, but don’t down it in one.
  • Reduce coffee intake
  • Running 5minutes is better than running 0minutes.
  • You have time. Find the minutes and get out the door. I have a two hour round trip commute to work, 8hr work day and a screaming toddler & wife to manage in the evenings, so runs happen at 5.50am. It’s surprisingly easy once you get into it.
  • Start warming up very gently – 5-10minutes building up to your running pace. Your body needs time to shift the blood to your leg muscles and away from your organs – take it slow. Same goes for the end of a run – don’t hammer it home, slow down gradually.
  • Don’t stretch
  • Be aware of your running form, remain relaxed and steady.
  • Don’t land on your heals, over stretch your legs or twist your arms and body around. Try jumping on the spot – thats how you should be landing when you run.

Note: You’ll see results sooner, but you must commit to the bullets below for a solid 3mths, k?

Follow these 10 steps to get started:

  1. Work out your heart rate training zone using the 180 formula. 29yrs old with not much exercise and some past injury? Your aerobic training zone is 136 > 146. That means all exercise happens in that heart rate zone.
  2. Don’t go over 146. It’s really really hard, and really really slow. You will have to walk. You will have to stop on hills. You will have old ladies walking past you. It’s normal. You will get fitter and faster. Don’t go over 146, but stay above 136.
  3. Start walking regularly (3-4x week) to get a feel for your heart rate zone. It will yoyo and feel impossible to control. All normal. Slow down. Long term play, big picture.
  4. Speed up the walking pace to reach the heart rate zone, start to run if you can’t reach your zone by walking.
  5. Once you are in your zone (either walking or running), stay in it for 10mins and note down the avg ‘minute per mile’ time once you get back home. Remember this number, its a great motivator in 12wks time.
  6. Start running 3x week, approx. 20-30minute sessions, it will feel pretty easy and you might not even need a shower when you’ve finished, but always have a rest day inbetween.
  7. Remember 146 is your magic number, your coach, your minute per mile pace, your boss for the next 3mths. Don’t go over 146.
  8. Thats it. Thats how you get started. Just regular running each week. Slowly increase your time out running, but listen to your body. If in doubt, rest.
  9. By month three you will be fitter, lighter and faster – Without feeling you’ve been on a painful muddy bootcamp or followed a cabbage diet.
  10. Think long term play. Big picture… Get out and run!