Experienced or beginner, if you find your average heart rate while running, you will get better, healthier results. Using your heart rate when running is an effective way to gauge your intensity effort. This is especially important for the running novice who tends to run too hard too soon, resulting in a much higher than average heart rate and poor results physically and motivation-wise.
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Heart Rate as a Gauge
In his article "Heart Rate Training for Improved Running Performance," exercise physiologist Jason R. Karp says that the contractions or beats of your heart are not only the easiest but the best way to tell the level of your running intensity. Your heart rate during running rises and falls in a very predictable manner, and because of this you can use it as a gauge for different levels of running intensity.
Heart Rate Formulas
Karp states that there are two formulas to figure your heart rate while running. For the first, subtract your age from 220 to find your maximum heart rate. A 32-year-old's max heart rate would be 188 beats per minute. The second formula, the Karvonen Method, determines your average running heart rate. This is determined by subtracting your resting heart rate from your max heart rate. If the 32-year-old runner's resting pulse is 60, subtract that from 188 to get a 128 average training heart rate.
Heart Rate Zones
If you want to improve your performance you have to increase your effort above your average training heart rate. The aerobic zone represents a harder running effort at 70 to 80 percent of your max heart rate. For the 32-year-old, his aerobic heart rate zone would be 188 (max) x .70 = 132 and 188 x .80 = 150. This runner's average range aerobic heart rate zone stays between 132 to 150 beats per minute. Karp does point out that the "220 minus age" formula is an estimate and can be off by 10 to 15 beats per minute.
Daily Running Zone
The American Heart Association's heart rate chart for calculating your workout zone is much broader in scope. This is a good chart to use if you are not concerned with running in higher intensity zones, but instead just want to go for a daily jog. The AHA's chart still uses the 220 minus age formula, but has a wider zone of 50 to 85 percent of your max heart rate. This wider range of heart rate is still a zone that allows you to receive the benefits of a daily run.
Find What Works for You
Because each person has her own physiology and fitness variations, only through running on a regular basis and monitoring your heart rate will you find the correct average that is right for you. Take into account your age, your level of running intensity, your overall fitness and health and even your running course's difficulty factor when seeking your average running heart rate.