Coach Jeff

Written by Coach Jeff


4 Factors to Watch Out For When Training By Heart Rate

This will be the last heart rate training article for a while, but not the last time we will discuss the training concept, especially if you have questions. This article will focus on the caveats to heart rate training and special issues you need to be on the lookout for in your own training.

Perhaps the biggest limitations to heart rate training are the fluctuations you heart rate can have due to factors outside of running or your fitness level. These fluctuations are particularly important because as normal people with jobs, families, and otherwise busy lives, the fluctuations relate directly to your training.

Heart rate training can be very useful to runners. However, be sure to take into account these factors when running by heart rate

The following are factors that might influence your heart rate during any given run:


If you are short on sleep, which many of us are plagued with constantly, your heart rate will be elevated, causing you to run at an easier pace than you otherwise might without a heart rate monitor.

In addition, you naturally have a lower heart rate in the morning than you do at night. Therefore, you need to adjust you resting heart rate to accommodate for what time of day you’ll be attacking the roads.


Stress has the same effect on your heart rate as a lack of sleep. While running is a great way to reduce the effects of stress, the elevated heart rates you experience while in a stressful state will change the heart rates at which you should be running.

Unlike sleep, exact measurement of your stress levels is hard to determine and account for in heart rate training. Be aware after a particularly stressful day at work and adjust your workout accordingly.


As people with busy lives, caffeine becomes the fuel that runs our day. While staying awake at work is ideal, the elevated heart rates that caffeine causes will call for you to change your heart rate targets accordingly.

Again, it’s difficult to measure exactly how much caffeine will affect your heart rate, especially since we all react to caffeine individually.


During hot days, your heart rate will increase dramatically as your body works to cool itself down. In hot and humid conditions, blood is sent to the skin to aid in the cooling process. This means less available blood and oxygen for your working muscles. Therefore, your heart has to work harder to maintain the same pace and effort during your run.

While these caveats to heart rate training may make it look like an impractical way to go about your training, they are merely points to be aware of. Heart Rate training is great for people that are new to running or just getting started.

The heart rate will give you definitive numbers to know if you’re running easy, hard, or anywhere in between. As someone who is new to running or training, having this easy to use guideline makes training much easier.

So should I stop using my heart rate monitor as a runner?

My recommendation is to use heart rate training for the first month or two of you running schedule.

During this time, you will be able to start correlating your heart rate to a specific pace and effort. When you feel comfortable knowing what pace per mile correlates to running easy, hard, threshold or speed workout, I suggest you transition into monitoring your effort and workouts using times.

This will help you practice pacing for your target race and eliminate the fluctuations sleep, caffeine, heat, and stress can have on your training efforts.

The nice thing about heart rate training is that you can always come back to it to see just how far you’ve progressed. Every few weeks you can strap on the heart rate monitor and see how much faster you are able to run at a given heart rate.

This is a great way to monitor your progress.

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3 Responses on “4 Factors to Watch Out For When Training By Heart Rate

  1. First, I wanted to thank you for linking to my article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it beneficial. As for your question, most research shows that caffeine will increase your heart rate about 10 bpm. I like to use this as a general average and it serves me well. However, like all averages, it’s not always going to be 100% correct. The amount of caffeine you drink, how habitual a caffeine drinker you are, and what type/duration of exercise you’re doing will all change this number a bit. It’s also hard to determine if the increase in heart rate is due to caffeine or some other outside factor. So, I like to stay in the targeted heart rate zone unless I am sure caffeine, or some other outside factor, is the reason for the increase. I hope this helps and good luck with your training.

  2. For the past 3 months I’ve been purposefully training at a more moderate level to try and improve my aerobic fitness level (under 138 bpm). I’ve noticed a slight lowering of my heart rate, so I think improvement is happening. My ultimate goal is to get a sub 20 5k (currently at 21:58). How long would you say it will take before I see some big improvements in my pace at 5k? And when would you start doing more intense anaerobic speed sessions? Or can you mix slow sessions and speed sessions?

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