I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to talk to you on behalf of your heart. It seems that your heart feels a bit under appreciated and doesn’t feel like you truly understand what it goes through in a day. Your heart is quietly, without complaint trying to do everything you are asking of it while still handling all of those tasks that are needed to keep you alive that you don’t even consciously think about.
The argument between power/pace training zones vs. heart rate training zones was always simplified down to: power/pace is a direct measure of the work you are doing vs. heart rate is a response to the work you are doing. But this is not entirely true. Your heart rate is not only the response to the work you are doing during the workout but is also the response to it handling a number of other factors such as: temperature, humidity, stress, fatigue, glycogen levels, caffeine and digestion of food just to name a few. When you stop and think about all that the circulatory system is responsible for you can see how many things affect your heart rate.
As a parent working from home during quarantine with my kids remote learning I can totally understand what it feels like to be my heart and responsible for doing multiple tasks at once. For the past year I have been responsible for doing my day job, helping with school work, cleaning the kitchen100 times a day, making meals, walking the dog and doing the laundry. And the hardest part is that each demand doesn’t realize I am being asked to do stuff by the others. The dog doesn’t care that I have to clean the dishes, that work email needs to be addressed at the same time my daughter is asking me for help with a math problem.
Think about how many directions you get pulled in during a given day; your responsibility to your work, your kids, your spouse, your dog, yourself! There are certainly days when we all want to just scream out loud “I can’t do it all!”
That is exactly what your heart is thinking when you are asking it to do those Vo2max repeats. You are yelling at your heart to give you more but your heart is like “F@&% you man! I am trying to keep you from having a heat stroke, process the 5 espressos you had this afternoon not to mention digesting the last minute PB&J sandwich you scarfed down right before getting on the bike.” Take a moment and think about all of the things your body is going through and every one of those things is asking something from your heart. The sole responsibility of your heart is not just to deliver oxygen to the muscles during that interval; it’s main objective is to keep you alive. Give your heart a break and realize all that it is doing the same way you would like others to stop for a moment and realize all the things you are trying to get done.
Seeing how the heart has to handle all of these different things is exactly why I choose to base my workout zones on power/pace and not heart rate. We mentioned a number of things above that will have an affect on the heart rate but those things won’t affect your ability to produce power.* Even though I don’t base my workouts off of heart rate I still track it as it will give me information as I am doing my workout. If I am struggling to hit a power number and my heart rate is higher than normal for that effort I can then assume that my body is dealing with another issue not just my workout demands; maybe heat, elevated stress or a thousand different things. I need to respect that and adjust my expectations as I would want people to do for me if I was being pulled in many different directions. If I am in a workout and hitting my power number and my heart rate is lower than normal I can choose to go ahead and push a little harder if I know my heart is up for it.
What I am getting at is to think about your heart as a person that works for you and respect that person. Realize that just because you need something done and done now doesn’t mean your employee has the bandwidth to get it done that minute. Respect the fact that they are also doing the other 10 things you asked them to get done at that moment as well. We have all been “the employee” at some point and wished that the boss had just the slightest idea of all the things you are trying to get done for them. Have some compassion for your heart; it deserves your ❤️.
Fun Fact: Did you know that about 75% of the energy you are producing during a workout is going to thermoregulation; maintaining your body temperature. 75%! Always remember that your heart’s main responsibility is to keep you alive and not that KOM on Strava.
Keep moving forward!
*Yes I understand that if my heart rate is high it will limit how long I can sustain that power/pace but it does not affect if I can actually produce that power. This is a debate/conversation for another time.