Hi All! Coach Floris here. One question that comes up pretty frequently is:
“How much should I train at a low heart rate to improve aerobically?”
I have seen a wide range of answers. Some runners say, you need at least 8 or 10 hours of running to improve your aerobic pace.
Others say they have noticed aerobic improvements with just a few hours of training a week.
Below are my thoughts on this topic from a running coach perspective.
My approach to coaching is focused on developing my athletes to become stronger, healthier and happier.
In this holistic approach to training, racing and life everything is connected, your training load (volume and intensity), your stress levels, sleep quality, recovery, nutritional intake, mindset, etc.
The appropriate amount of low heart rate training per week also depends on your individual fitness level, goals and overall health.
Most non-elite runners have many things going on outside of running, such as work projects, family life and other responsibilities that require time and energy.
Running more is not always the answer to improving your aerobic pace. What matters is how well you are able to recover from your workouts to improve. The image below shows this.
Many athletes get injured when they increase their training volume and / or training intensity too quickly.
As a general guideline, you want to start conservatively and be able to work out consistently. Gradually increase your training volume as your body and mind adapt.
Every athlete is different and it’s not possible to give a minimum amount of hours of training that’s the same for everyone.
Overtraining and mental burnout are common factors among athletes.
There have been several runners that I have seen in our Personal Best Program, on Strava and on YouTube, that would perform better if they would train less and focus on recovering from their workouts and daily life more.
It’s a fine line, because we do want to positively stress our body to make fitness adaptations but we don’t want to overdo it.
Paying close attention to how well you are recovering from your runs and how you feel (physically and mentally) before your next run is important, vs blindly following a training schedule.
My own experience
When I have a lot going on in my own life, I sometimes skip planned workouts and dial back the training volume. That way, the workouts that I do, I can recover well from.
My own training volume is typically not that high, yet I do train consistent. Here is an example of this from my Strava, averaging about 200 miles / 320km per month.
Training consistently, injury free, with joy are the keys to long term healthy running in my books.
Walking is training!
My wife Jennifer is not a runner, she enjoys playing pickleball. Yet, when she and I walked for 3 months consistently every day for 20 to 30 minutes, her resting heart rate dropped by 20 beats. That’s 20 beats per minute lower, purely by walking consistently!
Depending on where you are aerobically, walking can absolutely make you a better runner too!
To improve aerobically, your training volume is only part of the puzzle. Gradually ease into consistent running (and / or walking), see what training volume is doable with your work / life / running schedule with a buffer in case unexpected things happen.
Outside of that look at the other areas of your life that you can pay close attention to, that are directly related to your aerobic development.
Have fun out there on your runs!
P.S. If you are looking for additional training and racing guidance, check out our running coaching program at PBprogram.com
P.P.S. Dr Mark Cucuzzella likes what we are doing with our Personal Best Program and he is joining us to host a Q&A Zoom coaching call for all PB program members.