Q: I am having a hard time running in Level 1 for long distances. Just feels too easy. Do I need to stay in this level for 70-90 percent or can I jump to Level 3?
A: I am familiar with your hesitance with HR levels. As a skier, I was trained to always follow my heart rate. As a runner in college, there was a much higher focus on distance and time (speed). There seems to be a conflict between these two philosophies.
As I have never coached a running team, I will explain the philosophy behind the HR based training that we use on the skiing side of things. In an ideal situation, an athlete will go through physiological testing at the beginning of a season. These tests usually include a VO2 Max test and a Blood Lactate test. There are a lot of data that you can glean from these tests, but perhaps the most important are the specific heart rates associated with our training levels (1-5). These values can very greatly from athlete to athlete due to differences in anatomy, previous training experience, etc. My level 1 is especially high, topping out at 151bpm. If I were to follow a traditional “guideline” hr for level 1, I would barely be moving!
Once those values are established, it is very important to stick within those training zones. We keep easy days very easy in order to push ourselves harder on the intensity days. There is a very simple truth that if you constantly train at a moderately fast speed, you will only ever achieve a moderately fast speed. An easy workout is designed to allow for recovery while still building an aerobic base. If we are running or skiing at a slightly faster speed you enter a “no-mans land” of sorts, where you are not recovering from a previous day’s hard work out, but you are also not working hard enough to challenge and push your anaerobic threshold.
In short, if you are basing level one workouts off of a general HR prediction, it very well could be too easy for you. If it is within your zone, we do want to keep our easy workouts in that heart rate range.
Hope this helps!