Heart Rate Training: A Beginner’s Perspective

beginner perspective on heart rate training

Today, I’m hoping to offer you all a beginner perspective on heart rate training.  I am not a running coach or a fitness professional, so please keep this in mind as you read about my journey.

Tests, and

Zones, and


Oh my!

If you Google heart rate training, you are bound to find a variety of theories, training plans, and opinions on whether or not heart rate training will benefit runners and help them achieve their next personal best.  For me, I set out at the start of the New Year, wanting to test out heart rate training for a few reasons.

  1.  Injury prevention.
  2.  Take the pressure off myself and stop focusing on the time on the clock.
  3.  Rediscover my love of running!

After researching the different schools of thought on heart rate training, I opted for the training methodology that I thought I could easily implement.  Since you just need a heart rate monitor to get started, I settled on Phil Maffetone’s MAF Training in the hopes of building my aerobic base.  In order to find your maximum aerobic heart rate, MAF utilizing the 180-Formula.  As stated on Phil Maffetone’s website regarding the creation of the 180-Formula,

“I settled on the final, most effective formula, which is the one in use today: 180 minus a person’s chronological age, which is then adjusted to reflect their physiological age as indicated by fitness and health factors. The use of the number 180 is not significant other than as a means to finding the end heart rate. Plus, 180 minus age itself is not a meaningful number; for example, it is not associated with VO2max, lactate threshold, or other traditional measurements. The end number is an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate. Thanks to the 180 Formula, all athletes can now obtain their ideal individual aerobic training rates.” – Phil Maffetone

Ideally, with MAF training, all exercise should regularly occur at or below your MAF heart rate.  As stated by Maffetone, “The closer you exercise to your MAF HR, the more body fat you will burn. When you go above this zone and your body is over worked, it requires fast-burn fuel (carbs) leading to more sugar cravings and over training risks.”

Yea, so that whole part on over training…. I don’t want to do it.  That’s one of the main reasons that I gave this method a shot.  So, with that in mind, I calculated my max heart rate and started running again!  I started conservatively in January and February because I took quite a few weeks off from running in November and December.  I did not want to do too much too soon, even though MAF offered a completely different approach.

The first few weeks were definitely a struggle.  I ran SLOW.  I also WALKED a lot.  In order to keep my heart rate at or below the intensity that I wanted, I had to let my ego go.  When I started in January I ran paces that I have never seen on the clock.  And, if there was a hill involved in my route, forget it!  Yes, it was extremely difficult to post those times on social media.  But after a few weeks, I really started to care less about the mile splits and more about all of the other positive things about running.  I stopped focusing on the mile splits on my watch and started taking in the way my body felt on hills, the gorgeous scenery around me, and how my breathing affected my heart rate.  These are all things that I often forgot about when I was training to hit a certain pace.  This alone has helped me regain my desire to run.  And, not only has it rekindled my love of running but I haven’t felt a nagging pain since I started heart rate training.  Those are two major victories as I am slowly starting to ramp up my mileage again.

I hope this beginner perspective on heart rate training is useful to some of you that are thinking about this approach to training.  I hope to provide updates throughout the year, especially as I start incorporating a more firm training plan and races back into my summer and fall schedule.  So, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them for you!

beginner perspective on heart rate training

And, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all! Tell me, have you ever tried heart rate training?  Which method did you use?  Did you find that it helped you achieve yours goals?  Also, please let me know if you have any interesting resources on heart rate training.  I can’t seem to read enough about it these days!



Join the VIP Family Today & Save 20% + Free Shipping. Simply use CUPCAKERUN16 at checkout and your membership will be automatically added to your cart. Don’t want to be part of the VIP Family? You can still enjoy 10% off today’s order when using CUPCAKERUN16 at checkout. Some exclusions apply, see site for details. Coupon Code: CUPCAKERUN16


  1. I'm new to heart rate training too. It's been good and yet challenging for me. I think I ran my long runs way too fast before so this has been good to learn to slow down. But I struggle mentally understanding how I will now run fast come race day.

    • Thanks Jen! It's nice to connect with other runners that are also testing the waters with heart rate training. I hear you on the long runs being too fast and struggling to see how it will all come together in the future.

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.