Q: Hills are Sabotaging my Heart Rate Zones!


I have recently been paying more attention to heart rate training.  The problem I am running into is staying in certain zones when I need to because just about every one of my routes is pretty hilly.  Are there any suggestions you could provide to help out with this method of training?

Thank you in advance.



Hey Gavin,

I run into the same problem (couldn’t resist the pun, sorry).

The heart rate zones are an incredibly valuable guide, and you’ve just had a eureka moment in your training.  All this time, your choice of terrain has been messing with your recovery.  People don’t often realize how much hills jack up their heart rate, and now that you know, you really need to stay off the hills on days when you are truly trying to recover.

Realistically, this should only effect 2-3 of your runs per week.  The day after a really hard workout, (or the day before an important workout), you need to either stay off the hills entirely, or run embarrassingly slow (or even walk up them).  Seriously.

As a general rule, when I have a true recovery run, I keep my heart rate at 140 or lower, and I limit all hills to less than two minutes long (which makes just a little heart rate spike).  I know walking is like a forbidden act among hard-core runners, but wearing a heart rate monitor while hiking up a steep grade can be enlightening.  If you literally can’t avoid hills where you live, you may have to walk (or at least shuffle) now and then.

Strict adherence to recovery can have a huge effect on the quality of your hard workout days and races.