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The Triathlete Blueprint newsletter #15-Why You Should Stop Training with Heart Rate

Updated: Apr 8

Read time: 3min.

By Coach Yan Busset

Exploring Better Ways to Train: Beyond Heart Rate

We all know how tempting it is to use heart rate (HR) as our trusty training guide. It seems easy, right? But here's the catch: relying solely on your heart rate might not be the best way to optimize your workouts. Let's dig into why and discover some alternatives that could level up your training game.

Why Relying Only on Heart Rate Can Be Tricky

Okay, picture this: you're pushing on the treadmill, and you check your heart rate monitor. But guess what? Your heart rate doesn't jump up the instant you start working hard. It takes around 30 to 180 seconds to catch up. That's like your heart saying, "Hold on, I'm getting there!" So, when you're doing bursts, like High intensity intervals, your heart rate might not give you the real-time feedback you need.

And guess what? Your heart rate can be a bit of a drama queen. It gets influenced by stuff like that cup of coffee you had, the weather outside, how stressed you are, how hydrated you are, and even if your heart rate monitor isn't having the best day. So, while it's an awesome tool, it can sometimes give you misleading info.

Don't Dump Heart Rate—It Has Its Moments!

Before we start trashing heart rate, let's give credit where it's due. Heart rate can tell you a lot about your body over time. If you keep an eye on your morning resting heart rate or heart rate variability (HRV), you can get hints about how ready your body is for a workout. If your resting heart rate keeps spiking for some days, it could mean you need a breather or you might be getting sick. Also HR can be useful as in cross data analysis, you could use it with speed and power on your bike to see what position or gear choice is the most efficient. If you HR is lower for a given steady wattage, it’s a good hint that it makes you more efficient.

Time for Some Better Tricks

Alright, let's talk about the cool alternatives to heart rate that can make your workouts smarter:

  • Swimming: Perform a Critical Swim Speed (CSS) test, a 200+400m or a 1000m.

  • Cycling: It sounds low tech but a nose breathing ramp up test to find your high Z2 limit (Aka aerobic threshold/LV1), can be as precise as a lab test. (more on training zones here) Also, if you are thinking of getting serious with your training, the best value per money investment you can treat yourself with is a powermeter. Unlike HR, power is a real time effort intensity measurement, so its suitable for shorter interval pacing. Critical Power tests or FTP tests can help you find that point where your muscles are screaming but in a good way (anaerobic threshold/LV2).

  • Running: Just like in cycling, a breathing Z2 assessment test can be your new buddy. Plus, a simple 800m+3km or 1km+4km or a 30min non stop time trial, can that helps you figure out your pace training zones.

The Bright Side of Smart Training

Ditching heart rate as your only guide doesn't mean you're lost. Actually, it's quite the opposite. When you mix in pace, breathing, and power, you're getting a 360-degree view of your workout. This means you can fine-tune your sweaty sessions and get closer to your fitness goals way faster.

So, to wrap things up, heart rate isn't the bad guy—it's just not the whole story. Exploring the world of pace, breathing, and power will make your training journey way more exciting and effective.

Remember: Keep in mind that all these ideas are like puzzle pieces. Combine them to see the bigger picture and get the most out of your workouts.Now go out there and crush it!

Thank you for reading and see you next week!


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

1. If you are looking for support for your triathlon journey, I recommend you book a 30min 1on1 video consultation with me here.

2. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.

3. if you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here


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