HR Volatility After Leaving Low Zone Training

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    I experimented with MAF and similar “Low Zone” training (the UphillAthlete methodology) for several years until about 18 months ago when I switched over to 8020 and regular/weekly intensity sessions. By “Low Zone” I mean exclusive endurance training in Zone 1 heartrates, to the point I had a upper threshold limiter I would stay under “no matter what.” When I did MAF this was my the standard MAF formula, but UphillAthlete has the same methodology but is more scientific in determining the upper limit of Zone 1 with aerobic threshold testing.

    Anyway, a couple of things I have noticed since I left those Low Zone styles behind.

    1) I can tolerate “race effort” much better. It seemed like a shock to the system when I would race previously, and it makes sense, I was never exposed to that effort in training so of course it was a shock. This also extends to any upper-zone intensity – repeats, tempo work, all of that is more tolerable when I do it regularly.

    2) The reason I am posting though is because I also notice what I am calling “HR Volatility” now. This means I notice that my HR bpm is much more likely to make BIG jumps and drops over the course of a workout. Previously it would stay in a narrow range (not just because I was capping the upper limit for HR) and the aforementioned massive efforts would be needed to get HR into some of those upper zones.

    I try not stay so laser focused on HR anymore, instead focusing on RPE or at least on power/pace zones instead but I can’t help but notice this huge range of volatility when analyzing workouts after the fact. Is this a known thing? Is it good? I know HR Variability is a good thing in general but this is obviously not the same thing. Just curious if any of our coaches here have any thoughts, thanks in advance.

    Leyla Porteous

    HI Brian,
    Thanks for using 80/20 Endurance Plans and methodology.

    I can’t speak too much on other systems – but when it comes to the 80/20 intensity balance, you are going to get a chance to avoid the moderate intensity rut, allowing you to do an appropriate amount of low intensity training to work on general aerobic fitness, combined with just the right amount of high intensity work to truly maximise your aerobic capacity.
    AS you have probably read our preferred metrics for training are pace and power, due to the variability seen with HR data, combined with heart rate lag and drift. In terms of the volatility you are seeing in your training data i assume this is when you are doing higher intensity intervals, where HR is going up on an effort and then coming down on recoveries? AS you become more aerobically conditioned, the heart (as a muscle) is also going to do a better job of recovering – so is this what you are seeing in your training? HR is able to go up higher (or responds better) and then also comes back down faster?

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