My heart rate numbers are not matching my training effort – What does this mean?

My heart rate numbers are not matching my training effort – What does this mean?

What does it mean if your heart rate does not match your training intensity? How much should you judge your training on heart rate and how much on feel? Coach Rudolf and Brad discuss the ins and outs of heart rate training and how to reliably use the metrics in your training sessions.

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Welcome back on to the next of our videos. This is TRI with Coach Parry. I'm Brad Brown, we've got our triathlon coach Rudolf Naude with us once again. Rudolf, welcome.

Hi, there, Brad. Thanks for having me.

Rudolf, it's awesome to touch base once again and I wanted to sort of talk today a little bit about metrics. We had a great question in on our forums on the Coach Parry Online Training Platform and it's about heart rate, someone was saying they've obviously got certain zones that they're trying to stick to and hit certain numbers in their training, but they're finding that while they're doing it often they're not hitting the numbers that they should be hitting. But they're feeling great. So their numbers might be a lot higher, or a lot lower, but they're feeling fantastic during those sessions.


Training by metrics vs feel


How important is it to race purely by metrics? Or train purely by metrics that you making sure you're hitting those numbers? Or should you be training to feel and learning how your body reacts to different stimuli that you're throwing at it during training?

Heart rate is a very fickle thing that changes dramatically. So for, just an easy example, a lot of people if you have a cup of coffee that you're not used to then that elevates your heart rate immediately, also, for a few hours. So heart rate is a very variable variable that you have. It changes dramatically, and also depends on if you had a good night's sleep, or is there stress at work or home or something like that. So to use heart rate as an absolutely training tool and just that, and ignore feeling, I would not suggest doing that just because it changes so easily.

So if you go out for a training programme or a training run, let's say you're having an easy run, and you see your heart rate is higher, but the effort for you, yourself, feels like it is an easy effort, then that's fine, then ignore the heart rate and just carry on as you were. Same can be happening for let's say, you're doing intensity session on the track, and you need to run at a certain pace, because that is your race pace, but your heart rates lower. That doesn't mean you need to go harder to get the heart rate up higher.

So heart rate is a good variable to measure to see how you feel day to day, when you wake up in the mornings, you can take your heart rate, and then if it's 10 to 15 beats higher than you know, Okay, listen, I might be getting sick, or I'm still fatigued from the previous day. So maybe I need to take it a bit easier. But that doesn't mean that you just listen to heart rate. If you're going on feel, it is also very, very important. So for my advice, use heart rate, but don't only look at that.

Feel is very important. Even if you feel bad during a hard session and your heart rate's not high, it's still important to finish the session to get the feel of it. So that you know in race day, if you're feeling bad on race day, you know, listen, I have felt worse in training before and I finished the training session. So I can actually push through this.


Take other factors into account


Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I agree with you. I mean, it's all numbers, I'm a firm believer of what gets measured improves. And if you are tracking numbers over time, and whether it's heart rate, or power, or whatever it is, you are going to see improvements over time. But it's also important not to live and die by those numbers. You've got to take into account, like you said, you might be having stress at work or things are tough at home, you've got a toddler that's not sleeping as an example, you've got to really take everything into account, you can't just look at the numbers.

Yeah, so if you can get more than just heart rate, so on the cycle, you get heart rate and power and use those two together, then you can see, okay, today the heart rate is very high, but the power is constant so I might have just had a bad night's sleep and the power's there but the heart rate's a bit high so I'm still in my correct zone. And also the other way around, if the power is normal, and the heart rate's low, that might just be in a sign that you've got fitter and your heart rate is lower because you're getting fitter.

So the more variables that you use, it's easier to gauge your effort. But then also, it's more difficult because you need to look at more things. So there's a fine line between living and dying by the numbers and then also going on feel. So you need to judge on field and also on the numbers. So I would say a combination of all those elements will give you the best. I would not just follow power or heart rate or feel for example.

Yeah, absolutely. And it's important to get some help as well and get some other eyes looking that sort of info. If you do need some guidance and help on your triathlon journey, be sure to check out the Coach Parry Online Training Platform and head over to and you can get all the details there. We've got a very interactive web and mobile app. You get access to all of our training programmes, we've got you covered right through from a beginning sprint triathlon programme all the way through to advanced Iron Man. So definitely go check it out well worth a look. Rudolf, as always thanks for your time today here on on the podcast, much appreciate it. We look forward to catching up again soon.

Thanks for having me, Brad.

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