One of the challenges almost all runners inevitably face at some point in their running journey is managing their heart rate. Running is a cardiovascular exercise, which means it’s a workout for your heart as much as anything else. The heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle it takes time and hard work to get it stronger and build endurance. This is why you’ll probably struggle at the beginning with managing your heart rate when you’re running because chances are your heart won’t immediately be able to keep up with your pace!
So here are 5 ways to help your heart slow down and stop racing when you’re running.
1. Slow down (all the way if you have to)
One of the best ways to immediately get your heart rate down is to simply slow down. You might be running too fast for too long for your heart to keep up with you which is why it gets difficult to maintain a reasonable heart rate. So don’t fill your plate with more than you can eat and don’t go faster than you can handle.
As long as you’re still running, even if it’s at the speed of a sloth, you’re still running. You can speed up again once your heart has time to recover but going slower for longer lengths of time trains your heart better for endurance than just short speedy intervals.
2. Walk briskly instead to rest your heart
If you feel like slowing down isn’t working, then just stop running altogether and opt for a brisk walk. Go at your own pace and wait for your heart rate to slow down before you start running again. Remember, walking – especially briskly is still working on your heart, so don’t feel discouraged or as if you’re not making progress. Gradually you’ll be able to run for longer distances without needing to add in walking intervals.
3. Take deeper breaths
Another way to quickly manage our heart rate is to manage our breathing – which is more in our own control. Essentially, your heart is beating faster to transport oxygen to your body faster, and you can help out by providing more oxygen for your heart in the first place. Take a deep inhale and even allow yourself to hold that breath for a few seconds before taking a long exhale. By doing this for a few moments you’ll instantly notice your heart rate slowing down to a manageable and even comfortable BPM.
4. Fartlek Training for your heart
Fartlek is a Swedish word for “Speed Play” and it basically entails adding in intervals of sprinting embedded within your usual run. So to put it simply, for certain distances/locations/times during your run, you sprint as fast as you can, and when that sprinting duration ends, you walk until you regain your breath before continuing with the run interval again.
By adding multiple of these intervals during your run you’ll be able to give your heart these quick HIIT workouts which can help with heart health and endurance in the long run.
5. Take care of your heart health
Taking care of your heart health, in general, is so important not just for runners but for all members of the fitness community. Your heart is one of the most vital organs and it needs proper caring to be at its optimal level. Here are some foods you can add to your diet to help take care of your heart health:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish and fish oil
- Dark chocolate
- Olive oil
- Green tea
It’s also important to cut back on your alcohol intake, exercise regularly, avoid smoking, get your heart and blood pressure checked regularly (especially if you have heart problems) and get a sufficient amount of sleep.
By taking care of your heart, you’ll be setting yourself up for success both general health-wise and running journey-wise.