HR / MAS : the duel


MAS, heart rate, running by feel : each method has its benefits and drawbacks. There is no miracle solution, but some will suit you better according to the type of race you are preparing for, the training conditions and especially what you are looking for.


Whether you are a beginner to running or more generally preparing for a race, whatever the distance, you are going to be following a training plan. You'll find that there are three types of training plans that either make use of your MAS (Maximum Aerobic Speed) and its different rates of use, taking into account your heart rate or in certain cases (but more rarely) based on how you feel and your impressions.



Benefits: it's a highly reliable solution, with accurate markers. You will learn how to set your pace and subsequently reduce the risk of making mistakes when out running. We know fairly accurately the MAS rate that we can sustain over different types of races (5-10-21km etc.)

Drawbacks: you must do a test before (vameval, brue, cooper, semi-cooper, cat-test, test on treadmill in a lab, etc.) To do this you need to have access to an athletics track. You also need to use signposted paths that are pretty flat, so that your pace matches the calculations made during the test. Sometimes for certain reasons: tiredness at the end of on a work day, family priorities, difficult weather conditions (wind, cold, rain), will make it difficult to keep up with your normal running pace, which is sometimes hard to live with.


Heart rate

Benefits: Easy to set up. You'll exercise within your HR training zone and even if the speed is slightly different from one outing to the next, with the same heart rate training zone ((fatigue, weather, etc.) the effort will be the same and you will have used the right training zone. Another significant benefit, is that you are less likely to psychologically dread a session where you must match your HR rather than your speed. And lastly, this method is more meaningful when out training in the countryside on terrain that isn't necessarily flat.

Drawbacks: yet again, you have to establish what your maximum heart rate is, which will condition the different training zones. So you will have to do a test during which you'll have push yourself to your limit (it could be unpleasant). You have to buy a heart rate monitor, which you have to wear throughout or part of your outings. You must also know that this method is less relevant for training at precise paces.


Running by feel

Benefits: complete freedom, no pace or time constraints. You can still do a quality training session, with fartleck that consists of running as fast as you want, or doing colour coded fartleck, which consists of running from one point to another or for a duration set in advance. Its the first step towards a more structured future training workout

Drawbacks: You'll often find in this form of training, you'll be exercising below your potential, meaning you won't develop it.


In conclusion

Exercising on the basis of MAS is more accurate, more sophisticated. It is probably better suited to road runners and those looking to perform competitively. In this case, approaching an Athletics club and its training staff can really take to the next level.

Monitoring your training by using your heart rate, is better suited to those running in the countryside, or those that find it hard to set an a specific training goal.

You could benefit from doing a mix of both according to your training session and type of exercise you are looking to do.

Running by feel is manly for beginners. It will firstly make them aware of the benefits of a structured training session. And then they will move on to higher quality training if that's what they are looking for.

Whatever you choose to do, what's important to get the full benefit, is to get enjoyment out of training. If on paper one method is better suited than another, it will only be effective if it's the one you've adopted and use because you want to and not because you have to.



So slip on your running shoes and outfit, and first and foremost enjoy yourself running.