Ditch the Distance – Go for Time

If you are training for a distance event, or just training in general, it is important that you work out properly and are prepared for any set of circumstances that come your way. So many things can affect your performance. The weather can be unpredictable, your body can respond differently; so many variables come into play on any given day, especially set race

Prepare for anything and make your training Mother Nature-proof by training with duration and intensity instead of distance.

A recent blog post by noted endurance training expert Joe Friel argues that one of the more common endurance training mistakes is focusing on distance instead of duration. While most people use distance when training because that is the measurement races use (it’s called a “5k”, not a “30 Minute-er”), the best way to combat variability is training using duration. Friel went on to explain further:

“With rare exceptions, the workouts I suggest athletes do are based on duration, not distance. The reason is that the intensity of a workout is specific to its length in time, but not necessarily to its distance. For example, if there are two runners in a 10-km race and one finishes in 30 minutes while the other, also working as hard as he can, finishes in 60 minutes, their intensities were not the same. The 30-minute finisher was working at a much higher intensity as a percentage of VO2max. If they were to both run as hard as they could for 30 minutes they would likely use almost exactly the same intensity; one would simply cover more ground than the other”

Therefore, if there are adverse conditions on race day, you can use your intensity training to alter how hard you push it in order to make sure you complete the race. Friel continues:

“The bottom line here is that intensity is inversely related to time. This means that as one increases, the other decreases. As the time of a race or workout gets longer, the intensity at which you are working is reduced. It’s obvious. You can’t run a marathon at your 5-km pace. You run slower in the marathon because you have to run for a longer time. A 30-minute 10-km racer and a 60-minute 10-km racer are, essentially, not doing the same race, and they shouldn’t train the same way either. In the same way, if the bike race will take longer due to wind then you must race at a lower power.”


Fitdigits on iOS has all of the tools you need to both create and track duration based workouts with a focus on intensity. Fitdigits Custom Workout Routines allows you to not only create workouts specialized to you, but also gives you in workout feedback if your intensity (i.e. Heart Rate) is too high or low.

Create a Structured Workout Based on Duration:
  1. On the Home page, choose the icon of the workout you wish to create the workout for (most likely Running)
  2. Tap Workout -> Workout Routines
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and tap New Time/Distance Routine
  4. Add a Name, Time and Zone. Longer workouts should be in lower zones, while shorter workouts should have a higher heart rate


You now are ready to start training! It is up to you whether you wish to add Auto End Routine and Auto Recovery to your workout.

–Read Joe Friel’s blog post Train for Duration or Distance?

Come race day, make sure you are prepared to monitor your race and make it to the end injury free. Use Fitdigits Fitness Assessments to set custom Heart Rate Zones, VO2 Max, and Lactate Threshold.



Heart Rate Monitoring is at Fitdigits’s Core

Testimonial by Fitdigits user David S.

Having decided I needed more Heart Rate analysis than my Garmin 310 Forerunner/Garmin Connect combination provided I began the process of testing the myriad of fitness/running Apps available for the iPhone. I finally identified iRunner by Fitdigits as the one that would give me the information I required.

iRunner by Fitdigits stands above other Apps because it is designed with Heart Rate monitoring at its core rather than an added extra; for me heart rate based training is essential for anyone who is serious about improving their performance.

I use a Polar H7 Heart Rate strap and an iPhone 5 and it works seamlessly. The App allows me customization of my Heart Rate Zones and of what I see and hear, allowing me to achieve the goals I have set for each training session; I have found no other App that delivers this kind of functionality.

Once I have completed my training session the information breakdown given by the App is excellent, but when it is uploaded to the Fitdigits website, My.Fitdigits, along with a Fitdigits MVP Subscription the analysis starts to stand out against other fitness sites. I can now analyze my cumulative Heart Rate data for any period and any training type. I now know if I am spending the right amount of time in each zone for any phase of my training. It was this functionality that led me to doing a VO2 Max test to nail my Heart Rate Zones, which then took my training to another level.

I have been using iRunner since June 2013 and have no doubt that it was a major contributor to setting PRs in the Half Marathon and 10k this year!

Part II: Fitdigits CP30 Running Assessment Saved My Half Marathon

CP30 Results

In part I, I described my quest to beat a PR of 1:46 set in the previous year for the same half marathon. Unfortunately, as the race drew closer, there wasn’t enough time left to train normally.

Instead, I turned to the Fitdigits assessments to help streamline my training. I completed the Fitdigits CP30 Running Assessment to determine my maximum heart rate (maxHR)*, heart rate zones** and lactate threshold***. I knew if I could stay below my lactate threshold, I could definitely finish the race. If I went above my threshold, I might bonk, become too fatigued or worse, injure myself.

Taking the CP30 Running fitness assessment ten days before the half marathon was essential to my race strategy and ultimate success. The screen shot on the right is my CP30 results which calculated my lactate threshold (LTHR) of 159 beats per minute (BPM) which became my strategy for race day: keep my heart rate below 159 BPM during the race. View my 30 minute assessment heart chart.

I’m surprised how few of us really know how fit we are. If you accurately identify your fitness level, it becomes incredibly easy to tailor your fitness program. For example, working out too hard or too easy can have a profound affect on your performance and overall enjoyment of your activity. To illustrate my point, the following two graphs show how my heart zones differ between the standard 220 – age and my CP30 assessment.

My maxHR improved by 5 BPM to 168 with CP30 Running Assessment.

Industry Standard: Fitdigits Industry standard 220-age (as used by Fitdigits and other heart rate monitors) calculated my maxHR at 163 beats BPM, Zone three at 113-129 BPM.

CP30  Assessment: Fitdigits CP30 Running Test determined my maxHR as 168 BPM with my lactate threshold at 159 BPM and Zone 3 at 142-149 BPM.

Notice the following:

  • My maxHR measured 5 BPM higher in the assessment vs standard 220-age. My lactic threshold previously calculated at 122 BPM (85% of maxHR) and improved by 21 BPM in the assessment to 159 BPM. For some, differences can be as high as 20 BPM.
  • My Zone 3 significantly changed. As it turns out, my Zone 3 (necessary for race day training) was off by 10 BPM using the industry standard. Standard 220-age calculated my Zone 3 at 113-129 BPM but I should have been training at 142-149 BPM thanks to the CP30 calculations. In fact, 113-129 is actually more like my zone 1 than Zone 3. Big difference.

So what does all this mean? Thanks to the CP30 Running Assessment, I was able to complete my half marathon injury free and very close to my target pace. Knowing my true maxHR, lactic threshold and proper zones made it possible for me to complete the race with minimal training.

I don’t recommend taking the assessment as a replacement for training but given that I’m relatively fit and healthy, it made all the difference. So, if you are training for a race, trying to lose weight or just exercising to stay in shape, take a Fitdigits Assessment to determine your actual maxHR, lactate threshold and proper zones. Exercising with accuracy affects your training, performance and general well-being.

Race Day

We arrived at the Santa Ynez marathon starting point at 6:30AM; 30 minutes before the start. The morning was cool, low 50s, and shrouded in a light fog. Just about ideal race conditions.

The racecourse weaves its way through scenic rolling hills, colored in peaceful green headed to light golden brown and spotted with oaks, cattle and horses. The area is building its appellation reputation due to the growing number of small up-and-coming boutique wineries — hence the name Wine Country Half Marathon.

About 3,000 entrants are milling around, hugging themselves and rubbing their arms up and down, slightly jogging in place, just keeping moving to stay warm. As common to many half marathons, about 70% of the runners are women.

With 5 minutes before the start, Sven and I worked our way forward through the crowd, estimating where the 7:30 – 8:30 pace groups were congregating. I started reminding myself to, “Stick with your race strategy. Watch your heart rate, not the clock, and not your pace. Don’t get swept up in a fast start.  And don’t try to stay with Sven.”

The gun sounded, the crowd slowly shuffled through the starting gate, the pace gradually quickened. I found myself dancing more than running as I avoided the hundreds of falling feet each establishing their footing and pace.

While I had started next to Sven, with less than 5 minutes into the run it was getting hard to spot him in amongst the racers headed off the front. I glanced down at my phone and sure enough, my heart rate had spiked, driven by the adrenalin of race start and chaos of the first half mile. “Okay Dean, settle down, run your race.”

The 13.1 course is split 60/40 as uphill and down hill.  The first leg is a gentle 200 ft uphill grade which ends in a short, steep 150 ft climb. The second half mirrors the first but descends 450ft to end with a 100 foot climb about a qtr mile from the finish.

I like running uphill. And I’ll admit, I like passing runners on uphill climbs. It’s a macho thing which as I age, I’m wisely letting go. The year before I kept a strong pace up the steep grade. But upon cresting I realized that I had spent a lot and didn’t have much kick going down the back side.  I remembered that mistake and promised myself I wouldn’t make it again.

The race was moving along well. I kept my Fitdigits screen on the heart chart and kept my heart in a +/- 3 heart beats around 156.  I was feeling good and strong as I approached the steep climb. As I started up the grade, I watched my hr climb so I slowed down my pace, holding back the horses that wanted to charge upwards.

At 60 min, my heart rate rose to 164 BPM. It was time to slow down and return to race pace (159 BPM).

Just prior to the crest I was smiling as I had stayed my course … but I was feeling a bit too good.  I decided to up my speed down the back side passing a few dozen runners. My heart rate rose to 164 while I wasn’t watching and I found myself breathing hard and noticeably tiring.  I looked at my chart, saw my errant ways and slowed it down. But by then my legs were heavy.  I’d spent too much time in zone 5 and the lactic acid had taken its toll. Even though I was now running a gentle down hill, my pace was noticeably slower and I was working to keep my heart rate at 152. It took me almost 30 minutes to recover in preparation to crank it up for the last 2 miles.

Crossing the finish line.At mile eleven I picked up my pace. I was feeling tired but still had the will and power to press on. When I hit the last short climb, I slowed it down, watching my hr, and made my way up. At the top I started pushing again with just a mile to the finish line. The end of the course takes a sharp left turn into the middle of the town. The turn is about an 1/8th of a mile to the finish. With the turn in sight I let the horses run finishing with a sub 6:00 pace.

I passed through the banners, hit slide to pause and end workout button, finishing with a 1:50:51 Fitdigits time.  Just 4 minutes shy of my personal best.  I was feeling great and a little smug.  For the most part, I kept to my plan, cutting myself some slack for my downhill splurge.

Sven was there to greet me with his big broad smile. He had crossed the finish line 10 minutes earlier.


Sven and my family at the finish line.


*maximum heart rate (maxHR) is the highest number of times your heart can contract in one minute. Max HR is the most useful tool to be used in determining training intensities, because it can be individually measured or predicted.

**heart rate zones are a range of heart beats. Recent research has shown powerful benefits from exercising in several different zones to get maximum benefit.

***lactate threshold or lactate inflection point is when your body starts producing more lactic acid than the blood can remove from your muscles which accelerates fatigue and can lead to injury. Read more )

Comprendo CEO, Dean Hovey, Runs a Half Marathon

Comprendo CEO, Dean Hovey, Runs a Half Marathon

“I knew I was in trouble.”

The stakes were high. With all the best intentions, life’s twists and turns got the best of me. As race day approached an untimely mixture of frequent travel, a nagging cold, and a grueling work schedule had all taken its toll on my training regimen. Instead of running the prescribed 22 – 30 miles per week I had put in less than 12 on average. I knew that I was in trouble. Either my ego would be shattered, I’d end up hurting myself, or both. Read more.


Any day they hang a medallion around your neck is a good day

After working at Fitdigits for a couple months, I ran a half-marathon this past Sunday, June 5th, 2011. The Ojai 2 Ocean, though it started and ended at the Ventura Pier in Ventura, California, which means it was a hometown run for me. I’ve been running for many years now, so it wasn’t a first, but it was certainly a beautiful and fun one. After passing my 30s my marathons have become fewer and my half-marathons much more fun! My goal this time was a 2 hour 10 minute run, on the low end, 2 hours.

chris means

Chris Means from Fitdigits runs the Ojai 2 Ocean

In the interest of testing, I brought my iPhone and my latest version of Fitdigits with me, as well as my Garmin 305, thinking I’d compare results. Of course, as does happen occasionally, I got to the starting line and turned on the Garmin only to find out it was already on reserve battery power (I had only used it for one small run after charging it last! I think maybe it got turned on while in my gym bag by accident). Thank god for backup, especially backup that included my tunes!

It was a beautiful morning, and the race started promptly at 6am. It was great having my iRunner going – I was able to pay close attention to my heart rate, and make sure I didn’t make the mistake I’ve made so many times before – going out waayyy to fast. I tried to keep my pace down to zone 3, my endurance zone, for at least the first 8 miles. I wanted to make sure there was gas in the tank at the end. I was glad I did – it was fairly often, caught up in the vibe of the run, that my heart started pounding harder, even though my perceived effort was still just having fun and moving along. I knew to cut it back.

New Fitdigits Heart Rate Chart

New Fitdigits Heart Rate Chart - Ojai 2 Ocean run

By mile 8 I was ready to “push the engine” a little more, though I knew I still had a ways to go. I picked up the pace to zone 4, allowed myself to cross the line. From there, I tried to hold it steady for the next couple miles, until at least mile 10 or 11, when it was time to crank up the afterburners (well, ok, time to push myself – not exactly a jet engine these days, but it sure felt like my legs were on fire).

When all was said and done, I had just crossed into the “over max effort” zone as I crossed the finish line in 1:56, crushing (yes, I do believe 4 minutes better than your goal time is crushing 😉 my goal). I knew I had given it all I had, maximum overdrive. Whether it was the best run race or not, I can’t say; I’m not a trainer, just an old(er) runner, but it felt good and just being out there keeps me young. The effort was all mine, with a special shout-out to the wife, who of course I couldn’t do it without her support, but Fitdigits was certainly a key companion and partner throughout – and it let me rock out along the way too!

When all is said and done, any day they hang a ribbon and medallion around your neck is a good day. Any day you finish a hard workout by 8am AND get a medal, that’s a great day!