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Heart Rate Zones / Strava Relative Effort

Mt. Kenya

Trying to keep this short!

I have been training pretty hard the last several weeks and I have seen some pretty significant changes in my heart rate. Ultimately I am wondering if I should be adjusting my heart rate zones in Strava or Garmin Connect (I have a Fenix 7).

The main issue I am seeing is that I will be doing pretty large efforts, however, according to Strava the relative effort is very minor. For example, last week I did a 30km run. Average pace of 5:30/km, my average heart rate was 145. So according to Strava, the "relative effort" was only 89, which basically meant I saw no "fitness increase" (I was wearing an HRM pro).

I don't really think the solution is that I should be running harder to increase my heart rate? My legs definitely felt the workout, but according to my apps it was basically nothing.

I know these apps are imperfect, but it's all I have and I'm training enough at this stage where I would really like to have things dialed in.

As another example, I did a "12km Easy run" at 5:17/average yesterday and my average HR was 147, Strava gave this a "relative effort" of 63, meaning my "Fitness Level" (currently 137) decreased by one for the day.

So questions are:

-Should I be adjusting my heart rate zones?
-Should I be pushing harder on these easier/slower runs to bring my heart rate up more?
-Are there other metrics I should be looking at?

Much appreciated, hopefully this kicks off some discussion (and not just that you can't trust the apps)

Current heart rate zones (based on Strava automated zones) are:

Z1 0-116 | Z2 116-153 | Z3 153-172 | Z4 172-191 | Z5 > 191



Assuming that your heart rate is mostly constant during your runs then according to the setup zones you're running in zone 2. Zone 2 is not a zone to give you a high relative effort. If you feel that your effort is much higher than the usual zone 2 (your breathing in the "real" zone 2 would be mostly relaxed with no problems speaking or singing) then you should adjust the zones so that you come into zone 3 with these efforts.

If you should pushing harder is something that only you can answer based on how you feel before, during and after the runs. A fitness level of 137 is very high, but that only means you have exercised very often and long in recent times. The number alone can only give subtle hints if you're overreaching or slacking when you compare it to previous numbers.

I guess the real conundrum for me here is that the Strava "fitness" scale then doesn't seem to fit with the standard wisdom of the day. If I were to push harder for my 30km long run I would be getting up into Zone 3, which so many people say now is a no-no, but I would be rewarded on the Strava "Fitness" scale.

If the vast majority of the training world is saying "run slow to get faster", "build fitness by running slowly", etc, etc. Then why isn't Strava recognizing these runs as improving my "fitness".

Conventional wisdom right now is saying that the long runs are the most important ones, and to make sure they aren't too fast (that you'd get into zone three). But then Strava is saying...meh, you're 30k run was basically not a workout and didn't improve your fitness.

Maybe a Strava problem?

That's only the usual problem that everybody thinks at first, that Strava's fitness means fitness. This forum is full of that but they won't change the term and don't even comment on that misleading. Strava's fitness is just a training load and therefore you will get higher numbers for being in higher zones.