In a world driven by social media and constant self-improvement, many runners find themselves in the spotlight, pushing hard to achieve personal bests or lose weight. However, amidst this pursuit of excellence, it’s crucial to recognize the importance of proper fueling and the potential dangers of inadequate energy intake. This article explores the key metrics and strategies to help runners optimize their performance while maintaining their health.

The Role of Heart Rate Monitoring

For many runners, gadgets like sports GPS watches with heart rate monitors have become indispensable. While these devices offer valuable data, understanding how to use this information effectively can significantly enhance your training.

  1. Establish a Baseline: Start with a fitness evaluation to determine your current state and set accurate heart rate zones. This helps create a tailored training program and ensures you understand the numbers your watch displays.
  2. Monitor Your Training Zones: Using heart rate zones can guide your training intensity. Balancing lower and higher intensity sessions is crucial for a well-rounded program. Heart rate monitoring helps ensure you stay within the desired intensity range for each session.
  3. Consider External Factors: Remember that heart rate can be influenced by various factors such as caffeine intake, stress, temperature, and sleep quality. Be mindful of these variables to avoid misinterpreting your data.
  4. Combine with Perceived Exertion: Use heart rate data alongside your perceived exertion levels. This dual approach allows you to cross-check how your body feels with the objective data, leading to more accurate training adjustments.
  5. Track Trends Over Time: Regularly monitoring your resting heart rate and performance during workouts can reveal important trends. Identifying patterns such as increased resting heart rate or difficulty reaching target zones can indicate overtraining or impending illness.

Avoiding Under-Fueling and RED-S

While striving for peak performance, runners must be vigilant about their energy intake to avoid low energy availability and relative energy deficiency syndrome (RED-S). Both conditions can severely impact health and performance.

  1. Adequate Nutrition: Ensure you’re consuming enough calories to support your training load. This includes a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
  2. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to signs of fatigue, prolonged recovery times, or lack of progress. These can be indicators of insufficient fueling.
  3. Consult Professionals: If you’re unsure about your nutritional needs, consider consulting a sports nutritionist. They can provide personalized advice to ensure you’re meeting your energy requirements.
  4. Recovery is Key: Incorporate adequate rest and recovery into your training regimen. Overtraining without proper recovery can lead to burnout and increased risk of RED-S.

Balancing performance and health is essential for long-term success in running. By effectively utilizing heart rate monitoring and ensuring proper fueling, runners can optimize their training while safeguarding their well-being. Embrace a holistic approach, combining data-driven insights with intuitive understanding of your body’s needs, to achieve your running goals sustainably.


Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice runners or cyclists across all disciplines to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships. In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience. With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning specialist, performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the road or trails. Being a keen runner & cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first hand experience in what it take to reach your goals. If you’re looking for a once-off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.

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