How to Get Started with a Heart Rate Monitor

Many people are into running, cycling, triathlon and other endurance events. It’s surprising with how much is invested into these sports both in terms of time and money that more people don’t use heart rate monitors.Why is using a heart monitor such a great idea? Well it for starters it allows the user to get better results in less time. It makes training more efficient and safer.

How far would you drive without any feedback?

How far would you drive without any feedback?

Consider owning a high performance sports car such as a Ferrari.  You only drive this car in the summer and only on certain roads. It never sees the rain or snow. If you have to park you are that jerk that takes up two spots to give a large buffer. Servicing is done by the only person within 100 miles that works exclusively on Ferraris. It only takes premium fuel and you make sure to log and note everything about this awesome machine.

Now let’s say you plan to take your Ferrari out onto the highway for a few hours to have some fun. You want to test out the handling, the acceleration, how it climbs and most importantly to feel the top end speed.

Only one problem…none of your gauges are working. While you can start and turn the car on all of the needles for every gauge are buried to the left. So you can’t read the speed, temperature, tachometer…nothing works.

Are you still going out for that drive with no feedback on how the car is performing? Probably not. I’m guessing some people might even call for a flat bed tow truck as to not risk doing any damage to the vehicle while out on the drive.

But guess what? You are way more valuable and rare than a Ferrari. In a lifetime you could own multiple Ferraris. And  a Lamborghini. And a number of other fine cars as well. But there only be own ‘you’. Yet we continue to train when we can’t read any of our gauges.

So let’s now assume that we are on the same page and we recognize the value of investing in a heart rate monitor. Wouldn’t it be possible for two people to buy one monitor and simply train based off the feedback of the one monitor?

For example, what if two friends of the same with the same 10 km run time were to buy one heart rate monitor and share it. Could this work?

Obviously not. And here’s why.

Our heart rates will differ for a number of reasons including our:

* age

* sex

* fitness level

* physiology

* hydration status

* environmental conditions (heat/humidity

* altitude

While this list isn’t complete it introduces a number of variables that will cause two people to have vastly different heart rates and respond differently to training stress.

So now if we recognize the value of investing in a heart rate monitor what are some of the things we need to know in order to get the most value out of this device?

First of all we need to know our resting heart rate, our maximum heart rate and our heart rate reserve. Here’s how you can calculate each of these.

HR Rest– Using either the radial artery on the inside of the wrist or the carotid artery on your next count the beats in 20 seconds. Don’t use your thumb. While you could measure for less  than 20 seconds a longer count is more accurate. Keep a notepad at your bedside table and do this test every morning upon rising. After a number of days find the average. My HR Rest is 41 beats per minute (bpm).

Take your resting pulse first thing in the morning.

Take your resting pulse first thing in the morning.

HR Max – While the most common way to estimate maximum heart rate is simple i.e. 220 – age, there can errors in this by 5-10 beats up or down depending on the individual. A better way would in a clinical setting or to do a fitness test. For now let’s just use 220 – age and understand the limitations. My HR Max is 178 bpm.

HR Reserve – This is the difference between your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate. HR Max – HR Rest = HR Reserve. This range of heart rates is what we can work with when training. My HR Reserve is 178 – 41 = 137.

Now that we have these three values we can begin to calculate some training zones to help us with our training.

For example let’s say I was new to training and wanted to go for a run and stay at 65% which is comfortably in the aerobic training zone. Here’s how I would calculate this number.

0.65 * HR Reserve + HR Rest

0.65 * 137 + 41

For me this comes a value of 130 bpm. Again this is just an estimate and may need to be adjusted up or down slightly once I initiate training and see how I respond.

However if I want to get started with training to build endurance and aerobic capacity I would run at this heart rate and now much higher for now. Over time you would re-measure your HR Rest and possibly do a performance test to determine your HR Max. As these change so will your HR Reserve and so your heart rate training zones will need to be adapted as well.

If you have any questions about this or any other aspect of heart rate training post them below. As well we carry the Polar RS 300X if you would like to get set up with a monitor.

Chris [fb-like]





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