Heart rate monitors can elevate your training

Monday, February 19, 2018

When you climb a set of stairs, does your heart rate (also known as pulse) increase?  Think back to before you started exercising regularly (ages ago, I know) and was it more difficult to climb the stairs then?  With regular exercise your heart, a muscle, will become stronger and be able to stay at a stable heart rate as you climb the same set of stairs.  Your heart rate indicates how fit you are.  If you are able to keep it steady and low (which is relative to you and your age/size/gender), you are physically strong enough to complete the task at hand.

Heart rate varies from person to person and will change as you age.  A heart rate monitor can assist you in your training to make sure you are getting the most out of each session, depending on your training goals.  Resting heart rate is when you are sitting or laying still.  A god time to measure this is just when you wake up, before you get out of bed (yes you would have to sleep with monitor on).  For most people, this would range from 60-100 beats per minute (BPM).  The more athletic you are, the lower your heart rate will be.  Medications, such as beta blockers, will affect your resting heart rate.

The equation typically used to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) is (220- your age).  With this you can figure out your heart rate for different exertions.  For example, if you are 30 years old: 220-30= 190 (MHR)* 60% effort = 114 BPM and 220-30=190 *85% effort = 161.5 BPM.  Again, this is an estimate and will vary based on your established fitness level.  There are a few other equations out there that are a bit more completed.  You can also take part in a V02 max test or a field test, which will be more accurate at your current fitness level.  When you exercise, you can decide how much effort you want to put into a session.  The traditional school of thought is low intensity for longer duration if you want to burn fat and work on endurance (50-65% MHR) and higher MHR for aerobic conditioning (65-85%).  High intensity and interval training should push you 90-100% with sufficient rest in between to allow heart to recover.

By paying attention to your heart rate, you can train smarter to ensure each minute you spend training is benefiting your overall goals.  The data provided lets you know if you can push yourself harder up those hills or during fartleks, rather than the voice in your head telling you to ease up.   Your heart rate monitor (and resting heart rate) can also let you know that your body has sufficiently recovered from the previous day’s work out.

The lesson? Start paying attention to your heart rate during a work out and look back to data from previous rides and runs.  Look at the pattern over time and check in at a regular interval to see if your resting heart rate is dropping (which indicates improved fitness).  Don’t discount recovery or endurance rides on the timetable as these are just as important to heart health.  Finally, make sure you have rest built into your diary to give your entire body time to repair from your smarter training.

If you are in the market for a new heart rate monitor, you can read my product reviews here:

Suunto Spartan Trainer

My Zone MZ3

Mio Fuse

Mio Alpha 2

Ready to shop?  Read this post on how to select an activity tracker as a gift here

Portions of this post originally appeared on the now defunct H2 Life Blog.

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