Why Use A Heart Rate Monitor?

Heart rate monitors rarely lie, athletes do. Using a heart rate monitor provides precise feedback during your workouts, allowing athletes to train at levels that correlate with their goals. Being able to train at the appropriate levels minimizes the risk of training in the “gray zone”, not hard enough for desired goal or to hard risking injury or illness.

On a coaching level, heart rate training helps to individualize workouts for athletes based completely on their current level of fitness. Pace and time do not take into account external conditions such as terrain, weather, altitude, or an individual’s current state of health. There is a place for pace and time specific goals during workouts such as all-out intervals on the track or short sprint races. However, all athletes need to be aware of how hard they are actually working and not only their perceived exertion. The ultimate goal is to train in order to get the most benefit from each heartbeat, allowing you to train more intensely at a lower heart rate.

Determining Your Heart Rate Training Zones

There are a number of formula’s (see below) but they only offer an educated guess. It is ideal to have a stress test or max. heart rate test done by a trained professional (Dr. or exercise lab setting) to obtain the most precise results.

The most precise formula is the Karvonen Formula which takes into account your Max. Heart Rate and Resting Heart Rate. To calculate your Max. Heart Rate (MHR).

MHR = 205.6 – (.685 x age in years)

To calculate your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). Place your heart rate monitor close to your bed. Upon waking, put your heart rate monitor on and lay back down for several minutes, watching your heart rate. Record the lowest heart rate while laying there, record your lowest heart rate for 5 days and average those figures to get your current RHR.

Next take …

((MHR – RHR) x (zone % level)) + RHR = target beats per minute (bpm)

For example here is what my figures are in calculating HR zones

MHR = 205.6 – (.685 x 31) = 184

(( 184 – 41) x (.70 “say for 70%”) + 41 = 141 bpm … so I would need to be training at approximately 141bpm to be training at 70%  heart rate reserve.

So what level should I train at? Well, it depends on your goals.

Recovery (60-70%) -> fat burning and glycogen replenishment

Endurance (70-80%) -> cardiovascular development and increased aerobic capacity

Threshold (80-85%) -> building stamina and lowering lactate threshold levels

Inc. VO2max and Racing (approx. 5k distance) (90-95%) -> developing speed

Maximum heart rate decreases with age (about 1 bpm per year). However, with increased fitness you can lower your resting heart rate. Monitoring your RHR can be helpful in determining over-training, illness, and dehydration. Should your RHR be elevated 4-5 bpm for 3-4 days in a row, it is important to back off your training and get more rest. Happy HR training 🙂

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