Why a Heart Rate Monitor??

Posted on October 12, 2015 by Beth Hartman

Ever take in a local marathon race?  Have you noticed that the serious runners are all decked out wearing the latest gear including compression socks, technical shirts, ipods, Garmins and yes heart rate monitors, or HRM’s  as they are called.

 Do you know how to get the most out of your workout using a heart rate monitor?  Unfortunately most runners don’t either, or rather they may not use them as effective as they should.  

 But you may ask, why really use a heart rate monitor?? One of the best reasons is to track your endurance, against your heart rate but the most important reason to use one is that they can ensure you recover properly!

 Most runners overdo their easy runs (and fail to run hard enough on their fast workout days), thus undercutting their recovery and going into important workouts or races with too much fatigue.

 The right heart rate monitor training can help you avoid this – enabling smarter training, better recovery, and ultimately faster racing. More importantly, since you won’t be pushing yourself too hard when you should be prioritizing recovery, you’re less likely to get an overuse injury from demanding too much of your body too soon.

 Not every run lends itself to heart rate monitor training. It wouldn’t make sense to wear a HRM for a 5k specific track workout. You have to choose your workouts wisely; fortunately, three types of workouts are perfect.

 Tempo Runs. This is the obvious one – almost every runner does a tempo run with some regularity (or should!) and can easily incorporate a heart rate monitor. Tempo runs are done at about 85-90% of your maximum heart rate. After determining your max HR, so you can program your HRM to beep whenever your HR creeps over or under the range that corresponds to 85-90% of your max.

It doesn’t help you to run faster than your target heart range during a tempo run, so make sure you stay within your personal limits. When you run faster, you exceed your lactate threshold (This is the point at which your body goes from aerobic running to anaerobic running – or without oxygen) and the workout isn’t as effective. Don’t turn tempo runs into races.

 So what’s your maximum heart rate? 

A better way to determine your max HR is to wear your heart rate monitor for a very hard work out and note the highest Beats per Minute (BPM) that it records. Make sure that your workout is tough because you need to really challenge yourself to get an accurate maximum reading.

 Heart Rate Recovery Workouts. A constant question among runners is, “how much time do I take as recovery in-between intervals?” It’s a great question and it depends on when you are in the training cycle.

If you want to prioritize your performance on each interval and start each one fully rested, you can use heart rate to guide the recovery time.

Here’s what to do:

Wear your heart rate monitor for the entire workout

When you finish an interval, keep jogging easy (or walk) until your heart rate reaches about 65-70% of your maximum HR

Start the next interval only when your heart rate has recovered to an easy effort level

This type of workout ensures you’re not starting the next interval too soon. Your heart rate won’t lie – it tells you exactly how hard your body is working to deliver oxygen to your muscles.

Need extra recovery from that last tough interval? Just glance at your heart rate and you’ll know when to start your next repetition.

Recovery Runs. Your shortest run per week – typically the day before or after your long run or a race – isn’t meant to gain fitness. Instead these strategic runs help you maintain your weekly mileage while being a form of active recovery. So running too fast is counter-productive but unfortunately, something almost all of us do.

 Not only are you allowing your body (heart, muscles, connective tissue) to recover, but also your brain. Most of us only think about the physical side of recovery, but the brain needs time to rest as well. Remember, easy runs keeps you on point and your enthusiasm high so that you won't mind training hard on the days that matter!

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