A heart rate monitor (HRM) is a powerful tool for making any exercise activities more effective, time efficient and safer. Exercise is more effective when you work out in a specific heart rate range or zone. This is referred to as your Target Heart Rate Zone. This zone can vary greatly depending on your age, fitness level and various other factors. If your heart rate is too low during exercise your body reaps little or no benefits. This means you're not likely to see the results you want, like weight loss or increased endurance. If your heart rate is too high during exercise you may tire too quickly and become frustrated, or even run the risk of injury.
Using a HRM effectively eliminates the typical guesswork while exercising. It guides you on proper and effective workout intensity. You will know in detail how many calories you are burning. A HRM reveals with certainty if your cardiovascular condition is improving and how much. Also you will have accountability of how effective your exercise sessions are. Best of all, a clear and objective view on how you are training and reaching your fitness goals.
Excerpt from Mark Allen on Heart Rate Monitoring
"Now for the tougher part…the endurance. This is where heart rate training becomes king. Endurance is THE most important piece of a triathlete’s fitness. Why is it tough to develop? Simply put, it is challenging because it usually means an athlete will have to slow things down from their normal group training pace to effectively develop their aerobic engine and being guided by what is going on with your heart rate rather than your will to the champion of the daily training sessions with your training partners! It means swimming, cycling and running with the ego checked at the door. But for those patient enough to do just that, once the aerobic engine is built the speedwork will have a profound positive effect their fitness and allow for a longer-lasting improvement in performance than for those who blast away from the first day of training each year.
What is the solution to maximizing your endurance engine? It’s called a heart rate monitor.
Whether your goal is to win a race or just live a long healthy life, using a heart rate monitor is the single most valuable tool you can have in your training equipment arsenal. And using one in the way I am going to describe will not only help you shed those last few pounds, but will enable you to do it without either killing yourself in training or starving yourself at the dinner table.
I came from a swimming background, which in the 70’s and 80’s when I competed was a sport that lived by the “No Pain, No Gain” motto. My coach would give us workouts that were designed to push us to our limit every single day. I would go home dead, sleep as much as I could, then come back the next day for another round of punishing interval sets.
It was all I knew. So, when I entered the sport of triathlon in the early 1980’s, my mentality was to go as hard as I could at some point in every single workout I did. And to gauge how fast that might have to be, I looked at how fast the best triathletes were running at the end of the short distance races. Guys like Dave Scott, Scott Tinley and Scott Molina were able to hold close to 5 minute miles for their 10ks after swimming and biking!
So that’s what I did. Every run, even the slow ones, for at least one mile, I would try to get close to 5 minute pace. And it worked…sort of. I had some good races the first year or two, but I also suffered from minor injuries and was always feeling one run away from being too burned out to want to continue with my training.
Then came the heart rate monitor. A man named Phil Maffetone, who had done a lot of research with the monitors, contacted me. He had me try one out according to a very specific protocol. Phil said that I was doing too much anaerobic training, too much speed work, too many high end/high heart rate sessions. I was forcing my body into a chemistry that only burns carbohydrates for fuel by elevating my heart rate so high each time I went out and ran.
So he told me to go to the track, strap on the heart rate monitor, and keep my heart rate below 155 beats per minute. Maffetone told me that below this number that my body would be able to take in enough oxygen to burn fat as the main source of fuel for my muscle to move. I was going to develop my aerobic/fat burning system. What I discovered was a shock.
To keep my heart rate below 155 beats/minute, I had to slow my pace down to an 8:15 mile. That’s three minutes/mile SLOWER than I had been trying to hit in every single workout I did! My body just couldn’t utilize fat for fuel.
So, for the next four months, I did exclusively aerobic training keeping my heart rate at or below my maximum aerobic heart rate, using the monitor every single workout. And at the end of that period, my pace at the same heart rate of 155 beats/minute had improved by over a minute. And after nearly a year of doing mostly aerobic training, which by the way was much more comfortable and less taxing than the anaerobic style that I was used to, my pace at 155 beats/minute had improved to a blistering 5:20 mile.
That means that I was now able to burn fat for fuel efficiently enough to hold a pace that a year before was redlining my effort at a maximum heart rate of about 190. I had become an aerobic machine! On top of the speed benefit at lower heart rates, I was no longer feeling like I was ready for an injury the next run I went on, and I was feeling fresh after my workouts instead of being totally wasted from them.
So let’s figure out what heart rate will give you this kind of benefit and improvement. There is a formula that will determine your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate, which is the maximum heart rate you can go and still burn fat as the main source of energy in your muscles. It is the heart rate that will enable you to recover day to day from your training. It’s the maximum heart rate that will help you burn those last few pounds of fat. It is the heart that will build the size of your internal engine so that you have more power to give when you do want to maximize your heart rate in a race situation.
Here is the formula: 1. Take 180 2. Subtract your age 3. Take this number and correct it by the following: • If you do not workout, subtract another 5 beats. • If you workout only 1-2 days a week, only subtract 2 or 3 beats. • If you workout 3-4 times a week keep the number where it is. • If you workout 5-6 times a week keep the number where it is. • If you workout 7 or more times a week and have done so for over a year, add 5 beats to the number. • If you are over about 55 years old or younger than about 25 years old, add another 5 beats to whatever number you now have. • If you are about 60 years old or older OR if you are about 20 years old or younger, add an additional 5 beats to the corrected number you now have.
You now have your maximum aerobic heart rate, which again is the maximum heart rate that you can workout at and still burn mostly fat for fuel. Now go out and do ALL of your cardiovascular training at or below this heart rate and see how your pace improves. After just a few weeks you should start to see a dramatic improvement in the speed you can go at these lower heart rates."
For beginers, to roughly find your estimated Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) simply substract your age from 220 for men and from 226 for women.
220 - Your Age = estimated Maximum Heart Rate for men
226 - Your Age = estimated Maximum Heart Rate for women
A more precise and personalized way of calculating your MHR by using the Karvonen formula. This one also takes into account your morning resting heart rate (MRHR). Your MRHS is a good gauge of your current level of fitness so this method takes into account both your age (as discussed above) and current fitness level. First, you must measure your heart rate for three mornings in a row before getting up from bed. Check your pulse on the inside of your wrist (or a carotic artery) by gently placing two fingers of your other hand on this area (do not use your thumb because it has its own pulse that you may feel). Count the beats for 60 seconds. This is your MRHR for that day.
Once you have those numbers, take the average of the sum:
If you own a FT60, FT80 or RS300x series Polar® monitor, finding your current fitness level and MHR is much much easier. Polar® monitors include a very easy to use 'Test' feature that precisely figures your fitness level based on your Heart Rate Variability. It also dynamically adjusts your exercise zones ("OwnZone") to your body.
In 1977 Polar® invented the world's first wireless heart rate monitor accurate as an electrocardiogram (EKG). Today Polar® is a worldwide enterprise, operating in 50 countries. Their monitors are renown for their precision, reliability and ease of use. Despite growing competition in recent years, Polar® remains the industry leader and, according to experts, still makes the best heart-rate monitors.
Polar® years of expertise show in their product lines with improved and ease to use features like:
Polar OwnZone® Determines personal heart rate limits for an exercise session while taking into account your current physical condition.
Polar OwnCal® Counts and displays calorie expenditure during one exercise session as well as your accumulated kilocalories during several exercise sessions.
Polar Fitness Test™ with OwnIndex® A fitness test that measures your aerobic/cardiovascular fitness at rest in just five minutes, automatically and without any exertion. No other equipment other than a heart rate monitor is needed. The Polar Fitness Test is as accurate in predicting the VO2maxas any sub-maximal fitness test. Polar OwnCode® (5kHz) Coded transmitters that prevent cross-talk from other heart rate monitors nearby. All our Polar® HRMs in stock are coded .
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