Your heart directly or indirectly affects every single process in your body. Because of this, by tailoring your training towards how it acts might be a great way to monitor and improve your performance. At least, that’s what some people believe.
Today, we’re going to look at the positives and negatives of heart rate training as well as who it might be better for to help you get the most from your workouts.
What Is Heart Rate Training?
Heart rate training is basically tracking the intensity of your workouts with the use of a heart rate monitor. You will wear a watch that would take your heart rate through the pulse in your wrist, or wear a strap across your chest that will transmit your heart rate to your watch or smartphone.
Your intensity is measured in different heart rate zones. This is simply just a term for a percentage of your maximum heart rate. For example, 90% is going all out whilst 60% would be for recovery or light work.
- Zone One – 50-60% – very comfortable (warm up and cool down)
- Zone Two – 60-70% – slightly harder but you can still talk
- Zone Three – 70-80% – it becomes more difficult to hold a conversation
- Zone Four – 80-90% – hard effort and only minimal words can be said
- Zone Five – 90-100% – all out, maximum effort
You don’t want to spend too long in zones four or five otherwise you’ll wear yourself out not only in that workout, but possibly for the next few days, too.
It can be tricky to figure out your max heart rate without going hell for leather. An alternative way is to deduct your age from 220. Though, this has since been considered pretty inaccurate for most people.
The best course is to simply find a 2-mile stretch, warm up and run that distance as fast as you can. The average heart rate for that run will be your maximum heart rate. You can then find your resting heart rate easily and find your heart rate reserve (HRR) by deducting the latter from the former. Your HRR is what you’ll want to use for figuring out your zones.
So, if your max heart rate is 200bpm and your resting heart rate is 60bpm, then your heart rate reserve would be 140bpm. In order to find the target number for your warm up and cool down you’ll have to do 140bpm x 0.55 for a result of 77bpm.
Positives of Heart Rate Training
One of the main benefits of using a heart rate monitor is that it tells you exactly how hard your heart is working. This prevents you from doing more than your body can handle. This is a common problem for those who are passionate about exercise. Going too hard, too often not only puts you at risk of injury but also overtraining which will damage you both physically and mentally.
Heart rate training is used for a majority of endurance sports such as long distance running, cycling, and swimming. For these long distance activities, a monitor is a great way to make sure that you remain at the correct intensity for the duration of your exercise.
If you go off too quickly on your bike ride or run then you may not be able to keep your activity going or you may have to slow down later on. This is why using a heart rate monitor for steady or continuous exercise is beneficial for your training.
Secondly, a heart rate monitor is great for those of you who are tracking calorie expenditure through exercise for your weight loss goals. The use of a monitor means that your calorie expenditure data will be more accurate than the stats on a piece of cardio equipment. If you are set on making sure your calorie intake and calorie expenditure are accurate, then I would advise you to invest in a heart rate monitor.
Third, a heart rate monitor can be your workout buddy. What I mean by this is that if you are doing interval training outside and are unsure as to whether you are working at the correct intensity then a heart rate monitor will tell you. Lets say you are doing a simple one minute high intensity interval followed by one minute at a low intensity, you can make sure your speeds are accurate based on your heart rate.
Finally, the use of a heart rate monitor is a way to track your recovery rate in your low intensity sets or after exercise. The quicker your heart rate drops to its resting heart rate, in theory the fitter you are. A good way to track your cardiovascular fitness.
If you’re someone who loves the more intricate and mathematical side to their training, then using your heart rate can give you a more accurate and manageable approach.
Negatives Of Heart Rate Training
The first negative of heart rate training is that you need a heart rate monitor to track your exercise intensity. For those of you who are on a budget then this can be an added expense. Not all heart rate monitors are created equal so it can be confusing when purchasing the correct piece of kit.
A lot of people seem to think that the heart rate monitor on their smart watch or phone is extremely accurate. Yet, these can be incredibly off when determining your actual heart rate. So, if you’re interested in using this method of training, then it’s important to do plenty of research before investing in your chosen tracker.
Secondly, it can be pretty tricky to constantly check your watch for your bpm. There are many monitors that do beep or talk to you which may be better for your long distance runs.
Third, a heart rate monitor can sometimes take the fun out of your training. Too much data or concentrating on data can distract you from the enjoyment of exercise or the mental benefit of switching off and taking in the scenery.
What I Think Of Heart Rate Training
Heart rate training is beneficial for many people whether your goal is to lose weight, or you are training towards a competition as an athlete. There are many benefits of using a monitor and if you like to focus on data then it is a great piece of kit to see if you are improving, make sure you are working at the correct intensity, or tracking your calorie expenditure.
There are some negatives to using a monitor but it all depends on what type of person you are and why you are training. The main thing is if you are using a heart rate monitor then have one session a week where you aren’t concentrating on what the stats say on your watch.
If you are interested in heart rate monitors but didn’t know if you would benefit from using one then hopefully you can make a decision after reading this article. If you are interested in buying a heart rate monitor but don’t know where to start then please take a look at some I recommend.
Recommended Heart Rate Monitors
Polar H7 Bluetooth 4.0 Heart Rate Sensor
For those of you who take your smartphone out on your training sessions to listen to music then this one is for you. It is affordable and syncs to an app on your phone where you can see your data.
A comfortable heart rate sensor strap which you connect via bluetooth to your fitness app or training device. Monitor your real-time, accurate heart rate while you train, review and analyze it during or after workouts. You can use your Polar H7 strap with a number of Polar products as well as other compatible gym equipment.
Click the photo for more information.
Garmin HRM-Run Heart Rate Monitor
For those of you who take your training seriously and want more from your heart rate monitor then this one is for you. The strap is extremely comfortable however you will need to own a Garmin watch. Pair your compatible Garmin device with the HRM-Run to get your heart rate and real-time feedback on your running form.
HRM-Run has an accelerometer in the module that measures torso movement and provides six running dynamics metrics; cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, stride length and vertical ration. This real-time data can help athletes take their performance to the next level by showing them where they can improve their running form. HRM-Run is compatible with several other Garmin fitness products but will only display heart rate when paired.
Click the photo for more information.