Heart Rate Monitors – Part 2

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we’re going to address a question that’s probably more important to you pragmatists out there: Why use a heart rate monitor (HRM)?  Hey, if you’re going to drop some cash on a HRM, you wanna know what’s in it for you.  It’s not enough that you now know how a HRM works and what it does (see the previous post).  Have no fear, The ActiveWatcher is here….

First and foremost, it’s just cool to know how fast your heart is racing during a workout.  I remember purchasing my first Timex HRM in graduate school.  It was the iPhone of my day.  I spent $400 I had no business spending — just so I can measure and see what my pediatrician did annually for a copay of just $10.  It was simply cool to see that my heart rate was around 50 while studying, 60 when urinating, 70 watching the Sopranos (hat tip to HBO), 80 when playing video games, 100 on a light jog, and would increase by 5 when drinking coffee no matter what I was doing.  I won’t even get into the other non-PG rated activities.  My then-girlfriend got so sick of this obsession that it was one of the reasons why she broke up with me.  My heart rate was 60 when she did it.

Second and more seriously, a HRM allows you to monitor your pace.  This is particularly important on long runs.  If you’re like me, you’re not perfectly in-sync with your body; sometimes I just can’t tell how fast I’m going, especially if I’m still half asleep.  In times like that, a HRM monitor is perfect; it tells you how much energy you’re exerting, thereby indicating whether you need to speed up or whether you should stay at your current pace.

Third, a HRM as one of the best indicators of fitness improvement.  Run a fixed distance at a fixed pace one day.  Run the same distance at the same pace a month later.  If you did the latter at a lower heart rate, you’ve officially improved your fitness. How, you ask?  Because a lower heart rate tells you can do the same amount of work with less energy exertion.  Keep up the great work!  This obviously works for any type of exercise/activity.

Fourth, if you’re doing an interval/repeat workout (e.g., running, then jogging, then running again, and repeating this a number of times), a HRM will tell you when you’re body has recovered adequately to start the next interval/repeat.  (In addition to telling you whether you’re starting off too fast.

Finally and most importantly, a HRM can be used to improve your fitness if used properly.  This is where the fancy term “zone training” comes into play, which is a fitness geek’s way of identifying different levels of your heart rate.  The higher the zone, the faster your heart rate.  By monitoring these zones while working out, you can more accurately assess whether you need to   exert more energy.  And if you exert more energy enough times, you’ll improve your fitness level .  Conversely, zone monitoring will also tell you when to slow down so you can save that energy for the next time you want to get into a higher zone.  In a sense, this is no different than speeding up or slowing down based on your own, perceived level of exertion.  But going back to the above points, your heart rate more accurately indicates your level of exertion.  See the second reason above.)

If you’re more interested in reading about HRMs and how they can help your training, a good article is posted on Active.com, one of my favorite sports/fitness website.  You can get the article by clicking here.  It’s somewhat technical, but it’s great if you can follow it and if you’re interested in how other concepts come into play, such as VO2 max and lactate threshold.

Of course, if you’re interested in purchasing a HRM, visit our website at www.activewatches.com.

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