What’s all the buzz about heart rate monitors? You may think it’s more important to look at your stride length, turnover rate or pedal speed, but heart rate training is an important part of the madness. The heart rate monitor serves as a guide that prompts you to train according to the demands you set for your workout.
Whatever your goal, it’s important to first establish your estimated maximal heart rate. This can be done by subtracting your age from 220. Then you can use percentages of that number to determine the intensity at which you’d like to work. Your fitness level and goal will determine your target heart rate. For example, if you want to work at an endurance or aerobic training level (steady state exercise): you would likely work at 65 to 75 percent of your maximal heart rate.
Once you’ve determined your target heart rate, strap on the monitor and get to work. If you notice your heart rate is too high, take it easy. Not high enough? Turn up the intensity. You might be surprised to find that you weren’t working as hard as you always thought.
Keep in mind that psychological, environmental and physiological factors can affect your heart rate, according to Sally Edwards, member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame and author of 12 books. If you are tired, on medication, under stress, at high altitude, or in high humidity, your heart rate may change. Even anticipating a workout can increase your heart rate as much as 100 percent!
Most people believe that elite athletes have the lowest resting heart rates, but this is not necessarily so.Former professional tennis player Bjorn Borg owned a resting heart rate of 35 beats per minute. But former marathon superstar Frank Shorter’s resting heart rate was 75 beats per minute. Your genetic material accounts for about 50 percent of your resting heart rate. Smaller hearts beat faster than larger hearts. But the more fit you are, the more blood your heart will pump with each beat. Getting into better shape results in a more efficient heart, and the heart rate monitor allows you to watch your heart grow stronger.
You don’t need to get super attached to your heart rate monitor either. You’ll come to recognize the intensity you want to achieve without the monitor. So borrow a friend’s heart rate monitor for a week, then buy one if you like it. They’re a terrific way to take control of – and add some spice to – your workouts.