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Heart Rate Monitor Basics For Runners

Garmin Forerunner 305

Polar FS1

All the Heart Rate Monitor Basics for runners explained.

Maximum heart rate, training zones, heart rate monitor features.... this site shows it all !

A heart rate monitor is a nice tool for runners of all sorts. In this section I explain how to use it in your training.

Finnish triathletes were among the first to experiment with heart rate monitors in their training. In the beginning their competitors complained about unfair competition. However the heart rate monitor supplies many advantages. So soon it was widely accepted as a (running) training tool !

Why use a heart rate monitor?

I use my heart rate monitor to help me keep my running training at the same intensity. A heart rate monitor can help to tell you whether you go too fast. Or too slow. Using a heart rate monitor can make your exercise safer and healthier.

Most heart rate monitors have a manually adjustable heart rate zone. If you go over or under the limits of your heart rate zone, an alarm goes off telling you to go faster or slower.

I myself have been using the Timex Ironman Triathlon heart rate monitor for a couple of years now. It satisfies my needs. It’s got a chronometer, a heart rate range, a timer and the usual watch functions. The basics you need. There are a lot more, more advanced models, but this is a nice entry-level heart rate monitor. And of a reliable brand. The two best known brands in the heart rate monitor market are Polar and Timex. However, Suunto, Nike and other brands design cool models as well.

For beginners and experienced runners

For beginners a heart rate monitor is a good tool. Many beginning runners do their training too fast. A heart rate monitor can help you in finding your balance ! Therefore I highly recommend all beginning runners to get a heart rate monitor.

But also the more experienced runners can benefit from using a heart rate monitor. More experienced runners want to do their running training at different intensities. The balanced training schedule of an experienced runner contains:

  • easy runs

  • tempo runs / cruise intervals

  • steady state runs

  • repeats

  • long slow runs

  • etcetera !

  • A heart rate monitor can also help the experienced runner to gauge intensity. So many times my planned easy runs ended up in tempo runs. It is a shame to disrupt your carefully designed running program because you can't control yourself.

    Heart rate monitor in racing...?

    In theory your heart rate monitor would be the perfect tool for races. Many runners go out too fast and use up their fuel long before the finish line. This makes the last part of the race painful and destroys overall performance. The best way to run a race is in even splits. So as steadily as possible.
    Wouldn't it be great to wear your heart rate monitor during a race ? Just stick to the correct heart rate and you are fine...

    However, the excitement of the race itself makes your heart beat go up quite a few beats!
    So it is hard to establish in which heart rate range you have to race.
    Maybe that’s for the best; isn't the guesswork during the first few kilometers and the pain in the last few what makes for a great race... :)

    A good alternative, if you want to spend the money, is to use a more advanced GPS running watch or heart rate monitor that can track your speed and distance. You can then adjust your pace based on that, rather than based on your heart rate.

    If you do want to use your heart rate monitor while racing you need to race a lot so you can see how you react to races and what is the best heart rate range to use while racing. So, it is a bit of trial and error.

    More and more heart rate monitor models are on the market with accompanying software. These advanced models make it possible to upload information from your heart rate monitor onto your computer. Then you can see on graphs exactly how your heart rate varied during your workout or your race.

    Fitness measurement with your heart rate monitor

    Your heart rate monitor can help to gauge improvements as well. The better trained you get, the less work your heart needs to do. You can test this in several ways. For example:

  • Every six weeks do an easy run on a certain route wearing your heart rate monitor with the same lower and upper level. See how much time it takes. If you have been consistently training, the time to do the same run at the same intensity will certainly go down.

  • Alternatively, you can choose to run at the same intensity for a set amount of time and find out that you get further and further every time you do the test.

  • I can't tell you how exciting it is to have some factual information about your improvement!

    Before I forget to add this link....a great "stream of thoughts" on base training and the use of your heart rate monitor is delivered by a trainer named Hadd. Click here for Hadd's approach to Distance Training. Highly recommended.

    Wish to learn more about running with your heart rate monitor ?
    Subscribe to the Best Running Tips Newsletter or to my site blog.

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