Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

Polar Rep Mike Whittle, was our guest speaker this week at Kintec Langley Half-Marathon Clinic. He talked about training with Heart Rate Monitors and the importance of VO2 maximum while running.

Many people have tried to exercise or train with a heart rate monitor and some have even progressed as far as downloading their data to a computer or mobile device for analysis. So what’s the problem? The problem is that many people either stop using them or, (even worse) use them incorrectly. Both are usually a result of not understanding why they’re wearing one in the first place.

There are different ways to structure an HR (heart rate) training program and for the most part, it should be left in the capable hands of a trained coach. However, there are some very simple ways to get what you want out of training with an HR monitor without being an Elite athlete.

 Common Misconceptions:

1) “I don’t need an HR monitor. I’m not an elite athlete, I’m running my first 10k and just want to finish”

– Fantastic. Well, what if I told you that wearing an HR monitor could all but guarantee you a proud finish line photo in your first outing. It sounds unbelievable but working with proper HR zone training can keep you at the proper race intensity for you and your selected distance. This will ensure you’re not the one walking 3k into the Sun Run because you went out too fast…I know, it never happens.

2) “I have a GPS watch, I don’t need to train with Heart rate”

– GPS is a great tool (and I’m not sure what we ever did without it), but it is just one form of feedback on your training. If you aim to run a 40-60 minute 10k or finish a Gran Fondo, GPS will likely help you…until you hit the first hill that is. HR adds a level of feedback on your individual exertion level that can’t be measured by pace/distance. Training and racing by pace and distance alone will only work if you’re running/riding a flat course and you know that you can hold x min/km for the entire way.

Proper Application to Training:

Many people have trained with an HR monitor before and given it up for some reason. To be honest, the majority of the time that reason is discipline. I don’t mean that they couldn’t keep their HR high enough during those training days (a popular misconception). Usually, the discipline comes in the form of long slow runs where your HR monitor is more the “brake” than it is the“gas pedal”. Sometimes faster is detrimental to your training (you can quote me on that) but that other runner passing you on the seawall throws the plan out the window in exchange for a little ego boost. Leave that competition for the …competition and train smarter, not harder.

Plan to spend some time speaking with a professional (store staff, or a coach, or even read online) about the goals you have and how you can reach them. You should expect to see a plan with 2-3 sessions per week with a mixture of sessions in each “training zone”. These Zones will reflect different percentages of your maximum HR and will ensure you’re making the necessary changes to your fitness. Some sessions will focus on “Long and Slow” training to get your body used to the impact of endurance exercise and fat burning, and some sessions will focus on cardiovascular fitness with higher intensity.

Training with a heart rate monitor is an extremely easy way to ensure training intensity/specificity…as long as you understand the basics. The truth of the matter is that using a HR monitor can all but guarantee you reach your goals. The part that many people forget is that you have to use it!

Mike Whittle
Polar HRM Representative

1 Comment
  • Chuck

    May 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm Reply

    It’s been about 9 months since I started using a heart rate monitor; it took me years to be convinced, as I always thought it was only something for professionals. Prior to training with a heart monitor I never had the confidence to attempt a half marathon. I have now run 10k several times and am hoping to be ready for a half marathon by mid summer. I agree that the best way to use one is to train in different zones in different zones.

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