Heart Rate Monitor Training - Part 2
Actual Testing of the MHR Through Physical Exertion: The only way to truly find your maximum heart rate is to exert yourself vigorously for several minutes, obviously while wearing your heart monitor. In doing this, you have two options:
Option 1: Personal Test Perhaps the best way for most people to find their MHR is to calculate it themselves. The most effective method is to do interval training, preferably on a hill. A hill of at least 200 or 300 meters will suffice. Sprint up the hill and jog back down, using only the jog as a resting period. Repeat this cycle five or six times, and you will likely attain a heart rate that is at least very near your MHR (your MHR being simply the highest number of beats per minute that you were able to provoke). In the absence of a hill, you may wish to extend the length of your intervals to 400 meters.
Keep in mind that your MHR can be a little elusive. If, a week after you determine your MHR to be 186 BPM, you see 192 flash across your display as you do interval training, then your MHR is actually 192. This does not indicate a change in fitness or health, but would instead serve as evidence that when you tested you MHR before you were tired, rundown, or perhaps did not exert yourself hard enough. Your MHR is genetically predetermined, and has basically nothing to do with your level of fitness. Some athletes have had MHR's in the 160 BPM-range, while others have rates that exceed 200 beats per minutes. The sole variation in your MHR is a decrease of approximately 1 BPM a year, a process that accompanies aging.
Step 2: Establish Your Resting Heart Rate
Unlike your MHR, which is basically fixed, the RHR is a measure of fitness, and should slowly decrease, as you get more and more fit. In general, the resting heart rates of different individuals can vary greatly. Someone leading a sedentary lifestyle can have a RHR nearing or even exceeding 100 BPM. Most endurance runners will have one below 60 or 50 BPM, and possibly even below 40 BPM. The absolute lowest RHR's belong to elite runners, some of which dip below 30 beats per minute. The reason for this is that the stroke volume of these elite runners is so high that each heartbeat pumps more than twice as much blood as that of a sedentary adult. This allows the heart to slow its rate substantially, while still supplying the entire body with adequate blood flow. A high stroke volume is reflective of a large, strong heart, which results from a high level of aerobic fitness.
Your resting heart rate is exactly what it sounds like: the rate at which your heart beats when you are totally at rest. While finding this number is less strenuous than calculating your MHR, it is easy to make the mistake of trying to derive your RHR at an inappropriate time. The best method for determining your RHR involves strapping on your heart monitor when you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed. Simply lay there for two or three minutes; your lowest pulse rate will be your RHR. Doing this test first thing in the morning is logical, for there are many factors aside from physical activity that can lead to an increased heart rate - including stress and the presence of caffeine in your system - which can be eliminated by doing the test immediately after waking up. Dehydration, on-setting illness, and insufficient rest can also manifest themselves in an increased RHR.
Step 3: Calculate Your Training Zones
Calculating training zones allows you to customize your workout to your heart and current fitness level. Using a heart monitor without tailoring your workout to your own personal training zones essentially eliminates the benefits of heart monitor training. Once you have your MHR and your RHR, you can grab a calculator, and easily set up a chart to help you determine how much strain you are putting on your heart at a given heart rate. These zones will be crucial when you determine your training program and start to track results.
Step 4: Implement A Training Program And Track Your Results
If you have completed the first three steps, then you are prepared to begin training using your heart rate monitor. How you wish to train, however, depends on your ultimate goals. Some trainers recommend that runners should not run two consecutive days over their 70% level, setting that value as the ceiling for recovery days. Most agree that hard days should be run at the 85% level, if not higher.
Regardless of how you are training, and what you are training for, it will be useful to keep track of your results. It is highly recommended that you track not only your heart rate for each workout and the activities that the workout entailed, but also that you record your RHR daily. Some have even worn their heart monitors for entire days, simply to see what kinds of activities and stimuli provoke what speed of pulse.
How To Measure Results:
The ultimate goal of training with a heart monitor is to be able to run longer and faster with a lower heart rate. If you keep track of your results, there will be a couple of ways to see the progress.
First, as you improve, you will see that running the same distances at the same heart rate will become easier. Effectively, you will be able to run faster for these distances without your heart having to work as hard. This is a direct reflection of increased efficiency of the heart. To see this, try running a set course - with your monitor - that is several miles long, and stick to a preset speed, perhaps your marathon pace. Then, under similar weather conditions, try the same course again a few weeks later. Run it at the same pace as you ran previously, and compare your heart rates for the two runs. If you've got fitter since your first run, your heart rate should be lower during your second.
Another way to see results is to keep track of your resting heart rate by taking it down and recording it every morning before you get out of bed. Many trainers recommend that runners keep track of their RHR on a daily basis, and, as stated above in the RHR section, increased fitness should bring with it a lower RHR.
What Kind of Heart Rate Monitor Should You Buy?
While there are several styles of heart monitors, the most accurate and popular have two components: a chest strap that contains the sensor and the transmitter, and a watch-like display, with a receiver, for your wrist. These devices come with an array of different features, and can range greatly in price.
The most fundamental feature inherent to a heart monitor is the ability to measure your heart rate. Also, since they are worn on your wrist like a watch, most heart rate monitors feature a display that has all the functions of an athletic watch, as well as a feature that allows you to set adjustable heart rate limits. These displays can differ with regards to the size of the digits and the size of the screen, backlighting, water resistance, and so on.
A number of the more advanced features are potentially quite useful.
- Complex Data Analysis: Higher-end model heart rate monitors can make more complicated calculations and summaries of recorded data. Some heart monitors allow you to automatically record your MHR and your lowest heart rate for the workout, and to make more complex calculations, such as overall averages, disparities between high and low rates, and the like.
• More Sophisticated Data Collection: Some heart monitors can estimate the number of calories you are burning and measure the ambient temperature. Other options include altitude measurement and estimation of your VO2 (a value related to your body's oxygen consumption).