Using A Heart Rate Monitor
So today we are going to put a stop to the mysteries of heart rate training - percentage zones, max and min and give you the information you need to understand and incorporate heart rate training into your workout routine.
Heart rate is a fitness buzz word - in the sense that it frequently comes up when one is planning a training schedule but often with the context of sweeping generalisations which, realistically, do not mean anything. So today we are going to put a stop to the mysteries of heart rate training - percentage zones, max and min and give you the information you need to understand and incorporate heart rate training into your workout routine. Heart rate monitors are built into even the most simplest of training watches and exercise equipment. If you regularly run on a treadmill then you are probably familiar with thee 'handrail' heart rate monitor, this version of the technology - although it does not require one to actually own a heart rate monitor - is not very effective, to get a decent reading you need to hold the handles for at least a minute, and I don't know if you have tried but running for a minute, on a treadmill, while holding the hand rails is difficult. The obvious alternative is a wireless heart rate monitor. Most of the major GPS Sports watch manufacturers provide a model that is heart rate monitor compatible and usually comes in the form of a chest strap. Once you have purchased your heart rate monitor chest strap, wear it against your skin, around the ribcage, below the pectoral muscles. Make sure the device is secured tightly to avoid slipping while running, there is nothing more frustrating then having to pull your heart rate monitor up, mid run. So you're wearing your monitor and you are good to go. What next? What are training zones, MHR, how fast should your heart be beating?? A simple internet search for 'maximum heart rate calculator' will give you an idea of the multiple theories and formulas for calculating maximum heart rate. The most common, and reasonably accurate of these is simply: 220 - Age = MHR Before we move on to the various heart rate zones, we also need to determine our resting heart rate. Remember that whenever we talk about the heart rate the measurement is in beats per minute (BPM), so the maximum heart rate for a 30 year old is 190BPM. To get you resting, you need to measure your heart rate when you are inactive. I have found that the most effective way to measure this is to strap on your heart rate monitor, when you're lying on the sofa watching TV and simply monitor it for about 5 minutes, doing this should give you an average reading which will be accurate enough for a resting heart rate to determine effective training zones. An experienced runner could have a resting heart rate as low as 40BPM so for the next section we will work with this number. Most training plans talk about easy, medium & hard runs with a % which refers to effort, this effort figure refers to your heart rate. So on a broad scale - an easy run is between 60% and 75% effort, a moderate run is 75% to 80% and a hard run is 85% to 90%. So for our fit 30 year old, his heart rate range is MRH(190) - RHR(40) = 150 Calculate the % from the range then add the numbers to your RHR to determine your actual heart rate training zones. %range + RHR = actual heart rate Effort zones for a 30year old with a RHR of 40BPM Easy run - 120 - 152BPM Moderate run - 152 - 167BPM Hard run - 167 - 189BPM There is however another heart rate training method that is gaining popularity, the Maffertone Method. This method is aimed at endurance training and, in a nut shell, forces the runner to train at a low heart rate. By doing this, over time your heart strengthens because it is getting lots of low intensity exercise, after all the heart is a muscle which means, over time, your pace increases but your heart rate stays low. Maffertone (Dr. Phil Maffertone) is a health and fitness author as well as an ironman and ultra-marathon coach. The '180-Formula' - his low aerobic endurance training formula - Maffertone explains the reasoning behind his formula: "A significant benefit of aerobic base building is the ability to run faster at the same effort, that is, at the same heart rate." -Dr. Philip Maffertone, Want Speed?Slow down! In a nut shell, Maffertone states that your maximum aerobic heart rate is: 180BPM - (age) So mine would be 150BPM which, according to our calculations before would put my runs at the top end of my easy run effort level. Maffertone believes that training exclusively within the limits of your maximum aerobic heart rate will see a noticeable improvement on your speed, after 3 months, without an increase in effort. And why is this a good thing - running painfully slowly for a quarter of a year? Over to you Maffertone: "you get faster without the wear and tear – and injury – that often accompanies anaerobic training" -Dr. Philip Maffertone, Want Speed?Slow down! The concept of heart rate training is quite simple, you pick a heart rate to work with, and you maintain it while exercising. As this article will hopefully demonstrate, working out what this rate should be and why is the tricky part. However, with the information above, at least we now have a road map we can follow.