Running With A Heart Rate Monitor

Running with a heart rate monitor has become a common practice amongst runners of all distances. From sprinters to marathoners to ultra distance athletes the heart rate monitor has become part of the standard kit.

Why do so many athletes use heart rate monitors? It is because they give an objective view of the effort being exerted. Often our own judgment of the effort we are putting in can be off. Sometimes we can feel we are running well and putting lots of effort in when in fact we are performing below the desired effort level.

It is important to be in touch with your body and develop a feel for pace and effort, however the most accurate feedback would come from a heart rate monitor.

How do we use a heart rate monitor to aid in our training? Let’s say today is your easy run and you want to be running at 60% effort. Once you know your working heart rate take 60% of this and add it to your resting heart rate to give your target heart rate for this session. If you feel good and start to run too fast then a quick check of your monitor will tell you if you are running to fast.

To find your working heart rate you will need to find your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate. Your resting heart rate is best taken in the morning before you get up. Maybe you could sleep in your monitor and check the reading as soon as you wake. Finding your maximum heart rate requires a little more work. You can use this formula:

For men 214 – (0.8 x your age)

For women 209 – (0.9 x your age)

However this is an estimate can for some people can be out by up to 25 beats per minute. A better way is to run fast and take a reading from your monitor. Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes then run as fast as you can for 3 minutes, rest for 2 to 3 minutes with easy running and then repeat your fast 3 minute run. Take a few readings throughout the second run, you should get your maximum heart rate from this.

Looking at the previous example of an easy run at 60% lets work out the target heart rate. For the example we will assume a resting heart rate of 58 and a maximum heart rate of 182.

Your working heart rate would be maximum – resting

(182 – 58 = 124)

Your target heart rate at 60% is working heart rate x 0.6 plus your resting heart rate.

(124 x 0.6 = 74.4 plus 58 = 132.4

In this example your target heart rate would be 132 beats per minute.

It is worth taking the time to get to know how your heart rate monitor works. When you open the box read the instructions and get familiar with all the functions. Usually you will find a transmitter in the form of a chest strap and a receiver in the form of a watch.

The fitting of the chest strap is important. It needs to be in the right place and comfortable. For men place the strap just below the chest muscle and for women just below the bra but as high as possible. It needs to be tight to stop it falling down but not restrictive to your breathing. To ensure good readings the contact area of the strap needs to be damp. You can use water, electrode gel or even your own saliva.

The range of the monitor is often up to 2 meters, so if you are on a treadmill, bike or rowing machine you could mount the watch on the machine for easy viewing. This range of signal can be problematic when running with a group who all have similar monitors. The receiver could pick up heart rates from the other runners. Just keep a little distance between each other to resolve this.

Other things that can effect the readings on your heart rate monitor are over head cables, low flying aircraft and machines with a strong electrical current. Some motorised treadmills can produce higher than normal readings. With experience you will learn what effects your monitor and you will know if you get a strange reading.

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