Fast Friday: Heart Rates

Have I told you how excited I am to be in the Boston area this weekend?
Have I told you how much I’d also like to have a heart rate monitor?

It’s a beautiful 22 degrees here in Lowell tonight and I’m taking the day off from my workout. Tomorrow I will be doing my workout in the fitness center at my hotel to stay warm and safe. My running is getting to the point where I need to know if I’m pushing myself hard enough. One of the ways you can measure the intensity of a workout is by how your heart rate responds. We’ve all seen the heart rate monitor pads on a the fitness equipment at the gym or the bands that people have worn around their chest with the matching watch to read the data. There are some problems with both of these methods of measurement. Additionally, there are many things you need to consider when using heart rate to measure your intensity.

First, let’s address the heart rate zones. Most often the heart rate zones that you find printed places are calculated based solely on age. This is called the Max Heart Rate (MHR) method of creating a target hear rate zone. This very simple calculation [(220-age) x desired intensity] will give you a goal heart rate that is the same for every person who is currently your same age. It won’t matter how fit that person is, you’d be expected to reach the same heart rate. If you are more fit your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) will be lower which would shift the target heart rate up if you used a more specific calculation called the Karvonen Formula {[(220-age-RHR) x desired intensity] + RHR}. This makes more sense because who doesn’t want a goal that is specific to their individual needs? I don’t want to be working at too low of a level if my goal is to improve my cardiovascular system. But, I equally do not want to be working too hard if I’m not quite fit enough yet.

Target heart rate zones can also be tricky for some people if there are reasons that they shouldn’t be pushing at their regular level. A desired intensity might not be a single number, but rather a range. If I know that the ACSM recommends that I train between 50 and 85% for maximum cardio benefits and I’ve been training for some time, I would probably pick a range closer to 80-85% on days when I’m doing shorter runs and maybe 70-75% on longer runs. Additionally, if I’ve been sick recently, I’m probably aiming lower (around 50-60%) so as not to overexert myself. But my training zone will change over time too. As I get more fit and my RHR drops lower, my zone will need to be recalculated. And, if I’ve taken time off from my training, my RHR may rise during that time and I will need to recalculate before I get back into it. I will also adjust my desired intensity down at that time.

Target heart rate zones are not recommended to be used for those persons who are currently on beta blockers as they prevent the heart rate from rising above certain levels. These people and others who may fall into various categories of special populations may do best to use one of the various Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scales.

Okay, so back to the heart rate monitors. There are many factors, including hydration levels, body temperature, and time of day, that effect the reliability of a heart rate monitor on a fitness machine as well as the ones that you wear on your body. I recommend you reading the information provided by ACSM here about some of these factors.

Personally, I am interested in a heart rate monitor that doesn’t require me to change my bra just to get it on comfortably and to constantly readjust it while I’m running.

Don’t want to buy a special bra to get my heart rate.

That’s why the idea of the Mio wrist heart rate monitor really appeals to me. I found out about Mio through MapMyRun and I’ve been interested in their product, but haven’t gotten my hands on one just yet. As I mentioned earlier this year, I’m also curious about fitness trackers, so I’m leaning toward the Mio FUSE combination Heart Rate Monitor and Activity Tracker. I’d love to hear about any of your experiences with their products! And, if you’re interested in trying to win one of your own, plus the possibility of entry into the Bay to Breakers 12K in San Francisco, click this link to enter to win a trip for 2 and other prizes from Mio. You have until March 21st. I have and I hope that I can take my training to the next level in the near future!

Have you ever used a Mio product?
Are you entering?
How do you use heart rate training?