Many runners gauge the intensity of their workout by how they feel, which can be a deceptive indicator of actual exertion. If you have specific training goals, heart rate training can help you successfully build a workout plan to accomplish those goals. Heart rate training is also a great option for the runner who would just like to know how hard their body is working on a given run.
Don’t rely on ‘perceived exertion’
A workout may feel easier or more difficult depending on a variety of factors. For example, if you’re tired, a long run might feel incredibly difficult, even if your body is not putting forth as much effort as you feel it is. Conversely, many athletes underestimate how much harder your body has to work to maintain a level temperature when running in hot conditions. Basing your workout on how your body feels can easily result in a lower – or higher – intensity workout that you had planned.
You’ve got the power!
Using a heart rate monitor gives you complete control over the intensity of each workout. Watching your heart rate will ensure that a high intensity day is as strenuous as you wanted it to be (it hurts so good!). Keeping an eye on what your ticker is doing will also let you ensure that an easy 8 really is easy, which can keep you from over training and getting injured.
How to get started with heart rate training
The first step to effective heart rate training is to calculate your maximum heart rate. Your max heart rate is the highest heart rate you can safely reach during exercise. To approximate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 42 years old, then your max heart rate would be 178.
For challenging interval repeats, your HR should be at about 95-100% of your max heart rate. Tone it down to about 85-92% for a tempo run, and 65-75% for an easy run, or when you’re logging a very long run.
Selecting the appropriate heart rate monitor
Choosing the heart rate monitor that’s best for your needs depends on a variety of factors. The heart rate monitors on the market today range from über-simple devices that just measure your ticker’s BPM, to almost space-age mini computers that have GPS capabilities and can monitor your pace and track your workout progress over time.
- Timex Easy Trainer Heart Rate Monitor – A simple, affordable, and user-friendly model to help you manage your workouts.
- New Balance Women’s N4 Heart Rate Monitor – This popular model looks slick and provides zone training, basic timing, and a 9-run memory to help fine-tune and record your workouts.
- Garmin FR70 HRM – An HR monitor that offers heart rate zones and interval training workouts, this watch also gives the ability to upload and store your data online at Garmin Connect.
- Polar RCX3 GPS w/HRM – This sleek watch makes it easy to obtain info on heart rate, along with pace and lap times when teamed with the separate GPS pod. You can also upload data to the Polar online site with the included USB transfer pod.
- Garmin Forerunner 910XT w/HRM – Get heart rate data, GPS capabilities, and workout tracking all in one device. The ability to record accurate elevation gain/loss, an accelerometer to measure swim stroke efficiency, and a 20-hour battery life all make this the ultimate multi-sport watch (note you won’t be able to get HRM data in the water).
Want more? Shop our complete collection of heart rate monitors.