Why Should I Use A Heart Rate Monitor?

Jun 23, 2010

Jan Howard

by Jan Howard
PTA, USATF Level 1, RRCA-Certified Marathon Coach

Heart rate training is the single, most effective tool that endurance athletes have to measure and control the intensity of their workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance, via improved recovery and reduced risk of injury.
How does it work?
Heart rate training involves exercising at various intensities to utilize different energy systems within the body. It involves wearing a heart rate monitor to continually evaluate one’s heart rate throughout the workout. Adjustments to intensity of the exercise are made as necessary, in order to bring the heart rate to the appropriate designated zone.
How do people know what heart rate numbers/zones they need to work in?
There are several ways to determine someone’s training zones. One method is to have a VO2 max test, which is a treadmill test that measures one’s aerobic capacity. The limitations of this test are that it is expensive, requires the individual to wear a mask (not for the claustrophobic), and it can be difficult to reach maximum effort in a “lab” setting.
Another method is using the Karvonen formula. Karvonen is a universal formula which takes into account an individual’s resting heart rate, making it slightly more accurate than the well-known 220-age.
One advantage to training with Foothills Running Group is that as an RRCA-certified marathon coach, I have access to an exclusive tool that takes into account an individual’s resting heart rate, maximum heart rate, as well as a recent max effort, such as a 5k finish time, to project heart rate training & racing zones, as well as projected training paces and finish times. In my personal experience and in working with runners of various abilities, I have found that using a recent race finish time to gauge max effort is typically more accurate than a VO2 max test, as runners are usually able to push to a true max effort in a race environment than on a treadmill under observation with a mask on.
Once an individual has the appropriate training zones, then they are able to make the most of their training by ensuring they are training at the right intensity, based on their individual athletic abilities.
Stay tuned for more heart rate training information on this blog or visit our Foothills Sports Medicine Arrowhead Running Group Facebook page.

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