Ask Well: How Do You Use a Heart Rate Monitor?Posted on August 18, 2014 by ECR Louisville in Blog, Caregiver Education, Exercise, Exercise/Keeping Fit
What is the best way to use a heart rate monitor to get fit? What heart rate criteria should you use that tells you that you are fit?
Heart rate monitors can be a useful tool during exercise for new and experienced runners and other athletes. Monitors can be worn as a strap across the chest, on the wrist and even on the head, and by measuring your heart rate can help you exercise at the right intensity.
Most don’t have a display, so you’ll need to connect your monitor with a sports watch or smartphone app to see your heart rate. Other features to look for include the ability to set custom heart rate zones, graphical displays and estimated calories burned.
You first need to identify the target heart rates at which you should train.
One way is to estimate your maximum heart rate using the formula “211 minus 64 percent of age.“. The American Heart Associationrecommends training at 50 percent to 85 percent of maximum, depending on your goals. That works out to a maximum heart rate of 180 beats a minute for a 48-year-old, and a training level from 90 to 153 beats a minute.
A more personalized way to find those targets with less arithmetic is to establish a personal baseline heart rate by measuring it while exercising at a sustained, steady pace during which you can still talk. Neal Henderson, who has trained elite cyclists, triathletes and Olympians, recommends this “talk-test” based method.
Now, vary your workout so one day you are exercising at this baseline rate; another day, plan high-intensity-interval training that brings your heart rate 20 to 40 beats a minute above your baseline to build speed. On a recovery day, exercise at a lower level, keeping your heart rate well below the baseline to build endurance.
Over time, as you become more fit, you will notice that you can go for longer and faster at your baseline heart rate.
In addition, monitors allow you to track your resting heart rate, which is the number of times your heart beats a minute at rest. A normal resting heart rate for adults can range from 60 to 100 beats a minute. As your fitness level increases, your resting heart rate will begin to go down. Women tend to have higher resting heart rates than men. Elite athletes may have resting heart rates in the 40s.
The most common heart rate monitors are chest straps, such as those long made by Garmin and Polar, that detect the heart’s electrical activity. Newer options can be worn elsewhere and use an optical sensor to measure heart rate by measuring blood flow through the skin. Mio makes one worn on the wrist, and LifeBEAMmakes a heart rate measuring helmet.
Deciding where to wear a heart rate monitor is largely a matter of comfort and convenience. If you just want to measure your resting heart rate, you don’t need a dedicated monitor, there are free smartphone apps that will do that.
For more information on understanding what your heart rate monitor can tell you and what it can’t tell you, read our Marathon Tech Review about using one to train for a marathon.