There are many ways to track your workouts and fitness. The number of devices and gadgets has increased dramatically and it can be hard to keep up on how to train and with what devices. Athletes have been using heart rate as a training metric for years. Measuring HR can be a useful tool in your training, as long as you understand the many interrelated factors that are a part of it.
HR is affected by blood flow, aerobic fitness, and the amount of oxygen being transported by the circulating blood. Other factors include: the air temperature, the clothing you wear, your hydration status, and your state of health. Because there are many conditions that affect HR, you must know what exactly you are evaluating when monitoring your HR.
Morning (Resting) Heart Rate: Before you get out of bed, measure and record your HR. Once you do this consistently and know what YOUR normal resting HR is, you can be aware if there are changes. A consistent increase in your wake-up resting HR can indicate overtraining, dehydration, or poor nutritional status. Measure your resting HR by placing a finger on a pulse point and looking at a watch or clock with a second hand. Be sure to do this while lying down, before sitting up. Count the beats for 30 seconds and then multiply the number by 2. This will give you your beats per minute (bpm).
HR Training Zones: Measuring your HR during exercise can be helpful to keep you “honest” in your workout. When you have established your HR zones, and you know you need to be in Zone 3 on a certain workout, that HR monitor will help you get and stay in that zone. Sometimes our perceived exertion can be “off” for a number of different reasons, so a HR monitor can keep you where you need to be in a controlled workout. It also helps to keep you going “easy” on an easy day. We’ve all been there before, you head out on a run or ride, fully knowing you need an easy day. But here come a group of runners or riders and they pass you. Grrrr. You know you can hang, or even beat them and it is so tempting to throw your easy day out the window and turn it into a tempo day. But then, your trusty HR monitor starts beeping as you head out of Zone 2. You pull back on the reins, and remember the importance of this easy workout. Thanks to your HR monitor, you can now reap the benefits of a Zone 2 workout.
Limitations of HR training
There are limitations to relying solely on HR. When terrain, temperature, altitude, affect your HR, you may be doing more harm than good when you try to hit a certain HR. On these days, using pace, power, or RPE (listening to your body if sick or overtrained), will be better indicators of how to train.
*Measuring HR is one of the many ways to measure and track progress in your training. It can also help you on race day, help you know when it’s time for some recovery, and even be an indicator of when you might be coming down with something. There are different methods to setting up your HR training zones, schedule a session with SVC coaching to get your zones dialed in for YOU!