View Full Version : 'Anyone here train with a heart rate monitor?

10-17-2012, 08:56 AM
Any suggestions? Are they of any real value?

I've had a guy that I do a bit of training with suggest that I use a heart rate monitor when I run to keep an eye on my heart rate with a view to keeping it within some range. I gather that between a certain range you burn fat more effectively, too low and you're not burning fat, too high and you're burning muscle instead of fat ....???

I can see that it might be interesting to track time, distance, recovery rates etc as a view of gaining fitness, but the price of the monitors obviously climbs as you add capabilities like GPS for speed and distance, and gimmicks like software and download capability....which seems a bit superfluous when a simple spreadsheet would do the same.

So does anyone here believe in using one? And if so have they been of any value or have they been just a fad that you've soon tired of? (or perhaps found your range with the monitor and then not needed the monitor to stay within it each time you run).

Do you recommend any particular brand and model??? If I did have one I'd want a big display so that I don't need to run wearing my reading glasses.

Tom Montgomery
10-17-2012, 09:20 AM
I believe in using one. What I have found is that it tends to slow you down! Many runners, particularly beginners, overdo it.

Use the Karvonen Formula (rather than the subtract-age-from-220 method) to determine your Max. The other method only works for about 20% of the population. It does not work for me as it underestimates my Max.

Polar makes a good monitor. You don't need all the bells and whistles.


You should know your Maximum Heart Rate and your correct training zone to know if you are training at the right pace. Here are a few ways to figure your target heart rate.

You can easily find your Target Heart Rate (thr) with this simple method. Subtract your age from 220 (226 for women) to calculate your Maximum Heart Rate (mhr). Find your training zone below and multiply that number times your maximum rate.

Another, more accurate method is the Karvonen Formula (http://www.sportfit.com/sportfitglossary/energetics_aerobic_krvnn.html). You must know your resting heart rate to use this method and insert your training zone from below.

Of course the most accurate method is a treadmill stress test administered by a professional. If you are over the age of 35, overweight, have been sedentary for several years, or have a history of heart disease in your family, clinical testing is recommended.


Wearing a heart rate monitor is an easy, accurate method of checking your heart rate... but you don't have a monitor. Here is another easy way.

The easiest place to feel your own heart beat is the carotid artery. Place your index finger on the side of your neck between the middle of your collar bone and your jaw line. (You may also use the radial artery on the under side of your wrist.) You can count the beats for a full 60 seconds or count for 6 seconds and add a zero at the end. If you felt your heart beat 14 times in 6 seconds the number would be 140 for a full 60 seconds. Counting for only six seconds is a convenient method, of course it is more accurate to count for the full 60 seconds. You can use several varieties of this method (30 seconds x 2, 15 seconds x 4, etc.). The longer you count the more accurate your reading. Whatever you choose, be consistent in your method.


Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) --- 50 - 60% of maximum heart rate: The easiest zone and probably the best zone for people just starting a fitness program. It can also be used as a warm up for more serious walkers. This zone has been shown to help decrease body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol. It also decreases the risk of degenerative diseases and has a low risk of injury. 85% of calories burned in this zone are fats!

Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) --- 60 - 70% of maximum heart rate: This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone, but is more intense and burns more total calories. The percent of fat calories is still 85%.

Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) --- 70 - 80% of maximum heart rate: The aerobic zone will improve your cardiovascular and respiratory system AND increase the size and strength of your heart. This is the preferred zone if you are training for an endurance event. More calories are burned with 50% from fat.

Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) --- 80 - 90% of maximum heart rate: Benefits of this zone include an improved VO2 maximum (the highest amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise) and thus an improved cardiorespiratory system, and a higher lactate tolerance ability which means your endurance will improve and you'll be able to fight fatigue better. This is a high intensity zone burning more calories, 15 % from fat.

Red Line (Maximum Effort) --- 90 - 100% of maximum heart rate: Although this zone burns the highest number of calories, it is very intense. Most people can only stay in this zone for short periods. You should only train in this zone if you are in very good shape and have been cleared by a physician to do so.

10-17-2012, 11:06 AM
That's good stuff Tom.

I find when I use the heart rate monitor built into the various treadmills I run on, my heart rate is usually too fast for the "fitness zone", which is where I want to be.

Domesticated_Mr. Know It All
10-17-2012, 11:53 AM
My body has a built in monitor that tells me when to slow down.
The older I get the better it works.

10-17-2012, 12:25 PM
Basic Polar that uses a chest belt. They can help if you're serious about training and conditioning. Once you get used to using one and get more into such things, you will probably end up buying one that has many features good for what you want to do, but at this stage you're not likely to pick the correct one. Basic will do fine for a couple of years.

Cuyahoga Chuck
10-17-2012, 12:48 PM
I don't know if a heart monitor is an effective weight loss device. What it's strong point is is keeping the exerciser from taking his heart rate into a dangerous zone. The harder you drive yourself the more weight you can lose. But you can also kill yourself. No two people are the same so only generalities can be applied. A long jogging run will use up as much in calories as shorter intense runs. And the slower pace is more likely to give you warning if you are getting into a dangerous state.
A monitor can allow you to up your training heart rate a limited amount and give warning you if you are going over. On long slow runs your heartrate will go up as you tire. It happens slowly so it may creep up. There's also the problem of going up hills. If your fitness level is not sufficient for the pace/slope the heart monitor will tell you. For the limited cost heart monitors are a good deal.

10-17-2012, 01:45 PM
I've got a gym-owner friend who's competitive about such things. Said he got his heart rate monitor up to 205 once, and nobody's beaten him yet.

10-17-2012, 02:26 PM
When I swam laps at the Andover, MA Y, my heart monitor was a friendly female life guard.

Cuyahoga Chuck
10-17-2012, 02:34 PM
One morning the newspaper said a runner had been found dead on the sidewalk at the top of a hill in the center of the next town over. I knew the hill well. It was exactly 3 miles from my home and I had run down it and up it many times. I did not die because I knew the signs of distress. And there were those three long miles after I had crested the hill. And I might have to cut grass or wash windows when I got home.

Tom Montgomery
10-17-2012, 02:41 PM
In my experience most beginning joggers/runners tend to go too fast. Over a couple of weeks they drop out and feel as though they have failed.

They have NOT failed! What they have done is over-trained!

A heart rate monitor slows most people down and keeps them in the aerobic zone. The higher zone is for athletes who want to race and is applicable to interval (speed training) on a track. Even they spend 80-90% of their milage in the aerobic zone.

Give up any idea of being competitive, even on an amateur level. Athletes are genetic outliers. They exist on a completely different plane than ordinary human beings. Not long go I read an interview with a World-Class marathoner who said that he cannot imagine running for more than 3 hours.

The rest of us run for health and fun. If you don't think it is fun, find another sport.

10-17-2012, 06:03 PM
I got one and have given up using it. I've set it up with my in-zone range to be 124 - 160 bpm, with a 180 max.

I've got some workout stats here at my desk. 1h 23m 46s session. 1437Kcal burned, 178bpm average, 224bpm max.

Now I do tend to go hard on the cross-trainer and treadmill, setting myself little targets and always trying to be a little faster or go a little further than last time. But even so, I'm sure I'd be dead if I'd gone anywhere near 224bpm at the age of 42.

I get sensible readings off the monitor up to about 130, then I just can't trust what it tells me. I've hopped off a machine when I've supposedly been at about 190 and taken my pulse manually and got an answer somewhere around 145, which would be more reasonable. My monitor is a Polar, and I've not found a good explanation for what is happening, beyond interference from all the electronics in the gym. If that's the case, the thing is pretty much useless to me. Maybe I'll give it a go out in the harbour on my kayak and see if it gives a sensible result. If not, I better go see my doctor.

10-17-2012, 06:18 PM
Thanks all, some great advice there, much appreciated. And thanks for the link Tom

10-18-2012, 08:13 AM
Basic Polar that uses a chest belt. They can help if you're serious about training and conditioning. Once you get used to using one and get more into such things, you will probably end up buying one that has many features good for what you want to do, but at this stage you're not likely to pick the correct one. Basic will do fine for a couple of years.


and yes it will soon be collecting dust, but not before it has helped you learn the "feel" of your proper rates.

10-18-2012, 11:33 AM
I have been using a HRM ever since I entered rehab after a heart bypass 6 years ago. I use a simple Polar model - cheap as chips & just does heart rate and timer functions. I need to know how close I am getting to my HRmax when running for safety's sake as well as trying to concentrate my exercise in the aerobic zone. Any extra functions - for me - are just unnecessary gizmos.