Top 5 Reasons To Train With A Heart Rate Monitor
Heart rate monitors are amazing tools to add to your training. You can accurately track and plan your workouts to maximize your performance. Many monitors are like having an electronic coach that will coax you and reward you when you hit your target goals. Here are five reasons that many of the top athletes in the world use heart rate monitors in their workouts.
1. A heart rate monitor can help keep you from over or under training.
One of the best ways to improve your performance in any sport is to train at the right intensity at the right time in your training cycle. A lot of runners and other athletes don’t do enough easy runs or workouts. Hitting it hard every time lengthens your recovery time and hurts overall fitness in the long run.
According to Runner’s World magazine, 2004 Olympic runner Carrie Tollefson wore a heart rate monitor to make sure she was running in her recovery zone during her easy days. By forcing herself to follow the heart rate zone recommendations and go slower on recovery days, Carrie was able to increase her weekly mileage from 60 to 90 miles. This eventually led to her dropping 47 seconds off her 5K time, hitting a new personal best of 15:04.
Many athletes, from beginners to elite levels, think that harder is better. This is definitely not the case as recovery runs or workouts play an essential role in improving your performance and boosting your overall fitness level. Monitors can also help you stay injury free by ensuring that your recovery runs are not too hard.
The same situation applies with under training. It you don’t work hard enough you’ll never see the improvement you’d like, especially with hard workouts that are meant to boost your lactate threshold. The key is to listen to your heart, not your head.
2. A heart rate monitor gives you immediate feedback on your performance.
A heart rate monitor is like having your own personal training coach. It’s often difficult to accurately judge how hard you are exercising. Our mental guesses about how hard we are working can be very unreliable. As a result it’s easy to end up biking or running too slow or too fast to truly advance our overall performance and physical ability.
With a monitor all you have to do is look down at your wrist and it instantly tells you how hard your body’s working and whether you are training at the level you need to be training at. Most of today’s best heart rate monitors are very precise and can give you instantaneous, objective readings of how much effort you are putting forth during your workout.
Monitors can also be used in actual races, especially longer races. They can prevent you from starting out too fast early on and getting caught in the rush and excitement at the beginning of the race, and then burning out in the later stages. If you check your heart rate and keep it within your target zone, you can run a nice steady, fast, but not too fast, pace.
3. You can track changes in your fitness level and performance over time and adjust your training accordingly.
Whether you’re a runner, biker, swimmer, or triathlete, your overall goal is improved performance measured by faster times and more distance. A heart rate monitor lets you record your heart rate and fitness level so that you can do the right type of workout at the right time. There is no guesswork. You look at the data about what your body is telling you and plan accordingly to maximize your fitness level. You can stay more focused and get better results.
Most of the best monitors like the Garmin Forerunner 305 heart rate monitor let you download information to your computer so that you can track your progress over time. Many have detailed statistics that you can analyze, include the distance you traveled, your pace, and the amount of time you spent working out, in addition to your heart rate. Some even track calories burned. Analyzing this data over time you can start to see trends and you can concentrate more on areas that need improving.
4. A heart rate monitor can motivate you to do better.
Many distance athletes need a measure of their progress if they are going to stick with it. This holds true especially for beginners. If you can see your distance and speed increasing each week while your heart rate remains in the same zone, you are more motivated to keep at it. Also if your pants are fitting you better or you lose a couple of dress sizes then you are even more motivated to continue with your workout program.
Some monitors will provide you with motivational messages telling you that you did a good job and to keep it up. They also tell you to take it easy and give yourself more time to recover. You can even earn “trophies” (the digital kind of course) for reaching certain goals.
Many companies have on-line communities built around their monitors. You can log onto the site, upload your data and get feedback from other runners or bikers online. You can compete against them based on different criteria. This is a great way to get additional motivation, as well as training tips from your fellow competitors. Think of it as a mix of a video game and a real life track meet.
The Garmin Connect website lets you download your data wirelessly whenever you’re in range of your Mac or PC. On the site you can set goals, analyze your training data and even share your activities with friends and family through email, Facebook, and Twitter.
5. You can set specific goals based on your needs and desire.
Whether your goal is weight loss, completing a marathon, or winning an Ironman a heart rate monitor can help you. Each time you go out for a workout with your monitor on, you will have a very detailed record of how far and how fast you went, and how your heart reacted. The more you know about your performance, the better you can make an actionable plan to reach your goals. A heart rate monitor can provide you with all the information you need to set specific goals.
If increasing distance is your goal, many monitors, like the Garmin FR60, come with built in GPS systems so that you can see how far you’ve gone, what your split time is per mile and what you heart rate was.
You can easily follow a heart rate training program based on target zones as well. Many monitors have built in computers that will even recommend workouts for you. The Polar FT60 will analyze your data and suggest workouts in light, moderate, and hard training zones. It will also suggest an amount of time to work out each week and tell you how much to train in each zone.
You can also look at including a foot pod with your monitor so that you can you track your pace and you can hit your speed goals faster. An advanced runner can go more than 90 strides per minute, whereas a beginner is looking at around 70. So setting a goal for a faster pace is a good way to improve your race times.
Overall heart rate monitors are really amazing pieces of technology that can truly advance your training and take your performance to the next level.