Heart rate monitor 411

As promised in this post, I’m back with a heart rate monitor tutorial. If you already have that special workout partner strapped to your wrist, you can skip this post, and pat yourself on the back for being so fitness savvy. Or, you can keep reading just to reinforce how smart you are. If you don’t yet own a heart rate monitor, and don’t know why you should, this one’s for you!

Apparently, with the magic of a heart rate monitor, you can enjoy this amazing progression.

Photo: heartmonitor.com

I don’t know about all that, but a heart rate monitor can certainly be helpful for both beginners, and experienced exercisers.

About Heart Rate

Your heart rate is measured in beats per minute (bpm), and is an easy way  to gauge your workout intensity, track changes in fitness level, or exercise more safely. Many factors affect heart rate, including exercise, stress, illness, overtraining and fatigue, and medications. In fact, one important thing to note: if you are taking certain types of blood pressure medication, your heart rate can appear lower than it actually is. Make sure you check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, or if you are on medications and are unsure how they may affect you during exercise. 

Heart Rate monitors 

There are many brands and styles of monitors on the market, but they basically consist of a watch and a transmitter that is worn around your chest.

Photo: heartratemonitorwatches.com

There are some models without chest straps, but they are not usually as accurate, or as convenient to use. Electrodes in the transmitter pick up signals from your heart and send them wirelessly to the watch, giving you a constant read of your heart rate. You can wear your monitor for most any activity, including swimming. You can go fancy schmancy and get tons of features, like this Garmin model for $349.99, or basic like this Polar model for $59.95. I have an earlier version of this Polar model, which I bought about a year ago for $100. I’ve been really happy with it, and it does just enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that I get technology overload. It has a basic watch, target training zone, stopwatch, lap timer, alarm clock (for those sleeping exercise sessions), memory, calories burned and computer upload capabilities (so you can upload and save your workout data).

How to incorporate a monitor into your training

Once you enter your personal data into your watch, you’re ready to go. Soon, you and your monitor will be inseparable. You’ll become so close you’ll feel like your workout doesn’t count if you’re not wearing it. I have discussed this phenomenon with other people, so I know it’s not just me being weird.

Based on your age, the monitor will calculate a training zone for you. Generally speaking, key training zones are:

60-70 percent: lower intensity exercise (you could go on and on)

70-80 percent: moderate intensity exercise (more challenging, but still manageable)

80 + percent: high intensity exercise (you’d have trouble maintaining this level for very long)

I totally ignore this feature because I know the range I want to be in (it changes depending on the goal of the workout), but some people use it religiously. I like to have the display on my watch set so that it shows the percentage of maximum heart rate, rather than bpm because my brain works better that way, but you can set it up either way. By tracking your heart rate during an exercise session, you can see if you are working hard enough (not even close you book reading treadmill walkers), or expertly manipulate your intensity with intervals.

I also like to display my calorie count, because I find that motivating. I try to hit at least 400 calories burned for each workout I do, but that’s just my own arbitrary number. If you are trying to lose weight, tracking your calories in/calories out can really help you zero in on the right balance for success.

I’ll bet you are all so excited about the possibilities of exercising with a heart rate monitor, you are going to rush right out to get one. Hey, whatever it takes to get you motivated. Remember this post about new shoes? You can likely find a model to suit your needs at your local sporting goods store, or go online for more options and reviews. I got mine at heartratemonitorsusa.com, and was happy with my purchase.

So tell me about it friends. Do you have a heart rate monitor that you want to gush about? Are you shocked by how hard (or not) you’re really working during your neighborhood jog? Do you wear your monitor for weird things, just to see how many calories you really burn? No, I don’t mean that people, get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about housecleaning.


4 thoughts on “Heart rate monitor 411

  1. Pingback: HIIT it! | wishfit

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