I mentioned previously that I was going to order a heart rate monitor. I’ve used it a couple of times now and thought I would give a quick report of my initial thoughts.
After doing some research and reading a lot of reviews, I decided that the Timex Personal Trainer would do everything that I needed. You could set high and low alerts, and it reportedly interfaced well with our Life Fitness equipment. It also functioned as a watch when you weren’t using the heart rate feature, and I needed a new watch. For around $50 I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
Unfortunately when I tested it out, I found that it only works with our older LF bikes and not with the new treadmills and ellipticals. I guess the new equipment is only compatible with Polar monitors. So rather than getting my pulse displayed on the screen, I have to look at the readout on the watch, which is not quite as nice.
In most cases this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But on some of my interval workouts I’m going pretty fast and running until totally exhausted. The last thing I want to do is take my focus away from my run, break my form, and try to find my pulse down on my wrist. Fortunately I’ve found that I can keep the reading in front of my face by hanging the watch on the console.
I purchased the monitor because I have found that using heart rate training has really helped my performance level. I compete in Master’s track & field competitions, and one of the events that I train for is the 1000 meter run. This is a miserable distance….two and a half times around the track at a very high rate of speed.
This distance completely taxes both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, so your training also has to incorporate both. That’s where the monitor comes in…you can tell instantly what your pulse is and make sure you’re training properly. I’ve found that it is a much more reliable way of keeping your training level exactly where you want it to be.
Where I’ve found this to be extremely important is on my easier training days, where I’m trying to maintain my pulse as high as I can (140-144) while still staying aerobic. If I chose to simply run 30 minutes at 7 mph on these days, that would put me in the right neighborhood. But I’ve found that there’s a wide variance in my heart’s response from day-to-day. Some days this would be too easy, while at other times it would push me above my aerobic limit.
So now I watch my pulse and am constantly adjusting my speed and distance. This way I am pushing myself to higher levels on the days my body is fresh, and avoiding overtraining on days where I don’t have the same level of energy. I’ve been very pleased with the results so far. When I started I could only go 2.5 miles before I started to push into the anaerobic zone. Six weeks later I’ve been able to increase my speed and I’m over 3.5 miles on my best days. What I’ve found most surprising is how much variance there can be from one day to the next.
I got an extremely good example of that this week. I ran in a track meet this past Saturday: Santa Barbara Masters Meet. I did more sprinting than I had trained for, and as a result my calves were badly trashed. Sunday and Monday I was seriously considering using the elevator to get up the one flight of stairs to my office. Tuesday and Wednesday saw some improvement, but not much. Wednesday afternoon I decided to try an easy run and see it that would help loosen things up a little.
I did the same warm-up I usually do on my easy run days…half a mile @ 6.5 mph followed by another half mile @ 7.5 mph. At this point on a good day I would continue on for another 2.5 miles at 7-8 mph. But not today! Even though I hadn’t run in four days, my body just wasn’t ready. My pulse was close to 140 after only a one mile warm-up! Could I have continued? Sure, I wasn’t that tired. But my pulse rate was telling me that I needed some more rest, and that in turn will help me avoid overtraining.