Cecilia recently left me a comment about Heart Rate Monitors, and I found myself writing a response so long (and consequently going off on about a billion little tangents) that I thought the topic deserved it’s own post. Here is what Cecilia wrote:
hey there, great blog you have here :0) Hope you don’t mind me asking … do you think a heart rate monitor is a necessary gadget?!!! – I’m intrigued by it after seeing lots of bloggers having one of them … but the thing is … they are so darn expensive!!! :0/ Thanks for your advice, I appreciate it!! :0)
Well THANKS Cecilia – because now I can give my (somewhat critical.. I would say “harsh” is too extreme) response without feeling like I’m just gettin’ on everyone who wears a HRM. (Dumbasses… [kidding!!]) 😉
I’ll be honest – I think heart rate monitors are 100% 97.3% unnecessary (let me get into that 2.7% later). KNOWING your heart rate doesn’t change what it is – your heart’s still gon’ be there, and it’ll still be beating, whether you’re wearing a HRM or not. You could say the same about a GPS – knowing your pace doesn’t really do diddly squat about it .. you’re still running. Wearing a HRM (or a Garmin, or a …) wont make improvements in your fitness (if that’s your goal) – you still have to do the work. Having a HRM read back to you “125 bpm” or “150 minutes in the zone” (insert rolling eyes smiley face here.. I wish I knew how to make that one!) doesn’t say anything about if you’re “working harder”. Trust me – if you up the ante, you’ll be able to feel it, with or without a HRM.
Now, if you were a fan of Heart Rate Monitors, you may say – “Erika. STFU. YOU have a GARMIN. And you treat it like your unborn child. Quit being a hypocrite!” (STFU is my 2nd favorite acronym (which would be pronounced “stuff-u”), following TTFU (where you actually need to spell out the letters). But geez! Where did I get this dirty/mean mouth from?)
We all remember this photo..
Me? Hypocrite? Well, yes and no. This is where that 2.7% comes in – there are uses for a HRM (and a Garmin). If you are an athlete who is really serious about your VO2 max, and you’re actually going to train USING that number, then yeah – a HRM might be a good idea for you. (If you don’t even know what a “VO2 max” is, then you clearly wouldn’t need to use a HRM to train with it.) 🙂 If you have some type of condition or are needing to closely monitor your health to make sure your heart rate doesn’t get too high, then yeah – a HRM might be a good idea for you. (Side tangent – if you are one of those people, please be careful. When your body is in a weakened state, exerting yourself and pushing your heart is doing you absolutely no good. You may feel fine, but when you pass out at practice because your heart was overworked and just decided to stop, you wont be feeling anything. Be smart. Be safe.) And the same goes with a Garmin (or other GPS). If you’re actually going to USE the features on it for intervals or out-n-backs or using the pacer – makes sense. If you’re just going to wear it.. pass.
"That's right baby - I'm in the ZONE!"
In MY experiences, the majority of people I see who wear a HRM just wear it. They have some number in their mind that puts them “in the zone” (though if they’re using that 220 – age x .0whatever chances are that’s wrong. That formula was an estimate made in the 70s based on a study that included smokers, people on heart disease meds, etc. Not your average healthy Joe.) They may use those numbers to calculate calories burned. Or they may just be like “Sweet! Two hours in the zone!”, and then do nothing more with it. I am fully aware that your heart rate and your PRE (Perceived Rate of Exertion) are supposedly closely connected, but I’ve found that’s not always true. If you ask ME.. your PRE is much more beneficial as a training tool. Here’s why:
Everyone’s run (or swim, or bike, etc.) is different every single day. I tried to think of a more scientific, “official” way to say that, but clearly failed, so sorry! What I mean is this – One day I could run a 7:10 average pace and just be cruisin’ along and relaxed. Another day, a 7:10 could have me breathing hard, and seriously struggling to maintain that pace. As much as I wish our bodies could be perfect and mathematical (get X amount of sleep – be at your peak performance. Eat x amount of calories – be at your peak performance), they’re not. Aside from sleep and proper nutrition, other things come into play: the temperature, the humidity, are you running (spinning, exercising, etc) alone, are you with a group, did you wear breathable clothing or are you in cotton, etc.
PRE must have been around for a long time. This looks hella old.
Many people judge their PRE on a scale of 1 to 10. So my 7:10 that feels like a 4 today, could feel like a 9 next week. Basing workouts and training on your PRE is great, because it’s based on that E – your EFFORT. If you base your workouts on your heart rate, despite what your body is feeling, you could saying “I need to be at a 150″, but because humans are not at all perfect, exact, or mathematical, that 150 could be a lot harder (or easier) one day versus another. I am a firm believer in QUALITY over QUANTITY. If my schedule says intervals on Wednesday, but I know my body’s just not feeling it, then I’m going to do them a different day. Pushing yourself through a run (or bike, or swim, or whatever) just to get “to that number” or just to “do what’s on the schedule” is going to do you absolutely no good. Doing quality workouts and doing them when you have the energy to give it what it needs is what will make you improve.
So that in short just turned into a novel, but that’s my take on Heart Rate Monitors. I highly suggest using your PRE instead, and toying around with it so you can get a feel of “what a 9 feels like” or “what a 5 feels like”. And Cecilia’s right – those things cost a BUTTLOAD of money (for a good one), AND those chest straps are hella uncomfortable! Save your paycheck (and your poor skin! chafing = 😦 ).
I’m not a professional by any means – this is completely and solely my opinion. It’s not like I don’t like the people who wear heart rate monitors (I love everyone, remember? 😀 ), I’m just not a fan of the HRMs themselves. If you already have one, and it’s workin for you, then rock on my little heart rate monitoring friend. If you’re just contemplating buying one, I’d say you know whether you’re giving your workouts quality effort or not – you don’t need a pricey little tech toy to tell you that!
Runners World did a great article that completely proves (and defeats at the same time) my point of this post. Take from it what you’d like – just thought I’d share!
Filed under: morning | Tagged: gomer, random, run | 8 Comments »