Listening to Every Beat of my Heart (With a Heart Rate Monitor)
By Tara R. McKee
A few years ago, when I was in my mostly-running-era, I was introduced to a guy who was an avid cyclist. He knew I was training for the Boston Marathon and we discussed my summer triathlons as well. He asked if I used a heart rate monitor. I told him I just used a wristband GPS. He remarked, “I don’t know what it is with you runners, you are really missing out on a basic training tool by not using a heart rate monitor.”
I have to admit, I first took that advice like an eat-your-broccoli lecture. I resented the generalization, yet among my running friends, the few who used it were just monitoring their hearts as they continued to run while pregnant. I thought I was doing enough in recording my speed, average pace, distance, and times for running. My bike computer did all that in mph plus gave me a cadence reading. I didn’t know if I could push it harder or not. Some races actually ended with me having a lot of energy left for a sprint to the finish, which is not the sign of a well-run race.
I had interpreted the old runner’s mantra: “listen to your body” as an excuse to back off when the going got tough, especially when I wasn’t training for a race. With a heart rate monitor, I am learning how hard to push myself in spin class, where the instructor might have us stay in a zone of 80 or 90% of maximum heart rate for a climb or a sprint.
While out cycling or running, when I hit a steep hill, my tendency might have been to back off when it feels hard, especially when not training. But this morning when I got to the middle of a steep hill, I glanced at the number on my heart monitor’s wristwatch screen. It relayed a message from my heart that it could take it: “We can do this, girl!” With that, I conquered my hill!
Last November, I interviewed Shawna Rasmussen about her coaching as she trained for the Florida Ironman 2009. I was impressed with how she and her coach used the heart rate monitor for her training. She used the heart rate monitor to not only measure the right amount of effort, but also as a critical part of her recovery time during training. Her coach sometimes had her keep her heart rate low for as long as a week’s time to prevent her from becoming over-trained. As a result, she was healthy, rested and well-trained to take on the Ironman and did well.
I am now a total believer in the use of the heart rate monitor. How else can you know if you’re working out too hard or taking it too easy? The information you can get from the heart rate monitor gives that custom-made feedback so you can hit it just right!
Review of the Timex Ironman Race Trainer (Elite)
I have enjoyed using my Timex Ironman watch for over a decade as I trained. So there was very little learning curve in getting the hang of using the Timex Ironman Race Trainer (Elite). If you have had a Timex Ironman watch, you’ll find the screen functions almost intuitive. The wristwatch part of your heart rate monitor can be worn as just that during the day. But after a training session, you can get a reading of your workout average heart rate and peak heart rates. It will also tell you how long you spent in your target zone and counts down your recovery time. Like the Ironman watch, you can get a 50-lap recall, but this time with the heart rate data, as well as lap and split times and interval timers. The monitor will display your heart rate as beats per minute or as a percentage of your max, whichever you prefer. For those to whom data is almost a reward unto itself—the Timex Race Trainer’s data can be downloaded onto your computer with a USB device and put onto an online training log. The heart rate sensor chest strap fits snugly, yet comfortably, and comes with rechargeable battery.
The Iron Man Race Trainer Kit
The wireless Data Xchanger USB included in the Race Trainer® Kit adds even more functionality to the system. users can customize HRM and watch settings, upload workouts directly to their PC and training and nutrition software powered by TrainingPeaks.