How to Use A Heart Rate Monitor
So you’ve got your very own heart rate monitor but do you know how to use it? Basically you need to know a little bit about your heart rate. Your heart rate is the number of heart best per minute. But do you know that you can also measure the maximum heart rate. The entire principle of using one is to fine tune your training according to your heart rate zones.
Here are the 2 principles every heart rate monitor works on
#1 Establish Your Max Heart Rate
To start off, you must first establish your max heart rate.
There are various formulas to calculate your max heart rate. The easiest is to subtract your age from the number 220 (for men) or from 226 (for women). For those who don’t want to get a headache with formulas this is the best formula to use. Usually this method is about 80% accurate for runners.
If you want to find out what formulas are out there, Brian Mac has a list of formulas to calculate your heart rate here.
#2 Calculate Your Training Zones
Once you’ve calculated your maximum heart rate, the next step is to calculate your training zones. Don’t worry with a heart rate monitor, you don’t have to worry too much about calculation. You just need to understand your different heart zones based.
- Healthy Heart Zone: 50-60% of your MHR. This zone is good for daily exercise. Healthy Heart Walking Workout
- Fat-Burning/Fitness Zone: 60-70% of your MHR. This heart rate burns the highest percentage of fat. Fat-Burning Walking Workout
- Aerobic Zone: 70-80% of your MHR. Increases your functional capacity, used when training for an endurance event. Aerobic Walking Workout
- Anaerobic Threshold Zone: 80-90% of your MHR. Improves your cardiovascular capacity and VO2 Max. Threshold Walking Workout
- The Red Line Zone: 90-100% of your MHR. This zone is best for interval training and only the very fit can train effectively in this zone. It’s best for quick bursts of speed at short distances before resuming normal running speeds.
Take a look at this chart to get an idea what I’m talking about.
How To Put Your Heart Rate To The Test
Let’s say you were to complete 2km in 15 minutes quite consistently at a heart rate or 150bpm (beats per minute). You will notice that you heart rate rate will reduce after a while of consistent training. Instead of keeping yourself to the fixed distance of 2km in 15 minutes, train until your heart reaches the average heart rate of 150bpm.
Another great way to do this is to set a certain percentage as the upper and lower limit of your heart rate. Let’s say you want to run up to 70% of your MHR as the upper limit and 60% as your lower limit. Run up to 20 minutes until you’ve reached your 70% and then slow down to 60% for about 10 minutes. Keep doing this consistently after a few rounds of training and you will notice that your heart rate drops and you will run further and longer at the upper limit. If you feel more comfortable with a MHR of 70%, increase it o 80% if you can cope and repeat this cycle.
Put on the Heart Rate Monitor
First, wet the contacts on the back of the chest transmitter so that it makes good contact with your skin. There is a product, Buh-Bump Cream, which is an electrolyte gel just like they use in hospitals, to ensure good contact. Adjust the elastic strap so it is snug but doesn’t interfere with taking a good deep breath. For women, it should go snugly under the breasts and bra. Now put on your shirt. If your model has a watch display, put it on your wrist.
Start Your Monitor
Different models turn on in different ways, some just by waving the watch display in front them in front of the chest transmitter. Others are activated by a button. Note the readings – if they are erratic or show you must be either dead or running a sprint, readjust the chest strap for good contact. Monitors may also pick up other people’s transmitters if they are also wearing a heart rate monitor – so space yourself around others.
Care and Feeding of Your Monitor
- The transmitter and wrist display are both water resistant, but should be stored in a dry place and not kept in some non-breathable place – don’t store it in a plastic bag or keep it in your gym bag with your sweaty clothes.
- Clean the transmitter with warm soapy water and a soft towel after each use. Never use alcohol or a scratchy scrubber.
- Batteries wear out after a couple of years and depending on the model you can send it in for a replacement or replace them yourself.
- Replacements for the transmitter or watch display are available from the manufacturers for less than the whole unit price.