using a heart rate monitor (HRM) successfully….

Man, I should be doing my real estate class or practicing my German, but since I was getting back to exercising after a couple month hiatus, I need to refresh myself and I can get on my soap box.

I’ve had three different HRM’s over the years and I think that each one has been an improvment over the other. The first one I got, I got from Aldi’s for $20. Hey, I figure that it was worth $20 bucks to try it. I was hooked. There was a little learning curve as I learned about the watch and my own body. I was able to see improvements and I minimized my injuries and colds I would get when I pushed myself too hard.

I lost the chest strap on the Aldi’s HRM, and I got a Polar A5. It was a step up but more designed for walkers. Still, I really enjoyed it. I liked being able to see how many calories I had burned on my workouts. My next watch I got on a good deal. I next got a Polar F6 and passed the A5 to my wife.

The F6 was even more impressive since you could upload your data to Polar’s website and track your goals, Lose Weight Exercises, etc. Pretty cool!

Now, using a HRM successfully depends on a strong beginning. The most confusing thing was trying to determine my base heart rate. The first two HRM’s said to simply take your age and subtract your age and multiply that times 60%, 70%, and 80% to get your zone. This is fine if you have never Lose Weight Exercised but this doesn’t take into account your level of fitness. I have been running for years and following this method I was barely breaking a sweat, It was apparent I needed a better way to determine my base HR. Now, you might want to know why the base HR is so important. Once you have your base then you can determine what zone you want to target:

Target Zones

60 – 70% of max HR Weight Loss, building endurance

70 – 80% of max HR Weight Management, improve cardio fitness

Like I said, the Age-Based formula is only good if you have been a couch potato for the last five years. If you have been doing anything… and I recommend this formula anyways, I recommend Karvonen formula. Basically, you take your heart rate in the morning as you are laying in bed for three mornings, average them together, use that number for the basic calculations and you can get dialed in to your personal fitness level.

More details can be found here:

It took me some trial and error to get it right, but I understand it now. In fact, I made a spreadsheet that I’ll share here for you to use to calculate your zones in both the traditional method and the Karvonen method. You can view the spreadsheet here:

Finally, I was suprised at how well the Polar OwnZone works. I have used it and was suprised at how close it was to the results I got from the Karvonen formula. While the OwnZone might be a no-brainer if your unit supports it, I think it is still important to know the logic behind it.

A HRM will let you maximize your Lose Weight Exercises and help you avoid getting hurt or getting sick. In the summer when I push myself on seven or eight mile runs, I would almost certainly get a little cold. A HRM and some L-Glutamine helped prevent that.

Finally, let me close with a story that I think will illustrate why I think a HRM is important for people starting out running or cycling. One day, when I was on a long run in the summer, I caught up to a guy who was walking but wearing running gear. I passed him on my steady pace only to be passed by him while he was running much faster than I. Then, about two minutes later, I passed him again while he was walking. Then he passed me again running fast. This went on another four times until finally we ended up at the same red light.

“I just started running!” he said. This novice runner didn’t have any concept of pace. He was heading down a path of injury or over excertion and didn’t know it. Typically, novice runners will go this route and get hurt or discouraged. A HRM takes the guesswork out and gives you a detailed view into how your body is doing regardless of your fitness level.