Got Heart Rate?
By Neal Henderson, MS CSCS
The answer is "Yes." The real question is, "Do you know what your heart rate is while you train?"
Monitoring your heart rate is an important part of successful endurance training. Heart rate is measured in beats per minute (BPM). Exercising at the proper rate will improve your endurance. Working out at the wrong intensity can lead to overtraining or a plateau.
Training at the right intensity gives you the best chance of success. Heart rate may also be the best indicator of how well you’re using your body.
Using a heart rate monitor is the first step. (From this point forward, I will assume that while exercising you are using a heart rate monitor or checking your heart rate manually and doing the math to get BPM. E.g. 25 beats in 10 seconds = heart rate of 150 BPM.)
Successful measurement of your heart efficiency includes two key factors:
Using MHR, several heart rate intensity zones can be determined. Recovery and distance training are performed at lower rates. Intervals and racing are performed at higher heart rates.
Heart Rate Training Intensity Template
To determine your RHR, measure your heart rate after five minutes lying prone on the bed. No caffeine. Early in the morning is best.
RHR is a good measure of improvement through training: RHR will decrease with improved fitness
It’s also a good way to find out if you’re overtraining: RHR will elevate by 7-15 beats. If you catch signs of overtraining early, 2 to 3 days of rest can reverse it. If you overtrain for a long time, it could result in several weeks of unplanned rest
Maximum Heart Rate: A simple way to estimate MHR is to subtract your age from 220 (220-age= MHR). This is an estimate. Your actual MRH can be about 10-15 beats above or below, but for now we'll stick with the basics. Below is a chart describing 4 basic training zones.
Intensity Zone Heart Rate
Triathletes should spend a majority of their time in Level 2 (50%) and Level 3 (30%), with the remainder in Levels 1 and 4. Many athletes tend to train at too high intensity during their endurance exercise, and at too low of an intensity during speed and interval sessions. This "regression toward the mean" results in decreased motivation and poor race performances. By expanding your range of training intensities, you will become a faster and more time efficient athlete!
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