For many endurance athletes, heart rate training is about as relevant as dial-up modems and landline phones. True, heart rate-based training has been around for a while but that does not mean that it isn’t relevant anymore – in fact, quite the opposite!
1 – RECOVERY ASSESSMENT TOOL
When used on a consistent basis, there is no better tool than a heart rate monitor to assess if you are recovered or not. While fatigue is often associated with feeling tired and sluggish, this is not always the case. Feeling fatigued does not necessarily equate to not being physiologically recovered. Through the use of a heart rate monitor, substantial increases or decreases in one’s heart rate at a particular intensity level is likely indicative of either sickness and/or not being recovered. The most common indicator is a low heart rate.
For example, if your heart rate is normally around 150 bpm when running at 10K pace but one day your heart rate won’t go above 125, despite running at 10K pace – you are likely not recovered.
In these cases, you are better off cutting your workout short to allow your body a chance to recover. Pushing through a workout or workouts when the body is not recovered will only dig you into a deeper hole of fatigue. Training smart means listening to what your body is telling you, regardless of what is on your training program.
2 – TACHOMETER FOR OUR BODY
A tachometer is a meter in your car that tells you how fast your engine is revving or in simpler terms, how hard your car is working. Think of your heart rate monitor as your body’s tachometer.
Look closely at your car’s tachometer and you’ll see a red zone. This zone represents an area in which the engine is working too hard and therefore if the car operates for too long in this zone, the engine may become damaged. While the body does not become damaged per se, it can run out of glycogen and therefore you bonk and run out of energy. In terms of the body, the beginning of the red zone is typically associated with one’s lactate threshold.
By using a heart rate monitor, you can assess your intensity level in real-time to help you determine what pace to swim, bike or run at.
3 – CORRELATION OF DATA
In regard to cycling, power meters are the new normal in respect to assessing performance. Power meters tell a rider how much power they are generating (in watts). While power meters have a lot of value, they should not be used in isolation.
For example, if a triathlete is aiming to maintain around 300 watts for a particular workout but they are not recovered, they will likely blow up. However, if they correlated their power meter data with their heart rate, they would see that their heart rate for a particular wattage (i.e., 300) is well below what it should be and therefore they should decrease their pace. Therefore, by correlating power to heart rate, it gives a much more ‘real world’ picture of what is going on.
While there new assessment tools out there like GPS-based pace metrics and power meters, your heart rate monitor still has tremendous value. So feel free to ditch the dial-up modem but keep the heart rate monitor!
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