Heartrate Monitors

I spend alot of time in the gym and on my bikes. One of my favorite workout tools is my Polar S-510 Heartrate Monitor. I’ve gotten to know my heart rather well with this thing. The data it collects can tell me when my heart isn’t feeling too happy. This provides warning that I’m overtraining or coming down with something. The heart responds to what’s going on with your mind and body. With a monitor, your heart rate becomes an accessible health barometer. And, hey, I actually have fun using my monitor. They are neat electronic gadgets with lots of buttons to push, after all.

I primarily use my monitor to set and monitor workout intensity. There are several things that are useful to know when using a monitor during exercise. Here’s a rundown.

Aerobic Training Pulse (ATP) is figured as 60% of your maximum heart rate (HRmax). ATP is the slowest HR at which you achieve aerobic benefits and is where you want to do most of your training, especially if you’re after fat burning. HRmax is usually estimated as 220 minus your age. This has a standard deviation of something like 10bpm, so you may find your practical HRmax to be significantly different than this estimate. A more accurate prediction is HRmax-p. HRmax-p is based on resting heart rate, age, gender, weight, HR variability, VO2max, and other factors. Many HR monitors (such as the Polar S series) will try to predict VO2max and HRmax-p for you, giving you a better HRmax with which to work. VO2max, btw, is your maximum oxygen uptake and is usually expressed in milliliters of O2 per kilogram of body weight per minute. This is useful for comparing your VO2max to Lance’s and seeing how much bigger his is. Top cyclists have a VO2max (ml/kg/min) in the 70s with some reaching 100. An average 30 year old man is in the low forties. A horse is around 150.

Resting heart rate (HRrest) is also important. Measure your HR in the morning when totally relaxed. This is your HRrest. HRmax – HRrest is your heart rate reserve (HRR). The Karvonen formula uses HRR to figure training intensity percentages. If you want to train at 70% intensity, shoot for an HR of 70%(HRR) + HRrest.