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Heart Rate Monitor


Heart Rate Monitors

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Why use a Heart Rate Monitor?

We all know that the harder we exercise the faster our heartbeats. The Heart Rate Monitor is basically a rev counter, giving us an exact measurement of our exercise intensity. Some other benefits are:

- Maximises the benefits for people with limited time to train
- Allows you to monitor and measure your own progress
- Individualise your training programs
- Train easy and train hard when you are meant to
- Motivation can be increased by witnessing your own improvement
- Using a ‘third party’. Are we improving?

You will need to know 3 simple things to be able to use your Heart Rate Monitor effectively:
Resting Heart Rate   -   Maximum Heart Rate   -  The Karvonen Equation

Resting Heart Rate
We all know that resting heart rate is best taken as soon as you wake up in the morning while lying still in bed. This will decrease as your fitness improves. Make a habit of checking your pulse every morning and record it in your log.

Maximum Heart Rate
The easy (and inaccurate) way

MEN: 220 – Age = Max Heart rate (approx)
WOMEN: 226 – Age = Max (approx)

This formula can be of use initially if you have had a long break and are just returning to the sport. If you have been fit for a long time than this method can be quite inaccurate. Your max heart rate will generally be different for each of the disciplines With running returning the highest maximum due to the use of more muscles during the activity. This should be followed by cycling and then Swimming.

The maximum heart changes very little in relation to our fitness. It does however, on average drop by 1 beat per year.

The most accurate method of determining your max is by having a Maximal Stress test on a treadmill or stationary bike under the supervision of a trained sports Physiologist. This does run into a certain expense and not everyone can afford a regular (up to 3 times per year) monitoring of max heart rate.

Field testing for max heart rate is usually the option that most people take.

Examples of ways you can determine your max for the 3 disciplines are as follows:

1. Running
Find somebody of similar or slightly better ability than you to accompany you during the test. You will need to be in a fairly well rested state and motivated to give 100% effort. Warm up for at least 15-20 minutes prior. I have found that a 3 to 5km time trial on a 400m running track to be a good distance to get a maximum. You will need to race as hard as you can over this distance, with the last 400m being an all out effort. During thefinal 200m you should glance at your monitor to select the highest reading as your maximum.

2. Cycling
Same principle as the run except attack a 5 to 8 minute steep climb, racing your partner.

3. Swimming
Make sure that your monitor is water proof! Then warm up 15-20 min – including a few 50m repeats, going 25m hard/ 25m easy. Do a set of 3-4 200m repeats as hard as you can with 45sec recovery.

If at a later date, you notice that in a race for example, a higher reading on your monitor than previous, than that would become your new maximum for that discipline.

Remember that you should always consult your doctor before testing your maximum heart rate in field tests.

The Karvenon Equation
Using the Karvenon Equation we can determine the 5 Intensity Levels that should be incorporated into your training program. Below we have listed these levels and given a brief description of their purpose.

As far as equations go the Karvenon equation is very simple

Some heart rate calculations simply multiply the percentage effort by our maximum heart rate. This does not take into account the fact that everybody has a different minimum heart rate. The physiologist Karvonen realised this and said that our heart rate reserve is our Maximum heart rate minus our minimum heart rate. To get our target heart rate we simply multiply our heart rate by the percentage effort, and then add our minimum heart rate to this number.

Working HR = [(Maximum HR – Minimum HR) x % effort] + Minimum HR
An example would be An athlete with a max HR of 200 beats per minute with a resting HR of 50 beats per minute

For a 50% working effort the equation look like this:

50% Working Heart Rate
= (Max – Min) x 50% + min
= (200 – 50) x 50% + min
= 150 x 50% + min
= 75 + 50

= 125 beats per minute


Level 1
60-70% of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
Over-distance sessions will be done at this level. These sessions may seem very easy at first. But it is essential that you stay in control and complete this type of training within the zone. Because this training is longer than the other types it can be quite draining due to energy and fluid losses.

Level 2
71%-75% MHR
This is slightly harder than OD training and is generally the level that the majority of people would train at a lot of the time. This level will certainly be of benefit to untrained athletes but too much training at this level will keep you from obtaining optimal adaptation needed from training at level 1 intensity.

Level 3
76%-80% MHR
Not a great deal of training should take place at this level. Some high end endurance work may be done at this level, as well as longer races but the intensity is too low for it to effectively increase your VO2 max.

Level 4
81%-90% MHR
Intervals and race pace sessions require a level 4 intensity, also known as anaerobic threshold training. Training at this level will improve the body’s ability to transport oxygen, increase the fast muscle fibres and improve both aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways. We have all experienced the rubbery legs that one gets when running fast up a hill or running 400’s as fast as we can on a track. This is what is known as the anaerobic threshold or AT. It is the point where lactic acid accumulation reaches concentrations where it limits performance and is fatiguing. This point occurs at high intensities for well trained athletes. The lactate or metabolic waste quickly accumulates in the muscle cells and then enters the blood stream. When the accumulation becomes too great, the muscles will fail to contract efficiently, and exercise will slow until recovery is allowed.

Training at or slightly below AT usually results in the ability of the body to buffer or recycle lactate during high intensity work. You will find elite athletes will have high ATs. Your own AT will increase as you fitter.

Level 5
91%-100% MHR
Best used during peaking and racing stages. Stimulates anaerobic energy pathways, fast twitch muscle fibres, and improves anaerobic energy supplies and speed. These sessions would mostly involve all out efforts for a total of 15-30 seconds each. The sessions that are done at this intensity are hard but once it comes time to race your body will be in top condition.

Slow Training Down
 |  Stretching for Triathlon  |  Stretch for Swimming  |  Deep Water Running  |  Heart Rate Monitors
Core Fitness  |  Long Course Nutrition  |  Bike Strength Training  |  Swim Faster Exercises  |  Training with Power


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