May 9, 2012

Training by heart rate monitor: Part 1 - The learning curve

If you remember, I bought this over the weekend:
Plug and play, it's not. I've had to read the manual several times. I've had to do some research (well, I would have done that anyway). I still haven't figured out where it says how many calories I've burned in a workout, based on heartrate. I found calories based on distance, but the distance measurement is as a pedometer, which is fudgey at best.

Through random touch testing, I determined my resting heartrate is between 70-75. According to the Mayo Clinic, normal is between 60-100, so I'm well within that range.

I finally figured out how to set my target heart rate, though I'm still not 100% certain what my target heart rate should be. The rule of thumb for maximum heartrate is (220 - your age). This is a general rule of thumb, and again, fudgey at best. Considering my true maximum heartrate cannot be calculated without help from the medical profession by means of a stress test, this rule of thumb will have to do.

I wrote that last paragraph, then decided to actually look up how to do a stress test. Turns out, as I suspected, that rule of thumb is about as accurate as a dart in a windstorm. There's a chance it will hit the mark, but that chance is pretty slim.

According to Training2run, anyone with access to a treadmill and a heart rate monitor can do a stress test. According to Brian MacKensie, all you need is the monitor and a good long hill. It is recommended you don't try this with even the smallest injury, and suggested you have a trained medical professional on hand. The methods vary slightly, but the goal is to start slow and gradually increase both speed and incline until your heart rate refuses to go any higher.

I happen to have a treadmill with the ability to incline. I imagine I could accomplish the same thing just by running as hard as I can for, say, half an hour or so. The park hill would be a good choice, as there is no chance of traffic or stop lights slowing me down. What I don't have today is legs that will run hard for any length of time. I overdid the squats yesterday, and am so stiff I can't even get down into one yet today. I have a 13 mile bike ride on the schedule, and am vacillating about running as well. I'm well behind my 1K running goal for the year. The stress test will have to wait until Friday, at the earliest.

I want to run with the heart rate monitor on, but all bells and whistles turned off. I want to know where my heart rate goes when I'm not stopping every few minutes to slow it down. It's not the same as a stress test, and it certainly will not be the same today on tired legs as it would any other day when I'm fresh and rested. It is a data point though, which will assuage my curiosity for now. I plan to wear it on the bike ride too, for the same reason.

Another thing I want to start doing is checking my heart rate first thing in the morning, like this lady's coach has her doing. It's another data point, and can give me an idea if I'm overtraining. The whole point of this heart rate monitor is to learn how to train better and smarter. Part of training smarter is knowing when to push, and when to back off. I have a tendency to keep pushing and pushing until I hurt myself.

The idea is, if I take my heart rate every morning I'll get an idea of where it normally lies (better than the random testing I've done so far). If my heart rate goes up more than 5 beats per minute, that's a sign I might be pushing too hard. According to this guy, I don't necessarily have to stop training at that point. I just have to back off the intensity.

Because I'm good at backing off...

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