Heart Rate Monitoring During Exercise. What’s The Big Deal?

At both our training facilities we have equipment that monitors our students heart rate, in real time, during exercise. And, in both training facilities, we have users that aren’t so found of using that technology. We have found there are a couple general reasons that is the case.

1) They don’t quite understand the purpose. That is our fault for not continually and consistently communicating the importance and usefulness of real time heart rate monitoring.

2) They don’t like what they see on the board. Frankly, you are just being a big baby if you are going to stick your head in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t matter. 🙂

I would use two words to explain why we monitor heart rate during training.

Human Nature.

In case you didn’t notice, human beings can be unreasonable. When it comes to training, that unreasonableness can reveal itself in a couple ways.

1) It is unreasonable to think that small effort will lead to big results in the gym.

2) It is just as unreasonable to think that you can train all-out-all-the-time and sustain progress. Not is it only unnecessary, training this way leads to greater frequency of injury and illness.

A reasonable training program is an optimal balance between frequency, intensity, duration and type of exercise. A heart rate monitor is the best way we currently have of monitoring intensity in the gym and physiological adaption – in other words, results. You have to put enough effort in to produce the adaptation desired without tapping unnecessarily into your systemic threshold and overreaching or overtraining.

That’s why you need to monitor your heart rate during training. It allows you to see the appropriate effort required for the adaptation we are training. If the target zone is “Yellow” during the work periods on a particular day, you will not get an optimal training effect from training in the “Green” (too low) or “Red” (too high). It is NOT a badge of honor to be in the Red Zone all the time. More is not always better. In this case more is absolutely not better. Sweating buckets and uncontrollable heavy breathing may make you feel like you really did something, but is it making you better? Is it giving the training adaptation that is going to create better fitness and health? Not so much.

After each training session you will be sent a chart. While the Polar and MyZone graphs look different, they largely show that same data. A typical MyZone chart is shown below:

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 4.14.56 PM

So what is this showing us?

This particular day we were training energy systems; 5 exercise circuit 40s on / 20s off, with a minute of rest between circuits. On either end you see the warm-up and cool down periods, and in the middle you see the work periods. There are 5 distinct work and 5 distinct rest periods. You can see that after every work period there is a distinct drop in heart rate during the 1 minute of recovery. You can also note that during the 5th set the client had/was fatiguing, as the sustained heart rate was lower (more green/less yellow).

Here is the same training session, different client:

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 4.22.24 PM

This looks considerably different. This client shows a sustained heart rate throughout the entirety of the session. Effort high? Absolutely. But it is also revealing that his Recovery Heart Rate is not where we want it to be. Looking at this data reveals this client would benefit by taking more time between circuits before starting again in order to get an optimal training effect. I will attest that both of these clients were working hard, but without seeing this data, we have no empirical evidence on how to train them best. Monitoring your heart rate is the only way.

What it comes down to is this. You hired us to coach you. We invested in this technology and pay a monthly service fee because we want to serve you to our best ability and highest capability.

In the words of Jerry McGuire “Help Me Help You!” – and wear your monitor.

One more thing. Through the end of 2015 we are able to offer the MyZone MZ-3 belts for only $60.00. This is a huge discount off the retail price of $149.95, and the price will be going up at the end of the year. Even if you train in Epsom this is a better price than you can get on any other heart rate monitor out there for wearing outside the gym.


As always we are here to serve and answer any questions you may have, so fire away.

Coach Dean


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