Kelly loves her heart rate monitor and makes a good case for one. Makes me want to dig mine out of…um, somehwere.
Come back tomorrow for details of this weekend’s runs!
Running is a simple sport. It’s a natural motion like chewing or walking. Sure, there are things that can be done to make it more efficient, and practice always makes you better, but it really doesn’t require much. Even less if you buy into the barefoot running movement. I, myself, prefer to run in shoes, and I’m ok with that.
Navigating the needs and wants of running gear can be difficult and confusing. Shoes, clothing, fuel belts, smartphone apps, GPS, Heart Rate Monitors, MP3 players, earbuds, the list goes on and on. None of this stuff is cheap. I started running with just an Ipod. Then I got a smartphone app that would track my distance. Then I made the leap to a Heart Rate Monitor.
Initially, I bought a heart rate monitor to track my burned calories. It tracks your heart rate and uses your height and weight to calculate the calories you’ve burned during your workout, which also helps if you’re counting calories. If you’re running, you can estimate that you burn about 100 calories per mile, but that can vary depending upon your effort and your weight. For example, running a 12 minute mile took more effort for me when I began running than it does now, so I burned more calories doing the same workout a year ago because I weighed more and it took more energy. Energy burned=calories burned.
I’m a numbers kinda girl so I love to see those numbers on my wrist tick up as I go. The monitor I use shows the burned calories readout under the display of my actual current heart rate so I can monitor these at the same time. In the beginning I didn’t pay much attention to my heart rate. It was just incidental that when I glanced down at my wrist to look at the calories display, I also saw my heart rate.
It wasn’t until I had been using the monitor for a while that I noticed a change in my heart rate, especially on routes that I ran often. I’d be plugging along, usually up a hill, look down and see that my heart rate was slower than the first few times I’d run the exact same route. I noted the difference and attributed it to a slower pace. I didn’t seem to be working as hard as in the past either. So when I sat down to analyze and track (I said I loved numbers) the data from my running app and my heart rate monitor, I was surprised at what I found. I was running the same or faster pace than when I had begun and my heart rate was lower! There was only one conclusion to draw from these findings: I was getting fitter!
So there I was. Working hard and seeing quantifiable results in my fitness. Reduced blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, lower working heart rate. All of my “numbers” were trending down, surely my weight would be too. I hopped on the scale and found that I was the same weight as the last time I weighed two weeks earlier. Bummer. I had been eating well, working out and listening to my body, but had seen no changes in my weight. The shape of my body had even changed! It was then and there that I decided that the numbers on the scale were not the only important ones.
I use my heart rate monitor as a guide depending on the kind of run I’m doing. If I’m doing a long run, I try to keep my heart rate under a certain number. If I’m doing a tempo run, I use it to gauge my effort and make sure I’m putting in the work that will make me improve. Lately, I’ve been having some trouble pacing myself and I run out of gas too soon, so I use it to make sure I’m not working too hard to fast.
There are all kinds of ways to train with a heart rate monitor. You can find some of them here, but those involve percentages and equations that I’m just too impatient to deal with so here’s my bottom line. I started to use a heart rate monitor when I was a very novice runner. I wasn’t any good at listening to my body and still struggle with it. My HRM translated my efforts into a readout that I could see. Over time, that readout became something that I could understand and use as a training aid that I still use. I’m still learning how to use the information it gives me to my advantage. I may not use the formulas and percentages of maximum heart rate and all that jazz, but you don’t have to do that to get the benefit out of it.
If you’ve taken up running, jogging, run-walking, race-walking or just plain ‘ole walking for the benefit of your health, like I did, a heart rate monitor can help you see the subtle progress you’re making that you may not see anywhere else yet, including on the scale. You can see quantifiable results just by tracking the numbers on your wrist. If you’re counting calories, it can give you an accurate number of calories burned to track.
As a new runner, it may be hard for you to listen to your body. There’s a reason for that. IT’S HARD! We’re conditioned to sometimes ignore the things our body is telling us because we’re busy with work or kids or whatever else. Sometimes we need cues that tell us that we’re working too hard or not hard enough. A heart rate monitor can give you those cues. Everybody is different and what is training too hard for me may be different for you. It takes some time to learn what your cues are but when you do, I promise, you’ll be amazed at the progress you didn’t even know you were making!