The widespread availability and ever-increasing quality of heart rate monitors have raised the overall training quality of athletes in many sports.
Athletes benefit from this technology because heart rate monitors allow them to be very precise in their training. If you use your heart rate monitor effectively, you will be able to more efficiently improve your performance than if you train without one. Once you have determined the objective data of you maximum heart rate and your lactate threshold heart rate (most accurately measured in a human performance laboratory) you can base the rest of your training on specific heart rate ranges.
Put simply, lactate threshold is the point that your body starts using blood sugar instead of oxygen to deliver energy. If you don't have access to a human performance lab, lactate threshold can be approximated by reading your heart rate at the point your breathing starts to leave its comfort zone.
The Carmichael Training Systems philosophy is based on aerobic development. The stronger and more efficient your aerobic system, the less time you spend above lactate threshold. The less time you spend above lactate threshold, the better you can perform at the end of a race, a training ride, or any workout.
To strengthen the aerobic system, we instruct our athletes to ride for long periods of time at intensities below their lactate threshold but above their comfort level. The specific heart rate range for each athlete may be as small as a three beats-per-minute window. A heart rate monitor is essential to maintaining the desired workload.
When working closer to lactate threshold, a heart rate monitor becomes an increasingly valuable tool. Working too hard or not quite hard enough can diminish or completely negate the intended benefit of lactate threshold workouts.
During such workouts, CTS athletes train in a small heart rate window just below their lactate threshold heart rate. Crossing the lactate threshold during the training session reduces the effectiveness of the workout by excessively loading muscles with lactic acid.
There are many heart rate monitors on the market. The Polar Coach is impressive because it is PC-downloadable without a separate interface.