Heart Rate Training Tips

While regular, daily pulse-keeping offers benefits such as indicating if you are sick or unrecovered from a severe workout, the main advantage to pulse-keeping is to keep each workout in the optimal range of effort. By carefully monitoring whether, say, you are just inside the anaerobic threshold, over time you will notice that at the same heart rate, your pace becomes faster. This is adaptation at work; its mechanism is achieving optimal training effort on a daily basis.

Having a target heart rate allows you to establish purposeful training. It is always good to ask, what is the purpose of this workout? It might be to establish a particular racing ability, provide stamina training, or simply to recover from a prior, hard workout to get you ready for the next one. Every training purpose will have a target heart rate associated with it.

As Olympian and exercise physiologist Pete Pfitzinger has written, "The greatest value of using a heart rate monitor is preventing yourself from accidentally training too hard on your recovery runs." He feels that keeping your heart rate below 75 percent MHR lets your body recover so you can enjoy higher-quality workouts on hard days.

Once you set up a workout with a specific ability-building purpose, run the workout wearing a heart rate monitor. Your goal is to establish a set of target heart rate zones, and the advantage to using a monitor is that you can track your heart rate during the run. Monitors with a memory function are best; you can record and analyze your exertion patterns at home after the run.

Use a heart rate monitor to also gauge your exertion during cross-training activities. Many runners are not sure how hard, say, cycling is supposed to seem—their quads may tire easily, for example. Shoot for 70 to 80 percent MHR during your cross-training to ensure the workout is worth your time.

Most models of heart rate monitor involve wearing a band around your chest that transmits data to the display on your wrist. A basic heart rate monitor can cost less than $50, while countless additional features, from monitoring the temperature, altitude, or calories burned, can drive the cost upwards of $350. Monitors that can download data onto your computer tend to be the most expensive. You also may want to check if the monitor's memory is large enough to store more than one workout.


The Complete Guide to Running by Earl Fee, 2005, Meyer & Meyer, U.K.,
pp. 27-30, 173-174

5K and 10K Training by Brian Clarke, 2006, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL,
pp. 2-6, 42-46

Run Strong by Kevin Beck, 2005, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, pp. 209-226

Copyright, The American Running Association

American Running Association, empowering adults to get America'syouth moving. For more information or to join ARA, please visit www.americanrunning.org.

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