Running Gear on a Shoe String: Heart Rate Monitor

The heart rate monitor is a piece of expensive running gear, period. It is a serious piece of kit. Once you are committed to buy a heart rate monitor (HRM), it means you want to get serious with your sport.
Nope, I am afraid there are no shoestring budget here. Even the most basic heart rate monitor, for example Polar FT1 in Singapore will set you back by about SGD$100 (USD$77.48). Of course, everything is relative. if you have deep pockets, this will be small change. However, if you have deep pockets, you probably won't be reading the Running Gear on a Shoestring guide.

What to Choose

Forget about those strapless HRM etc. Those without straps will require you to put your finger on the watch and measure the pulse from there. Nope, you don't want to run with your finger on the watch. Hence, take the one with a chest strap.

At present, the most effective HRM are still the ones with the chest straps. Yes, they are uncomfortable. And some are less uncomfortable than others. But they are still uncomfortable.

I have not used other brands of heart rate monitors. As much as I fancy a Garmin or a Sunnto. They are way beyond my budget. I could only afford a basic Polar, and meant to buy an FT1, cheapest of the lot. However, as I was pressured by a buddy when making the purchase. I bought an Polar FT4 which set me back by SGD$150 (USD$116.13). I did not bought a basic HRM. Hence, choose the watch with the features you need and stick to it. Basically, a HRM needs to count heart rate accurately and it will be good to have one which can calculate the heart rate in percentages on the go. It will help those with problems in doing mental sums on the run.

And do choose one that looks presentable as you will be wearing it often off exercise. I wear mine to work on running days to spare myself the necessity to change watches. And since running days are plentiful throughout the week; I run about 3-4 days per week. My other watches got to stay at home most days.

How to use a HRM

First and foremost, you need to find out your Maximum Heart Rate. Ditch all the formulas that is used to calculate your Maximum Heart Rate. It is probably provided in your instruction manual as well. Some formulas are simple, some are very complicated. They are all the same, they didn't work for me. The only way to get your maximum heart rate is get your heart pumping to the max and take the measurement.

Warning, only do this if you are healthy and do not have heart disease, hypertnsion etc. If you feel unsafe, do not try it. Various websites will ask you to run fast for 300m, stop, run another 300m etc. Complicated procedures.

Mine is simple, wear the HRM and go to a running track. You will then sprint at max speed around the track. Remember max speed until you cannot run any further and you are panting like a dog. Take the highest heart rate reading you got. That is your Maximum Heart Rate.

Using the HRM

Once you got your Maximum Heart Rate, you input it into the HRM and you are good to go.

A simple guide is this:

60-70% of Maximum Heart Rate, are you sure you are running?

Long distance running, recovery runs, run at 70-75% of Maximum Heart Rate.

76-79%, Medium intensity running. You are too fast for long runs and you are too slow for speed training.

Speed Training, run at 80-85% of Maximum Heart Rate
Maximum Performance Training, run at 90% and beyond. Seriously, you don't need or want to do this. Unless you are being chased by a psycho rabbit or hungry tiger etc.

Note to Beginner Runners:

When you first started running, your heart rate will be at 80-90%during the first few runs. You may hit even 70plus % when you are simply walking. Do not despair, ignore the HRM readings when you first start out. Get comfortable and get used to running first. Do your runs regularly. Eventually your heart rate will come down.

Note to Regular Runners

There are lots of factors that affect your heart rate. If you feel that your heart rate suddenly spikes or stay elevated during your runs one day. It usually means your body is fighting an infection. This could mean the onset of a flu or other illness. It usually happens one or two day before the onset of a flu. So once it happens, take it as an early warning and take good care of yourself.

Heart Rate and Hydration

When you starts a run, your heart rate will usually be normal. But as your body get dehydrated, your heart rate will start to climb higher and higher despite running at the same pace. Hence, your heart rate can also tell you roughly about your hydration level. So do drink your liquids when necessary.

Hope the above helps you on your HRM...

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