Why I Started Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

If you want to train at your optimum level for a racing type event, then you need to use a heart rate monitor. It’s as simple as that.

I didn’t start using a heart rate monitor until I was in my mid-twenties. I had just gotten into running and was considering doing a half-marathon. I was visiting one of my closest friends about five months before the race I was considering running.

At that time my friend had been in a two different special warfare units of the U.S. military for about eight years. Every six months to a year (I’m pretty sure that’s right) each soldier was required to pass a fitness test. My friend told me that was when they all broke out the heart rate monitors.

I really needed no more than that. I was well acquainted with the standards for these tests and the high level of fitness for U.S. special warfare soldiers. The fact they all relied on heart rate monitors when it came to something as crucial as their fitness tests was a huge vote of confidence. I committed to using a heart rate monitor for training.

I familiarized myself with the research studies behind heart rate monitors even more while training for that first race. I chose to buy a Polar brand heart rate monitor. Mine was specifically geared toward running and was in the neighborhood of $150 dollars.

This first half-marathon was under unusual circumstances for me. Race day was my girlfriend’s birthday, I had to work that afternoon and evening (I worked in sports marketing at the time, and it was a game day) and I had to be up early the next morning to co-ordinate the team’s participation in a parade (and be in the parade). My main goal was to finish the race in two hours and basically be fine for the flurry of activity that would encompass the next 36 or so hours after crossing the finish line.

My training went well, although I was frustrated at times with having to run so slow or even walk to keep my heart rate in the prescribed zone for slow and long runs.

When race day came I did not wear the heart rate monitor. I raced well and came in with a time of 2 hours 1 minute and some change. I hate to admit it, but I actually forgot I was racing until about mile 10. After that I couldn’t make up enough time to get under 2 hours (I’m not a very fast runner).

Training with the heart rate monitor did pay off. The race was easy. Less than an hour after crossing the finish line, I enjoyed a cold beer at my local bar, and I had enough energy to get through the next 36 hours of my life.

What I have learned since though, is that you should wear that heart rate monitor during the race. Since it tells you where your at while training, it will do the exact same while you’re racing. In fact, you can find your target pace for all kinds of different races. According to an article from RunnersWorld.com by Dagny Scott-Barrios, a good target heart rate for a half-marathon is 85-88% of your maximum heart rate.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been using a heart rate monitor for training or racing. You can start now. I encourage you to seek out more information on training and racing with a heart rate monitor. You can start with that RunnersWorld article I mentioned. From there do some Google searching.

Remember, read a lot about a subject and find out what numerous scientific studies have found. Not all studies are built the same. That’s a topic for another post though. Thanks for reading.

(If you’re new to working out or are starting a drastically different kind of workout, please consult your physician before starting. Some of the link on this website are affiliate links. The website owner receives a commission if you purchase through these links. All content on this site is the webmaster’s opinion only and should not be taken as medical advice.)