Heart rate training: how the heart rate monitor can get in your way

Тренировки по пульсу Training
Is it possible that you need to rethink your attitude to running workouts with a heart rate monitor? Many elite coaches strongly insist on this.

The heart rate monitor has been a cult device for runners since its introduction. Now, of course, they’re entire running computers, but that doesn’t change the essence.

The problem is that, on the one hand, most amateur athletes do not train as efficiently as they might if they were just guided by how they feel. On the other hand, beginners can severely overload their cardiovascular system.

Is it possible that you need to rethink your attitude toward running with a heart rate monitor? Many elite trainers strongly insist on it. What is the reason for this distrust of the favorite (and expensive) toys of amateur runners the world over?

The reason is the great dependence on gadgets and the data they provide. They are often not accurate or up-to-date enough to be seriously used to build a workout routine. And the heart rate indicator correlates very poorly with the degree of exertion.

Natural heart rate fluctuations

Perhaps the biggest drawback is that heart rate data may not adequately correlate to your actual fitness level. Sleep, stress, and dehydration can raise or lower your heart rate.

Sleep and Wake

Lack of sleep will raise your heart rate by 5 to 10 beats per minute. In addition, your heart rate is always lower in the morning and higher in the evening. Accordingly, the time of day should be taken into account to make adjustments.


Stress has the same effect on heart rate as lack of sleep. One study showed that workplace stress increased heart rate by 4-6 beats per minute. This is a statistic for runners who exercise after work.

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Coffee & Coke

Good or bad, coffee often becomes an addictive fuel during the day. Of course, the help of caffeine for us is sometimes quite helpful. But studies have shown that it increases heart rate within 24 hours of ingestion. And measuring the extent of its effects is as problematic as stress. Especially when you consider that everyone’s perception of caffeine is individual.

Weather at

On hot days, the heart must work harder to maintain the same pace while running. A large volume of blood is directed to the surface of the skin to cool down, not just to the muscles to supply oxygen and nutrients. The cold works in exactly the opposite way.


Finally, dehydration has a strong effect on heart rate. One study found that runners who trained in a dehydrated state had a heart rate 5-8% higher than normal.

Each of these factors alone is not a reason to ditch the heart rate monitor. However, when you combine them together, you come to the conclusion that you may be running daily in completely different heart rate zones than you should actually be training in.

The problem of calculating the heart rate zones

Another huge disadvantage is the difficulty of setting these very heart rate zones for the individual amateur athlete. Although you probably know many formulas for calculating them, all of them are not precise and are very relative.

To create proper training zones, the athlete must first determine the maximum heart rate. The vast majority of amateur runners use simple formulas and calculators (e.g., 220 minus age) that have a very high degree of error.

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To get accurate data, you need to be tested under the supervision of a specialist, which is not easy to find. But even if you manage to do so, there is another obstacle: Such measurements are not suitable for beginner runners.

Therefore, many athletes who monitor their efforts by heart rate are doomed to use inaccurate data from the start.

Heart rate and lactate level

Unfortunately, maximum heart rate is not the ideal way to measure the body’s response to exercise. Blood lactate levels are more accurate.

There is no predictable relationship between heart rate and lactate threshold. The lactate threshold tends to develop around 90% of maximum heart rate in well-trained runners. In beginners, the threshold may occur at 50% of maximum heart rate .

Running Gadget Glitches

This is also the case, and despite advances in technology and software, glitches in electronic devices are quite common. And incorrect device readings definitely reduce the effectiveness of training.

Beginning runners

There is a dual attitude to using the HRM (heart rate monitor) for beginners in running. Trusting one’s own well-being is ideal when you don’t need to be distracted by extraneous moments, but devote all your attention to technique.

But the feeling of exertion can also be distorted by lack of experience, competent information, or a mentor. And simply running at a minimum pace, building a base (developing endurance) may not be possible for all novice athletes. In this case, a heart rate monitor will protect against unnecessary serious excessive heart rate, even if by a large margin.

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When it comes to more serious workouts that border on the red zone, a heart rate monitor can do more damage than guiding your own well-being. Especially when the amateur has no clear idea what he or she is doing. And the information is 100% taken from a popular but incompetent fitness magazine.

Heart rate monitors for elite runners

Contrary to the misconception instilled by advertising and fitness Web sites, professionals hardly ever use heart rate monitors, including world champions. No, of course, there are proponents of HRM, but their data are not taken from formulas, but accurately calibrated in the laboratory, with the necessary consideration of lactate levels and individual variance. However, even without a heart rate monitor, they can accurately maintain the necessary range of exertion.

There are three reasons athletes have HRM watches:

1. using the data for subsequent analysis and processing rather than for real-time monitoring.

2. Recording the track, ascents and descents via GPS.

The need to quickly estimate the average pace over a long distance.

And even the elite heart rate monitors do not always use their heart rate monitor, but only occasionally. Although, of course, this is due, among other things, to the fact that from the early stages of training they were accompanied by experienced coaches and sports doctors. But the fact remains.

Opinion at

Today, more and more sports physiologists believe that running workouts that are entirely controlled by heart rate monitors should be a thing of the past. Today’s trainers are also skeptical of heart rate monitors, knowing that they are too error-prone at any time of day. They recommend learning to listen exclusively to the body, which responds to the load much more accurately than HRM.

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