There’s a ton of products that can read and display your HR(heart rate) in real time, from watches to chest straps and even headphones! (Bear in mind some are more accurate than others so shop around and read some reviews before buying anything!).
Step 2 - Know your heart rate zones
The first thing you need to do is to know what your MHR (Maximum Heart Rate) is. This is essential information because it can tell you when you’re training hard or going too soft!
There are a few ways to figuring out your MHR:
Option I: 220 minus your age
Sounds simple, right? This is the most common method for measuring MHR but it’s not very accurate. It will give you a starting point but you should try the other options as soon as you’re ready.
Option II: Take your legs for a spin (not advisable for complete beginners or overweight individuals)
Put on your heart monitor, warm-up (thoroughly), run a couple of laps on a track at an elevated pace. Start slow and slowly work your speed up, lap by lap. You should be breathing hard on the last laps. Take one minute of rest between each round.
To complete the test take one last lap around the track and give it all you’ve got. Go as hard as you can!
The highest heart rate you reached at the end of your last sprint will be, give or take a few beats, your maximum heart rate.
Option III: The Karvonen formula
This is more accurate than the first option - and you get to rest! Here’s how to use the formula:
First you need to determine your resting heart rate (RHR).
To figure this out, count the number of times your heart beats in one minute before you roll out of bed in the morning. Do this for 3 days and find the average value (add up the three values and divide them by 3) . That is your RHR.
Example of the formula, (66 + 67 + 64)/3= 66.
Next, use the formula on this link to determine your Target Heart Rate.
Step 3 - Using your heart rate zones
Now that you know your MHR you need to apply it to your training schedule.
If you have no idea how a training schedule works just keep this in mind - if you want to improve your running then you need to do different running workouts - you need to include slow runs, fast runs, interval runs and lactate threshold runs. These different types of training will be divided in a specific manner on a schedule so, after some time, you can smash your sub-2h half marathon goal!
This is usually done by a running coach so it might get confusing! (Don’t get discouraged though, leave a reply below if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to help out)
So, let’s say you run 30 miles every week.
A third of those miles need to be spent doing aerobic work (simple running or jogging) at your 65-79% heart rate zone (refer back to the Karvoven formula to find the heart rate zone).
To train efficiently (as a beginner) you’ll need to spend the majority of your mileage at the lower heart rate zones. This is important because you need to give your body time to recover.
On the other side of the spectrum, you also need to include very hard workouts like interval and repetition training! They sound easy but believe me… you’ll be dying at the end of every session!
On these (very) hard sessions you’ll need to bring up the gears and get your heart pumping blood at 98-100% of its maximum capacity. Sounds crazy, right? That’s why you only do ONE of these per week.
The percentages on the left represent your heart rate zones and the blue lines represent one training session. For example, the first blue line represents an easy session with one long continuous run while the last blue line represents one session with 2 minutes sprints with 4 minute rests in between each sprint. The text below the lines gives an example as to what that particular session might include and how many of your weekly miles should be spent on these sessions.
Keep in mind that you need to have a block of time in your schedule for rest and recovery, this is also very important but it’s another subject for another post!
Important: Before you invest in a heart-rate monitor, it’s best to talk with your doctor, a pharmacist, or an exercise physiologist to discuss any and all medications and supplements you’re taking and what individual impact those may have on your readings.
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