In a gear-less sport, a heart rate monitor is the one high tech toy that walkers can use to improve their fitness and meet their weight loss goals. Here is why you want one and how to choose one. Next, we'll discuss different workouts in which to use a heart rate monitor.
Why Use a Heart Rate Monitor?
If you are training to walk for speed, a heart rate monitor allows you to workout at the appropriate exertion for your chosen duration. Too much exertion for too long and you are not training the right muscles and are building up too much lactic acid. Too little and you are not increasing your fitness. You should also be spacing your harder workouts, with an easy day in between. The monitor can ensure that you are not going too fast on that easy day.
A Personal Trainer on Your Wrist
For the price of a pair of shoes, you get what amounts to a personal trainer, telling you when to speed up or slow down and nagging you to get onto the trail or track.
Since I don't normally walk fast, I found the monitor to be very instructive in pushing me to get to the higher heart rates needed for my chosen workout. I can't argue that I'm going fast enough when I can see my heart rate is 10 beats per minute below the target zone I am trying to achieve.
It also provides the toy -- incentive you need to get out the door. Get a new toy and it nags to be used! Don't use it and it nags you that you had better get back to using it or you will have wasted your money!
What is a Heart Rate Monitor?
Today's heart rate monitor (abbreviated HRM) generally comes with a wireless transmitter you strap to your chest with a comfortable elastic band or wear in a special bra. The transmitter has the same accuracy as an electrocardiograph. While taking your own pulse serves the same purpose, the continuous monitoring you get with a HRM is much more convenient. The signal is transmitted to a monitor display on your wrist or bike handle, or via Bluetooth to a mobile app on your mobile device. You can use the same monitor in a variety of activities - outdoors walking, running, skating, biking, and indoors on your treadmill, stairstepper, exercycle, ski-exerciser, rower, etc. Most models are waterproof enough for swimming, but not diving.
Less expensive are hand-held pulsemeters, which may also incorporate some features such as stopwatch. They are in the $29 - $75 range.
There are many features in the monitors, which determine the price differences. A basic unit that shows only the heart rate can be found anywhere for $79.99. From there, the price goes up with the features - up to $200 for the fuller featured monitors and above that for those that download to your computer.
- Time of Day: Since you wear the display like a watch, it is nice to have it show you the time of day, too, so you don't have to wear another watch when on your workout.
- Target Zone: It is good to head out on your workout knowing what target zone you are planning to achieve, but it is even more convenient to program it into the monitor and have it beep when you are above or below the target zone. Some models allow multiple zones to be programmed.
- Stopwatch: You may want to be timing your workout, so the stopwatch feature allows you that flexibility without additional equipment.
- Lap timer/splits: More fun for those who are concentrating on going fast and training for races.
- Alarm: Some models allow you to set one or more alarms, with a beep to alert you when you have completed an exercise segment. This comes in handy for several kinds of workouts.
- Memory: Review data such as your average heart rate during the period, save multiple periods for comparison.
- Recovery rate: View your heart rate two minutes after ending your workout, to see how fast it recovers - this is an indication of fitness level and you can use it to track improvement.
- Calories Burned: Get instant satisfaction with this calculation of how much you have burned.
- Backlight: Great if you exercise at night.
- Computer/App link: the fancier models will hook up to a computer or transmit information via Bluetooth to a phone app for you to save, view, and analyze.
Choosing the Right Heart Rate Monitor
Before You Buy a Heart Rate Monitor: Things to consider before choosing a heart rate monitor.
Heart Rate Monitors: Magic Pills or Expensive Toys? by Dave McGovern. Dave's racewalk clinic introduced me to how to use a monitor, and my reaction was to go buy one immediately.