Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More on Heart Rate Monitors

I want to thank everyone for their comments and questions about why I use a heart rate monitor. Since yesterday was a rest day (and I took advantage), I thought I would take today's blog to answer some of the questions that were asked:

(1) Which Heart Rate Monitor do I use/recommend: That's pretty simple because all I do is run. I use a Garmin Forerunner 305. I don't think there is a better device for runners on the market. Maybe the Garmin 405, but I'm not sure the smaller form factor is worth the extra $200. By the way - watch the specials if you are going to buy one - I've seen prices as low as $150 (Costco).

(By the way - mine doesn't look like that. It has a scraped face from my wonderful pavement kissing episode last summer.) The disadvantage of the Forerunner? It works best doesn't work indoors. So, if you spend time on treadmills or the like, the Forerunner will not work very well. Everything is calculated based on speed (velocity) and time. And to have speed you need to be moving according to the satellites. Also, the Forerunner doesn't work very well on a bicycle without the $50 cadence/speed sensor.

As an aside, I also own a Polar F4 for the time spent on my rowing machine. The Polar allows you to set heart rate ranges and will alert you when you go out of your training range. But, it doesn't have the GPS to allow you to track distance. I purchased this before I was a runner, and for $100 it certainly is a great tool for heart rate monitoring. One big advantage of the Polar is it is compatible with most gym equipment. So, you can wear your strap and see your heart rate without having to hold onto the pads.

So, if you're an old fart like me, putting in miles and wearing it all the time, a Garmin is the right choice. On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time on the treadmill, or plan on just using it on a hard run to measure heart rate, a Polar is probably the right HRM for you.

(2) AKA Alice also has another question - just how comfortable is that strap? Yeah well. Okay. Yeah. I guess I really don't feel it any more. It was uncomfortable when I first started. I even had a couple of sore spots where things didn't quite fit right. And chafing? Oh yeah. But after a couple years of daily use, I don't notice it's there. The bigger problem? HRM tan line!

(3) Irene asks if it makes any diference whether you're training for distance or speed: No I don't think so. If you have an LT session or a VO2Max session, you can still use an HRM to make sure you are in the right zone. The difference between training for shorter versus longer distance would be things like the distance of an interval (typically 400s/800s for short distance, 1600 for marathons) or the length of a long run (typicall less than 10 miles for shorter distance).

So there you go. Everything I know about HRMs. Plus some opinion thrown in. For the past few weeks I've been using mine to keep me from going too hard. Starting today, I'll get to use it to get me into that next training level. On tap today is a Lactate Threshold session - 5 miles general aerobic followed by 5 at half marathon pace. By the way - it turns out that the pace runs *are* considered LT runs. I found buried in Advanced Marathoning this past weekend - Pfitzinger considers a lactate threshold run as something about an hour in duration run at between 15K and Half Marathon pace. I'll be changing the goal of these runs on my Garmin from HM pace to the proper heart rate zone.

Stay cool and stay hydrated!


  1. I wish I could get my husband on the Garmin bandwagon, or something! I've threatened to purchase him the one sold at Costco, but he *claims* to not need one, but he insists on running with a particular track club member just because that guy wears a Garmin. LOL.

    I have yet to do heart rate training and I know a lot of people swear by it.

    Thanks for your thoughts on HRMs and Garmins.

  2. Thanks for the explanation and the opinions. Both GPS and HRM are excellent for gathering stats and tracking the progress through numbers.

  3. Thanks for the reviews. Insightful. I've got to disagree with one thing, however. I think the Garmin works quite well on a bike as-is. I use mine all the time.

  4. I love my forerunner 305! :) Thanks for all the insight glenn, I'm still learning about the modes that Claude goes in. :) You need to remind everyone that they must name their gamin as well :) ha ha!

  5. Hey Glenn! This is extremely helpful! I am going to be doing some major research on HRM tonight so appreciate the tips! Christine-who is done with all workouts today finally!! yay!!

  6. you are so much more disciplined about the heart rate monitor than I am. I bought oneand then I couldnot really figure out how to use the strap correctly. So now I have a really expensive stopwatch!

  7. I love my Garmin 305 and use inside and outside. Inside I use it with the foot-pod to give my pace and distance on the treadmill and outside it gives my cadence.

  8. good advice! i have a polar myself as i haven't gotten hooked into the garmin scene yet :) one day one day...