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How to train with a heart rate monitor (part 2)
by Philippe Baudoin (reproduction prohibited)

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Optimize your training

Most heart rate monitors give the possibility to program a predefined target zone with an audible alarm going off when moving out of the zone. This system fully meets the requirements of a training plan where respecting a given intensity is particularly important. The target zone is fixed based on the objective to reach (training, weight loss program, etc.). Moreover, the alarm helps focus on the workout rather than on the monitor.

A heart rate monitor is also a very useful tool for training on an bike trainer given that the workouts require strict discipline particularly to calibrate the level of effort.

Analysing the heart rate evolution recorded during an exercise is particularly useful to optimize the next workout. The trainer will highlight the moments when the athlete could have given more of himself, or, on the contrary, the excesses that have led him to burn his resources.

VO2 max (V for "volume", O2 for "oxygen" and Max for "Maximum") or Maximum oxygen consumption, represents the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can utilize during exercise to produce energy. (Oxygen is utilized to release energy from food and synthesize ATP). It is measured in milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute. VO2 max is to athletes what power is to an engine. The higher it is, the more enduring the athlete.

See in details what VO2max is

Maximal aerobic power (LDCs) and Maximal Aerobic Speed (VMA)

Like heart rate, oxygen uptake by muscles is a linear function of the power developed. This consumption is limited : beyond a certain power, called the maximal aerobic power (MAP), the maximum flow of oxygen, or VO2 max, is reached and can not be exceeded. Other energy-producing reactions come into play that do not consume oxygen but produce lactate. This is called anaerobic work. The maximum aerobic speed (VMA) is the speed reached by a rider working at MAP.

VO2 max and performance

VO2 max varies from one person to another and depends on the physiological characteristics. Its value can be improved from 20 to 30 % with training. VO2 max gives an indication of the level of fitness and endurance of an athlete. The higher its value, the higher the ability of the athlete to sustain effort over time.

Measuring your VO2 max

Measuring VO2 max can be made 2 ways :

Laboratory test : this is the most accurate method. It is realized in hospital on a treadmill. The volume of air inhaled is compared with the volume of air exhaled. The value obtained is reliable but the test expensive.

Indirect measurement : this test provides an approximate value of VO2 max. It is obtained by a Cooper test consisting in running on a flat ground for 12 minutes as far as you can, gradually increasing pace. Another method, the Astrand and Rythming test, is a short exercise of moderate intensity done on a cycle ergometer at a constant workload. Nomogram tables are used to extrapolate the value based on the steady state heart rate. Finally, some heart monitors give an approximate value of the VO2 max by a test of a few minutes at rest.

Another way to assess VO2 max is to determine the VMA and apply the following formula : VO2 max = 3.5 x VMA.

For information, VO2 max is approximately 40 ml / min / kg in sedentary men, 60 ml / min / kg in athletes and can reach 80 to 90 ml / min / kg in high level athletes. Women generally show values 30 to 35% lower than that of men.

See why and how to test VO2max

See how to improve VO2max

Some heart rate monitors provide the ability to evaluate your fitness level or your ability to recover by a test of a few minutes at rest. Instantaneous heart rate value, variability of this value at rest, characteristics of the person (sex, age, weight, height) are used for this computation.

Measuring heart rate at rest also gives a good indication of heart rate recovery after a major effort. It can reveal a possible over-training (case where the heart pulse taken when waking up is 10 % higher than usual over a few consecutive days) and adjust frequency and intensity of the workouts accordingly.

The Ruffier test is a simple to implement way of tracking fitness levels from the heart rate measured during an exercise. It requires no special equipment.

Lose fat with a heart rate monitor

During physical exercise, we burn fat and carbohydrates. The proportion of fat spent depends mainly on the intensity of effort. The more intense the effort, the less the percentage of fat burnt. During intensive efforts, our muscles consume more carbohydrates than fat. Conversely, in low intensity efforts, fat burning is greater in proportion.

To maximize fat consumption, the intensity of your workouts must be high enough to burn calories but not too much to make fat burning optimum. Working between 60 and 70 % of your maximum heart rate is perfect. A good walk will thus advantageously replace a running session of equal duration. Using a heart rate monitor offering the possibility to program target zones is ideal for such a monitoring.

Directions for use

Wet your chest strap before wearing it to allow a good contact of the electrodes against the skin.

If you use your heart rate monitor for cycling, buy and install a handlebar bracket to avoid having to regularly look at your wrist.

Opt for an encoded belt : this system avoids interference with other heart monitors, something particularly important when cycling in a group !

How to choose a heart rate monitor ?

Before buying a heart rate monitor, choose the make and model suiting best your needs. There are many kinds of heart monitors, from basic ones displaying your heart pulse and nothing else to very sophisticated ones that record routing data (mileage, current speed, altitude, etc.) for analysis and building of graphs on your PC after the workout. Some models incorporate a pedometer that allows runners and walkers to measure the distance traveled on foot. Other models can be used for swimming and are waterproof up to thirty meters underwater.

Choose a model based on the type of activity practiced, the number of hours of exercise per week and objective you want to reach. Acquiring the most expensive device is needless if your objective is for instance to monitor the level of effort or to lose a few extra pounds.

You can find these devices in sports shops or on the web.

Commercial links


Total Heart Rate Training: Customize and Maximize Your Workout Using a Heart Rate Monitor
This book shows anyone participating in aerobic sports, from novice to expert, how to increase the effectiveness of his or her workout. It's like having a personal trainer guide the reader step-by-step during exercise. By following the author's carefully constructed program and utilizing a heart rate monitor, readers can coach themselves, knowing when to push harder and when to back off. This guide teaches readers how to use the latest tools, including training analysis software and new high-tech intensity measuring devices, for precise training that practically guarantees success while minimizing the chance of injury. The author also makes it easy to use new gizmos such as power meters and GPS units that allow readers to compare the body's input, as measured by heart rate, with output.
The Heart Rate Monitor Workbook for Indoor Cyclists: A Heart Zone Training Program
Get 50 fantastic training ride workouts for the indoor cyclists complete with heart rate profiles, time in zones, and an explanation of the purpose and benefit of each ride. Included are rides that show you your training improvements such as anaerobic threshold rides, time trials, and recovery rides. Take the challenge of riding all of them and being your own best self-coached cyclist. 138 pages/2002
Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot
John L. Parker, Jr. is one of running literature’s great luminaries. As the author of Once a Runner and Again to Carthage, he is revered, quoted, and imitated. He also wrote this wonderfully accessible, witty guide to training with a heart-rate monitor. His common-sense approach aims to force you to take easy days—easier than you can even stand at first. And mix these in with periodic hard days, all precisely calibrated to your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, to achieve levels of running fitness you had never before been able to attain. His program is very specific, with numerous tables and graphs for runners of all levels. He imparts his wisdom with extraordinary clarity and wit, making the whole experience one of hiring a wise, encouraging, and amusing coach.
The Heart Rate Monitor Book for Cyclists: A Heart Zones Training Program
Two fitness experts team up to show cyclists how to optimize training by incorporating heart rate monitoring into their workouts. Provided are 25 workouts at three training levels; a heart rate chart showing the five zones athletes should target; information on indoor bikes and trainers; and a sample log book. This new edition features enhanced workout regimens and new charts and tables.
Training With the Heart Rate Monitor
Ever since the first portable heart rate monitors were made available in the 1980s, athletes and fitness enthusiasts have been using them to monitor and control training intensity to achieve maximum results. "Training with the Heart Rate Monitor" is a practical guide to the effective use of monitors in individual training. It provides expert information on training for endurance, therapeutic or cardiac rehabilitation, general fitness and wellbeing. It also examines the latest advances in the technology, products, and trends in heart rate monitors. This will become an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to build an individual training program for health and fitness using a heart rate monitor.

Liens commerciaux

Philippe Baudoin
Reproduction inhibited
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