A Case of Hearts — Heart Rate Monitors, Use Them or Lose Them?

Remember how I said there was a difference between running and training? Watch this video interview with Shalane Flanagan and that’ll be the only further explanation needed. :)

That said, I came across an article all about heart rate monitors. Now, coincidently I had a discussion about these contraptions not so long ago and here is what I’ve come to realize: you either love them or hate them.

couple working out

Ummm, if his heart rate monitor started beeping maybe it could double as a pick-up device too?


Here is what I think about them:
* Pro: they can be a great learning tool if you are new to running. Sometimes people just aren’t familiar with what a tempo or hard effort feels like…they need a slight nudge to ‘eh, pick it up buddy.’ Conversely, people can get overzealous and not go easy enough on their easy days and so a heart rate monitor can help them stay in check.

*Con: they are annoying and I always get strap chaffage. That’s just me; but I don’t like having any extra stuff on me when I run.

*Pro: if you have any medical issues or are again, just starting out, you want to make sure you’re being safe and all that jazz. If a doctor has told you to only go to a certain degree of effort, you best listen up.

*Con: it can suck you in and get you too technical. The same with Garmins, sometimes in our era there is the tendency to just get too obsessed about the details. What was my HR at mile 3.47, why did it spike here, why is it low there? All of those questions can start to cycle through and you end up overanalyzing things. What happened to just go and run?

*Pro: a reality check. If your workouts are suffering and you’re feeling run down, maybe pulling out the HR monitor for an easy run can reveal some things: if you’re running those easy days too hard you’ll find out. Then adjust and re-remember what easy feels like.

So there are pluses and minuses, as with anything. And as with anything maybe it is more a matter of striking a balance or only using the tool in it’s time and place. I think the longer you’ve been at it though you ‘know’ your body well enough and not need it as much. But to each their own!

PS- I will say that if you do check your heart rate first thing in the morning and start to notice that it’s higher than usual, you can sometimes get an early warning that something is awry. (ie: you’re overly tired, stressed, or about to get sick)

1) Have you used heart rate monitors? Do you like them?

2) How do you gauge effort on your runs, if you’re not on a marked trail or track?
My breathing and just perceived effort; if I’m doing a fartlek and just go hard when I’m supposed to. :P

3) What’s rocking your Tuesday?
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12 Responses to A Case of Hearts — Heart Rate Monitors, Use Them or Lose Them?

  1. Cait! I have missed so many of your posts and need to catch up. I didn’t do any reading this weekend so I’m trying to catch up now! A heart rate monitor came with my Garmin and I have yet to use it. Having all of that extra stuff really gives me anxiety. Even wearing a Garmin is a little too much for me some days! It makes me put too much pressure on myself. Lately if I do wear it, I tend not to look at it until the end of my run. I find it slows me down more than anything else!

    • awwww, i missed u too!! ya, the HR monitor i think just is more of an annoyance to me too…haha…we’ll be cool like that. ;) (no judgement to those who like it tho, gotta put the obvious disclaimer, don’t want any haters!! haha)

  2. I haven’t used mine in a while, but I actually use it when I’m not running! I use it when I cross train at the gym to help me gauge if I’m working as hard as I would be when I was running. Usually I’m not, but I can at least get some intervals on the bike to be that level and I’m happy with that.

    • ya, whenever i’m cross training i get annoyed because it seems impossible to get my HR up to where i want it. mostly that’s when i’m on the elliptical and i get REALLY mad aquajogging because i feel like i’m working but the HR is lower. tho, it made me feel better when i was informed that on some forms of cross-training u just can’t get it in the same range usually as with running…everything has it’s limitations. so, so long as we’re working hard that’s the best we can do and i go off of effort. :)

  3. I have used my heart rate monitor a few times, and it’s really interesting to me – although I couldn’t use it all the time. Too much of a distraction! I think it’s great for me because I thought I was running “easy” when in reality my heart rate was pretty high.

  4. I have been a regular heart rate monitor user for years and I love just love it. Honestly, I rarely run without it. Maybe it is because I’m a nerd numbers girl and I track average and max HR along with mileage and times for all my runs. I also find that with increased conditioning, it is harder and harder to really tax my heart so having my monitor on helps me to gauge and modify my effort.

    • haha….nerd with numbers here too, but mostly with pace/time/distance. i think if i start to add HR monitor on top of that i’d just get way too obsessed. lol. but ya, the better shape u get in the harder u have to work that get that max up there….keep it up, and power to us nerdy numbers runnerchicks!

  5. this is great info! it seems like lately i am just learning/hearing so much about HR monitors. everyone that uses them seems to speak highly of them and love them. they say they have improved their training so much. but for some reason i am still hesitant to give it a try. i can definitely tell on how “heavy” my breathing is during a run…whether my effort is too much or too little that day. guess i need to keep thinking about the HR monitor concept…although strap chaffing!?! that does not really sound fun. haha!

    • well i don’t want to turn u off them completely, but i think honestly there is a lot of hype to them and sometimes yes, they can help, but they are not a necessity. i think so long as u are ‘in touch’ with ur body that’s the most important thing!

  6. Cait thanks for stopping by my blog recently and for your sweet comment. Love your art and your writing style!

    I started using a HR monitor recently, but not for running. I bought a polar in September to see if HR training is all its cracked up to be and wear it for resistance training. Since I’ve had it I’ve learned that using it for running is a) annoying and b) sometimes extremely frustrating. But when it comes to strength workouts I’ve found it useful to know how well my resistance sessions are benefitting my cardiovascular health.

    But like you outlined, it’s hit or missing depending on who you are. Sometimes technology takes all the fun out of training.

    • thanks for stopping by too and the kind words! :)

      that’s really interesting, i haven’t used it for strength training but i think it would be really great for people to use who wanted to make sure they make it a strength/cardio combo! but ya, totally with u in terms of running….annoying as heck!

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