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An Introduction to Heart Rate Monitors


Updated: June 26, 2007

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A heart rate monitor (and GPS and more)
Why Use A Heart Rate Monitor:
  • HRMs allow people to feel in control of their training and racing
  • they are a (mostly) accurate guide of a runner's cardio fitness
  • they can prevent over-training by showing runners that they need to work at an easier pace on their scheduled easy days
  • they can prevent under-training b showing runners that they need to work harder on their scheduled hard days
  • for many runners, HRMs allow them to assess their progress as a runner in terms of numbers and charts instead of feelings
  • plus, admit it, we all love gizmos and gadgets!
How Do Heart Rate Monitors Work: Using the same technology as an electrocardiogram (or EKG), the chest strap of a heart rate monitor uses electrodes to monitor the electric volts that occur when your heart beats. The receiver detects this information from the electrodes via radio signal from the chest strap. The receiver,then, uses this information to determine your heart rate. Some monitors also include a "coded signal" which uses a special code in the radio signal, so that the receiver does not receive radio signals from other nearby transmitters. This is not always a huge problem, but can be annoying or corrupt your data.
What Does A HRM Do: A heart rate monitor receiver gives the runner a heart rate to compare to their targeted heart rate. Many HRMs will also take the information of your current heart rate and compare it to your programmed maximum heart rate to give you a percentage zone. This numbers allow you to know how hard you are working during your run.
How To Use A Heart Rate Monitor: To use a HRM, you must first determine your maximum heart rate. Then, you must either buy a HRM that will do all the work for you (meaning the expensive ones) or (using a cheaper HRM) calculate your zones. Finally, you can start tracking your information after each run to see your progress over time. The more expensive HRMs that do the calculations for you also usually come with software that will track your information for you, but if yours does not I suggest that after each run you write your stats in a running diary.

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