7 Steps to Using a Heart Rate Monitor
Heart Zones Training with your mind-body link – the heart rate monitor – may seem confusing at first. You’ll be learning and discovering new ways of looking at the effort you put out, new ways of understanding fitness that you were never taught in your physical education classes at school. A lot has happened in the world of fitness in just the last ten years, and with your heart rate monitor and heart zones training, you are ready to reap the benefits.
STEP 2. LEARN TO PROGRAM YOUR HEART RATE MONITOR
Every heart rate monitor works differently, with the functional details dependent on the model. The first step for all users, though, might be to understand the difference between a heart rate monitor and a heart rate watch. While all heart rate watches are heart rate monitors, not all heart rate monitors are heart rate watches. The difference is easy to see. Does your monitor include a readout with the time of day? If it does, then it’s a heart rate watch. That’s why people talk about heart rate watches and monitors as if they were the same thing – they’re not, and now you know why. (For our purposes in this book a heart rate watch and a heart rate monitor will be considered the same thing.)
So, your heart rate monitor just replaced your time of day watch by giving you both the time and your heart rate in one convenient place. The first thing to do then is to set the correct time of day on your new tool (or your new toy, as a lot of people think of it!). This may take you as little as one minute or as many as thirty, but spending the time right now with your instruction booklet and watch is your best investment. You want your heart rate monitor to become your best friend, and it can only be that if you learn how to get comfortable with programming it. This means sharing some of your time with the instruction booklet packaged with most monitors. Along with setting the time, you’ll see that most heart rate monitors also work as stop watches. Try starting and stopping it a few times until you feel confident, since this is a handy feature for measuring the length of your workouts.
Now that you know how to start and stop your stop watch and how to set your time of day, it’s time to understand the heart-oriented functions of your watch. Heart rate monitor features are designed around the concept of heart zones. That’s a new term and you might want to jump to the sidebar at the end of this chapter for definitions or go to Step #3 to learn more. For now, know that the key purpose of the heart rate functions is to provide you with a range (or “zone”) of heart beats in which you exercise. The upper limit of this range is called your ceiling and your lower limit is the floor. Learn how to set your upper ceiling and the lower floor of your heart zone by reading the instruction manual. Memorize this procedure.
Next, learn how to turn on and off the alarm feature. The alarm sounds when you are above your ceiling or below the floor of your zone. If you work out too hard and your heart rate exceeds the top number or upper limit of your zone, an alarm will sound to let you know. Likewise, if you exercise too gently and drop below your floor, the same alarm will sound and tell you that.
Some models have additional and important features. First, your watch might have a back lighting feature which allows you to see the face of the monitor easily when it’s dark. You may also have a count-down timer; you can have your watch count backwards for up to three hours and set off a beeper when it reaches zero. The heart monitor part of your tool/toy also might have two new features: heart rate memory and heart rate recall.
Heart rate memory is important because it measures your “time in zone.” Your goal is to set the ceiling and floors of your heart rate zone and stay within those boundaries for the workout. But if you go outside the zone limits, above or below, it is going to remember how much time you spent out of zone. Heart rate recall is your download function. After the workout or timed event, you can push the recall button and the heart watch will give you the time spent above your zone, within your selected heart zone, and below it. All of this is done within 99% of the accuracy of a full EKG machine – the kind you see for cardiac monitoring in a medical environment – without the hassle of being laid out on a table and strapped to a large, immobile machine, and without the incredible expense. Now you know that for every workout from here on in, your first step will be to program your heart zones for that workout and turn on your alarm. If you follow this discipline you can train less time, with more precision and gain the benefit from training in zones.
More to come ..
Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to release excerpts throughout upcoming weeks. If you want to learn more about zoning, make sure to swing by our online store and grab a copy of ZONING, Fitness in a Blink.