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Heart Rate Monitoring Revisited - The Mental Advantage

Training Log For: 01/04/10

Heart Monitoring Article.

Posted by Matthew

In November I wrote an article on the benefits of training while monitoring your heart rate. I recently read an article (see the link to the right) that got me thinking about the mental benefits of monitoring your heart rate. Consider this quote: "Measuring the work-rate of the heart is the most accurate method of determining how much benefit you are deriving from your workout". While performing aerobic exercises one usually quantifies the quality of their workout using the time spent working out compared to how you feel while working out (e.g. rate of breathing, energy level, muscle fatigue).

As the article pointed out, the overall quality of a workout is very hard to quantify based on subjective and relative experiences. Your heart rate however, gives you a very precise and trackable measurement for what is actually happening in your body. A body builder for example, must rely on feeling a "pump" caused my excess blood flow to a muscle group in combination with the "perform until failure" method of taxing a muscle group until it can no longer contract. For a runner, the equivalent measurement would be muscle fatigu followed by cardiac arrest (perform until failure). Your heart rate tells you how hard your heart is working to provide your body with the oxygen and nutrient supply it requires to sustain your current level of effort.

Keeping the purpose of monitoring hear rate in the back of our minds, let's switch focus to a number of variables that can affect our "experience" of a workout. From day-to-day I experience different levels of energy, be it from the amount of sleep I had, nutrition, or an overall accumulation of countless factors, I do not have a consistent level of energy... ever. Combine that with variable running conditions like wind, changes in a path's incline/decline, temperature, etcetera, and you have a pretty intense mixture of factors that will alter how you experience an exercise on any given day. Knowing how hard your heart is working can be a reassuring reminder that despite your slower speed or increased fatigue, your body is indeed getting the same cardiovascular benefit.

From my personal experience with longer runs - long for me anyways - I know that a boost in motivation or an increase in positive reinforcement can mean the difference between ending a workout before it's necessary and slightly altering my speed, effort, or form to allow for a longer session.