For anyone trying to improve their fitness levels there are many options to help you with your training progress. One such option is the use of a heart rate monitor for your individual training sessions. In recent years, the cost of such monitors has been drastically reduced due to advantages in technology, meaning that even for an amateur with a limited budget this type of training is now available.
A heart monitor for athletes essentially is comprised of a chest strap that makes very accurate measurements of your heart rate while you are in a training sessions. This sensor then sends that data to a watch through wireless technology, where it is displayed to the athlete. At any given time you can check how hard your heart is working to keep blood and oxygen circulating to your muscles.
Heart rate training is very different to other training methods like speed training. In the latter, a runner, swimmer or cyclist will aim to cover a certain distance within a specific amount of time. The target time is gradually reduced over time resulting in the body gradually adapting to higher levels of exertion and thereby improving fitness levels.
With heart rate based training you set yourself a target heart rate for a training session and make sure that you do not go above or below it during the session. The great advantage in this type of training is that you progress at a very consistent pace. Speed training on the other hand results in athletes constantly adjusting their pace to make sure they finish in exactly the right time, resulting in varying levels of training intensity.
By setting a certain heart rate for a specific route you will over time be able to run, cycle or swim faster while staying at the same heart rate. This is exactly how your fitness levels can be measurably improved, giving you a direct feedback loop.
Before you dive into heart rate training you first need figure out you personal maximum heart rate. One way to do this is by using online calculator that take into account your age and gender. This, however, can be quite inaccurate and not give you optimum results. The best way to get an accurate maximum heart rate is to have this clinically tested, but this will cost you some money.
Alternatively, you can use your heart rate monitor to measure your pulse while you do a few sprints where you try to go as fast as you can. With several such tests you will end up with a measurement of how high your heart rate went at full power.
Once you have your actual maximum heart rate measurement you can then use it to program you heart monitor and give you a set of heart rate training zones. At the low end your training will specifically target weight loss. In the midrange you will be targeting overall fitness improvement, while at the high end you will be targeting the buildup of muscles.
As you can see there is great flexibility within heart rate based training and with a simple monitoring device you can get started with any type of training.