Confused about heart rate.

I bought a heart rate monitor today. Great, I thought, will improve leaps and bounds from today. But, tapped in my max and min according to the instructions - it said do 226 minus my age (37!)for the max reading and the lower reading you took from a chart, got halfway down the street and the flipping thing was bleeping like I was about to have a heart attack! Wasn't even out of breath! In fact, to stay in the zone, all I could do was walk! I've been what I call running, since April. Can run for 30 mins - get out of breath, but thought that was the idea! Have I been wasting my time and doing myself more harm than good?


  • Sharon,
    You have taken the first step to improving your fitness, well done. Heart rate monitors (HRM) can cause some healthy discussions here, check out the thread in the general section posted by Ron Grover.

    At this stage do not worry, the max heart rate that you out into your monitor was only a best guess yours could easily differ by +- 20 beats. If you are a high beater then it is not supprissing to hear that your HRM kept bleeping at you, since the numbers it was using were incorrect for you. You may find that the early days turning off the bleeper could be usefull.

    When you first start to run, if you are not already at a good fitness level then you will find that your heart rate can shoot up even when you are training lightly, as time progresses and you become fitter then your heart rate for the same exertion will decrease.

    A lot of people here would recommend the the book 'Heart monitor training for the complete idiot' by John L Parker which is available from Amazon.

    Just remember that doing something must be better than doing nothing, so no you are not wasting your time.

  • I have never found that my max and min HR were correct for me according to the instructions or various websites, as they are all different and depend on what you want to acheive.

    I have gradually set my own training heart rates at which I feel comfortable which, according to the various guides, is 80%/90% of my max HR at present.

    Any lower than 80% and I don't feel that I'm working.

    As you get fitter you'll see the difference also.
  • Thanks for the support. Been out for a test this morning - had a look at Sean Fishpools article yesterday and found my max HR, found my Min this a.m. and set the monitor accordingly. It was better today, but I still found that I was walking briskly more than I was running - which made me feel exactly like you felt Beth, like I wasn't working. OK, got a bit warm but that's about it. Will stick with it and see what happens.
  • Sharon,

    Don't worry. I'd been running for 3 years before I got a HRM, and had completed several half marathons. I calculated my target HR for an easy run, based on formula and my known RHR. OK, I thought, 3 miles at 140-145bpm. Walked to the top of the fairly steep hill at the end of my road - 147bpm! Jogged gently up the gentle incline to the main road - 160! OK, never mind - it'll drop on the downhill. Er, no. I didn't get it below 160 again until I stopped running, and it was over 170 for most of the run.

    Having read some of the advice on this and the previous forums, I persevered, trying to run slowly enough to keep it as near to the target as possible (I can still get 140 at a fast walk, so the formula isn't right) and I have found a great improvement in the distances I can run. Yes, it sometimes felt that I wasn't working, but it has helped me overall. I can run further, my speed is gradually improving, and I feel better about my running.

    Lesson learned: I had been doing all of my runs at high intensity, and had been unable to increase my distances as a result. I would get to about 4 miles and be absolutely whacked. At a slower rate I could run 8, 10 or more miles and still feel as if I could do a "sprint"(relative term) finish.

    My advice is to do at least one session a week at the walk/run rate to keep your HR below the limit. You will find that after a few weeks you will have to run to keep it at that level. Other sessions can be done at other levels, depending on your goals. Once you feel fit enough, try a stress test to get your real MaxHR, and reset your HRM.

    Happy running.
  • Sharon

    Agree with advices as above. you need to be thinking of different limits for different sorts of runs. The HRM manuals tend to focus on a single zone. it won't plan your training for you (you still need to do this) but it will help you achieve your aims for the specific session.

    It's probably worth doing a few of your usual runs with the HRM on and just observing what happens to your HR without modifying your pace. then sit down and work out your plans..

    Echo the HRmax issue - the std formula tells me 177, in reality I've observed 190 and work to that, in fact I finished a race a week ago hitting 189!

    Good luck, you'll be gathering stats with the rest of us before too long. however, a common thread in peoples advice is to leave it at home occasionally and just run how you feel.

    happy running
  • I'd echo a lot of the above, I did a couple of things that helped, I get v.confused by figures, paces etc, so to find my own max I warmed up a bit, then ran fast as I could three times up a hill that took about 2 mins to run up, the second time I hit 185, he last hit and stayed totally steady at 190

    I read the article on here that made me realise that %of working HR means subtract resting from max, work out percentage of balance and add that to resting. I'm sure everyone else in the world new that except me!!

    Armed with those two things I was able to work out my zones, still found the thing was beeping at me constantly to slow down, but having paid £65 for it, I was determined to persevere!

    I had a real breakthrough, by actually being able to run
    2 hours non-stop on a long run, but the pace felt really unnaturally slow, and hard not to break into a walk.

    I find the monitor impossible on hills, so i just use it at the moment for long slow runs, to keep the pace down.

    I have found generally that going for endurance has really slowed me down, I suppose I now need th get to grips with speed work!! Good luck to all!

    incidentally, my actual max is 21 over the average, but aparently this is not an indication of how young I am for my age!! - rats!
  • Happy slug

    be very careful on zones.

    not all training guides use working HR % when recommending zones. In fact many use %max HR. with you being young for your age(!) it maybe that you are taring way light.

    try reading the very long thread under general entitled "sean Fishpool's guide to HR training in simple english" A professional coach, ron Grover has added quite a lot of commentary and wisdom here.

  • Sharon,
    I had/have exactly the same issue as you, to the point where it was impossible to stay in my supposed zone and actually enjoy a run. Enjoyment being key, I ditched the HRM for a bit, but dug it out again the other day to try to work out my max HR. This, disappointingly, tallied pretty well with the standard formula. I have no problems running for an hour at a time, albeit slowly. I'm wondering two things:
    - am I going to hit a point like Nessie where I can't build stamina?
    - is this why some people say they lose huge amounts of weight through running but I don't?

    Maybe time will tell, but I've been running since last Nov, feel (am) much fitter but my HRM readings haven't changed.
  • Mungus

    I was wondering about the weight thing as well - I started running in April, but have been 'weight watching' since January. I lost nearly a stone in the first four months, but only a few pounds since. I wasn't sure if it was because I was exceeding my max HR and so not burning off the fat as efficently. I tried again yesterday to keep in my zone, but got fed up of stopping and starting! I must have looked really odd!
    So can anyone confirm the weight issue. If I slow down (like walk!) will the fat drop off?
  • A couple of my ladies (I do personal training) who have now been running for just over a year have told me the following about their weight loss:
    Joined weight watchers at the same time as started running and lost about 2 stone in the first 6 months or so. Then stopped WW but kept running (they do about 25 slow miles a week) and have steadily lost another stone in the second 6 months without trying. Now seem to have plateau'd at a steady, comfortable weight and feel good about themselves.
  • sfh legs;hmmm! not so simple as I thought as usual!! - what does "taring way light" mean??
    thanks fffor the pointer to the article, will go there now.
    best wishes, d
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