How to use a Heart Rate Monitor to get faster and go longer.

If you want to get faster and build endurance, you need to train with a heart rate monitor. It will take the guess work out of your training and help you learn to pace yourself for whatever race distance you’re running.

Hank Running

For years, I always ran at the same effort. It took a long time before I realized the benefit of the long, slow run and the difference in effort between a tempo run and 400 repeats. Training too hard is the main reason I suffered quite a few injuries when I began running. When I started running with a heart monitor, I learned how to improve my performance and I got faster and I could run longer, injury free.

running funny

The ultimate goal of training with a heart monitor is control, and to run longer and faster with a lower heart rate, but what is the right heart rate and how do you actually use the monitor?

Well, the first step is to find your maximum heart rate. There are a couple of ways to do this. You could use this formula, if you are under 40, 208 – (.7 x your age) and if you are over 40 use this formula, 205 – (.5 x your age). The second method is to visit your personal physician and they can perform the test you need to find your maximum heart rate, this usually involves a treadmill. You could also do it yourself by running 400 meter repeats or hill repeats. Sprint the distance and then take a short jog to recover and repeat this five times. You should achieve a heart rate that is very close to your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR).

Where should your heart rate be during training?

Easy run and long run 65-75% of your MHR

Tempo run 87-92% of your MHR

Interval repeats 95-100% of your MHR

And where should your heart rate be when racing?

5-K 95-97% of your MHR

10-K 92-94% of your MHR

Half-marathon 85-88% of your MHR

Marathon 80-85% of your MHR

running funny

I’ll make it much easier for you. Once you find out what your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is, you can go here and use this calculator to find out what heart rate you should be when you’re training.

Runners who haven’t yet learned to gage their speed and effort can use the heart monitor to train. Use it over the course of the year and record your results. After a solid year of using mine I can keep a pretty consistent pace without having to look at my Garmin the entire time. I have also improved my VO2 max. But the biggest benefit of all is that I’ve been basically injury free for over a year now.

running funny

When I first started using a heart monitor, I bought one at a local sporting goods store for around $40. More recently, I got the Garmin Forerunner 620 which comes with a heart monitor so I’ve been using it to help track my heart rate and it’s great to be able to upload all of that data directly in to Garmin Connect. I have a thing for spreadsheets. Yeah, I’m that girl.

If you’re still not convinced how well Heart Rate Monitor training works, try the following:

Choose a running speed that feels comfortable for you, and run a timed mile. Record your heart rate and then run at that same pace a month later. Your heart rate should be lower. Try it again at 2 months, 3 months, and so on. Each time, record your heart rate and you can see your progress over the course of a year. It’s so motivating!

Running Funny

Use the heart rate monitor in an upcoming race. The monitor can help you from starting out too fast or too slow. It will also help you keep the correct pace throughout the race and that is so important because you want to make sure you have enough steam to power through at the finish. Try it and I think you’ll be convinced that it works.

If you don’t have a heart monitor, there are many options available from the very basic to the extremely advanced. The prices range from $40 and up. You can find them on Amazon or in your local sporting goods store or running store.

Do you currently train with a heart monitor? Have you trained with a heart monitor in the past? Did it work for you? What heart monitor did you use?

15 thoughts on “How to use a Heart Rate Monitor to get faster and go longer.

  1. This is a great post!! I just stated incorporating more heart rate running into my training last month.

    Do you ever feel so slow or like you aren’t doing enough when you are doing your long/easy runs? That’s what I have been struggling with the most, just trusting the plan I guess 🙂

    • Yes, I have but dont question. After my long run Sunday, I thought I was a turtle but then yesterday I ran in the 7’s and 8’s and average low 9’s. I’ll be back to high 7’s and low 8’s in no time. It works, I promise. 🙂

  2. This was really great information…I never really understood why monitoring your heart rate was so important, though I’d always hear about it. I’ll have to bookmark this page for when I’m actually at the point where I can focus on this aspect of running!

    • Trust me, it will change the way you think about your training and you’ll get faster and build endurance. It is an awesome tool. Let me know when you start using one and what your progress is 🙂

  3. I’ve used a Polar Accurex II, one of the earliest, ever since reading an article by coach Roy Benson in a running mag back in 1993. (Hard to believe it still works fine). I followed his program for years and it did help me improve while staying injury free. These days I use it mostly when I run repeats on the mill and tempo runs… it’s great for keeping you in the target zone. Your program is almost the same as the one I used and there’s no doubt anyone who uses it will see results.

    • Thanks for your comment Bruce. I’m glad to hear it worked for you. I can’t even begin to tell you how well it helped me in some of my races. I plan on using it as much as possible this year. I’ve heard great things about Polar but to hear it’s still going after 10 years, well, that’s amazing!

  4. I don’t have one but this post has made me rethink that. I know when I can feel progress but seeing my heart rate would be awesome for me because I tend to go out too fast in a race. Sometimes on a run too. Thanks for the great info! This could help reduce injuries too.

    • I just saw in the Aldi paper today that they have one for like 25 bucks, if you have an Aldi store. I have the one they sell and it’s decent and for 25 bucks you cant really go wrong.

  5. I have been so intrigued by heart monitors. I have been trying to gauge my best tempo run pace, and I bet a heart monitor would help with this. Also, I start off WAY too strong in my half marathon; I’m betting the heart rate monitor would help with this, too. Hmmmm. . . maybe my running pay will go toward this.

    • Seriously, I swear by them. It has helped me tremendously and I was unsure at first so I bought a basic one for 39.99 and it still works great but because I saw the benefit, I got the one with my new garmin and I’m loving it even more. Let me know if you decide to try it. I wanna hear back from you and how it helps you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *