Dr. Steve Ingham

Heart rate monitoring gone wrong

person showing of round black watch

Bump in performance?

“What’s that bump on your head?”

“Oh, I had a bit of an accident”

“Oh dear, what happened?”

“I ran into a lamp post!”

“Oh no! How come?”

“… er, well, to be honest I was checking my heart rate and fiddling with my watch and I didn’t see the post and I just ran straight into it!”

(true story, circa 2010, very good runner, so much so they would have been running very fast)

When is heart rate monitoring helpful and not?

Checking your heart rate monitor can be useful to give you feedback about how hard your cardiovascular system is working. Even better if you are monitoring it in relation to a known pace, e.g. 150 b/min at 5 mins/km. This can give you an insight about how your fitness work is progressing.


Don’t let your heart rate dominate your exercise!

✅ If you want to evaluate your effort start with how it feels! Focus on your perception of effort first!

✅ If you are feeling under the weather by all means use heart rate to ease your pace back.

✅ If it is hot weather or if you are exercising indoors, remember heart rate will drift upwards as your body sends more blood to the skin to cool.

✅ Likewise if you are exercising at a high intensity, heart rate won’t hit a steady state, it will creep up.

❌ There is limited evidence that exercising to a specific heart rate is superior to exercising to a given intensity. If you stick to a heart rate you will have to ease back your pace, and this is likely to reduce your training effect!

Exercise enjoyment above analysis

Measuring your pace, heart rate, meters ascended etc is great for quantifying your efforts and staying on track but don’t do so to the degradation of the experience!

Over analysing your stats will mean your head is down.

Get your head up and notice things;

– The sky

– The trees

– Your movement

– Your companion if you have one

Measure to capture so you can reflect, but in the moment get your head up and enjoy your exercise!



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