Ordered new Garmin FR220 with heart-rate monitor but was wondering if proper runners actually use a HRM?
Firstly, I’m unsure of whether we/I constitute the term ‘proper runners’, but that aside we do enjoy running, and are probably a little more obsessive than most people we know, and also like to waffle on about running related stuff far more than most people are willing to listen.
In short the answer is ‘yes’ we do train with heart rate monitors, using it as a gauge of fitness (comparing heart rates to average paces). It is merely used as a measuring device for information purposes though, we do not use heart rate to dictate the pace at which we train (i.e. we do not set out to run at a certain heart rate). Rarely will I ever race in a ‘target race’ with a heart rate monitor on – a minor thing but just the notion of having something elasticated around the chest seems counter intuitive to making breathing as easy as possible. Yes the reality is that the HRM strap really doesn’t impede the chests expansion, but in a race situation, every minor detail should be considered – if you feel it doesn’t make any odds then by all means crack on! It should be noted that in some training races (Parkruns etc) the HRM will be worn to give an accurate TRIMP (Training Impulse) Score for the session.
What is ‘TRIMP’? You might ask – well, the main reason I track my heart rate is to monitor my training load, and to keep an eye on how stressed my body is, helping me gauge whether I’m overdoing things. I do this using the aptly named “Training Load” plugin for Sporttracks (a training log/analysis bit of software). In a nutshell it takes the heart rate data from each workout to gauge how hard I worked in that session (my TRIMP score), it then considers repeated days/sessions of running/training and gives me two values – my Acute Training Load (ATL) and my Chronic Training Load (CTL). My ATL gives me an idea of my the stresses on my system in the short term (over something like 11days), which I then compare to my CTL score, a gauge of the training load on my body over a longer term (circa 42 days IIRC) which is generally considered to be a measure of my current fitness and suggests the sort of ongoing training load my body can handle. If my ATL rises quite rapidly, and is a long way above my CTL, then I know my body is going to struggle. Fortunately the ‘training load’ plugin also monitors this as well by giving a Training Stress Balance (TSB). I know when I’m training hard I can manage a TSB of around -20 for a period, when it’s up near -30 I know I can only sustain this for a very short period and that at this stage the risk of injury is increased. When tapering the score will increase – I find that around -5 is ideal for a target race of say 10km, and up to +2 for longer races e.g. half marathon. Above this and I find that I feel ‘stale’ in races; I have effectively over-tapered.
The net result is that it draws you a very clever looking graph which makes you feel like your training has a purpose:
So with all these additional numbers to consider and track, does it actually make me a quicker runner? Well of course not, at least not in itself; it does however give another measure of fitness and progress with minimal effort, so why wouldn’t you track it?
Enjoy the new GPS/HRM… and should you find yourself with time to kill, check out sporttracks and the trainingload plugin.
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