With power meters and GPS devices, what role does a heart rate monitor play, and how should it be used throughout the year?
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, heart rate training was cutting-edge technology. Today with the vast majority of athletes using power meters and GPS devices, many athletes have ignored heart monitors. But if done properly, you can integrate heart rate training with power meters and GPS devices.
One device doesn’t solve all needs. Heart rate monitors are not effective for short, high-intensity intervals as the heart rate will often lag a minute or two behind the actual intensity level. Additionally, in hot environments or during indoor training with low ventilation, heart rate monitors may become unreliable due to dehydration and the body’s ability to cool itself. Here are four ways to better utilize your heart rate monitor.
In the off-season or base building, the heart rate monitor can be used to set an upper ceiling, which is equivalent to your aerobic threshold level. This will allow you to develop your aerobic system and metabolic efficiency. As your fitness and efficiency develops, you’ll notice that you will be going at higher paces/wattage for the same heart rate level.
Recovery sessions are best done based upon low heart rate numbers. Speed or pace is not important here, but maintaining a low-stress workout to facilitate recovery is.
Using heart rate to dictate the length of a recovery interval is a great use of the monitor. As the athlete improves fitness, the recovery time will shorten.
During long endurance sessions or long interval sessions, the heart rate monitor becomes a reliable indicator of intensity level. By comparing sustainable heart rate and pace/wattage levels, athletes can figure out their optimal long-course race pace.