Menu

3 Heart-Rate Monitor Mistakes That Everyone Makes

  • By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Published Aug 20, 2013
  • Updated Aug 22, 2013 at 9:05 PM UTC
Photo: Shutterstock.com


Avoid these and you will be well on your way toward getting the most out of your device.

A heart rate monitor can be a useful piece of training equipment. Heart rate is a reliable indicator of exercise intensity, so training with one can help you work hard enough but not too hard in each workout. But using this type of device will not automatically make your training more effective. As with any piece of equipment, there is a right way to use a heart rate monitor, and there are numerous possible mistakes you can make with it.

There are three mistakes in the use of heart rate monitors that are especially common. Avoid these and you will be well on your way toward getting the most out of your device.

Mistake #1: Using The 220-Age Formula

Effective training requires that you perform different types of workouts at various intensities, from low-intensity recovery workouts to high-intensity speed intervals. A heart rate monitor can help you perform each type of workout at the proper intensity by assigning a specific target heart rate or heart rate zone to each. But this only works if the targets or zones are customized to your individual heart rate profile.

When heart rate-based training became popular in the mid 1980s, athletes were instructed to subtract their age from 220 to determine their approximate maximum heart rate, and to perform different types of workouts at different percentages of their maximum heart rate. However, this formula is arbitrary and does not generate appropriate target heart rates for most athletes.

A much better way to determine appropriate target heart rates is to perform a 30-minute simulated race and use your average heart rate for this effort as your “anaerobic threshold” heart rate. This becomes your target heart rate for threshold workouts. Most of your workouts should be done at lower heart rates. Once a week or so, perform an interval workout at a higher target heart rate.

RELATED: The Heart Rate Monitor And Triathlon Training

Next »

FILED UNDER: Getting Started / Training

Sign up for our free e-newsletter, SBR Report!

Subscribe to the FREE Triathlete newsletter