Use A Heart Rate Monitor And Take Your Training To The Next Level

by Adam Toffan, M.Sc, NSCA-CSCS, CSEP-CEP
Assistant Fitness Testing and Assessment Coordinator
Recreation Services
University of Manitoba

How in tune are you with your exercise intensity, capacity and recovery? Many people feel like they are working hard enough. The fact is that many people inaccurately gauge their exercise intensity and what their bodies are capable of. Could you benefit from a heart rate monitor? Below are some of the benefits of using a heart rate monitor to track your fitness.

  1. Improving health with greater results: Heart rate monitors can help you find and maintain the appropriate exercise intensity for health and fitness benefits. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults age 18-64 recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity. Moderate to vigorous intensity is defined as 55-90% of heart rate max. So, while you might be moving enough, you may not be moving with enough intensity to attain health benefits.
  2. Measure your effort: As your fitness improves, the stress on the heart decreases for a given workload. For example, if you start running at 6mph, this might be challenging when you start your program and achieve a moderate heart rate. As your fitness improves, your heart rate required for that pace of run will go down. As a result, the intensity decreases and the benefits are reduced. Wearing a heart rate monitor will help you know when to change the intensity of your workout to achieve the proper effort.
  3. Exercise safely: While some people are not working out hard enough for health benefits, others need to be careful not to workout too hard due to health issues. That being said, some medications can alter the heart’s response to exercise so if you are on medications, you should speak to your doctor to make sure that heart rate is still an appropriate measure of intensity for you. Too much exertion can also lead to overtraining and under recovery.
  4. Track your progress: Many monitors are able to store hours of data or a number of workout session statistics. You can compare average or maximum heart rate for a given workout or compare calorie burn. This can help identify if your fitness is improving and tell you it is time to change things up!
  5. Monitor recovery: Your heart health helps determine your ability to recover from exercise. For people, a designated recovery time between bouts may not be appropriate. You may be best served to let your heart tell you when you have recovered enough to exercise again. Also, one symptom of general overtraining is an increase in resting heart rate or increased heart rate for a given workload. So if you notice your heart rate is responding differently, either at rest or to exercise, it could be a sign that you have cumulative under recovery.

Buying any sort of electronics can be overwhelming. What’s good? What features do you really need? Below are some of the highest rated monitors according to and what features might make them ideal for you!

MyZone MZ-3 ($199.99): Tracks heart rate and stores information while underwater so you can use it for swimming. It has 16 hours of internal memory. It also helps to motivate you by giving points based on heart rate and effort over time. It can also be adjusted based on your current fitness.

Polar H7 ($129.99): Polar is one of the most popular and reliable brands on the market. It is also compatible with many other pieces of equipment including the Precor cardio equipment in the ALC. It is also compatible with many fitness apps like Runkeeper and Endomondo.

Wahoo Tickr X ($79.99USD): Along with the MZ-3 listed above it is the highest rated monitor on with a score of 4.5. It has 16 hours of internal memory and also records additional motion analytics.

Garmin HRM Tri ($180.00): This monitor has a built in accelerometer for cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. It stores heart rate stats while underwater. It also has no exposed seams for comfort.

Suunto Smart Sensor ($89.00): It is the smallest Bluetooth monitor on the market and compatible with “movesense” clothing. It stores data but does not send live updates underwater. It pairs with Suunto Movescount app and Ambit devices.

The monitor that is best for you depends on your needs and equipment. Very basic models can be enough for many if all you require is basic heart rate stats. However, if you use specifc equipment or have different training needs, you may want a monitor designed for your style of training. Regardless of what you choose, once you start using a monitor your workouts will never be the same! Proper intensity, recovery and progression will help you reach all new levels of fitness!