Heat Rate Monitoring
I have found it useful to monitor my heart rate during all cycling and running.  I use the Polar 720i device for cycling and the S625X for running. They both have not only heart rate functions but also cycling functions and the 625X will record running speed/distance with the footpod it ocmes with.  Weekly I download the saved data to my computer.I transfer this information to my own personal log because the software that Polar provides does not meet my personal needs of sperating the various sports.

Speed and Distance Monitoring
Monitoring your speed and distance has become much easier with the introduction of new units that often have heart rate monitoring included. For running, there are two approaches. One uses a food pod and the other uses GPS (global positioning indicator). You might think that GPS would be much more accurate, but take a look at this review of the Polar 625X, that uses a food pod and the Garimin 305 that uses GPS. In addition to speed and distance, some units also measure altitude and the feet gained, something of more interest to cycling.
Max Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is measured when you first wake up in the morning before you get out of bed. The lower the number the better. Common resting heart rate numbers are in the 50-60s but again, those really fit athletes commonly display resting heart rates in the 30's and 40's.

Your Maximum Heart Rate (Max HR) is the fastest your heart can beat for one minute. MHR level is not necessarily a sign of fitness and varies between individuals.  A study from Liverpool, England shows that the maximum heart rate for athletes is lower than for aged-matched sedentary people, which is opposite of what one might think.

So why do we want to know our own MHR? Knowing it allows us to develop a training program around that figure.  MHR also varies depending on the type of sport. For those sports that involve the large muscles, such as running and cycling, an individual may have a higher MHR than with a sport such as swimming.  For most individuals they may see their MHR increase by 15 as they move from swimming to cycling to running. 

The most accurate way to detemine Max HR is in an exercise lab. I have used a very tough climb where i can't push any harder and watch my heart rate as I crest. Since one's Max HR declines with age, there are many formulas that attempt to estimate your Max HR using a mathematical formula but they all have errors because it allows it to drop as you get older. In fact, Max HR doesn't necessarily decrease by as much if you maintain your fitness. So using a formula based on age just doesn't work well enough but if that is all you have, here are several formulas that have been proposed.

The most commonly used formula for estimating MHR is:

MHR = 220 - age (in years). 

A study from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan shows that this formula may be wrong (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, May 2007). The researches found that the original formula overestimated the maximum the maximum hear rate for younger people and underestimated he maximum for older ones. The new formula they recommend is:

MHR = 206.9 - (age x .67)

Runner's World magazine (October 2001) has developed two other formulas that may even better approximate the MHR during running.  These are:

A) MHR = 208 - age * 0.7
B) MHR = 205 - age * 0.5

A further iteration on these formulas that also considers body weight has been proposed by Sally Edwards (Heart Zone Training: Exercise Smart, Stay Fit, and Live Longer (1996))

Males: 210 minus 1/2 your age minus 5% of your body weight + 4
Females: 210 minus - 1/2 your age minus 1% of your body weight + 0

The following information is from Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine (http://www.drmirkin.com )

"However, the maximum heart rate formulas are set by averages of large populations. Your own maximum heart rate is determined by your fitness level as well as your age. Your legs drive your heart, not the other way around. When you start to exercise, your leg muscles contract and squeeze blood from your veins near them. Then when your leg muscles relax, your veins open and fill with blood. This alternate contacting and relaxing of muscles pushes extra blood toward your heart. The increased return of blood to your heart speeds up your heart. People with stronger muscles pump more blood towards their hearts and therefore can get a faster heart rate. Since there is huge variation between individuals ranging from competitive athletes to novice exercisers, you would be better off setting your workout level by "perceived exertion", rather than by any formula based on averages. "Perceived exertion" means that your brain interprets how hard your are exercising, and you can respond to these signals. As you exercise more intensely, you become short of breath and your muscles start to burn and hurt. You can interpret your own effort and discomfort
levels to decide how hard you should work on a hard day or an easy day.

"People who are just starting an exercise program or who do not exercise regularly should use much lower levels of effort. They should never try to get to their maximum heart rates because they are the ones most likely to suffer heart attacks during exercise. Start any new exercise program slowly and build up your level of fitness gradually. "


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