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Old 09-27-08, 02:29 PM   #1
The Weak Link
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HRM question

I'm glad you stopped browsing the political forums and came here for awhile. We're your friends. Not like the others......

Anyway, I'm reading through "Younger Next Year" and have gotten to the point where the authors extole the virture of HRM's.

I used a HRM years ago when I got into jogging. What I found was that I invariably jacked my heart rate up at much slower jogging speeds than I would have thought. The result was that I jogged very, very slowly. That was probably good. It kept me from hurting myself, at least until I was doing 14-16 mile training runs and trashing my plantar fascii.

I found the HRM useless for MTBing. After the first big climb I would peg out. If I paid strict attention to the monitor, I would have had to pedal in little tiny circles at the bottom of a hill and just stay there until I dismounted and pushed the bike up.

When I spin on the trainer, I find that the HRM confirms that when I feel like blowing chow I'm in the 90%+ zone.

In other words, I find my perceived effort as useful when I'm spinning out as a HRM.

So, I know that many of you use the HRM to keep from redlining. That makes sense but I have no medical reason to back off. When I feel like blowing I back off.

Do any of you need to use a HRM to increase the intensity of your activity? Again, for MTBing it doesn't make sense, as if you're on the trail you know you gotta put out the effort. When I road ride I'm calibrated to do 12-13.5 MPH. I almost always end up with a sweat, especially with the hill climbs.

So why should I bother with a HRM?
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Old 09-27-08, 02:53 PM   #2
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Outside of intensity training, I've found it useful for two things:
  1. Recovery rides. My perceived effort is way off on recovery rides. Without the HRM, I ride them too hard, even though my perceived effort says "easy, peasy".
  2. Abnormally high readings. I found there were times when my HR was higher than it should have been for my perceived exertion. Investigating, I discovered there are several reasons this may be so. In my case, it's almost always been underhydration. Even within a ride, if my HR comes up for no apparent reason, I guzzle a bottle and a couple of miles later, it comes right back down. When it hasn't been that, it's been time for a day or two off the bike. There are other things too, but those seem to be mine.

Edit: I loved "Younger Next Year". I may even buy a copy of my own. Working at a public library, that says a lot.
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Old 09-27-08, 03:45 PM   #3
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Do any of you need to use a HRM to increase the intensity of your activity? Again, for MTBing it doesn't make sense, as if you're on the trail you know you gotta put out the effort. When I road ride I'm calibrated to do 12-13.5 MPH. I almost always end up with a sweat, especially with the hill climbs.

So why should I bother with a HRM?
I use it quite a bit and it helps. As TSL stated, I use it to make sure a recovery ride IS a recovery ride.
I use it to tell me to keep in the desired zone for a training ride - I will tend to run to fast for awhile and then too slow, the HRM keeps my intensity constant. I also use it to push myself when I have been riding on a long time and tend to slack off and just cruise. I don't use it to keep myself from redlining as that does not tend to be a problem for me. BTW - I rarely look at speed anymore, just my heart rate and then I check the average speed at the end of the ride.
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Old 09-27-08, 04:02 PM   #4
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I used to use the HRM. I even have the fancy Garmin thingie.

But, I found it more trouble than it is worth.

That is most likely due to my type of riding, which is almost always just a ride to enjoy the ride, with whatever fitness comes along with that. Somehow, I figure if I ride about 20 miles per day, swim an hour or so a day, weight lift several times per week and walk and stretch, I ought to maintain at least some fitness.
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Old 09-27-08, 05:08 PM   #5
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I used to use the HRM. I even have the fancy Garmin thingie.

But, I found it more trouble than it is worth.

That is most likely due to my type of riding, which is almost always just a ride to enjoy the ride, with whatever fitness comes along with that. Somehow, I figure if I ride about 20 miles per day, swim an hour or so a day, weight lift several times per week and walk and stretch, I ought to maintain at least some fitness.
And you are absolutely right. However I would contend that if you want to get more fitness and training value an HRM may help. From all that you have written here I know you like to "enjoy the ride" - I have no doubt you will stay fit and outlive most of your peers. I consider your routine my motivation for retirement - so I can have the time to do all that you do.
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Old 09-27-08, 08:11 PM   #6
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I use a HRM mostly on training and on recovery rides. In races it doesn't matter what the HRM says because I'm committed to riding with the group regardless of what HR zone I'm in. I've found it a very useful tool for training and on long rides for regulating the early ride effort. I have gotten to the point that I don't look at speed, but rather, HR, cadence and time are the factors I usually base my rides on. Once the ride is completed I'll look at average speed and distance traveled.
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Old 09-27-08, 08:24 PM   #7
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I wear mine a lot so I know what range I'm in. I try and stay in 75 or 80 percent of max. Last week in the Davis mountains I was at max 160, but not for long.
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Old 09-28-08, 01:21 AM   #8
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Do any of you need to use a HRM to increase the intensity of your activity? Again, for MTBing it doesn't make sense, as if you're on the trail you know you gotta put out the effort. When I road ride I'm calibrated to do 12-13.5 MPH. I almost always end up with a sweat, especially with the hill climbs.

So why should I bother with a HRM?
Exactly as I found- Mountain biking and you are up the top of your HR Range on every hill- But although high intensity- It does not last for too long- Then you get to the top of the hill and wait for the rest to catch you up. For me this means that I am above 145 and seeing 165 or higher by the end of the hill.

On the road- I find that 135 is just right for cruising speed- but on the slopes I will get to 150 and it takes a good hill for me to get to my limit.

Problem is that on the road- I will find that I slip well below my "Cruising" HR. In feel there is not much difference to me on 125 and 135- but at 135 I am getting a good workout. Although it is nice to be able to see that you are pushing too hard and won't be able to finish the ride without running out of energy---- I use the monitor more to ensure that I am in my working zone rather than slipping below it.

That is the problem with these road bikes- You can turn a workout into an easy ride if you are not carefull.
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Old 09-28-08, 09:24 AM   #9
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Biking = Exercise for me. I do very little biking for sight seeing.
The HRM is necessary to keep me honest. We are in Illinois. That is very flat. I find my selves biking at HR 100 to 110 unless I check the HRM and give it a push to the 130's.
I also spend much time on a resistance trainer. The HRM is needed there because my body tends to heat up over time and things need to be done such as: Open window, water, run a big fan or take a rest.
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Old 09-28-08, 10:35 AM   #10
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I'm getting ready to go on a 40 miler (+/-) and have my HRM on. I'll see if it enlightens me in any way.
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Old 09-28-08, 04:02 PM   #11
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OK, I did my 40 exactly. I used my old thresholds that I'd calculated about 5 years ago and so are a bit out of date:

100 BPM: cruising speed.
130 BPM: combat speed.
150 BPM: ramming speed.
170 BPM: redline, stroke-out, legal brain-death, etc.
BTW, resting HR: 50.

What I learned:

1. After about ten minutes of warm-up I got into cruising speed and never dropped below it.

2. My HR jacked up going up hills.

3. And it went down while going down hills, except for one spot where I thought I was going to crash, where it went up even higher.

4. When I'm in my comfort zone, pedalling at a cadence of 90 in a lowish gear and pulling around 14-16 MPH, my HR is around 125.

5. If I'm going to improve my power to weight ratio, I think I need to weight train a bit. It wouldn't hurt to lose about 20 pounds.

So, from a "Younger next year" standpoint, the HRM doesn't help at all. My perceived effort is accurate.

I think the HRM would be useful for competitive work. I don't know if I really want to do that, as I'm slow and would always finish dead last in any contest I got myself into.
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Old 09-28-08, 04:47 PM   #12
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Your HR levels sound very close to mine, but my resting HR is 56.

I think Younger Next Year is trying to train 50 + ers who don't exercise to stay in a cruising to combat range, when their experience might say, if I don't feel it real bad I'm not working enough. Plus they're counseling a daily intensity and volume. For that training purpose an HRM is a good thing for people to use. I agree, you probably don't need it.

I would rather have it, first it's becoming a habit, and second I do tend to slack back into the 110's if I don't have that feedback. I'd like to ride mostly around 125 to 140 to speed up fat burning.
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Old 09-28-08, 05:32 PM   #13
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Sounds like you don't need an HRM and if you don't need it - don't use it, it will just annoy you.
I road for years w/o one and still don't use one when I don't have a reason for the data.
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Old 09-29-08, 12:48 PM   #14
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I think the HRM would be useful for competitive work. I don't know if I really want to do that, as I'm slow and would always finish dead last in any contest I got myself into.
HR is a nice scientific measurement to assist in achieving your goals. Once one gets the feel for level of effort, one can get close to heart rate zones without HR. I like data. So HR, power, time and other such stuff are interesting and I attempt to use them to my advantage. I like to record data so that I can review it afterword and compare it to other results. I use the Garmin and hook it up to my computer.

IMHO, the key HR metric is the time to recovery and it is even more interesting when used in conjunction with power measurement. Let's assume you climb a hill for 5 minutes at constant power and achieve a 160 HR. How long does it take to return to 120 when you stop? If you do a series of 5 minute hill climbs at constant power with a 2 minute recovery between each one on the last one, how long does your HR take to return to 120. The bogey I use is 2 minutes. If I am not recovering to 120 within 2 minutes, I am working too hard. I reduce the intensity. If I continue to work at efforts from which I do not hit the 2 minute recovery bogey, I feel like road kill the next day and it takes more days to recover. One does not need a HR monitor to do the test just a watch and the ability to take your pulse fast as it drops. YMMV
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Old 09-29-08, 07:45 PM   #15
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Good example of using a HRM. I couldn't seem to get my heart rate up and couldn't figure it out. I thought my legs were to weak or something.I went out to west Texas and I did terrible. What the heck is going on. Anyhow, by the time I got home I was beat. I took off about 10 days from riding and I cant believe the difference. I didn't think I was that tired, but now I can run my heart rate up pretty easy and it drops pretty fast too. If I feel like running it up to the mid 140s or just cruise in the 120s, I can do that now. Like the man said, recovery is a must.
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Old 09-29-08, 07:55 PM   #16
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Good example of using a HRM. I couldn't seem to get my heart rate up and couldn't figure it out. I thought my legs were to weak or something.I went out to west Texas and I did terrible. What the heck is going on. Anyhow, by the time I got home I was beat. I took off about 10 days from riding and I cant believe the difference. I didn't think I was that tired, but now I can run my heart rate up pretty easy and it drops pretty fast too. If I feel like running it up to the mid 140s or just cruise in the 120s, I can do that now. Like the man said, recovery is a must.

Why would one need a HRM to figure that out? I can pretty much tell when I am over-extended and need a rest just listening to my body. Then I rest.
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Old 09-29-08, 08:19 PM   #17
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Probably because I'm stupid
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Old 09-29-08, 08:48 PM   #18
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My hunch is that the folks that get the most out of using a HRM are those that are the most interested in improving their overall performance. To improve your performance you really need to know how your HR is doing from ride to ride.

There are many factors that can greatly influence HR day to day including stress, rest, hydration, air temperature, nutrition etc. You can ride just as hard (at least from the feeling of exertion) from one day to the next under the same conditions but get drastically different results and HR's due to the factors above plus others. If you're only interested in how you feel while you're riding you really don't need a HRM. If you want to improve your overall performance you have to measure it and you really need to use a HRM. It's also pretty important to use it if you're trying to do certain exercises such as intervals because perceived exertion might not be at the HR levels (either high or low) as what you had intended.

Just as a side-I never watch or monitor my speed. I always ride by cadence and HR. For me those are the two most important criteria for a long ride and also a time trial.
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Old 09-29-08, 09:08 PM   #19
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Being relatively new to more dedicated exercise, my HRM has served as a "fun" way to monitor my progress. My perceived exertion meter is broken somehow and everything is "easy" until it's hard! The HRM helps me out here, too.
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Old 09-30-08, 05:07 AM   #20
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Why would one need a HRM to figure that out? I can pretty much tell when I am over-extended and need a rest just listening to my body. Then I rest.
Clearly you are a little more clued in than some of the rest of us including me. Enjoy it. This thread isn't here to help you in particular. I don't think anyone here said "all 50+ ers and especially all 60+ers must have HRMs." Let the rest of us who can benefit from this thread do so and benefit from your positive contributions.

I've found the HRM has helped me to distinguish between my levels of effort and to see how to control my exercise intensity better than I did.

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Old 09-30-08, 06:19 AM   #21
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Clearly you are a little more clued in than some of the rest of us including me. Enjoy it. This thread isn't here to help you in particular. I don't think anyone here said "all 50+ ers and especially all 60+ers must have HRMs." Let the rest of us who can benefit from this thread do so and benefit from your positive contributions.

I've found the HRM has helped me to distinguish between my levels of effort and to see how to control my exercise intensity better than I did.

Road Fan
No offense intended. It just seems to me that somewhere the art of monitoring one's own efforts and respondingly appropriately has been lost, or at least hidden somewhere, in this world of everything has to be technology.

Charge on, oh valiant HRM advocates!
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Old 09-30-08, 06:25 AM   #22
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I used a HRM years ago when I got into jogging. What I found was that I invariably jacked my heart rate up at much slower jogging speeds than I would have thought. The result was that I jogged very, very slowly. That was probably good. It kept me from hurting myself, at least until I was doing 14-16 mile training runs and trashing my plantar fascii.

I found the HRM useless for MTBing. After the first big climb I would peg out. If I paid strict attention to the monitor, I would have had to pedal in little tiny circles at the bottom of a hill and just stay there until I dismounted and pushed the bike up.

When I spin on the trainer, I find that the HRM confirms that when I feel like blowing chow I'm in the 90%+ zone.

So why should I bother with a HRM?
Do you know your actual maximum rate or are you using some formula like 220-age? It shouldn't be that easy to get it close to the various thresholds. Perhaps your max is higher than you think.
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Old 09-30-08, 06:46 AM   #23
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"RoadFan", "JPPE". "George", "Hermes"


Thanks guys, you've just convinced me to get a HRM. I've been riding and training for years like a loose cannon and never really knowing where I'm at. All my riding has been by percieved exertion, with the old school mentality of "no pain - no gain". A recovery ride for me was just taking it a little bit easy, where my avg. speed at the end was half a mph slower over the same 20 mile course.

I rode all those different intensity levels without having the slightest idea what my HR was. In fact, the only clue I ever got was when I went in for a stress test and they put me on a treadmill a few months ago. They told me the target HR they wanted was 147. Why this number I didn't know, unless it was because I had a triple by-pass eleven years ago.

Well they got my HR up and then said "Okay, we're at the target rate." They asked me how I felt and I said "is that it, hell I wasn't even breathing hard." I was just starting to break over from normal relaxed breathing to a very slight elevated breathing. So at 147 BPM my breathing was only slightly elevated. I wasnt tired by a long shot, didnt sweat at all, and was really just starting to get into it.

So really, thats the only clue I got to place an actual HR number to a given intensity level. So I dont know if its good or not.
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Old 09-30-08, 07:13 AM   #24
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No offense intended. It just seems to me that somewhere the art of monitoring one's own efforts and respondingly appropriately has been lost, or at least hidden somewhere, in this world of everything has to be technology.

Charge on, oh valiant HRM advocates!
Thanks! I just think the overriding benefit is that people do learn to guage their efforts, not that they learn them without the aid of a tool.
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Old 09-30-08, 07:20 AM   #25
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"RoadFan", "JPPE". "George", "Hermes"


Thanks guys, you've just convinced me to get a HRM. I've been riding and training for years like a loose cannon and never really knowing where I'm at. All my riding has been by percieved exertion, with the old school mentality of "no pain - no gain". A recovery ride for me was just taking it a little bit easy, where my avg. speed at the end was half a mph slower over the same 20 mile course.

I rode all those different intensity levels without having the slightest idea what my HR was. In fact, the only clue I ever got was when I went in for a stress test and they put me on a treadmill a few months ago. They told me the target HR they wanted was 147. Why this number I didn't know, unless it was because I had a triple by-pass eleven years ago.

Well they got my HR up and then said "Okay, we're at the target rate." They asked me how I felt and I said "is that it, hell I wasn't even breathing hard." I was just starting to break over from normal relaxed breathing to a very slight elevated breathing. So at 147 BPM my breathing was only slightly elevated. I wasnt tired by a long shot, didnt sweat at all, and was really just starting to get into it.

So really, thats the only clue I got to place an actual HR number to a given intensity level. So I dont know if its good or not.

Good for you- if that is what you want. There are some pretty decent models out there for reasonable prices via eBay and discounted sites. There is also a lot of information out there on how to get your Max HR and how to improve performance, etc. I prefer those HR monitors where you can at least record the amount of time you are in various "zones" that you can program into the monitor. I've gone to the next step and am able to download my data but that is just me.

While everyone's HR and Max are different, it sounds like yours and mine might be similar. Mine is considered on the high side for my age and my Max is 194. From knowing my Max I know what levels I can ride at for various conditions. I can exercise/ride all day in the 140's-160's when I'm in decent shape. My average HR's for 7 hours on the bike is 140-150. For Time trials it is around 175 for about 30 mins.

As a side, my brother is 12 years younger than me but our HR's are very close to the same and our riding abilities are pretty similar overall. He wore a HR monitor for years but stopped wearing it this year as he knew his body well enough to interpret his perceived exertion. How has his "experiment" work? Not good at all-his body continued to give him feedback that he misinterpreted. While he thought he was training at high levels, he apparently wasn't training at the right levels for the right time periods. His ride times for centuries that we've both done for years and can use as benchmarks have slipped dramatically. His Time Trial times have gone up by 10-15%. Both of my similar "indicators" have stayed about the same-in fact my time trial times have actually creeped downward for some reason that I really can't explain. We have enough rides and events that we have done together to compare over the last 6-9 months to do some good comparisons so it's more than just a couple of rides.

You can also make the same comments about monitoring Cadence. Experience has shown that you have to continually "train" yourself to ride at a higher level. Unless it is monitored you might think your spinning at 85-95 when In fact your spinning at 75-85.
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