A recent physical showed a slight abnormality on one lead on the EKG and I followed up with a cardiologist and had both a standard and a nuclear stress test done. That showed an abnormality after about ten minutes on the treadmill and off I went for a cardiac cath. That showed me in good shape and no blockages and the doctor chalks the abnormality off as nothing to worry about.
Anyway, the good that comes out of this is that I know my 50+ year old heart is OK and I want to keep it that way. As a result of the tests, I know that my max heart rate is 168 and my resting heart rate is 53 and blood pressure is seldom over 110/70.
I asked the cardiologist about target heart rates and she said not to worry about it, just ride my bike and enjoy it. But I am still considering buying a heart rate monitor and would like to study up on target heart rate and what my goals should be. Can anyone out there recommend some good web sites out there that can give me a good eduction?
Joe Friel's "Cyclists Training Bible" (book) is a excellent guide to training, but it views HRMs (as well as power meters and perceived extertion) simply as tools to measure your physical abilities along the way to your performance goals. I found this interesting as opposed to books by Sally Edwards (just google) which are very "heart-rate-monitor centric".
Bear in mind that I'm just another interested cycler (i.e., not an expert), but "targets" that may concern you are 1) resting heart rate (as in when you first wake up) - a general sign of fitness, and 2) Lactate Threshold (LT) - point at which your muscles create more lactic acid than can be dispersed; This is important because it can be lowered through training so that you can, for example, climb longer and farther before you "burn up". LT is usually close to the rate between which you are aerobic and anaerobic. Point is that you can express these levels of exertion as a percentage of max heart rate. If you watch the pro cycling races on TV, they now sometimes post the rider's current heart rate (at least they did on the Giro this year) - very interesting to see some guy whizzing along at 30+ mph and his HR is 120!
I bought an HRM (actually I bought several, but that's a long story) and wear it regularly on my rides - not necessarily as a training device. It's quite interesting to see what's going on as you climb hills, cruise, etc.