Ask the Coach: HR Monitors; When to Retire Shoes
Matt Hart addresses the value of training with heart-rate monitors; battling upper-body soreness; determining when to replace running shoes
Comments like, “I have to run at heart rate,” drive me nuts! Is it necessary to wire our bodies up to get in peak condition? Aren’t heart-rate monitors for the hospital?
—Tom LaPorte, Hartland, WI
Having coached hundreds of athletes, I can tell you the majority agree with you; most runners simply don’t bother with a heart-rate monitor. There are benefits to having more data, however. Most athletes and coaches realize that the more data you have the better informed you are—that which gets measured gets managed.
To your point, training should be more like play than work. As endurance coach Ben Greenfield of BenGreenfieldFitness.com puts it, “Sometimes you just need to unplug.” For most of us running is not a profession, and overwhelming data points increase the stress of just hitting the trails to relax and enjoy nature.
For those wary of the gadgets, Greenfield suggests a moderate approach, where the athlete tracks his numbers, but doesn’t stress about them daily. “I’m a huge fan of racing by feel, but doing some training with a monitor, so you’re able to tap in and quantify every now and again.”
Once you learn your zones—which does require some time with the HR strap on—you are better able to maintain an appropriate pace while racing. Greenfield adds that this approach keeps athletes “from getting confused by the effects that adrenaline, caffeine, heat and other variables can have on heart rate during a race.”
On the other hand, many great runners run by feel and perceived exertion. If that approach keeps you happily improving, it’s hard to argue with that.