Tracking Your Heart Rate Over The Course of Your Training
I have not done this for a while, but in the past I used my heart rate monitor to track my fitness progress from week to week. I’m not a fitness trainer nor am I an expert trainer. But this test I use to track my fitness is a fun way to see progression.
When training for a race, it is often noticeable that you are getting in better shape. You and others may notice that you have lost weight, you may feel healthier, have more energy, and just feel happier in general. These are all good indicators that your fitness is improving, but another way to track fitness is through tracking your heart rate over the course of your training.
To do this you need to know your (1) target heart rate for exercise and then (2) do a weekly test run around a track, (3) while staying within your target heart rate for 60 minutes. This initial test will give you a baseline to compare future fitness tests to see your progression.
Stuff to keep in mind when doing your weekly test:
- Stay within your target heart rate.
- Running surface.
- Run for 60 minutes.
- Heart Rate Monitor (this is a must)
- Your normal running clothes and shoes
Why the focus on target heart rate?
When training you can under train or over train or in other words your heart rate may be too low for improved fitness (under training) or your heart rate may be too high which can lead to burnout and/or injury (over training). In between both of these there is an “ideal” that is most optimal to aid you in reaching your fitness goals. This “ideal” is your target heart rate. Everyone has a different target heart rate which is dependent on age. To learn what your target heart rate is you can use a target heart rate calculator.
Why run on a track?
To track your fitness progression over time the surface you run on for your weekly test needs to be the same or in other words it needs to be one of the constant variables from week to week. Running on different surfaces will skew your results from week to week. The surface also needs to be flat to eliminate the hill variable. The local high school track is a prefect place to do this.
Why run for 60 minutes?
There are two reasons for this. The first being that the time needs to be a constant variable each week when you do this test run. The second reason being that you need to run long enough to show a decline in your pace while making an effort to stay within your target heart rate
Why this is a good way to track your fitness progress?
The first time you do this test (baseline test), you will notice that as you stay in your target heart rate your pace will slow down as you get closer and closer to running for a full 60 minutes. Naturally your heart begins to get tired the longer you run and in order to stay in your target heart rate you will need to slow your pace. Slowing your pace is okay when doing this test.
Over weeks and months of training your heart will get stronger and the decline in your pace for each test will not be as steep. You will also notice that you will be able to cover more distance in 60 minutes while still staying within your target heart rate. Seeing this kind of data from your heart rate monitor confirms what you have been seeing and feeling which is weight loss (if that is your fitness goal), more energy, and generally feeling happier.
To do this you need:
- To know your target heart rate.
- To run on the same track each week.
- To run for a full 60 minutes.
- To stay within your target heart rate for the whole 60 minutes.
- A heart rate monitor (this is a must).
- Your normal running clothes and shoes.
As you do this test each week your pace will not decline as fast as you run in your target heart rate and you will be able to run farther in 60 minutes. This is great way to track fitness using a heart rate monitor and it is fun way to see your progress.
Note: You don’t have to do this test each week. A monthly test will work just fine as long as the variables are the same.