The Minimalist Guide to Demystifying Heart Rate Monitor Training (Plus a Chance to Win One)

If you’ve never tried training with a heart rate monitor, I can’t really blame you.

First you’ve got to do some math to figure out your training zones.  Then you’ve got to memorize a complicated workout where you’re in Zone 2 for 10 minutes, District 3 for 5, and Area 51 for another 15 minutes before it’s time to cool down back in Zone 1.  Then before you can get out the door, you have to strap a device to your chest (okay, first you have to lick it, then strap it on your chest).

It's sort of like this, only not at all.

When the alternative is “lace up your shoes and hit the trail for an hour,” I totally get why you don’t want to bother with a heart rate monitor.

But here’s why you should consider giving it a shot

Minimalism is a big trend in running, and a heart rate monitor is anything but minimalist.  But here’s the thing — you don’t need to wear a heart rate monitor forever.

You can learn so much about your body in just a few weeks with a heart monitor that even when you’re not wearing it, you’ll know whether you’re running too slow, too fast, or just right for a particular workout.  It’s especially helpful if you’re new to running, or even if you’re just bored with your running routine and want to try something new.

A few other reasons I like breaking out the old HRM every once in a while:

  • It’s fun to watch your resting heart rate drop as you gain fitness — I got mine down to 39 beats-per-minute once and considered changing my name to Lance
  • It gives you something to focus on during workouts
  • You can wear it during a race to make sure you’re keeping a sustainable pace, even when hills or wind make it hard to gauge the proper speed
  • If you’ve never measured your heart rate while you run, I can almost guarantee that your “Easy” pace isn’t easy enough

This last point is so important.  When most people go out for what they think is an easy run between hard workout days, they’re actually working way harder than they should be.  The result is a workout that’s not slow enough for recovery but not fast enough to accomplish anything (hence the nice name, “junk mileage”).  Learning to distinguish junk from the rest might be the single best reason to try heart monitor training.

3 keys to minimalist heart rate training

Given that the likely objection is that it’s complicated, I’ve made it really simple for you here.  This is the bare-bones approach that I used for several months during the training for my first successful marathon, and it’s really all you need to get started.

The idea here is that you’ll just have two types of workouts: Easy and Hard.  The intensities for each are given by percentages of your maximum heart rate, and you’ll alternate between the two types of workouts.

1. Figure out your max heart rate.

I said we’re going to keep this simple — the easiest, most common approach to estimating your max is “220 minus your age.”  So if you’re 30, your theoretical max is 190.  This method isn’t very accurate, but it’s a start.

Better is to use an online calculator to compute your max using the Karvonen formula.  For this, you’ll need to know your resting heart rate, which you can determine by taking your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning and counting the number of beats in a minute.

And if you really get into this whole thing, there are workouts designed to take your heart rate to its max.  But that’s beyond what we’re trying to do here.

2. Your “Easy” intensity is 65 to 70 percent of your max heart rate.

The Easy zone is where you’ll want to stay on the days between hard workouts, and during any rests you take during those harder workouts.

As I said above, if you’ve never tried this before, you’ll probably find that you have to go really slow (like, embarrassingly so) to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max.  To compute that threshold, just multiply your theoretical max by .7.

On the days between your hard workouts, run at Easy pace for a while.  What’s a while?  20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour… whatever time and fitness will allow.  Remember, you shouldn’t be exerting much effort on Easy days.  The point is to build your aerobic base while letting your body recover for your next hard workout.

3. Shoot for a “Hard” intensity of 80-90 percent of your max.

On workout days, you’ll want to run faster than Easy pace.  Two to three hard workouts per week is what I find works best.

Truthfully, in serious HRM training, there are different “Hard” training zones.  And 80-90 is a pretty wide range.  But having just one Easy zone and one Hard zone helps to simplify the whole thing, and this two-zone approach worked well for me during the training for my first successful marathon.

If you stay at the lower end of this range, at around 80 percent of max heart rate, you’ll probably be able to sustain that pace for a few miles or even an entire workout.  And if you’re a beginner, that might be all you’re looking for in terms of difficulty.

If you prefer higher intensity, aim for the top of this range.  There, you’ll undoubtedly need to throw in Easy rest intervals, as it’s hard to maintain a 90 percent intensity for more than a few minutes, if that.

That’s all you need to get started

I’ve intentionally left the workouts vague.  The point is to make it so that you can still feel like you’re just “lacing up your shoes and hitting the trail.”

On easy days, stay below 70 percent.  On hard days, run in the 80-90 percent zone for a few minutes, then take a break and run easy for a bit.  Or take a favorite interval workout and do that with your heart monitor, noting where your heart rate is throughout the workout and making sure you can fully recover to less than 70% intensity between each set.

If you want to go further with it, there are plenty of resources on the web. Mark Allen has an interesting article where he relates heart rate training to teaching your body to burn fat for fuel.  And Blaine has an interesting post about another method of calculating training zones at Run to Win.

For more detail, a really simple (but good) book on the subject is John L. Parker’s Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot.  That’s the first book I read about heart rate training, and it’s still the simple approach I like best.

And finally, the giveaway!

Your reward for making it this far into a really long post (ironic, considering it’s supposed to be “minimalist”): a chance to win a Polar heart rate monitor!

Heart Rate Monitors USA is giving away a Polar FS1 heart rate monitor to a lucky NMA reader!  Heart Rate Monitors USA is a site that sells monitors from Polar, Garmin, Timex, and more, as well as other sports and wellness equipment.

Based on the reviews, it looks like the FS1 is a basic heart monitor without a bunch of confusing features…which makes it all the more suited to the minimalist runner.  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, March 15, and I’ll announce the winner later in the week.

Have a favorite heart rate monitor workout?  Share it in the comments below!

This post is part of a series of posts designed to teach you how to run long and strong.  Go check out the rest!



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  1. Every book I read talks about the benefits of training with a heart rate monitor and I keep thinking I need to get one but just haven’t done it yet! would love to have one! thanks for the great post and the opportunity to win one!

  2. I don’t have a heart rate monitor and would love one to really do some threshold training runs!

  3. I’ve been meaning to get a HRM but haven’t gotten to it yet. Used to have one ages ago and would very much like another!

  4. I don’t train with one currently because I’m afraid that seeing it will make me nervous, about pushing harder, etc. But you make it seem tame enough… wouldn’t mind giving it a shot now!

  5. Jason Smith says:

    Nice timing! I was just wondering where I should be shooting for… I like to push myself while running and typically that means an average HR of around 180. By the calculations I am running around 96-98%!! Typically for 5.5-6.5 miles. It feels good, but kinda has me worried that I’ll injure myself if I start ramping my milage while keeping the same intensity. Going to have to give this some thought!

    • You’re one of the many people that the calculation does apply to (unless you run at 80mph). Your actual Max HR is probably in the 205 to 210 range. Mine is 184 per the calculation, but I have recorded 190 for over a minute.

      I think Max heart rate calculations have an error of about +/- 20%.

  6. I don’t have a HRM, but have wanted to try using one to better my running. I seem to have hit a plateau with what I am doing currently so this would be perfect to shake it up.

  7. Dragonflyrunner says:

    I would love a heart rate monitor! I have never trained this way before, but I have increased my miles and my fitness level lately and feel like I need to get more serious about the way I work out to see the results I am looking for. I think a HRM could be a great tool for me! Thanks for this post.

  8. I used to use a HRM every now and then, but it ran out of batteries and I never got around to replacing it.

  9. Thanks for this – as a beginning runner, it does seem daunting with all the math and straps and wires and so forth, not to mention the 20983094890382093843 versions of HRMs available. Thanks for breaking it down.

  10. So how do I register to win? Just comment? I hope this is enough. I’ve never used one but always wanted to try it.

  11. How cool. I’m in the market for one of these at the moment so this is extremely timely! Great info in your post. Thanks!

  12. Rebecca says:

    I currently have a pretty simple polar HRM and wear it during all exercise…in the beginning i noticed that my HR was pretty high during all of my runs (whether it was something i felt was “easy” or something “hard” like intervals), but as my running endurance and pace improved, i find that i am able to maintain a lower HR during some runs (so not all my runs are as hard anymore! yayy)

  13. I would love to have a HRM! I’ve been running for about 2 years now and still have not done any races yet. I would love to use a HRM to help me train for races in the future! Thanks for the awesome giveaway!!!

  14. Thanks for deciphering the HRM stuff! Invested in one last year and it made a world of a difference to my running!

  15. I have never used a heart rate monitor because it just seems so complicated. You made it seem much less intimidating.


  16. I absolutely LOVE this article. As a brand new runner, I am always wondering about how hard I should be exerting myself and I end up cutting a lot of my runs short because I push myself too hard. This would be an awesome tool to make sure I am staying in the proper range for my intended workout!

  17. I never invested in a HRM because it sounded so complicated. How did you make it look so easy!?

  18. I was just looking online for a good/inexpensive HRM! I would love to win this but if I don’t I’ll still buy one. So all that use one, should I go with this or do you have other suggestions in the $50 range? I’m a beginner so I don’t need anything fancy.

  19. Lindsey says:

    I have a polar HRM with a chest strap and find it to be incredibly helpful for my interval training! I have been trying to talk my husband into getting one for quite some time now! Just a note that the calories burned are never quite accurate. You are best to subtract 15% of the estimated calories in order to get a more accurate idea.

  20. I don’t have one either, but I have been considering investing in one to improve my running. I would love to try it!

  21. Kristen L says:

    I’ve never used a HRM either. I’d definitely be interested in trying it out.

  22. I ran with a heart rate monitor for a long time but never put it to good use. Now that I want to do that the monitor died. Go figure.

  23. thanks for the great summary on HRM workouts!

  24. 133 would be the top of my easy zone and that seems crazy low. I usually try to keep my HR below 80% on easy workouts. Seems much more manageable.

  25. Kristin says:

    I don’t have a heart rate monitor but it’s something that I’ve actually been thinking about lately! I’m planning on borrowing my moms -granted the battery is easy to replace – to see if it’s something I want to buy in the near future!

  26. I would definitely try it out. Been doing the veg athlete thing for about 6 months and have never felt better!

  27. I’ve never tried running with a HRM, but I’ve been really interested in trying for a while. I sort of hit a wall with my running lately, definitely time to try something new.

  28. Kristin says:

    Funny you should post about this! I was actually going to be borrowing my moms – granted the battery is easy to replace – to see how I like it and possibly invest in my own soon. I’m anxious to see how effective my workouts really are!

  29. I’ve been eying a heart rate monitor for over a year now. (I was actually saving money during Lent last year to buy one, but instead the money went towards my Chicago Marathon entry fee… oops!) I’ve worked with several different types of monitors through my schooling, but have never actually used one to run with myself. But I totally agree that easy isn’t nearly as easy as it should be!

  30. You’re not kidding about zone 1 being embarrassingly slow. When I started with heart rate training, I felt like I was doing the undead shuffle, and my Garmin was still yelling at me to slow the heck down.

    Most people unknowingly train most of their miles in zones 2 and 3, which is junk territory. When I finally started working with a coach, I started pushing zone 4 once or twice a week, and zone 1 for everything else.

    It’s hard to get started, but you learn how each zone feels pretty quickly. Good stuff!

  31. A HRM has been on my wishlist for a while.

    +1 to using a HRM for intelligent training. The body does not know interval, threshold, or easy paces. It only knows intensity, duration and frequency, and a HRM gives you consistent results from your workouts – So long as you trust the formula by which you calculate your max. See

  32. Oooh, this would give me an excuse to run slower?! I love it.

  33. Oh, awesome idea for a giveaway! I’ve never tried to monitor my heart rate because my finances (ahem, lack thereof) have always gotten in the way, but it’s definitely some food for future thought… 🙂

  34. michele says:

    Great giveaway – would love to give it a try!

  35. I’ve never trained with one – my husband had one but it kicked the bucket. This would be an awesome surprise for him and I would love to try it too!! Thanks for the minimalist tips 🙂

  36. I just got the okay today to start running after 8 weeks out with peroneal tendonitis. I start training again tomorrow, and will be doing a whole lot of this easy business to work back up and avoid reinjury.

    And also, March 15th is my birthday!

  37. I used a heart rate monitor while training for my first marathon, then just kind of forgot about it. Now that I’m a much more avid runner and in much better shape, I should really break one out again.

    Thanks Matt for this great post!

  38. Great article about HRM. Another great tool to improve our fitness.

  39. Would love to be able to try a HRM, it sure would help if I could win one!

    Thanks, Nicki

  40. Christina says:

    Thanks for writing this! Spelling out the benefits makes sense. I only started running a year ago (and could barely make it 2 blocks!) and finished my first half marathon in November. The two biggest indicators I’ve experienced for tracking my progress is (1) appetite and (2) my asthma. I’ve had asthma all my life, and at the peak of my training, lungs were in great shape! I would love to take this to the next level and incorporate heart rate during my workout to get to the ‘ideal slow’ and ‘ideal max’ paces.

  41. Wow! What an opportunity! Thanks Matt!

    I love paying attention to my heart rate during intervals. Really helps me get in the zone, if y’know what I mean. 😉

  42. Debbie Anbinder says:

    It would be grand to win the Polar heart rate monitor. I train with all my ability, and it would be beneficial, and fun, to know if I am training at the correct/healthy levels. Thank you! debbie

  43. I am just starting to learn about training with heart rate monitors. It seems like it is pretty beneficial I just have to get started.

  44. PickmePickmePickme!!! I love Polar, and miss it since someone stole my strap when I left it unattended in the gym locker room. I still have the watch but the battery died, so it’s time to start fresh with a new Polar HRM!

  45. I’d love to use a HR monitor during my spin classes – it sure feels like I’m working hard!

  46. I’m new to running; I became interested from reading this blog. I’m hoping to run in my first 5k in May and I would love to win this HRM to learn more about what I’m doing and how to do it right.

  47. Great stuuf and you are so right when you first try traing with HR your easy or base runs are usually way to fast. Just stick with it.


  48. Nadia Jaber says:

    As a newbie, I would welcome any help in figuring out if I am doing things correctly!

  49. Jennifer W. says:

    Love, live this blog!!

    Would LOVE to win!

  50. just started really training and running more seriously and would love a chance to win a heart monitor!Thanks 🙂

  51. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my running ever since I started HR training with my Garmin. I would love a basic HR monitor to use for cross training and other indoor workouts.

  52. Nice post, well explained. Would like to try one.

  53. Great stuff for the HR newbies! I used a HR monitor for years and still do. However, I pretty much know where I am at now based on my rate of perceived exertion. The biggest help for me now is that with a HR monitor I can easily tell if I am over-trained and need to back off. That happens much more easily now that I am 40! The biggest bonus of growing old is that my rest days more closely match my available time to train!

  54. I don’t have a heart rate monitor, so I don’t have a favorite workout. However, I do a lot of indoor cycling classes and the instructor often refers to her heart rate monitor and what percentage of our max heart rate we should be at. I would love to have a HRM and be able to see where I am at and know when to push harder!

  55. Thanks for the great ingo~

  56. I have all kinds of funky heart rate issues as a result of chemo, so I wear a heart rate monitor always when I exercise, regardless of what kind of exercise — I can easily hit 90-95% doing core or lower body strength training, and I have to run/bike VERY slowly so as not to max out. It’s a process, and I’m alive to do it, so I don’t complain much.

    The monitor I had just recently died, so getting a free new one would be fabulous 🙂

  57. I don’t seem to get a max HR that is any different from my 220 – age calculation on the page you linked regardless of the input for resting heart rate.

    Am I doing something wrong?

  58. Great article! back in my running days (going on 7 years ago now…) I never trained with out a HRM it was like a 2nd skin and I felt naked racing witout wearing it.

    I have been procrastinating buying a HRM to train for cycling – it’s hard enough as it is!

  59. Jode Boldt says:

    I have always been intimidated by heart rate monitors, but I have been recently recommited to my health & running I know this is a great way to do it right. Your guide makes it seem easy to understand the monitor use. I would love to try it out.

  60. i´ve never ever run with a heart rate monitor but have always wanted to.

  61. I like to nerd out looking at my heart rate vs. pace and elevation graphs off of my GPS watch after a run. I definitely pay more attention to heart rate when I’m doing something intense (intervals, hills, etc.) and neglect the strap when I’m just doing an easy or routine run, which I know I shouldn’t. I’d like to get my heart rate down on the easy runs too, so I’ll start using it more.

    I’d love to win this one as a surprise for my running buddy, so that we could nerd out on the data together…and improve, of course. 🙂

  62. I would use one for the reason you stated: just to develop a natural feel of how fast I should be running so eventually I wouldn’t need it all the time.

  63. Timmy Mac says:

    I’ve always been curious about using a monitor, but I’m also fairly skeptical, since there’s a guy in my spin classes who wears one and has for years, and as near as I can tell, he’s as slow as he ever was and probably 40 pounds fatter.

    To be honest, I’m sure that has nothing to do with the monitor, but I wanted to enter and needed something to say. But seriously, who goes to 3 spin classes a week and gains weight?

  64. Heather says:

    I would love to have a heart rate monitor to help get me started and on track.

  65. I use a heart rate monitor regularly on the bike and run and I wish I could do so in the pool too! It is an awesome way to tract fitness and make sure I do not go crazy on easy days. After 8 years of loyal service, my heart rate monitor just died on me so count me in on this give away. Garmin, Sutto, and Polar are by far the best brands in my humble opinion.

  66. Natalie A. says:

    What a great giveaway! I’ve always wanted to try one.

  67. I’ve thought it would be interesting to run with a heart rate monitor. I’ve been taught to keep going ’til it feels like your heart is going to burst and then push that much harder hehehe.

  68. When I first started running, I would not leave the house without a heartrate monitor strapped to my chest. I am trying to be more open minded now, and leave it at home sometimes, but I still love having the information. (I’m such a data nerd)

    The one thing I love that I have seen lately, is that as I have been running more, I am able to stay at a good heartrate, rather than going PAST my max because I dont have the endurance. It makes me smile.

  69. Margaret says:

    I am crossing my fingers in hopes of winning the heart rate monitor. Sounds very interesting – I am checking with the library for Heart Rate Training for the Complete Idiot. I must say, I am not thrilled about the title. Couldn’t it be ignorant or something like that…

  70. I’ve been debating whether or not to get a hrm, so this was a great post! and if i could win one, that would be icing on the cake 🙂

  71. i love my garmin and i never train without it. even if i’m not actively watching it during my workout, i like to upload the data later and see what was going on.

  72. I have never used one before. I would love to start training with one.

  73. Jessica Davis says:

    I never realized until fairly recently the point of tracking your heart rate during a run unless you are pregnant or have some health condition. I have been nervous to ever really care about anything but speed. I am interested to see if making myself slow down for Easy Runs will make me faster in the long run…just need a hrm to do it. 🙂 Shameless.

  74. I’ve always kind of balked at heart rate monitors but you bring up some good points. Especially going to hard on “easy days” hmmmm…think I’d like to try one out

  75. Vanessa says:

    I’ve never used one, but I’ve been dying to have one. I know it would help me with my training so much. I’m training for a marathon right now and I know it would help on my easy long runs (to keep heart rate down) and my threshold pace on semi hard days. This is an amazing giveaway!

  76. pick me pick me!!

  77. Great post! The husband and I were just talking about how to know how fast/slow to run. He generally runs too fast, and I probably run too slow. I think we need a HR monitor!

  78. I would really love to win this for my husband. He has started to run with me and needs all the encouragement I can give him. He has told me many times he wants one. Anything to keep him running with me.

  79. Meredith says:

    I love my heart rate monitor (though it broke. or ran out of batteries or something). It’s great for cross training. And matt is right about easy running days being REALLY easy!

  80. Mary Ellen Reimers says:

    I had one, but the battery died, so I haven’t used one in two years! I’d love to win one!

  81. I don’t have a favorite heart rate monitor workout … because I don’t have a heart rate monitor, but I’d love to win one!
    And I’d like to see how my heart does … and to give it all the help I can. I owe it big time! It carried me through a medical trauma that the docs said most people don’t live through. It was after receiving severe injuries in an accident. The docs also didn’t know if I would ever walk again … I was thrilled to be able to get back to running about 4 years post-accident.

  82. michelle says:

    Thanks for the great info! I used to use my HRM during cycle classes and haven’t used it in awhile. Great reminder that easy days are WAY easier than we think. Using my HRM definitely made the time pass much more quickly.

  83. michelle says:

    Thanks for the great info. I haven’t used my HRM in awhile and this is a great reminder of how to use it in a very simple way. Love the suggestion that our easy days should be way easier than we think. I have found this to be so true!

  84. I’ve always wanted to try a monitor, though I do find whenever I have something to look at (GPS, watch, etc.) I can’t stop looking at it throughout my entire workout and it ends up making the whole thing seem ages longer. Anyone else have that problem? Any suggestions?

  85. KinHASH says:

    This kind of stuff makes running really addicting for me. I love how everything has to do with paying really close attention to your body! I used to think it was kind of bogus, but now that I’m running more I’m becoming a convert. In the words of S. Colbert, “heart rate monitor please!”

  86. I would LOVE to win a HRM… I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries recently in between marathons and this would definitely help to get me back in the game! 🙂

  87. vind wagner says:

    thanks for all the great info!

  88. Thanks Matt! I have been thinking about training with a HRM for some time, however it just seems complicated, and expensive. Most of my triathlon training resources speak extensively about % of this and % of that, along with a bunch of math and intensity calculations. It seems that I should try it out eventually, maybe it will help advance my training, who knows? If I win one, I guess I will find out. Thanks NMA:)

  89. right now i use a is a little too bulky and cumbersome though….

  90. My kids would have to bring some snacks and books for my runs if I had one of those!

  91. Love the blog — has inspired me to return to my more vegetarian roots. As for a heart-rate monitor, I’ve always been against them for the reasons you gave above, but also should probably try one for all the reasons you also gave above. (crosses-fingers)

  92. Valerie says:

    I don’t currently use a heart rate monitor, so I don’t have a favorite workout. However, I look forward to making one! I hope I win!

  93. I would love an HRM. Used to have one a long time ago, and lately I noticed I’ve been having trouble pacing myself! This would be a great incentive.

  94. We used to use HRMs in rowing every once in awhile (occasionally in conjunction with wattage outputs on the rowing machine, for added science fun), but I’ve never run with one. Would love to try it!

  95. Always nice to have complicated topics broken down into simple terms. Thanks for the very helpful post!

  96. I use the chest strap monitor with my Garmin 305, but I’d love to have a heart rate monitor I could use on the treadmill!

  97. I’ll run in happy circles if I win this generous giveaway! 🙂

  98. thanks for the info- having a HRM would make my runs more fun, definitely! 🙂

  99. I’ve never had a heart rate monitor when working out- that’s an interesting approach!

  100. Ryan Wachter says:

    I am in the middle of your marathon training plan for my first marathon on may 1st.
    Thanks for all your help.

  101. I recently found out I’m expecting and would love to get one to monitor my HR so that it doesn’t get too high! I would also love to test it out on some tempo runs!

  102. I had a heart rate monitor about ten years ago. I became obsessed and I wore it everywhere I went, checking my heart rate as I walked or ran up a flight of stairs. I’d even in sleep in it sometimes and check it as soon as I woke up (48 resting heart rate at 18). I loved it and was so sad when it finally broke. I would love to see how my heart rate has changed over the last ten years.

  103. Thanks for the great post and for simplifying training with a HRM. I have avoided it, because I didn’t like tracking so many different kinds of workouts. I love the “easy” days, “hard” days concept. Simple. Doable.

  104. Thank You for the simplified version of HR-training. I’m eager (probably too eager) to significantly improve my current marathon PR. Thus, any insight that might help me in that quest is MUCH appreciated!! 🙂

  105. It’s nice to check in with heart rate periodically to compare how your body is running compared to how you feel overall. A monitor sure would make it easier.

  106. I’m trying to stick to my running goals as best as possible this spring, but I’ve made some small changes since I just found out I’m pregnant! A heart rate monitor would be an awesome tool to help me keep up with all this

  107. I have to say that I really enjoy heart rate monitors. It’s kind of like a motivator for me. It’s not that I take every spec of info. & rely on just that, to me it’s more like a guide. It’s a great way to gage your own body & intensity level.

  108. caroline says:

    a heart rate monitor would be great for my next half marathon training i’ve got coming up! thanks for the awesome article and fingers crossed! 🙂

  109. would love a HRM! getting into distance trail running and this seems like a good training tool.

  110. Jennifer Segadelli says:

    Very helpful, thanks!

  111. Jon Weisblatt says:

    I know it’s a good idea, but I already beep enough between my metronome and the countdown timer on my watch for water sips. Of course, one can never make too many noises, so I’d give anything a shot. I’ve just started training for another marathon and it would be nice to try to break 4 hours again, so any advantage available, I’ll take. Anyways, I’m too cheap to buy one but I’d gladly take a free one.

  112. Michele says:

    hmmm would love to try this!

  113. Daley Speer says:

    Great article. I’ve been running 31 years, would look to win the heart rate monitor.

  114. I’ve been looking into investing in a heart rate monitor for a while now. I find that I suffer from almost not ability to run at different speeds. Even during my longer runs, I’m either running at full speed or not at all and that can’t be a good thing!

  115. Nathaniel says:

    A HR monitor is a good way to see trends. Hopefully at certain RPE you can notice that your HR will go down over time. Thanks for the giveaway.

  116. This would be a great addition to my training plan =)

  117. Eric S. says:

    I’ve thought about using a heart monitor, but I still can’t program the VCR!

  118. Great article Matt, I have never used one but I have read some thing that have definitely made me want to give it a shot. This included. I would love to be considered for your giveaway!

  119. I don’t have a favorite heart rate monitor because I don’t have a heart rate monitor. But if you have one you’re giving away….

  120. This would be great. I’m basically starting from scratch this spring, since I just had a baby and I’d love to have an accurate idea of how hard I’m training.

  121. I want!

  122. Thanks for the post today. I have been thinking about buying a heart rate monitor for a long time. I think it is time to try it!

  123. Matt, thanks for another great blog post. 🙂

  124. Interested to see how many of my workouts are actually junk miles… I’m guessing probably a lot!

  125. Thanks, Matt. You make a really good point about running “easy” runs too hard. I was just thinking about this today when I went out for a recovery run and ended up running the last two miles too fast for my own good. HRMs certainly keep us honest!

  126. I’ve been training for my first half marathon since the end of January and have been following this blog for even longer since I’m veg. I have really enjoyed training and would love to continue running with a heart rate monitor 😉

  127. I just started using a HRM and LOVE it! I wish I would’ve had one during my marathon training last year. My husband wants one now, so hopefull I can win one for him! Love your blog, btw!

  128. Maureen says:

    So glad I found your site! Saw a couple of your t-shirts during the WDW Marathon. I just started HRM training, and I was definitely running my “easy” runs way too hard!

  129. brian Missildine says:

    Interesting…if I work out at 65-70 percent, I am not even breathing heavy.

  130. Just started reading this site and am loving the chia and the quinoa energy bars, definitely going to be trying those soon.

    Def love HRM’s, but it’s been years since I’ve had one, but I used to use it for tennis. Trying to get back running and all I’m having is pain pain pain and barely getting any progress, but sticking in there trying to keep going.

  131. Awesome!

    I train with a heart rate monitor all the time, and it is so true. I am embarrassingly slow on my “easy” days! It is awesome to know the data, even if you do nothing else but high-five yourself for the awesome resting heart rate. Pretty fun!

  132. New to running and a free HRM is a step in the right direction.

  133. Thx for this article and thx for the whole blog!

  134. I think the hardest part about heart rate training is what you mentioned – slowing down to that true “easy pace”. But just because you can go faster doesn’t always mean you should 🙂

  135. Hey thanks for this article mr. NMA!
    Please enter me in the drawing or HRM..cheers kerry

  136. Glad to see this post. I perform interval training each morning on the treadmill and plan to go walking during lunch when the weather breaks in Chicago. I’d love to see my heart rate while I am going full speed without having to touch the treadmill with my hands. Interval training is the way to go!

  137. I’d love the Polar HR Monitor. I need to stop running junk miles!

  138. I’ve never used a heart rate monitor except during cardiac rehab last year and theirs was way not minimalist. It did everything but take blood samples. Would love to be able to use one during my training.

  139. Kristen says:

    Would love to know more about this!

  140. Fishback Boy says:

    Nobody licks my HRM!

  141. b Lewis says:

    I feel like I have been running junk miles the entire time i have ran!

  142. Mark Clegg says:

    Thanks for keeping it simple. I just got my wife one for her 29th b-day! She is uber-excited.

  143. Courtney says:

    I loved this post, because I’ve been looking into HRMs for a few months. I’m 4 months pregnant & am having difficulty figuring a good spot for my “new pace” to settle. So far, all I can say for sure is that it’s much, much slower!!

  144. Deborah says:

    Fascinating! I’ve had a lot of questions about this very topic in the last couple months as I’ve been trying to figure out if HR is realy important in relation to running but nobody has been able to answer them. Thanks for all the relevant info.

  145. I use a heart rate monitor to record all my runs, and recently configured my (pregnant) wife’s HR monitor so she is warned when her heart rate goes above a certain limit.

    The Karvonen formula is not for determining Max HR, it is simply a better way of determining training zones. Most coaches call it % of Residual HR (or HR Reserve).
    Residual-HR = HRmax – HRrest
    So a workout calling for 60% intensity implies:
    HR = HRrest + 0.60*(HRmax – HRrest)

    As for Maximum Heart Rate:
    There are many formulae available for determining Max HR, but the large std. deviation on most of them makes them pretty useless to calibrate training. e.g. for me (36 yr old Male) most formulae predict a HRmax ranging from 181 to 186. But my Maximum HR as measured with a monitor while running hill repeats (or my recent hilly 5k) is at least 197. So if I were to use the predicted Max HR I would be doing most of my workouts in the wrong HR zone.

    The easiest way to determine your maximum HR is to strap on a heart rate monitor and run hill repeats after warming up or undergo a stress test in a lab.

    Also your maximum heart drops a bit as your conditioning improves.

    For more reference:

  146. Hi there, thanks for the advice about heart rates. I don’t ever give much mind to my heart rate, except for the occasions on an elliptical at my campus gym.

    I just completed my first 5k.. just under 35 minutes and I felt so energized afterwards! I am looking forward to future race accomplishments as well.

    Great article!

  147. I would love to have a heart monitor. At age 66 it would seem very useful in regulating my workouts.

  148. i personally enjoy training based on pace rather than HR, but just moi,

  149. I’ve been using the HRM along with my GPS-based sports watch, but not really doing anything with the data. I do monitor my resting HR, but it appears that I could be doing much more. Thanks for the article.

  150. My sister and I are running our first race next weekend — a half marathon — and this site has been a great learning tool. Thanks for the heart rate monitor tips, I’ve never used one but this made me think twice about it.

  151. Thanks for the “minimalist” review of HRMs Matt. I’ve read several reviews of different hardware but there were so many conflicting reports of accuracy, reliability, ease of battery replacement, etc that I am reluctant to invest in one.

  152. Interesting article Matt. I have tried using a HRM but I never really knew what I was looking for and the strap ended up brusing me, so I lost interest. Reading this article has sparked my interest and I just might have to try it again. The term “Junk Miles” scared me and the term, “Burn Fat for Fuel” excited me.

  153. I don’t own a heart rate monitor, but I’ve been eying the Polar F6 for a few months now.

  154. Great post! I ran my first marathon last year and this year I am training for my first half (yes I know I did it the wrong way round!). I recently started looking at heart rate monitors online thinking vaguely that they would be a good idea at this stage but haven’t looked at anything on how you’re actually supposed to use them. I like your simple approach, thank you!

  155. I have been looking into heart-rate monitors for a while now (one of the Roadmap interviews mentioned them quite favorably, as I recall), and now I’m completely sold.

  156. I love using a heart rate monitor! I don’t focus on it during the workout, but I love to see the results after. Mine broke though 🙁

  157. I’ve wanted to try out a HRM for awhile now but it always seemed a little too complicated to bother, thanks for breaking it down!

  158. I’ve also found Joe Friel’s Total Heart Rate Training to be very helpful.

  159. Using a heart rate monitor helped me during the Rock and Roll half marathon last summer in Chicago. Knowing when my hr got to high and I needed to walk at times was helpful!

  160. Maybe if I had a working one I’d give it a try again.

  161. Getting off a long recovery from a stress fracture, might as well start training right.

  162. Melissa W. says:

    I was thinking about this article this morning after a person driving a Jeep intentionally tried to mow me down. This was in my quiet, quaint neighborhood at 5:30a.m.- not a busy street. And he saw me…martians could have seen me I was so lit up. Jerk.

    My thoughts, in order, were:
    1. He’s moving towards me. Still moving towards me. Still…(yes, I was in the road, but about as close to the curb as one can get without running ON the curb).

    2. JUMP! (I hit the snowbank and started swearing just as the right tire hit the curb I’d just been moving towards…).

    3. MOTHERF***ER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    4. *BIG SIGH* I’m safe. I made it.

    5. MOTHERF***ER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    6. Man, I wish I had a heart rate monitor right now. I think I’m at max plus!

    I don’t suggest this as a regular workout.

  163. After taking a fitness testing clas and being spoiled having access to heart rate monitors it made me want to have one of my own!

  164. I just discovered this site and love it already! I’m new to running and am in search of a heart rate monitor. Crossing my fingers that I win!

  165. Thanks for this post! It’s great to be reminded that it’s OK to run slow once in awhile. I get so caught up in getting my miles in as fast as possible to get them done. Time to slow down for my recovery runs!

  166. I would love to do some heart rate training. Thanks for the tips!

  167. For quite a while I’ve been thinking on try a HRM. But after reading your “minimalist” post I want to try it! … I’m wondering how my training can improve from it?!

  168. I’ve wanted a HRM forever! I’m all about gadgets when it comes to health and exercise. Not very minimalist I suppose…

  169. I’ve never used one but would like to WIN one.

  170. I would love to play around with this is super-nerd fashion to track all sorts of fun data!

  171. John Adams says:

    Very cool, thanks for the interesting read!

  172. I am a retunring athlete with goals of completing a full Ironman next year and a half-Ironman plus a marathon this year. I have a goal of losing 30 pounds in the process and am already 12 pounds towards my goal. I have been looking into HRMs as right now I do it by feel. Feel being, “My legs hurt”, “My legs are about to fall off”, and “I should cancel tomorrow”. Probably not the best plan….

    Also, huge shout out to the energy bars. I have been making them the last month or so and they rock. As a new vegetarian (well, pescatarian really), I have found your site quite motivational and am rally digging all the new energy from the increased plant intake. Powered by Plants, new motto.

  173. Heart rate monitor: sounds fun.

  174. Brittany Calvert says:

    My boss and co-worker have been encouraging me to purchase a HR monitor while training for my first marathon. I’d love to win one!! 🙂

  175. A heart rate monitor would be so neat to have!

  176. I joined a gym a few weeks ago and as part of my intake we did a fitness evaluation and used a heartrate monitor for part of it. I’ve been thinking about getting one to help with the running/cardio portions of my training.

    This post is another drop in the “yes” bucket.

  177. I’m running my first marathon this month and am glad to have stumbled on this site! I’ve been considering getting a hrm but never knew how to actually use it in training.

  178. Awesome giveaway! I’ve been wanting my dad to get a HRM so he can make sure he’s not pushing himself too hard on runs.

  179. Just found your blog, can’t wait to do some reading 🙂

  180. I came across your website last night when I did a search for going vegan. I was amazed at the amazing posts you have written about. I feel good about making this switch and maintaining my mileage.

    I’ve heard great things about training with a HRM, but have yet to try it out myself. I’m certain that most of my training must be in the “junk” zone. I was on a mission to run a marathon in all 50 states before I turn 30, so I’ve run 3 marathons in 3 weekends or back to back marathon on one weekend and a 50-mile ultra the next. I’d drive all over the place and do minimal planning. I would run a PR every marathon. Since turning 25 and getting married, I’ve decided to become more intentional in the things I do. Training with a HRM would be a great beginning.

  181. I’m definitely motivated by numbers and I know being able to track workouts in this way would make a huge difference!

  182. Thanks for the clear explanation. I’m new to running and looking for ways to improve my fitness and speed – this sounds like a good way to track my fitness and understand my body better.
    I really enjoy reading your blog – I came across it when wondering if it’s healthy to be a vegetarian runner so you helped answer my question!

  183. Alyssa Alegre says:

    Very informative article. I have been debating getting one as well – now I am convinced! Hope I get one!

  184. This is crazy, I was just looking at heart rate monitor’s because I know how much it will help my training. I know I need to work on my easy miles to help maximize my tougher workouts with a better recovery period.

  185. Brad Ball says:

    I just gave away my last Polar HRM, now I’m without any.

  186. I got my dad a polar HR monitor for Christmas and he really likes it, it would be great to have one for myself too!

  187. heart rate monitors are an excellent tool for working out. I think they are a definite must if you want to really see where you are training at.

  188. jAson wEgman says:

    I love the Give Away posts!!! Haven’t won anything yet but I’ll keep trying because the prizes are always so fun and useful!!! My fingers are really crossed this time though as I’ve been looking around at picking one of these up.
    Thanks for the minimalist intro Matt!

  189. What perfect timing! We joined spinning classes and the teacher always refers to being at certain percentages of our target heart rate. I don’t know how to do this without one of those heart rate monitors so this could be perfect timing for me.

    BTW, I found your site when I ran a local 5K this past month and a woman was wearing your t-shirt so I had to check out the URL. What an AWESOME website you have!!! SOOO much good information. 🙂

  190. This is a great tool for runners training on their own, trying to design their own workouts. so helpful, thank you!

  191. I have a watch that does measure heart rate and I on occasion use the equipment built ins on the treadmill or elliptical. But I’m always skeptical about the accuracy of both and would like to give this a try if I win. Thank you for the giveaway!!

  192. I LOVE my Polar HRM. It’s old and I need to get a new one. 🙁 I cannot stress enough how much my working out changed once I got a HRM. I actually learned how to run the RIGHT way (within my range) because of my Polar.

  193. Thanks for the giveaway! I’ve been thinking about getting a heartrate monitor to make sure my easy days are easy enough and see what happens during difficult workouts!

  194. Cellabella says:

    Thanks for the workout suggestions, I definitely get stuck in a running rut and end up plodding along. A HRM would be a great opportunity to change my routine and perhaps enhance my running.

  195. I totally agree with that! I actually started training with a HRM just by doing easy and hard workouts. I took me 8 weeks before I got into more complex training intervals, and I soon realized that it’s way more straightforward than it looks.

  196. When I started my weight loss journey, one of the first things I invested in was a HRM so I could 1) get a more accurate caloric burn vs. what the cardio machines at the gym said 2) so I could hit the desired HR zone.
    I think having the HRM pushed me to work a little harder AND it helped me understand the intensity a bit better.

    Now that I have long since reached my weight loss goals (100+lbs gone! yay) and I train with a different goal in mind, I still rely on my HRM to help with those workouts!

    If I were to win this giveaway, I would actually give the HRM to my mother, who just started HER OWN weight loss journey and I know that this would help her just as mine helped me!


  197. oh, so I rambled on and on and did not mention my favorite HR based workout! It’s actually NOT my favorite, I hate it, it hurts but it’s very beneficial!

    Lactate Threshold Intervals on the Indoor (bike) Trainer:
    10 mins warm up
    then 10 mins at 100-105% LT (for me it’s 164)
    2 mins recovery
    repeat the LT Intervals x 4

    10 mins cooldown (ex spin) and then stretch 🙂
    Holding this kind of intensity on the bike really helps to build up endurance


  198. Matt,

    Thanks for the article and this giveaway! This HRM sure would simplify my method for taking my HR manually while on the run. Hope I win!


  199. Wow, this is great! I would love to have one.

  200. Brian Hagan says:

    I have been running for one year now. I ran my first marathon last December and really had a tough time during the final 6 or 7 miles. I have been trying to train my body to use fat instead of glycogen, because that is what I have read endurance athletes do. In order to do that, you really need to make sure your runs are below the lactate threshold. I have no idea if I am running slow or fast enough, so I would love to start training with a HRM. By the way… I love reading everyone’s comments!

  201. i feel like whenever i run (be it a tempo or easy or recovery or whatever) my HR is always the same. it’d be nice to know if that’s true or not (i just my pulse to estimate it). i suspect it isn’t true but it’s frustrating to take my pulse and always get roughly the same number!

  202. I really like early AM metobolic bike trainer workouts where I warmup for 10 mins. and then keep my heart rate around tempo range for 20-30 mins., which is hard zone to judge for most. My HRM died recently, so it would be great to win a new one to keep me in my tempo zone.

  203. Alison Swett says:

    I would certainly be interested. I have been running regularly for two years now and feel like I need to change things up a bit. If I don’t do that I tend to get bored and move to another activity. A heart monitor might challenge me in ways that I haven’t been lately.

  204. I’d love to start doing heart rate training. Right now I just push myself a couple of times a week when breathing gets hard.

  205. Leslie Morris says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while. I’m new to running and new to being vegan most of the time (vegetarian for 6 years). My husband and I just signed up for our first 5k and we’re really excited about it. I’ve been working out for a few years on and off. I’ve always thought about buying a heart rate monitor. Now you’ve convinced to buy one. That is of course unless you give me one. (o:

  206. kathleen o'shea says:

    I have been thinking about getting myself a heart rate monitor for my birthday! It would be so much better to win one! Thanks for the informative blog!

  207. I’ve never used a heart rate monitor before, but I really love doing body pump classes, and I think a heart rate monitor could be a good addition to that workout. That way I would really know how hard I’m pushing myself (and also see improvement)!

  208. Courtney says:

    I’ve been thinking about getting a HRM for awhile now. I am doing the Shamrock half on Sunday and training for USAT Collegiate Nationals (4 weeks from now! EEK!) My training partners have been on me to get one so I will actually take easy days and completely recover… I guess I will get myself one next time I go to the store!

  209. I’ve never used a heart rate monitor before (well, beyond the one on the treadmill that is, I think, questionably accurate!) I’d love to accurately monitor my fitness!

  210. Leaving My Comment! I am just now getting back into running from a long winters break and this would be a great addition to help me make the most of my runs. Thanks and Have a Great One!

  211. I would be interested to find out how hard I’m really working

  212. I have been wanting a heart rate monitor for a very long time for this exact reason. Thanks for the great post, Matt!

  213. Great post on HR monitors – right on with your assessment. Used to use one but then had it stolen at the gym 🙁 Ready to resume monitoring! 🙂

  214. I always wanted to try heart rate monitors… But I am very much a minimalist. This has given me new motivation 🙂

  215. Christie says:

    Thanks for the simple post on something that sounds very confusing at first. The first time I read about it, I gave up halfway through the article because I just couldn’t imagine trying to do that all at once. So, I think I’ll give it another try 🙂

  216. I’d give it another try if I had a free one!

  217. Oooh, I’ve been wanting an indoor HRM. I just started using my Garmin monitor outside and it’s fascinating!

  218. Thanks for the post. The simple calculations and rules of thumb sound like a great way to get started. I’m looking forward to integrating this into my current training plan.

  219. OOh! I would love to win a heart rate monitor! I’m training for my first marathon right now, and this would be so helpful.

  220. Michelle says:

    Thought about using these quite a number of years ago. Always sounds like a neat tool, but in the end I keep thinking it’s a gimmick and I don’t really have the money to spend! Thanks for the article. Love your blog.

  221. I would love to win a heart rate monitor as well. I hope I’m not to late to enter!

  222. John Walter says:

    I’m a little late in posting this, but wanted to thank you. I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, I’ve been both a runner and a vegetarian (well ovo-lacto-pesky) for about 3 years now. I’d never run with a heart-rate monitor before, this post really got me thinking about it, I went and bought one two days later. I’ve been reading Stu Mittleman and knew all about running slower, blah, blah, blah, but it wasn’t until I did it again with the heart rate monitor (ran slowly that is) that it really kicked-in. I had a truly “WOW” moment, what was supposed to be a 5k run turned into a 9k run, and now my goals for my half-marathon have completely changed. Now instead of running against the clock, I’m going to ignore the time completely, run slow, keep my heart rate low and enjoy the run!! Thanks!

  223. I am wondering if it is possible to run too slowly on recovery days and not get the aerobic benefit. I have a chart from Runners World that says to run at 65-70% max HR on easy/recovery days. Is running below the 65% line not beneficial? Thanks!

  224. I’m a bit confused about my HR. back-story: I’ve been running low (14mi/week) mileage for the past 14 years and after training for 12 weeks I’m ready to run a half marathon on Sunday. Usually my HR is around 150-175 on my runs depending on how I’m pushing. I don’t know my HR max but I’m a 33yo female and according to my monitor my HR has gotten as high as 198 on training runs w/o problem or stress. I feel strong, fast and ready to race (almost…). Last Thursday I ran a 5k and came in with 23:08 on a pretty hilly and windy course. After I downloaded my info, my HR showed that at the top of the first hill (which i ran too fast) my HR was 217 and stayed that high for about a minute. It then dropped to 165 and went up and down a bit like usual. At another point it shot up to 227! Is this even possible? The rest of the time it was ave. around 175 or so. I was pushing the whole race but not too much. I never felt dizzy and I was only mildly nauseous just before the finish (when my HR was lower). What the heck? Is it possible my HR can really go that high? My HRM hasn’t been giving crazy readings at any other time.

  225. Thanks for the great article. I personally have been using my HRM on my Trek Speedconcept, but haven’t bought a watch to run with (unless of course I’m running and my gorgeous husband is riding next to me keeping an eye on it for me.)

  226. It’s great for two more things: 1.) It is an early warning system for illness and overtraining. A quick check of your heart rate (as long as you know your “normal”) will tell you whether the blah you feel is a cold or just shirking.

    2.) If you have asthma, it can help you learn to not be scared of being out of breath. Pre-treat, work out, watch the numbers.

    • Great tip about noticing if you’re getting sick! I’ve heard that if you had a few drinks the night before, it’s very apparent in your increased heart rate, so the illness idea makes sense.

  227. Wow, this has been really helpful- I’ve been shopping around for a heart rate monitor but was unsure whether it was going to be a frivolous expense. This has definitely convinced me that it would be a good purchase, but it would be wonderful to win one- thanks for the opportunity!

  228. Aranyaani says:

    i am unable to stay consistent with my exercise routine because i am always overdoing it (as a result of which i am unable to do anything the next day- which in turn makes me feel low). a heart rate monitor could help me stick to my routine and not get discouraged as i do now.

  229. I could really use this heart rate monitor. I have recently started back up and this would really help meet my goal.

  230. These are good points. I recently started running for fitness. I prefer trails (off-road) and want to see maps of where I’m running so I am shopping for a GPS watch. Then I see all of these HRM straps and wonder if it is worth the extra 50 bucks… It seems like it might be.

  231. Sounds just what I need. Looking forward to win one and take it to Mexico where we are missionaries using wilderness and sports activities.

  232. Kalgaon says:

    I have had the WORST luck with heart rate monitors. Starting Crossfit two weeks ago, I’d really like to have a working hrm to help keep me motivated. I was just diagnosed with borderline diabetes. Although my two young (3 yr and 7 months) daughters are motivation enough, I want to more seriously track my progress.

  233. Thanks for the info. I am now going to give this a try. It also explains why I did so terrible on both my half marathons.

  234. Jim Jenkins says:

    I thought training with a HR monitor would not let me do anything, as I was told stay in a certain range and that range was only like a few more rates above where I was starting, but you know if you keep in that range and only push yourself a couple times a week, it really does work. You have much better endurance and you are not pushing yourself to the edge at every workout.

  235. Thank you for this post!! I’m going to try out the monitor that came with my GPS two years ago! Not going to lie, it was kind of intimidating….

  236. I just finished 8 years of sprinting, hurdling, and pole vaulting at school, the last 4 in a division 1 university in Pittsburgh. I thought that I would transition effortlessly from the track to the trail, but it has been anything but. I realized that I have no idea what I am doing. I get excited and go fast, and then I can’t keep going. I am wondering if a heart rate monitor would help me to learn to love distance running.

  237. ‘It’s fun to watch your resting heart rate drop as you gain fitness’

    Unfortunately my rest heart beat rate will not slow down. Those that have a high rest heart beat rate (above 80) can’t slow down their heart beat with physical activities, and mine is above 80.
    I’m a bit fat but I have to lose just about 10 kilos. At that point I will already slim.

  238. Thanks for breaking it down. Testing out my new hrm this evening!

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