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Why Heart rate Monitoring Matters for Marathon or Triathletes?

Heart-Rate-Monitoring

Marathon runners and triathletes are both parts of the endurance sports category. In the early ’90s, heart rate monitoring took the world of sports by storm. Since then, the concept of monitoring heart rate while running marathons or participating in any other endurance sport has only gained popularity. So why is heart rate monitoring so popular? Is it even relevant to the marathon runner, or is it just a fashionable concept? This article will help list out the what’s, who’s and why’s of heart rate monitoring in the world of marathoners and triathletes.

What is the Heart Rate and Heart Rate Monitor?

Before embarking on why heart rate monitoring matters to marathon runners, you should first understand the concept of heart rate and heart rate monitors.

  • Heart rate: It is the number of times your heart beats per minute. It is also known as the pulse. For an average adult, the ideal resting heart rate range is 60 to 100 beats per minute. Your heart rate is affected by a lot of factors like physical exertion, stress, rest, etc. These factors may increase your heart rate like in the case of exercises or even reduce heart rate like when you are resting or sleeping.

Generally, the lower your resting heart rate, the more efficient your heart is at pumping blood, and hence the healthier your heart is. A triathlete, for example, will have a resting heart rate close to 60 beats per minute than an average adult.

  • Heart rate Monitor: A heart rate monitor or HRM is a device that monitors, measures, and displays your heart rate in real-time. This device is generally used for keeping track of your heart rate when undergoing physical exertion like exercising and for medical reasons. They can be optical or electric, depending on the use.

How Does Heart Rate Monitor Work?

Mostly the HRM used for monitoring make use of the following technologies:

  • Electrical: This device makes use of electric impulses to track the heart rate. This is a two-part device. On is strapped on the chest, and the other is the display monitor. The device strapped on the chest is responsible for monitoring the heart rate and sending the reading to the display monitor for you to access and read.
  • Optical: Most of the HRM devices used for monitoring during exercises are wrists wearable and use optical technology. In this, an LED light is used to track your pulse from the vein in your wrist.

Marathons and Triathlons

Before going into further details and you must be wondering what exactly a marathon or triathlon is. These are explained below:

  • Marathon: These are races generally done on roads with an official distance of 42.195 km, which is approx. Twenty-five miles and 385 yards. Ideally covered as a run, the distance can also be covered using a walk/run strategy.
  • Triathlon: This, on the other hand, is a multi-level race. To complete a triathlon, you have to complete three endurance obstacles in a sequence. The most common forms are:
    • Running
    • Swimming
    • Cycling

A triathlon is hence much more demanding and strenuous than a marathon

Heart Rate Monitoring and Endurance

Marathons and triathlons are both endurance sports. When indulging in them, you have to keep track of your vitals. If you don’t, you can end up overexerting yourself. This over-exertion can cause serious harm, injury, and damage to your body.

The main reasons and advantages of heart rate monitoring can be broken up into two parts:

  • Prevention: A very important aspect of HRM is preventing injury and damage. Something as simple as keeping track of your vitals can help you from preventing serious harm to your body. It’s very common for an athlete to suffer from dehydration, muscle lapse, or even heart attacks.

All these can easily be prevented by keeping a tab on your heart rate. The moment your body begins to display signs of fatigue, your heart rate will automatically increase above the normal exertion range giving you the warning to slow down.

  • Training: Aspirants of Marathon and Triathlon runs, especially the beginners, face high motivation but low fitness levels. This combination is highly beneficial since it can help you make quick progress. Under training, here are various facets that require HRM. These are:
    • Maximum Heart Rate: This is referred to as the maximum beats your heart can have per minute without compromising your health. Mayo Clinic lists this as:

MHR = 220 – Your age

When you think of running a marathon or participate in a triathlon, you need to know what your MHR is. This will help you know how far you can push yourself and get the maximum effort out of your body. E.g., Beginners need to target the 60 to 75% of their MHR.

    • Workout Zone: To venture into marathons and triathlons, you need to set your training zone depending upon your level of fitness. These zones define your target efforts, and these efforts are, in turn, assessed through your heart rate. This makes heart rate monitoring essential for your training. The Centre for Disease Control lists the heart rate targets as:
      • For moderate exercise: 64% to 76% of MHR
      • High-Intensity Exercise: 77% to 93% of MHR
    • Steadiness: Every runner, be it beginner, intermediate or advanced, needs to train. And the cornerstone of training is steadiness. You need to train steadily, not erratically. This is only possible when you monitor your heart rate and adjust your training level pace according to keep it steady.
    • Rest and Recovery: Any training and participation need to be followed with appropriate rest and recovery. The resting and recovery periods do not necessarily mean a complete rest from training. You can still train but at a lower intensity. This intensity can only be measured appropriately through an HRM device.

Choosing a good HRM Device

The HRM device required for marathon runners and triathlete are ones which would ideally sport the following features:

  • Lightweight: You must carry the weight of the HRM as you run and indulge in other endurance exercises. So, the lighter it is, the better for you.
  • Convenient: Also, the HRM device should be easily manageable. You should be able to strap it on and not have to worry about it dislodging.
  • Compact: The smaller the device, the easier it is to manage.
  • Accuracy: Your HRM device must give you accurate readings. It is, however, also the biggest challenge faced by HRM devices. The reading depends on your activity state. They need you to stay motionless to be able to give an accurate reading, and this kind of beats the purpose.

However, these days very fancy devices are available in the market for even the diehard triathlon veterans. These devices are almost as accurate as the medical devices used to monitor and test heart rates.

Conclusion

Heart rate monitors give you an objective perspective rather than just relying on your instincts to know when you should stop when to slow down or even speed up. All this information is important information when you foray into the stream of marathons and triathlons. Everyone right from marathon virgins to triathlon veterans needs real-time information to ace that race, and your HRM device helps you with that.

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