Friday, February 10, 2006

Zeke's Paradox

Zeke posted a question to his blog today regarding the issue of using devices such as heart rate monitors and gps in training and racing. Specifically, he was trolling for examples of the positive benefits of using those devices. From the tone of the entry, I would say he is skeptical of the benefits and tends to be more the 'listen to your body' type. Here's my answer.

How can you listen to what your body is telling you if it is speaking a language you don't understand? Well, you can employ a translator, like a heart rate monitor, or you can spend a lot of time (without question time well spent) learning the language. I've done both, and had good results.

I've been using hrms off and on since high school. My first hrm experience was in Pueblo, Colorado during a set of three 1.5 mile repeats. The idea was to run the repeat, then recover to a heart rate of 120 and go on the next repeat, and then, er...repeat. It was the first hrm I had ever used. Pretty simple to operate. Just place your index finger over your opposite wrist right underneath your thumb, then count the number of beats you feel in fifteen seconds. Did it help me somehow? Well, that's debatable. I thought the idea of measuring my physical response and reacting to that measurement was cool. It struck me as very logical. Also, I suppose I had a positive reaction to this heart rate training concept because it was a kick ass workout. I'm sure the course was short, but as a young kid, I believed I had run three 1.5 mile repeats in 7:35 with a 1.5 to 2 minute recovery at 4600 feet of altitude.

Another time I used an hrm extensively was the summer before my final collegiate season of cross country. Almost all of my base training was done at 140-150 bpm, and the hrm really did keep me from going too fast on a lot of my runs. The payoff of the hrm was I could run 80+ miles a week without getting overly tired, and I didn't get injured. I was able to race very well that season and qualified for the NCAA II meet. Maybe if I had been using an hrm during the 12x400 workout I did ten days before nationals, I would have realized that my body was telling me I was an idiot for doing a 12x400 workout ten days before nationals.

Now I'm using a combo gps/hrm on all of my runs for the benefit of knowing how far I have gone and what kind of relative effort I have put in. Also, with the gps, I get hr data that corresponds exactly with the course that I ran. This can range from simply interesting in the case of an easy run to somewhat useful for something like a time trial or a test set, especially if you're comparing repeated courses over time. While I understand the value of listening to what my body and mind are telling me, I like the objective data that I get from the tools. That, and I'm a gadget freak. And I like pretty graphs.


Blogger Mike

Look at you Eric, posting a few times in one week! I wish the Garmin was more Mac friendly, I'd be tempted to buy the new one to update my 201 (check out, they are much smaller now). As it stands, no graphs and no love for the Mac runner. I was really big on HRM's in my cycling days, when I would ride with a pack regularly and often get sucked into going too hard. I think they are quite useful, but I honestly haven't put one on in 3 years.

Speaking of graphs, have you thought about posting your log? I'd be interested to see how you stack up the big mileage weeks.

2/16/2006 05:31:00 PM  

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