Using a Heart Monitor


By Jere Moore 


Tim Unger, Dana Stetson and all you other hard-training runners can quit reading now. This column is for the joggers/runners who want to elevate their heart rate for 30 minutes three or four times a week just for the health of it. The goal is to tell you to work harder than charts in recreation centers and articles on health pages suggest. This recommendation is based on information from John Parker, Roy Benson and other heart-monitor gurus plus five years as an over-60 runner with a heart monitor.

The first thing you need to do is get a heart monitor. It is the most accurate and easiest way to tell your heart rate as you move along. Most general sources of information recommend a heart rate that is too slow. They say if you are 60 years old, you should get your heart rate up to 96 to 128 beats a minute. I say 124 to 142 unless you are 50 pounds overweight, have not exercised since high school gym class and your doctor says you shouldn’t. Strolling puts your heart rate at 96. The health pages’ rule is to find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 and then jogging at 60 to 80 percent of max. For example, if you are 60 years old, your maximum would be 160 and 60-80 percent would be 96 to 128 beats a minute. That fails to take into consideration your resting heart rate because, even when you are in bed, your heart is pumping around 70 beats a minute, plus or minus depending on your condition.

The first task using the heart monitor gurus’ system is to find your resting heart rate, what it is when you first get up in the mornings. You can count or use your heart monitor. Find your maximum heart rate as before, 220 minus your age, then set your running goal at 60 to 80 percent of the difference between the resting rate and maximum rate. For example, at age 60, your maximum rate would be 160. If your resting rate is 70, subtract that from 160, a difference of 90. Take 60 to 80 percent of 90, which is 54 to 72, and add that back to the resting rate, giving you target rates of 124 to 142.

It sounds complicated but it’s not. Your maximum heart rate can be found more accurately than the 220- age method by a treadmill stress test or by running up a hill a few times as hard as you can. Caution: you should be supervised by professionals when you use this method. Try it, you’ll like it.