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Pros and Cons of Heart Rate Training

Do you ever wonder if you're training too hard or not hard enough when running? If you're not already using it, heart rate training may benefit you. With advancements in technology, heart rate training devices have become popular tools. They are easy to use, are (for the most part) inexpensive and are readily available for anyone. These devices can help human warriors accurately monitor their cardiovascular exertion levels, train at optimal intensities and progress safely when used appropriately.


  • What is heart rate (HR) training?

  • Heart rate training zones

  • How to calculate heart rate training zones

  • Cons of heart rate training

  • Pros of heart rate training

  • Final thoughts

What is Heart Rate Training Heart rate training uses your heart rate, measured in beats per minute (bpm) based on a percentage of your maximal heart rate. Below is the required information that will allow you to find your specific heart rates for five different heart rate training zones : 1. Maximum heart rate 2. Resting heart rate 3. Heart rate reserve 4. Age 5. Desired training intensity zone

Five Heart Rate Training Zones

  • Very Easy - Fat burning zone – 50-60% of heart rate reserve

  • Easy - Basic endurance zone – 60-70% of heart rate reserve

  • Moderate - Aerobic zone – 70-80% heart rate reserve

  • Hard - Anaerobic zone – 80-90% of heart rate reserve

  • Maximum - Red zone – 90-100% of heart rate reserve

How Calculate Heart Rate Training Zones

Step 1: 220 - Age = Max Heart Rate

Step 2: Max Heart Rate - Resting Heart Rate = Heart Rate Reserve

Step 3: (Heart Rate Reserve x Desired Training Intensity %) + Resting HR = HR Training Zone

Example Calculation: Human warrior age 35 with a resting heart rate of 60bpm who wants to train in the Hard/Anaerobic Zone (80-90%).

Step 1: 220 - 35 = 185bpm

Step 2: 185bpm - 60 RHR = 125 HRR

Step 3: 125HRR x 90% + 60bpm = 172bpm

This human warrior must traing at or around 172bpm to train in the Hard/Anaerobic Zone.

To train in the listed intensity zones, your body requires constant feedback from your heart rate and a heart rate training device will do exactly that. However, technology isn't perfect and the Pros and Cons do exist when utilizing heart rate watches.

Heart Rate Training: The Cons 1. Heart Rate Can Lag Because most heart rate monitors include a watch and a strap that “speak” to one another, there can be a lag when transmitting your heart rate. When you suddenly increase your intensity such as going from a jog on flat ground to running up a steep hill, you may not see your peak heart rate on your device until you get over the hill and are already running back on flat ground. 2. Heart Rate Monitors Can be Unreliable While our technology has advanced, technology is not always reliable. The monitor may not be able to provide accurate readings due to too many frequencies from your surrounding environment, body is too cold or too sweaty and cannot transmit information properly or the battery to the device is weak and doesn't have enough juice to track heart rate information. 3. Incorrect Correlation with Your Fitness Level Because heart rate can change due to other factors, the heart rate that is provided may not be a direct correlation with your fitness level. For example, lack of sleep, stress, caffeine and weather can all possibly elevate your heart rate making it harder to determine what is the true cause of an elevated heart rate. Is it the short warm up you just completed or the lack of sleep from the night before causing your heart rate to increase? 4. Can be Costly If you want only a heart rate monitor without the GPS function, that can range from $50-$150. However, if you want a heart rate monitor watch with GPS tracking (which is recommended for runners, triathletes etc.) these watches can start at $100 and go all the way up to $500+. Do your research! 5. Too Much Technology If you are a minimalist, a heart rate watch and strap might just be one too many tools to worry about when preparing for your run.

Heart Rate Training: The Pros 1. Tracking Your Internal Physiology Knowing your heart rate can help you determine if it's acceptable to train or take a rest day. For example, did you wake up, put on the heart rate strap and notice your resting heart rate is higher than usual? That could be a sign of lack of sleep. Another example, you just got off work and as you're preparing for your workout, you again notice that your heart rate is spiked? This could be a sign of stress from your work day. Heart rate monitors can give you the opportunity to pay closer attention to your body whether it is relevant to training or lifestyle. 2. Tracking Progression With heart rate training, you can begin to take notes on your progression. Did you used to run a 5k at an 8 minute pace with a heart rate of 160 bpm but now a month later you are running 5k’s consistently at an 8 minute pace with a heart rate at 140 bpm? This indicates that you're now doing the same workout with less effort and may want to consider pushing harder during your 5k run's when necessary. 3. Tracking Regression On the other hand, heart rate training can also help track regression. Did you used to run a 5k at an 8 minute pace with a heart rate at 140 bpm but are now running a 5k at an 8 minute pace with a heart rate at 160 bpm? This can indicate a sign of over-training and that you may need to take some time to rest and recover. 4. Heart Rate Can Teach Control Heart rate monitoring can help you control your intensity level during your training. This can allow you to complete more purposeful workouts. For example, on recovery run days, you can monitor your watch to confirm your heart rate is in the recovery zone and on speed, interval days you can reassure yourself that you are taking advantage of your training day by pushing your body to its fullest potential to gain maximum benefits from your workout. 5. Training Smarter and Easier Heart rate training will remove any "guess" work and will allow one to train smarter. When it’s an easy recovery day, I know to simply stay within X heart rate zones and when it is a hard day I know to push my efforts and stay within the X heart rate zone.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, heart rate training can be beneficial for some but not for others. Keep in mind, your calculated results are only estimates that can provide a baseline. If you would like more in depth, detailed information on your heart rate training zones and maximal oxygen uptake, the VO2max test is considered the gold standard for the most accurate information. Disclaimer: All information presented and written within this article are intended for informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.


American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 10th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2018.


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