Among the many features of my beloved Garmin 910 GPS running watch is a heart rate monitor function. I have not used a HRM for many years. When they were fairly new and novel I used them, but did not really apply it in a beneficial manner to aid my training and it was a function rather wasted on me. I plan and plot all my runs on my Garmin, all the intervals sessions, running technique drills, hills sessions, long runs, they are all charted on there, I upload every single training run and event on the Garmin training centre and spend too much time staring at my stats.
All of the elite runners whose blogs I follow, whose progress I examine, advice I take and whose books I read do make some reference to the use of a heart rate monitor (HRM). I decided that as I had all the kit, I’d start wearing it and at the same time, I’d explore how to derive the most benefit from it.
My job is not to show people how to use a HRM. There are many far more qualified individuals and companies out there who can advise you on the ways to use a HRM effectively. I have been using mine with all my runs for a couple of months and something else has emerged that advances it’s effectiveness for me and my training regimen; a psychological benefit. Let me explain….
The typical way to work out your maximum heart rate is to use the equation 220 minus your age. However, there are numerous other methods which you can read here and get worked out at digifit heart rate zones page.
The page also highlights an issue that many experts discuss – that working out your lactate threshold heart rate is better than knowing a disputable maximum heart rate. I have had my own lactate threshold heart rate worked out and use that training zone for my threshold training runs, again though, this is not my professional sphere of competence and there are better qualified people to take advice from than me with regards to the practical application of monitoring your heart rate as part of your training.
The reason I have found this to be so useful is not just the practical application and aiming to run in the correct zones. For me, the psychological benefit is massive, due to the notion of perceived level of effort. I have written here before about using self-hypnosis to altering our own perceived level of effort.
It is that notion that is so important here. In the research for the field of self-hypnosis that has formed part of the literature review for my own PhD, it has been shown that when a feedback monitor or measurement tool gives people an accurate reading for their level of pain or immune response, for example, the proof they have advances their belief in the process and the positive response is advanced much more impressively and rapidly. This may be partly due to self-efficacy raising when exposed to real-life evidence of the changes being made.
With that in mind, as I started studying my running stats after each run and sometimes during my runs, knowing what my maximum heart rate is, and also aware of my lactate threshold heart rate, I saw that actually at times, I had more to give. That is, I could have applied myself more and put more effort in. My heart rate was not as high as I believed it to be at the time of exerting myself in my run. If I was watching my heart rate during that training, it would give me a boost and I could start exerting myself more. If I was looking at a run afterwards, I would also know that perhaps at certain times on that run, it may have felt really hard on my legs, but my heart rate was not at a level that I might have previously associated such effort with. It is really encouraging to see that.
Seeing this and working with it increases belief. It heightens awareness so that I can start to accurately gauge my physiological responses and symptoms and associate them to the real amount of effort I am putting in. It also improves my own self-efficacy. All in all, it is incredibly encouraging to use it, see your progress and let it be real-life confirmation of how your body is responding.
The irony being that the more I have used it, the better I have responded to it – and I attribute lots of that to the psychological factors.
If you have a HRM, go use it and as well as learning more about your body when running, use it to advance the psychological benefits too. Have a great weekend, I will be back next week with much, much more cognitive sports psychology, self-hypnosis and strategy to get the psychological edge and advantage when running.