Jogging Writer: Top Pick Heart Rate Monitor

Ok. I’ll admit it. I’m getting a little gear-crazy. I’m not busting the bank or anything…but I’ve read 3 running books in the last month and started calculating my five heart rate zones according to Matt Fitgerald’s 80/20 Running book. I bought my Brooks Cascadia (on discount) based on gear reviews in Outside Magazine. A new body fat percentage scale is on its way via Amazon Prime and I’ve logged 3 weeks of official Level 1 training for my 10K (race day: December 14). Perhaps more surprising than any other gear purchase has been my new HeartQ Heart Rate monitor sports watch and activity tracker. We all know about target heart rates, but Fitzgerald’s book makes a powerful case for thinking outside that box and demonstrates how endurance athletes have run slower and longer for years and years and still yielded personal best times on race day.

My lactate threshold–the heart rate just about where I can run and carry on a conversation–is 175 beats per minute. This means my Zone 1 and Zone 2 training, according to Fitzgerald, are significantly lower–and slower–than I would have guessed. In order to make sure I’m running slow enough, and therefore able to run long enough, to achieve my desired training goals, I’ve got to go slow and steady. My new best friend, the HQ, beeps at me if I get above or below zone. Typically, after 5-10 minutes in one of the zones, my body and mind find the natural pace and the watch stops beeping. When a car drives by or a dog barks, I’ve noticed, my heart rate quickens and will sometimes momentarily kick the HQ rating higher and take me out of the zone, making the watch beep. I slow my pace for a beat or two, get back into the zone, and continue. At the end of my workout, I can track my average heart rate, the number of minutes I spent in the zone (this is crucial on Fitzgerald’s plan, as a certain number of minutes in each zone is the crux of the training program), the calories burned, and more.

So I have to wear a watch when I prefer not to. So I have to wear a chest strap (I can hardly tell it’s there). These are small prices to pay given the immediate feedback I get and the power that a few little numbers have to help me gain confidence and achieve my goals. The HeartQ buttons are big and easy to push, the watch is programmable if you want to adjust the set heart rate levels, and–here’s the real kicker–there are real human beings managing the small company’s email account and they write back to you. Like with real, helpful feedback and information. Customer service and a good product? I’m sold.

Today is the start of Week 4 of my Level 1 training and even though I still feel like I have to “hold myself back” on most of my runs, I can feel myself getting stronger and my endurance deepening. What will I discover next? Maybe the world’s best running socks or the most motivating iPod playlist in history. Time will tell…stay tuned for occasional dispatches from the The Jogging Writer. 

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