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How To Train With A Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor can be a great training tool for both novice and experienced runners. The key to heart rate training is understanding your zones and how to implement an effective and safe program. 

Before using any training tools, however, I always advocate training "by feel" until you are comfortable enough to run a mile or at least 15 minutes at a pace at which you are able to talk and have a conversation. This level of fitness will serve as a safe baseline for you to define your zones off of. Running takes a bit of time for your body to acclimate to and finding your natural rhythm and cadence is important. 

For years runners have been told that they can find their max heart rate using the formula 220 minus their age. Personally, I feel this formula is very generic and can often be inaccurate based on the individual. However, novice runners can use this formula as an initial guide.  However more advanced runners can base their zones off of something called your heart rate reserve. Here's how to find your heart rate reserve in three easy steps according to LiveStrong.

Heart rate reserve is a term used to describe the difference between your maximal heart rate and your resting heart rate. It can then be used to estimate your aerobic exercise training zone:

Step 1: Estimate your maximal heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.
Step 2: Determine your resting heart rate by wearing the Sensoria Sports Bra and start the Sensoria Fitness app. See your average pulses over one minute.
Step 3: Subtract your resting heart rate from your maximal heart rate to determine your heart rate reserve.

Once you are ready to start a training program with a measurable goal (whether it be pace, or distance, or both), using hear rate zones can help you progress toward your goal safely and efficiently.

All you need is a heart rate monitor and a watch or the Sensoria Fitness smartphone app. 

Personally I have been using for a while the Sensoria Sports bra and HRM for a multitude of other fitness endeavors now - like spinning/biking and even yoga. I love getting the HR info now so easily - and it's really enhanced my training, fitness and overall body awareness. The cardiac sensors built right in to the sports bra are not only convenient but comfortable too. The bra's overall fit is great, providing support and made from (what feels like) durable, top-notch material that wicks sweat away from the body well.

Sensoria Sports bra with Heart Rate sensors

Here is an easy guide on how to set your heart rate zones by using the heart rate reserve with the Karvornen Formula [(heart rate reserve x training%) + resting heart rate]. (source:

Let’s suppose that you are 38 years old and therefore based on the above formula (220 – age) your maximal heart rate is 182 BPM (beats per minute).

Now using the Sensoria Sports bra with the Sensoria Fitness app, I measure my rest heart rate which is 56 bpm. Remember our resting heart rate is best measured when you first wake up in the morning.

So by subtracting my rest heart rate from my maximal heart rate I get my reserve heart rate (182 bpm– 56 bpm = 126 bpm).

Therefore my zone 1 would be: 119 to 132 BPM.

Zone Number % of Heart Range

Example of Heart Rate Range 

for each zone

1 50% - 60% bpm 119 bpm - 132 bpm
2 60% - 70% bpm 132 bpm - 144 bpm
3 70% - 80% bpm 144 bpm - 157 bpm
4 80% - 90% bpm 157 bpm - 169 bpm
5 90% - 100% bpm 169 bpm - 182 bpm


Once you establish your zones, you are able to implement a program.  

Most of your runs should fall in the zone 1-2 range. 

Depending on your goal, you should implement 1-2 days a week with a zone 3 tempo run and/or a workout with zone 4 intervals.  A tempo run consists of running for a stretch of time (often 50-75%) of the distance of your goal) maintaining a zone 3 heart rate. Of course a zone 1 warm up and cool down should be part of your tempo run too.

A workout with intervals means running with your heart rate in zone 4 for a much shorter period of time, with periods of zone 1 or complete (walking or stopping to rest) rest between intervals.

These intervals are effective in teaching your body to run at faster paces while giving it time to recover and adapt to the training stress effectively.

"Read also: ABC For a Great Recovery Strategy"

While heart rate training can be a great approach to implementing and maintaining an effective program, realize that there are limits to using any one tool to monitor your progress.  For example, if you are dehydrated or in pain or sick, your heart rate might skyrocket even at a pace that is normally very comfortable to you. Also, certain medications can affect your heart rate and give you an inaccurate reading.

Lastly, I am typically very skeptical of the heart rate monitors on the hand rails of treadmills - both home and commercial grade.  If you are planning on using a training program based on heart rate, it is worth investing in a good heart rate monitor.  

"Read also: Training: Treadmill vs. Outdoor"

In the scheme of things, it's a small investment to maintain a healthy heart and body that will keep you running at your best.


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