Heart Rate Monitors And How We Use Them

One of you asked me about getting a heart rate monitor and if it was worthwhile.


The answer is ‘yes and no’.

The heart rate monitor on its own won’t do anything at all for your training. If you plan is just to try and make the number as high as possible and then point to it and tell your training buddies – ‘look 194’ – that is only going to annoy them, trust me.

If you want to use it to make sure you are getting your heart rate high enough during the work portion and low enough during the rest portion of your intervals or to make sure you are going easy enough on the ‘easy’ portion of your workouts like your flush rides or your Category 2 workouts then I think can be worthwhile.

Heart Rate Is Not A Predictor Of Fitness…

Although heart rates will respond in similar ways during similar exercise bouts, for example if we get up off the sofa and start running our heart rate will go up.

But it will not go up the same amount or at the same rate across the board.

Let’s say I start with a resting heart rate of 60bpm and when I get up and start running, my heart rate is at 165bpm in 5-minutes.

You might start with a resting heart rate of 72bpm and after 5-minutes of running you are at 152bpm.

We cannot look at those numbers and predict who is more ‘fit’ or who will be the better hockey player. Without knowing what is going on physiologically in terms of lactate accumulation in the blood, we are only able to see the relative change for an individual.

Now, if you were at 152bpm and gasping for air as I bounced along at 165bpm saying ‘good work, only four more intervals to go!’ – – THEN we could say something about your fitness.

We use them at Revolution Conditioning for a few reasons…

  • I want to make sure players are getting into the target heart rate zone during each interval – – if an athlete is getting their heart rate above 180bpm for the first three intervals, but then struggles to get it up into the 170s, I know they are too fatigued from the workload, so I need to either increase their rest or decrease the work interval.
  • I can see how quickly they recover and individualize recovery time based on their heart rate – for example, let them start their next interval when their heart rate has recovered to below 130bpm.
  • In pro players who have done VO2max testing with their team, they have laboratory data giving me max heart rate and corresponding heart rate at their Anaerobic Threshold so I can use that data to get a more accurate picture of where their heart rate needs to be when training the different energy systems.
  • I can see how quickly the players recover after the workout and even use it to teach them some relaxation techniques like deep breathing to help with recovery.
  • It can show possible medical problems. One season we had a player who I have trained for many years who could not get their heart rate up into the target range. I knew they were working hard and trying, so they went for a check up with their family doc and did in fact find an issue with their heart. Thankfully it was nothing super serious, but good to know.
  • Along the same vein, it may show you signs of a player who is over training or coming down with an illness. If the player typically gets their heart rate up during intervals and recovers nicely, but then is struggling to hit the target zone and is slow to recover even though they are giving a full effort, it might be time to consider an extra day off.
  • Finally, you can see who is giving consistent and full effort on every interval. If one player is constantly getting into the target zone on every single interval and another player only gets into that target zone for the last two intervals, we know the first guy or gal was going hard the entire time and the other player was doggin’ it until the last few.

So, those are some of the ways I use heart rate monitors. I use Polar chest straps and the Polar Team app so I can put that on the iPad and everyone in the gym can see each other’s heart rate at any given time if I want them to. I do this when I want them competing with each other – it is pretty effective 🙂

Happy Training!

PS – tomorrow (Monday, March 2nd) is the LAST day that I am accepting applications for the Next Level Transformation small group coaching program.  As you might have guessed it is a small group ONLINE coaching program for goalies and skaters who are ready to take their play to the Next Level – – here are the details you need >> CLICK HERE