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Heartrate monitors & reader email backlog.

Mon, Aug 30, 2010

cardio, MizFit Muzings

Disclaimer: Ive sucked lately been remiss in answering reader emails.  Not sure what else to say except you’ll have that sometimes…

Hi MizFit, I saw you tweet that you dont use a heart rate monitor. what do you do instead? thanks!!!

I’m slowly realizing Im just not a fan of gadgets.

I weigh once a year at the doctor, dont run with an ipod and I dont use a heart rate monitor.


I didnt when I was working to lose weight either (oooh how was THAT for heading off additional questions?).

Even then I knew I needed to set myself up for success.

I know me.

Im less likely to do the cardio I already don’t love if faced if the additional burden of monitor.

I guess in some ways Ive always been a body listener (misfit whisperer?).

For example:

I typically do lateral raises with 15 pounds. If today were shoulder day, however, and that 15 pound dumbbell felt frickin heavy beyond belief and I knew I’d be SWINGING the weight not lifting I’d listen to my body, back off to 12 pound weights & increase my repetitions.

The same goes for my cardiovascular workouts and, for that reason, I always go by Rate of Perceived Exertion.

A numerical scale which is used to measure the intensity of exercise and (the one I use) runs from 0-10.

There are myriad ways to define each number. For me zero (nothing at all) is how I feel when plopped in a chair watching Real Housewives of Orange County and 10 (very, very difficult) is how I’d *imagine*I’d feel were I ever to run a marathon.

You can envision the entire scale looking somewhat like this (my personal target for cardiovascular exercise falls into a 4 or 5 depending on the day & whether I’m interval training):

0 Couch plop

0.5 Just noticeable

1 Very light Im probably texting this woman still.

2 Light

3 Moderate

4 Somewhat hard, sweating, breathy, I CAN TALK but dont want to.

5 Hard, very breathy but can still talk or sing.


7 Very challenging but doable.

8 – Im working hard, can talk but verging on angryexerciser (dont pretend you dont know what I mean).


10 Very, very difficult (read: I dont think, in all honesty I’ve pushed myself to this point….yet.)

The scales may vary (some range from 1-20 instead of ten) but the concept remains the same: perceived exertion is how hard you feel your body is working.

It focuses upon the physical sensations you experience during an exercise period (increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue).

For me this method of assessing my cardio workout works far better (more personal than a heart rate number) & after years of using the RPE scale I find I know, intuitively, when to up my intensity level.

Now you.

Do you swear by your monitor? Never embark on ANY cardio without it?

Are you a sister/brother in the RPE scale? how well does it work for you? how long have you been using it?

Or, and you rebel peeps may be my fave group, are you firmly in the I dont need no stinkin heart rate exertion calculator camp?

Please to hit us all up in the comments.

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69 Responses to “Heartrate monitors & reader email backlog.”

  1. Tamera says:

    I LOVE my Garmin MizFit.
    Do you still love me? LOL.

  2. Helen says:

    Do you feel as though your cardio workout is hard enough using the scale?

    I worry if I’m not focused on being in my training zone I won’t work hard enough!

  3. Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul says:

    I also use the RPE method, which I learned from SELF magazine a while back. Since I never got a heart rate monitor (not intentionally, just by circumstance), I find it’s a good barometer. It’s become even more important to me recently as I’m working on speed training more and need to really listen to my body and monitor pace and exertion. Great tips!

  4. Nan says:

    I am definitely a lot like you are and can’t get into the gadgets (except my iphone :) ).

    I am proud if I do the elliptical at all let alone work at a certain rate.

  5. Kate says:

    I hadn’t heard of RPE yet after reading I do tend to hover around the being able to talk and don’t want too.

    When I first started exercising I would walk with friends and talk a lot LOL

    I didn’t lose enough weight that way.

  6. Erica says:

    Interesting! I’m not a HUGE fan of gadgets (I don’t use an ipod when I run either), but I do love my Polar F6. I don’t ever look at time when I’m running outdoors, instead I look at my HR and I know if I’m pushing it or just ya know…going through the motions. It helps keep me motivated throughout my run. When are we going to meet up :)

  7. Kim says:

    Since I don’t exercise, yet, I don’t use either. But, I’m in full losing weight mode, and using Weight Watchers as my tool to assist. As part of that program, you earn Activity Points (which can be eaten!!!). The best and most accurate way to assess the number of APs being earned is to use a HRM. So, I plan on getting on eventually. Just like I’m not good at determining portions without weighing my food, or how I’m not able to tell that I’m actually satisfied with the amount of food I’ve put in my piehole, I’m pretty sure I won’t be a good judge of how hard I’m working out.

  8. Leslie says:

    You lost me at the fact you can text and do cardio ever!
    Are you running?!

  9. Leslie says:

    Oh and I am jealous it is not me your are texting :)

  10. anne h says:

    I agree with that one.
    No one texts me or calls any more!
    Back to my gadetry!

  11. jen (@jeninRL) says:

    I have a HRM and I have no idea what I should do with the info. And the chest strap thingy bothers me (itchy and not good it makes me) so I stopped using it. Nothing on my HRM helps me get out and running. I do like some gadgets for some times (I run without my ipod as often as I run with it) but I am learning to be a minimalist. Honestly, i just can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses and now I realize I just plainly don’t need to! Like Wanda Sykes…I’ma be me!

  12. Natalia says:

    Hey Miz! I love my HRM! I’m def a gadget person. I also listen to my body. I like doing interval training and sometimes it’s a breeze to get my HR up and keep it up and I feel great! Than on other days, it just ain’t happening. Of course I have to weed out the days when I don’t feel like getting my HR up that high and when my BODY doesn’t want me to get my HR that high! Same thing with the weights, I do notice some days I’m stronger than others. Seems like everything has a cycle to it!

    I use my HRM more for the calorie burn number I get. That inspires me and keeps me motivated! :)

  13. Tina says:

    I feel ya! Heart rate monitors can be cumbersome and I feel like I listen to my body enough to still give it a good workout. I hate depending on #s. I don’t do the Ipod either…but that’s just because I’m clumsy and always seem to get tangled or choked by the cords. ;)

  14. Bea says:

    I am RPE all the way.

    Now that I know it has a name ;)

    I once heard I should be able to sing and sound breathy while I do so.

    That’s my barometer.

  15. Tricia says:

    I am a total gadget freak, but only when I run or do bodyweight work. If I’m doing a workout DVD, I don’t wear any gadgets. I’m usually doing Cathe Friedrich DVDs and her website has all the numbers already there for calories burned, etc., which I alter depending on if I do the whole thing or not.

    If I’m doing anything else, I have my iPod, Nike+ (for distance when I run or walk), and my HRM. I use the HRM for a more accurate calories burned reading that what my Nike+ gives me and I only check HR if I’m doing a Cardio Coach interval run or HIIT to make sure I’m hitting the right targets. I will also check it if I’m feeling like I’m working too hard to see where my HR is at.

    I also want a Garmin! Yes, call me the Bionic Runner! LOL!

    I do use RPE a lot to determine workout level, but I am a bit of a slave to the numbers! I am not that in tune with my body and when I was actually in the process of losing weight, did count calories, too. I’m on a more natural eating rhythm now and don’t do that anymore.

  16. Lynda says:

    On my every wish list is a GARMIN.

    I want one because I’ve gotten convinced (blog reading much? ;) ) it will make me run.

  17. Shelley says:

    My HRM never picked up my heartbeat very well, so the thing ended up making me slightly uneasy (wow, my heart stopped AGAIN?)

    It’s easier for me, though. My body cues are obvious things like “tunnel vision” and “blacking out”, so I don’t need a HRM to tell me when I’m exercising hard enough


  18. suganthi says:

    No, I don’t use my HRM even though I have one. I am also an anti-gadget person. Having said that, I cannot run to giddy happiness without the ipod and Cardicoach tracks. I am trying to run without music, but am finding it difficult.

  19. Joanna Sutter says:

    I just busted out my HR monitor again about 3 weeks ago because my perceived exertion and my actual exertion were apparently two different things. For me it’s been an eye opener of how hard I can work, how quickly I recover, how music impacts my heart, yadda, yadda, yadda!

  20. Karen says:

    I saw your tweet about starting your cardio and you seem to tweet during cardio.

    Are you still working hard enough?

    (I really want to know. I’m not being snarky BTW)

    • MizFit says:

      GREAT QUESTION. today? Im totally kindasorta phoning it in. The cardio I mean. On the plan? A RUN! What happened? Interval training on the recumbent bike. while Im intervaling UP I can barely think let alone tweet. when Im in the downwardloll? I read a mag & tweet and text and…and am just HAPPY I didnt blow the whole workout off :)

      because (all together now) fitness isnt about fitting in.

  21. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    I don’t use a heart rate monitor, either. I generally just judge how hard I’m working on a scale. I don’t think I ever consciously thought about Am I at 5 or 7? But I do gauge how hard I’m working versus how much more I could push myself.

  22. liz says:

    i love gadgets but after the fun and newness wears off then they are just one more thing to worry about. i love that you know your body well enough to gauge your level of effort yourself. rock on mizfit!

  23. Jo says:

    Yes, I wear a HRM and love it. (Except right now it’s not working!) I also use the RPE scale, but using that HRM allows me to push just a little bit more when I watch it-or to back off when it’s a bit too high. It is a gadget I love to pieces and rely on heavily.

    That said, the past few days it hasn’t worked-it shows me as dead with a heart rate of 00 lol, it has been a little freeing to just workout without taking the couple minutes to get it on and set up. I miss it, though.

  24. C. All Of The Above says:

    Just followed your comment from DidIJustEatThatOutloud? and I really love the scale you showed for your RPE. I hadn’t considered using this method before, but the way you explain it really makes sense to me and I will certainly be giving it a go this afternoon! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Lori says:

    I love my Garmin forerunner for runs and bike rides. It really motivates me to see how far I have gone and seeing the calories (supposedly) burnt is an added bonus. I like looking at my pace, but I do go by how I feel. Some days I am a lot slower and that is ok.
    I like to wear my Polar hr monitor whenever I do anything else. I don’t know why. Habit? Like the gadgets? No idea. I am not worried about my hr when I lift weights or anything and I go by how I feel when I do cardio. I just like to see an end result I guess. Whether that is time I worked out or calories burnt or something. One thing I have found really interesting is how my hr monitor will show how many fewer calories I burn than what the machine I am working on says. I think a lot of people trust those machines and are really over estimating what the are burning!

  26. Hillary says:

    My comment is on YOUR comment and not the post.

    I love how you are so gentle to yourself, MizFit.

    I know if I were more gentle to me I would not be in the predicament I am with regards to weight loss.

  27. Sagan says:

    I’ve never tried a HRM, but I’d like to - what can I say, I enjoy the gadgets! But I often find that although I like playing with gadgets, I don’t hold onto them for the long term. I’ll use them for a few months and then I start gradually using them less and less. Or I forget about them once and just don’t use it ever again, heh.

    Right now I’m working REALLY HARD on trying to get the whole listening to your body thing to work. Not counting calories was working well until yesterday I decided to count calories in my head… and lo and behold, I overate (before going out to a tapas restaurant, where I ate even more). I thought that was interesting that even the act of counting IN MY HEAD still seemed to make me anxious. So today I’m going to try tracking the food but not letting myself count it. It’s a tricky habit to get out of, I tell you!

  28. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    I am with ya.. RPE all the way! For me, being much fitter for my age than charts & such show, I go by how I feel, RPE, and with weights, just like you.. how it feels for that point in time.. I push myself BUT I know how to listen too! :-)

  29. Ryan @NoMoreBacon says:

    I used to be all about the math of a good cardio workout. My target heart rate is this times this, carry the one, blah blah blah. On my up intervals I need to hit this number and I need to recover to this number before I can go back up again.

    It turns out that if I had a day that wasn’t awesome, where I wasn’t hitting the numbers, a workout would quickly dwindle and turn into something very half-assed.

    Also, using intervals as an example again, if I was in a recovery period there were a lot of times where I felt like I could ramp up again but I didn’t because I hadn’t fully recovered yet.

    I’ll occasionally pull out the HRM just to double check my efforts, but I find that daily use leads to an unhealthy obsession with numbers and I generally don’t focus real well.

    Holy crap it literally took me 20 minutes to write this comment between, emails, kids, breakfast, etc., etc., etc.

    Have a great day!

  30. When I take cycling class at the gym they use that scale. I have sometimes thrown on my monitor just to see - am I working as hard as I think I am? Or do I need to push it more? But mostly I also listen to my body.

  31. Marisa @Loser for Life says:

    I don’t need no stinkin’ heart rate monitor!!!! I’m happy enough that I am DOING instead of SITTING :)

  32. Shelley B says:

    To me, gadgets = math, and I am SO NOT a math person. That said, I do love Ricky Bobby - er, my Garmin. Right now I mostly use him to tell me how many miles I’ve run, and to give me a little “success!” (at least that’s how I hear it) alert at each mile.

    I’ve never worn a heart monitor. I don’t check my pulse during cardio. I just don’t care - I know that’s probably counter-intuitive to all the work I put into cardio, but anything that remotely brings me to math makes me shut down, mentally. I am on a “need to know” basis with a lot of things, and I guess I really don’t need to know my heart rate while exercising. Am I a rebel? Maybe? :)

  33. gene says:

    i seldom use my HRM, but mostly because when i changed the battery (who knew that it would die if left in a drawer for a year?) i knicked the plastic, and now it rubs horribly on my chest. More often than not i go by feel, too, which ranges from zilch (like sitting here typing) to about MAC 2 when i run hills or do sprints. occasionally the kids will get my goat and ramp me up. hmmmm…perhaps i should wear it around the house, too, as biofeed back…..

  34. Lilly says:

    Are people emailing you their cell #s so you can text them? ;)

    I’d not realized until this post how intertwined my lack of trust in myself with regards to food and my reliance on my HRM are.

    It is all about trusting my body.

    I aim to get there some day.

    • Miz says:

      So true. It is about learning to trust ourselves. Knowing that some days we will fall short of what we’d planned and what we know we can do—and thats ok.

      Food, fitness, relationships, life.

      For me it’s all been about learning to trust and knowing that no matter what the “gurus” say *I* know best for me.

  35. Ren Man says:

    I don’t use a heart rate monitor, but I do enjoy grabbing the monitor-grip-thingys on the treadmill when I’m finished running just to see if my RPE bears any relationship to how fast my heart is actually beating. I’m often disappointed…

  36. debby says:

    Don’t use a HRM. Used to check my HR once in a while on my walks when first starting out. But hey! I DID learn to use a new gadget at the gym yesterday. I figured out how to use the headphones and the radio gadget thingy to watch a tv show while I was on the treadmill. Now THAT is a worthy gadget.

  37. Deb says:

    I do not use a HRM - and never have. I prefer using RPE. My 10? I am being chased by a bear! and I’ve gotten my heart rate there for about 30 seconds or so. (hello intervals)

    I do use gadgets, though. I throw my BodyBugg on a few days a week just to check on my overall caloric burn. Now if I remembered to log my food so I could really decode the reason for this obstinate fat.

    And I do listen to music when doing cardio. For me, it helps to motivate me and studies have shown that people tend to work harder if the right music is playing when they exercise. I need every little bit of help I can get.

    RenMan- Grab the bars occasionally through your workout, note the number and how you feel, and you will learn how the numbers feel. I can probably tell you when my heart rate is in the 130s, 140s, and 150s without checking.

  38. SoHelpMeKath says:

    I used to use a heart rate monitor, and liked it, but then I’m a gadget girl at heart. It taught me what it feels like when my heart rate is where it should be, and reminded me to put it there when I didn’t.

    However, since the battery on the thing died and life got in the way, I’ve been fighting off a lot of all-or-nuthin’-stinkin’-thinkin’ regarding what constitutes a “good” workout. So quite frankly, I’m being very gentle and patient with myself lately, and enjoying the occasional heart-pounding hills on my morning dog walks.

    Also jealous over the personalized Mizfit text. Hrmph.


  39. Tammi says:

    So funny about the angry exerciser Miz.

    I know what you mean :)

  40. Suzanne says:

    I laughed my butt off when I saw Level 8. I was totally a level 8 today. I even gave the treadmill the finger at one point in time.

  41. Ava says:


    Forget the Garmin :) I need to know if you’re watching RHDC :)

  42. Kara says:

    I’m a gadget geek. I admit it. I find myself driven more when I have a gadget to play with. So I have a Heart Rate Monitor. I have a GoWear Fit. I have an iPod (2 of them in fact) and the associated Nike/iPod link thingie. I have charts and Excel spreadsheets.

    Yeah. I’m a geek. To me, having the accessories makes things fun … and if they’re fun, then I’ll do them. The days I forget my GoWearFit or don’t play with my charts or whatever are the days I slack off.

    So bring on the gadgets. :)

  43. Sister RPE-er here! I don’t trust the HRMs (or the calories burned monitors on the equipment.) I *do* trust myself to recognize the difference between a sweaty glow and a huffing-puffing gooey (but slightly cantankerous level 8) mess.

  44. messymimi says:

    If I am in the mood to pull out the monitor, I do. If not, I use the RPE. Mostly I don’t bother to pull it out, but it can be a reality check if I’m not getting results and am trying to fool myself into thinking I’m working harder than I really am.

  45. Dawn says:

    I’m a sometimes gadget girl. I did finally buy a HRM and never even wore it once to the gym lol. I tend to be the gadget buying type but not always the gadget using type lol. I do love my little ipod shuffle though, need tunes. I guess it just depends on the person and I’m for mizfit whisperer, I need me some of that too sometimes, you always have great things to say. *hugs*

  46. Lisa says:

    I’ve tried using a HR montior, but I have an arrythmia and the numbers are all messed up anyway. I go by feel and it seems to work well enough for me.

  47. Yum Yucky says:

    Heart rate monitor?? I’ve never even calculated my target heart rate. But I did feel my pulse once. Just to make sure I was still alive after 5-mile run.

  48. jord says:

    I have a HRM, but I don’t use it very often. It beeps incessantly and I don’t trust their basic calculations for my target heart rate. I am an intuitive eater and am working on being an intuitive exerciser. I would love to have a Garmin for the GPS abilities, though.

    • MizFit says:

      OH. I never even thought about the GPS part. Id so need that were I to venture off the beaten path…

  49. FLG says:

    I’ve never used an HRM. I do think about my exertion, but I don’t put it on a scale. More in terms of “Oh, I’ll go faster. I’ll slow down for a bit.”

  50. Blake says:

    I use a HRM on occasion, but usually just have a target to hit (rpm on bike, time per mile or 100yds while running and swim) and keep for a certain amount of time. Works for me.

  51. Hannah says:

    I always wanted one when we were scraping by paying for school…now that that is over and done, I haven’t thought about getting one once. I suppose I got used to figuring out my levels when it wasn’t an option. I am happy we never splurged…I don’t think I would use it now if I had it. I am old school and like the basics I guess- no gadgets for me!

  52. charlotte says:

    I am a reformed heart rate monitor addict. A couple of years ago, forgetting it would warrant a u-turn in the middle of the street and a race home to get it before I could run into my cardio class 5 minutes late. Now? Not only have I not worn one in months but I don’t have any desire to. Like most things in my life these days, it goes back to Geneen Roth. When I’m not worried about calories or weight, I don’t care how many calories I burned or how long my workout was. Now I care more about if I’m having fun, learning something new and pushing myself in a comfortable way.

  53. Heather says:

    I use a HRM because my perceived exertion and my HR don’t match. For example, I can do a spin class without thinking twice (well, there’ll be fatigue, but not the “I need to stop” kind), but my heart rate will be up between 190 and 200. That’s not good. So I use the HRM to keep it under 190 unless it’s the final 30-second sprint to the end.

  54. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    I find when I wear a heart rate monitor I concentrate so much on it that I lose the point of the workout, so I don’t wear one anymore.

  55. SeattleRunnerGirl says:

    I have all the gadgets, and at one time or another, I have loved them all. I like numbers and feedback and information. Go figure.

    That being said, I have not used my HRM in months. And now that you mention it, if I look back to when I slowly stopped using it regularly, I do believe the timing coincides with a time when I began to talk about, and really BELIEVE, learning to trust my body.

    THAT being said, I think I will still use it every now and then to get a sense of where my heart rate is at doing different things. But now I can do a workout “naked” (electronically speaking, and but for music) and just workout how it feels GOOD to my body. And NOT because I’m trying to burn a certain # of calories because I’m feeling like yesiknowitsforlifebutiwanttoloseweightpeople

    Sorry for the novel. :)

  56. addy says:

    No gadgets ever! Couldn’t figure them out if I had them. Sweating? - check
    Breathing heavier? - check
    Not seeing stars? - check
    We good!

  57. Pure2Raw twins says:

    I do not use a heart rate monitor either. I tried a few years ago but just did not like it. I use like my ipod though :) I usually just go by the way I am feeling with my workouts and how fast I am breathing. I try to listen to my body as well.

  58. Kate says:

    I love, love, love me some gadgets :) That said, I HATE things strapped to me. So if they were to make a heart rate monitor that didn’t need a chest strap to function, but also didn’t require me to press two little buttons, or hold two contacts, I’d be sold.

    In fact, this is a sore spot right now, because I whipped out my old Polar the other day, and despite two new batteries, the sucker is dead. It didn’t take 5 years of inactivity any better than my thighs did, apparently.

    That said, I don’t use my heart rate to push myself harder or back off, I use one because (did I mention I like gadgets?) I love to see myself getting more fit. When I can run at a particular pace, but notice that my heart rate is much lower than it was at the same pace last month, I am a giddy exerciser.

  59. Ron says:

    Like my Polar F11, I mainly look at it when I am done to see what my average heart rate and highest heart rate was during my workout and like to see the approx calories burned.

  60. s says:

    i don’t use a heart rate monitor, but i do keep track of workout intensity sort of informally. i don’t really find it helpful to know my heart rate; it’s another number i have to keep track of and possibly become preoccupied with, haha.

  61. Thea @ I'm a Drama Mama says:

    You know, I’m torn on the whole HRM issue. I’ve never used one before, but I decided I would get one (per training plan advice) for my triathlon.

    I’ve found that to stay in my Target zone, I’m actually walking instead of running.

    I feel like I’m taking 2 steps back…but at the same time, I feel like I haven’t given the whole process enough time to work it’s magic…but at the same time I’m getting frustrated with the beeping…

    I’m not sure what to do.

  62. MrsFatass says:

    So, I am a HUGE gadget freak EXCEPT when it comes to working out. I’ve tried pedometers, but end up not really caring about the information. I’ve tried gripping the HRM thingy on the cardio machines, again, not really caring. I like to wear my Gruve when I remember it because I do enjoy knowing what it says about how much I burn, but it doesn’t really motivate or no motivate.

    But I cannot work out without my iPod and my BB. So I can text YOU to see how hard you think I’m working. WINK.

  63. Geosomin says:

    I just got a heart rate monitor this summer I love it…a little extra incentive to keep my heart rate up and not get lazy. I used to run intuitively and now that I’ve accepted the fact that my knees just don’t want me to run anymore I have difficulty knowing how much to exert myself when walking or skipping. I find that I don’t puch myself as much as I should cardio wise to get my heart rate in a certain range. I thought I was there without it…I was so very wrong :)
    And I have to admit…seeing how much I’m in range and how many calories I burn is just cool…

  64. JavaChick says:

    I don’t have a heart rate monitor, but I admit to having a problem with the RPE scale. I tend to think that what I did yesterday is what I should be able to do today. So on the treadmill (for example) I tend to pick speeds and assign RPE values to them - which doesn’t make sense, because every day is different. Something I’m still working on.

  65. Quix says:

    I am a fan of my garmin for the pace info for runs/bikes (as well as the “holy crap HOW far do I have left???” moments), but (confession), I’ve only remembered to use the heart rate monitor part like 3 times.

    It saved me a lot of beating myself up when I ran my half really slow since I was sick - I saw that my heart rate was about 85-92% for the 2 hours, so I knew there was just nothing more I could do. And it’s pretty cool that I was able to do that. But normally - yeah I’m a bigger fan of perceived exertion.

    Most of my runs are 7-9 (what can I say, I’m insane), and I think my brain has let me hit 10 once or twice. I don’t feel right unless I’m right up around 5+.

  66. commercial invoice form says:

    I am not a big fan of gadgets but I use HRM on treadmill as it says about my heart.


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