Heart Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot

Heart Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot
John Parker, Cedarwinds Publishing, 1998

Much simpler than either Daniels or Pfitzinger and Douglas, Parker’s book is a casual stroll through using a heart rate monitor to manage training. Parker uses the hard/easy approach, and as an over-50 racer, he is willing to append as many “easy’s” after the hard as necessary. The great benefit of the HR monitor, in Parker’s view, is as “pace cop,” to insure that the “easy’s” are in fact easy, especially for long runs. By setting a monitor to beep when heart rate exceeds the upper limit for a particular category of run, there is an instant reminder when you exceed your target level of effort.

Parker offers the example of a typical runner who runs six times a week at 80-85% heart rate effort. While Daniels and Pfitzinger would note that’s not hard enough to achieve lactate threshold effects, Parker looks a it from the other direction, pointing out that it’s six hard workouts a week. Using a monitor and allocating hard workouts carefully, Parker would substitute four runs of 70% or less, with two tempo (lactate threshold) runs at 85%. This is an easier week of training — two hard runs compared to six — that is also less likely to lead to injury and has greater positive training effect. I’d add, it’s more pleasurable, too.

In a recent long run, I used a monitor to prevent myself from exceeding my easy running heart rate. Especially in the second half of the run, it was very difficult to run slowly enough! Without the monitor I would have run at a much higher output. I wouldn’t have achieved any greater benefit, but my recovery would have been much slower. As it was, not only was the run pleasant throughout, recovery was much easier than in unmonitored long runs in the past.

Parker’s book, though, could be one-quarter the length or less. Parker is a good conversational writer, and every point is illustrated with anecdotes. However, there are times when the book feels like one long anecdote with only a modest amount of specific content. Perhaps for the unconvinced, long testimonials are useful. For a non-technically oriented reader, Parker’s style and choice of content is both entertaining and immediately applicable. If your eyes glaze over reading the physiology of lactate/pyruvate metabolism in the cells, Parker’s book is for you.
The heart monitor is the most useful training tool I’ve added to my running in the past ten years. If you can afford $100, it can help you improve both your performance and your pleasure in running. Parker’s book is a painless and fun introduction.

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