Tag Archives: Heart Rate Monitors

Retail Therapy: 20 Last Minute Stocking Stuffers and Gift Ideas

If you’re feeling a bit stuck and in need of some gift ideas for the runners in your life, check out this list to see if there’s anything they could use to keep them running fit for 2009. (Or, if you’re the runner and you’re deeply afraid you’re gonna get given something that’s just not you again, here’s a link to pass on.) Continue reading Retail Therapy: 20 Last Minute Stocking Stuffers and Gift Ideas

Secret Santa

TO: Santa Claus
LOCATION: North Pole

Dear Santa,

I know you are awfully busy this month, but I’m hoping you will have an extra minute to read this letter.

As you know, I have a blog where I write about running, and sometimes give advice to runners preparing for races. Since you have a big event coming up, I thought you might appreciate some tips that have been passed along to runners, and might also be applicable to you.

Actually Santa, you have more in common with runners than you might first suspect. You’re probably aware that there are some people called ultramarathoners who can run through the whole night, sometimes up to 30 hours or more. Ultra runners and regular marathoners know the value of having the right gear to make a long task easier.

There are some great products on the market that could make your job a lot easier. For instance, many runners use small LED headlamps when running in the dark. If you bought a set of eight for your reindeer, you wouldn’t be so dependent on Rudolph, who I hear can be a bit of a diva this time of year. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about being detected, since the lamps would just be mistaken for extra stars in the sky. You get LL Bean catalogs up there, right? I got my headlamp from them, but many stores carry them as well.

Here’s something else: a company called Garmin makes GPS units that tell you what altitude you are flying at, how many miles you have flown, and can give you global reference points so that you don’t get lost. They’re also pretty cool because they can tell you precisely how fast you are traveling, since I don’t know if your sleigh has a working speedometer.

Another great gadget is a heart rate monitor (HRM) for your reindeer. Anytime you have a long run or trip, it is important to pace yourself and not start out too quickly. HRMs are the best way to ensure this. I thought maybe you know about HRMs already, since the biggest manufacturer is called Polar. Are they based up near where you live?

When I run a marathon, I keep my heart rate below 70 percent of my maximum for the first half of the race. If you strapped a HRM on each reindeer, you could make sure they stay below 70 percent max HR in the Northern Hemisphere. I’m not sure what 70 percent of a reindeer’s max HR would be, but there’s probably a veterinarian someplace on your list who could give you a reference chart, right? Then you can be sure your reindeer won’t bonk somewhere over Patagonia.

Since you will be visiting several different parts of the world, it’s important to dress in layers. And I hate to say this Santa, but wool outerwear stopped being cool many years ago. You would be better off wearing a moisture-wicking base layer, some sort of performance fleece above it, with a water- and wind-resistant shell or parka as your outer layer.

The Under Armour company makes compression garments that are great base layers for outdoor activity. You may have seen them before, as they are similar to what superheroes like Mr. Incredible wear when they go outside. They come in multiple colors, so you can keep wearing those red and black combinations you like. The other benefit you get from Under Armour garments is that they might give you a more toned appearance by compressing your belly a little bit. I think Mrs. Claus would like that.

Speaking of your gut, you should really work on decreasing it a little during the off-season next year. I’m concerned about your long-term viability, Santa—for your well-being and for mine. Besides, in addition to the healthy benefits of losing weight, there would be room for more toys in the sleigh if your own backside didn’t occupy the whole front seat.

Plus, you could work a lot faster. Conventional wisdom says that for every pound you lose, you can run an average mile two seconds faster. Figuring that you travel about 25,000 miles to circumnavigate the Earth, if you lost just five pounds, your reindeer could save 250,000 seconds of travel time pulling you across the sky.

Even factoring in the time you stop at each house, you could save enough time to return home and maybe catch a couple hours of sleep before those little elves come waking you up at the crack of dawn to show you all the stuff from under the tree that you already knew was there.


During your night Santa, just like during any endurance event, it’s important to keep taking in calories. I’m not really worried about you, since you’ve got about 100 million rest stops with cookies waiting at each one – I’m thinking again of your reindeer. Please make sure they stay hydrated and have some food during the trip. At my house I’ll leave some Gatorade and Clif Bars for you to give them, but don’t worry, I’ll still have cookies for you. Do you like chocolate chip? Those are my favorite.

Finally, there’s one other matter I’d like to mention. My young daughter (who I’m sure is on your “good” list) was considerate enough to ask for “running shoes for Daddy” on that list she sent you. I just wanted to clarify that I wear men’s size 11 trail running shoes. You can deliver them to the same address as the bag with the American Girl doll and the slot car racing set.

Thanks a lot Santa. Hopefully you’ll find some of this information helpful on your trip later this month. Have a Merry Christmas!


Donald B.
Carmel Valley, CA

Heart Rate Monitors: Do They Make a Difference?

Heart rate monitors have become very popular running aides in recent years, but do we know how to get the best out of them? You can buy them in all sorts of configurations, from fairly cheap ones (I got mine for about $35) to ones costing several hundred dollars, which claim do everything bar the actual running for you.

The easiest way is to buy a book (or read a Web site) that covers the topic of heart-rate training. These invariably contain a table of target heart rate zones, which should be easy enough to follow. One problem with using percent heart rates to set efforts is that they can be too dictating. You don’t always feel the same, sometimes a run of 145 bmp (beats per minute) feels easy, and sometimes it feels hard. Slavishly following set numbers is not always a good idea.

Plenty of runners, especially experienced ones, admit that heart rate monitors can give you one big benefit, namely to stop you from running too hard on your easy days. It can be very tempting to push just that little bit too hard, and before you know it your recovery run has morphed into something completely different. As any coach worth his salt will keep telling you, it’s vital to have your proper recovery days, or you will end up injured or constantly tired, neither of which will do much good for your running.

One coach I know swears by the method of doing an evaluation workout at least once every three weeks. A typical example would be to run 2 or 3 miles at about 45 seconds per mile slower than your 5k race pace. After the run you stop and check how quickly your heart rate goes down to 120 and 110 bpm. As you get fitter you will notice a steady improvement in these numbers, i.e. it will take less time for your heart rate to drop down to these levels. If you do not see an improvement, you are not training properly (either too hard or not hard enough), and should alter your program.

One thing I do not agree with is to wear your HRM during a race and let it dictate your race pace. This ignores the fact that on race day your heart rate will be elevated because of your increased adrenaline levels. The same pace that might require 150 bpm during a training run can easily take over 160 bpm during a race. It is important to realise that this is not a sign that you’re having a bad day; it is simply your body’s way to handle the increased stress of a race. If you try to stay within set parameters, you are most likely to run too slow and won’t produce the results you are capable of.

Always remember: those tools are helpful for measuring. They are supposed to guide you, not dictate. Use your own judgement, and trust your instincts.

Read these related CompleteRunning articles:
You Gotta Have Heart, Miles & Miles & Miles of Heart!
Use the Karvonen Method to Determine Your Heart Rate Training Targets;