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A heart rate monitor (HRM) is an extra tool that works well with almost any program (you might not need one for Country Heat LOL). They do exactly what you might expect, monitor your heart rate. I didn’t use one for my entire first round. So, do you absolutely need one? No.

But with Christmas around the counter, a heart rate monitor could be the perfect gift for the fitness guru who seems to have everything. I really believe that once you use one for your training, you’ll never go back.

There are many different brands and options out there. I have really liked the Timex Ironman Road Trainer (around $70 from Amazon right now). Other brands worth taking a look at are Polar, Suunto, or Garmin. There is pretty much unanimous consensus that a heart rate monitor with a chest strap is the best. They offer the easiest and most accurate monitoring. Don’t get a HRM without a chest strap or you will find that the lack of accuracy and reliability will render it useless.  If you are going to wear one, you want to wear one that gives you good feedback, and that will require a chest strap.  Prices range from down to $60 all the way up to $500+. (Check out the Suunto Ambit Heart Rate Monitor if you want to see a crazy GPS/HRM)


What a Heart Rate Monitor can do for you?

Instant Heart Rate Reading – That’s pretty obvious, but a heart rate monitor gives you instant readings of your actual heart rate. This is really useful information. It can allow you to know exactly how hard you are working. What this has meant for me is that I know if I am dogging it or not. If I think I am working really hard and look down to see that my heart rate monitor says I am only at 153 bpm, I need to pick it up! You may think you are pushing your hardest, but your heart rate will tell you the truth and let you know if you need to take it up a notch.  If you are in the 170’s or 180’s, you know you are rocking it with full intensity.

A HRM has also been useful for tracking my resting heart rate. You can put on your heart rate monitor and relax. My resting heart rate is usually in the low 40s. Resting heart rate is good measure of cardiovascular health and overall fitness. That is why P90X has included resting heart rate in their fit test. You will see your resting heart rate drop greatly over 90 days of P90X, X2, or X3.

Calorie Burns – This is one of the coolest and most fun features of a heart rate monitor! A heart rate monitor can give you a very accurate calculation of the calories you burn during a workout or time period. I found out things like I can burn nearly 1000 calories on the P90X lifting days, and my heart rate gets over 170! I lift with a lot of intensity. That allows me to not only build muscle but cut fat.

A heart rate monitor also allow you to track your post workout burn. With working out in the morning, I have used my HRM to see that I burn another 1000 calories before lunch! Your metabolic rate gets going with these workouts and you benefit all morning (with no extra work)!

Some other cool observations about my calorie burns from wearing a heart rate monitor:

*Insanity is just that … INSANE!  I have burned 1200 calories, with my heart rate iover 180 for much of the time on the hour-long MAX workouts!  CRAZY!  It takes a lot of calories to move this 220 pound body like Shaun T for an hour!

*The ab routines don’t burn very many calories, even though my abs are burning (150 on Ab Ripper X, 220 on Killer Abs, 280 on Insane Abs)

Cardiovascular and Endurance Training – Whether cycling or running, heart rate monitors are a great training tool. Endurance athletes can set specific heart rate zones to train in for certain pace goals. For example, a distance runner might have a training heart rate goal of 155-160 bpm for their easy runs and push to 180 bpm as their race pace. These all relate to your max heart rate and your VO2 max (your maximal oxygen consumption). There are great resources and training materials on these topics if you are training for races or would like to.

Do I need a Heart Rate Monitor?

Again, no you don’t NEED a heart rate monitor, but they are tons of fun and really give you a lot of insight into how your body is working. I am amazed at how much I have enjoyed having one. Heart rate monitors are another way collect really valuable data and get the most out of your workouts. They go on sale at most sporting goods stores and Amazon every few months so keep an eye out for a good deal. Be careful, using a heart rate monitor can be really addicting. Look at a heart rate monitor as another tool to really help you BRING IT!

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