async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Why You Need to Run With Heart Zones

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Why You Need to Run With Heart Zones

Disclaimer: I received a Heart Zones Blink 3.0 monitor in exchange for my honest review. 

I've whined for a while now about my sudden loss of endurance. It's been the weirdest thing. In January, I ran a half marathon, followed by an indoor marathon relay. While over time, I had been slowing down, I was happy with my performances at both races. A month after those 2 races, I had a rapid decline in my ability to run anything of distance, much less with speed. Frustrated, I began looking at heart rate training. I pulled out my old Polar chest strap, bought new batteries, and prepared to start running with it.

At that very time, in an interesting twist of serendipity, I received an offer from Heart Zones Blink 3.0 to trial their monitor and join their ambassador program. While I'd never really done heart rate training in the past, the timing of this offer was perfect. I've been running with my new Heart Zones monitor for the past couple of weeks and am excited to share what I've learned.



Why train using your heart rate? Training using heart rate can help you from running too hard or too fast on training runs. I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever mastered the 'easy run'. I think part of the reason I never reached my full potential and achieved that BQ is because I always ran my long runs too fast. By using a heart rate monitor, you can actually dial it back and run at the right pace for each type of run. Heart rate training also helps you control your effort when it's hot and humid. I also believe that with regular heart rate training, you better learn to gauge your runs based on how you feel.

What's your target heart rate? What's your maximum heart rate? The old standard of measuring your maximum heart rate is to take the number 220 and subtract your age. While most experts agree that this is not accurate for well-conditioned athletes, it's the easiest and most popular method of calculating your training zones. Interestingly, if I use this method, I have a max heart rate of 164 BPM. This is just not accurate for me. There are other, more accurate methods to establish your max heart rate, which you can find here. Once you've established your max heart rate, you can calculate your zones.

My Heart Zones monitor came within a few days of accepting the offer to try it and join the ambassador program. What did I have to lose? I was surprised at how easy the monitor was to use. I downloaded the Heart Zones app from the App store and loaded in my starting and max heart rate. From there, the app calculated my thresholds for the blue, yellow, and red zones. The sensor synced with my phone via Bluetooth and off I went.

No surprise, my first run was mostly in the red zone. Clearly, I've been pushing myself too hard and this was all the evidence I needed. After a couple of runs, I started to see more time in the orange zone, which is probably familiar to those of you who go to Orange Theory Fitness. In OTF, the goal is to have your heart rate in the orange zone for 12-20 minutes of a 60 minute class. I've never done OTF, but I decided to make this my goal for my runs. As my training using the monitor continued, I started seeing more time in the orange zone.

This is the summary of my run as seen on the Heart Zones app.
The monitor is attached to a strap that wraps around any part of the body you want to put it on. I put it on my forearm above my Garmin, as you can see in the photo at the top of the post. The monitor flashes blue, purple, or red, depending on what zone you're in. I have to comment that I have trouble distinguishing between the blue and purple lights. Yellow would be nice for that middle zone! The monitor strap is comfortable and comes in a variety of colors. Sure beats wearing a chest strap!


Besides the Heart Zones apps, you can sync the monitor with a variety of fitness apps, including Strava and RunKeeper. The Blink 3.0 is waterproof and you can even take it in the pool with you for swimming workouts. My monitor came fully charged and battery life is up to 8 hours per charge.

I'm going to continue to train with my Heart Zones monitor and hopefully I'll find that sweet spot where I can run comfortably, yet hit those distance goals that I've become accustomed to. The Heart Zones monitor could not have come at a better time. Stay tuned for more updates on how the Heart Zones monitor continues to assist my training.

Heart Zones keeps me out of the red zone!  /via @oldrunningmom @HeartZones #runchat #running #productreview

Do you train with a heart rate monitor? If you do, how has it helped you? If you don't, tell me why! Are you interested in purchasing the Blink 3.0? It's on sale right now plus I have a 15% discount code: hzamb15


I'm linking up with Zenaida and Kim for Tuesday Topics.


41 comments :

  1. Great timing in view of my Lawyers Have Heart heart rate data question. I only pay attention to my HR at OTF (and this monitor looks exactly like their new wrist model - I use the chest strap) an have to work really hard to get my heart rate orange quickly. So many women in my MRTT group are focusing on heartrate training. It could be a great way to cope with summer running if it makes you take it easy.

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    1. I used to do HRT in the summer to help me beat the heat. Hoping this will help me find my groove again.

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  2. I have never trained with a heart rate monitor, but now I think I should. Wearing the strap on your arm sure is more appealing than wearing a band around your chest. I need to learn how to take it easy on my easy runs too.

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    1. My body is really fighting me these days, so I'm anxious to see how using the HRT will help me run more efficiently.

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  3. I'd like to, but aside from an older Blink, I don't have access to it. I found I couldn't easily see the colors, either, and that's pretty much why I abandoned it -- I could only really tell how I did after the run was done, and that wasn't super helpful (treadmill runs were easier to see).

    Hope it works better for you!

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  4. It was definitely eye opening when I started running by heart rate. I was going way too fast during what should have been easy runs.

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  5. This is really such great information. Years ago I ran with the chest strap that was attached to my Garmin but it was so annoying to run with. I love that this can do right on your arm - so less invasive. I am thinking I should try to do heart rate training for marathon training this summer. I want to make sure that I'm not training too hard.

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    1. If I were to train for a marathon, I'd definitely include HRT in my regimen. It's so easy to run those long runs too fast!

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  6. This is something I've thought of looking into acquiring. When we ran D2D last weekend, the hubby just followed what his FitBit told him (regarding heart rate), and he was able to finish pretty well considering he hadn't really trained for that distance. Although I usually run by feel, I probably am still doing my long runs faster than ideal.

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    1. I've always done well by running by feel, but with this slow down, all bets are off. My legs want to dial into the pace they've always run at but my heart says no. The HRT should help guide me to a more comfortable pace and hopefully I'll be able to run farther!

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  7. I was just thinking about the old chest straps and how wonky they could be.
    This seems interesting. I've just started to pay attention to the hear rate zones on my Garmin vs. just the average pace. Do you think this is easier to follow?

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    1. This is just so much easier than the old chest strap. My Garmin doesn't measure HR. I tried using my Apple Watch but it kept turning off. It was so distracting! The Heart Zones just flashes one of the 3 colors, so you can glance down at it to see where you're at. For me, since I usually push too hard, seeing that flashing red makes me slow down. It has really helped a lot!

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    2. I love the idea of an at a glance since depending on light/glasses I can't always read on the go.

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  8. I just ran with it for the first time today. It really is easy to use. Now I just have to do a little work to figure out my zones and where I should be.I also think I run my easy runs too hard and my hard runs too easy.I probably do most of my runs in that in between spot that you are supposed to avoid. Great review and I am excited to see how I can use mine to help me

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    1. I'm still trying to figure out my zones--I'm pretty sure I've got them right. I do still need to sync the monitor with my stride so it can calculate cadence.

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  9. Great review, and you've made me think - seeing my heart rate when I'm able to get back to walking (at least that, hopefully) could help me to push it a bit. I'm not a fast walker but I may need to be if that is going to be my main form of cardio. Ack, have I mentioned that herniated discs suck?

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    1. I have also used a heart rate monitor when I was doing indoor cycling. Back when I was training for Big Sur, I was sidelined with PF for several months. The monitor helped me push myself harder than I would normally have so I could get my HR up in 'the zone". Now that I think about it, since it's waterproof, this would be great for pool running too!

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  10. It's great to hear that you like the Heart Zones so far! I have often said I should probably give HR training a try - especially in the summer! It's nice that this monitor can be worn anywhere and not the typical chest strap. Hope HR training continues to work well for you!!

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  11. That's awesome how well it is working for you! I've never trained with a heart rate monitor, even though I think my Garmin has a chest strap. I'm a slow trainer and usually don't have a problem going easy on my easy days, . The wrist-based ones do look more comfortable!

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    1. Hey, you can always teach an old dog new tricks, right? :p Hoping this will help me find my "new normal".

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  12. At my gym, I used a monitor called MyZone. It tells my trainer when I'm in the red zone (>90 percent of my max HR or greater), yellow (>80), and green (>70), and is displayed on a TV screen. Over the course of a workout, he can keep an eye on my HR. It's very helpful. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for solo working out, like walking outside because you can't see your activity until you upload it to the app.
    I wrote a blog post about it a while back if you're interested :-)
    https://notes-by-grace.blogspot.com/2018/03/challenging-challenge.html

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  13. Great review Wendy! I remember they reached out to me if I was interested in joining their ambassador program and I said no. Now I regret it. My Garmin has a heart rate monitor but I never look at that data. I have a specific pace that I follow for my easy/long runs but sometimes I do them faster than I should.

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    1. My Garmin doesn't have a HR monitor. I didn't buy that Garmin bc I wasn't doing HRT at the time. I actually like this monitor because instead of numbers, I can gauge where I'm at by the color flashing on the monitor.

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  14. I’m glad you’ve found a tool that can help you run the paces you need. I have a HRM on my Garmin but rarely use it. I’m not even sure what my max is! Or I guess I do because I did a VO2 max test a while back but I don’t remember. 😝

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    1. I hope this tool can help me run the right paces! I'm still working on it. I need to figure out my max.

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  15. I definitely haven't mastered the "easy run" - it's honestly the hardest type of run for me to do! I have been using HR training for a while, I started when I was pregnant for my first. This device looks like a great way to monitor it!!! I like that it blinks different colors!

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    1. I like that too--it's easy to just glance at it and keep going!

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  16. I've noticed my HR calculations on my Garmin, and I tend to be in the Orange and Red zone on my runs, never lower lol. This looks like a great tool and you know the more data, the better!

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    1. I have to work on my zones--I think my red zone is too low since I seem to spend a lot of time there even when I'm feeling good!

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  17. I have not heard of the Heartzones Blink. I used to do heart zone training in college which I really liked. Maybe I need to get back to that?

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  18. My Garmin has the wrist HR monitor and my Peloton treadmill came with a chest strap. However, it would be neat to try this and see how it compares. It's so hot and humid here that I'm sure my HR does change throughout the summer on what I consider an easy run.

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    1. It takes a lot more effort to run in the heat and humidity, so I'd think this would be helpful with that!

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  19. Interesting. I've not found my wrist monitor on my Garmin watch so good (well, it drops suddenly on my graph and I don't feel my heart rate does that) but this being for that purpose will probably work better. I'm glad it's helped you!

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  20. I've never trained or run with heart rate monitoring, but it sounds like a good idea!

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