Do I need a heart rate monitor?


#1

Hey Everybody. I’m a relatively new TR user and pretty inexperienced in cycling. I’m really enjoying structured training, and as a bit of a data junky I’m using TR, Strava, and TrainingPeaks everyday to nerd out over my rides and workouts. Prior to training with power and TR, I used my Garmin Fenix 5 as a cycling computer and always had HR data from that, but frankly just didn’t see the utility of it. A HR monitor is a pretty cheap investment, but I’m not sure how I would deploy that data. Is it worth getting, am I missing a critical information set that I could be geeking out over?

Thanks, Tuck


#2

Definitely not critical, but I consider it useful. There are a few workouts where you ride intervals with increased cadence without a dramatic increase in heartrate. So having heartrate right there help there. What I use it for is checking my heartrate for baseline workouts (like Pettit) to give me an indicate of fatigue levels. Also, I like to see max heartrate on certain tough workouts.


#3

I record HR and Power for every ride (indoor or outdoor) but don’t often look at it until afterwards. The HR data is fun to look at, particularly for a race after the fact. As in - wow, I really was on my limit closing that gap, no wonder that move stayed away.

I actually find HR data more valuable off of the bike for better estimating calorie burn and recovery rate. I can tell how much training load I am under by small variances in my sleeping minimum heart rate (for me, 33-35 = well rested, 36-38 = training load, 39+ blergh overtrained)


#4

That makes sense. I used it this weekend mountain biking with my Garmin to figure out where my crash was. I looked for a big drop in speed and a spike in heart rate, and there it was lol.


#5

I have graphs like that too, and I’m a roadie. :scream: (Where’s the crash and burn emoticon?)

During a Threshold or VO2Max workout, I use HR as a suffer score. I know where it starts to get uncomfortable and where it starts to hurt bad, so use it to coach myself, “Only 2 more minutes. … Only 1:30.” etc. It’s also encouraging to time the drop when the rest interval hits.


#6

There is value in it, but it requires a lot of interpretation and care to appropriately use it. However, I would put the money towards a power meter first and only add on HR if you have the spare cash.

I’ve found it the most valuable for tracking long term trends in HRV with HRV4Training and for long outdoor endurance paced rides.


#7

HR monitor provides you a measure of internal training load/stress and is therefore a key component of monitoring your training program, effort and adaptive progress.

TR does and amazing job of providing individualized external training load and while you can make great improvements I think it’s still important to know the internal costs associated with that external load.

Over the long term it allows for a bit more of a nuanced approach to training and monitoring


#8

You can often read: “there is value in it” and there probably is. But what exactly is the value when you use an prescribed TR plan that is based only on power?
Would you change the plan if your HR behaves in a special way? Or would you rather change it based on feel?

A helpful way to use heartrate is “heart rate decoupling”. But that would only make sense outdoors.
Also training zones based on heart rate can be useful – outdoors, when you don’t have a powermeter.
So to be honest: I don’t see an useful (actionable) use case on TR for heart rate. (Of course I find it entertaining to look at the HR curves after a workout, too).
Or do I miss something here?


#9

A HRM can be another data point that might be useful in tracking trends over time, but even then, there’s so much day-to-day noise I question the utility. And you really should just ignore your HR during workouts, because your heart rate can fluctuate from day to day - or even minute to minute within the same workout - for external reasons that have nothing to do with your effort. Hydration, sleep, heat, stress, etc etc etc. I’ve hit new max heart rates during hard efforts, where if I had been focused on my heart rate, I might have cheated myself out of the hard effort - ‘oh, I’m nearing my max HR, I better dial it back a bit’.

If you don’t have a power meter, some people say that a HRM is better than nothing - I’m not sure I would agree…

Anyway - having heart rate it as another data point to look at for long-term trends probably doesn’t hurt, but be aware of the limitations.


#10

As others have said, having the HR data is useful for looking at trends over time. I also like to have it as a measure of “am I tired, getting sick, or just lazy?”. My other reason for wanting HR data though is that as a multisport person I like to be able to compare efforts across different kinds of activities.


#11

I find it useful in two ways.

First, if I am doing the same (or similar) workout a few weeks/months apart, the difference in power output may not tell me much, since it’s really just showing me whether my FTP was different. And if my FTP hasn’t changed, or I haven’t assessed recently, then the target power will be the same. But if I hit the same power output and my HR was lower, then it might indicate that the same amount of work took less out of me (i.e., I am more fit than before). If this same thing happens over multiple work intervals, and over multiple workouts, then I can be more confident that I’m seeing a real fitness change rather than effects of stress/sleep/illness.

Second, and by far the most useful thing of all: HR lets me see if I paused the workout, since this results in a “cliff” drop in HR. I haven’t found any other way to see whether and when a workout was paused. Being able to make it through a workout or set of work intervals with fewer/no breaks, or with shorter breaks (smaller cliff), can be an important indicator of improvement, even if the total work and output is identical.

That said, if I forget the HRM, I don’t get too wound up about it. It’s nice to have, but I could live without it.


#12

Following on from the idea of using same or similar workouts to check HR trends, TR has a workout for this:

LSCT Warmup

This is the Lamberts and Lambert Submaximal Cycling Test. I don’t have many data points, but plan to use this before every future ramp test to check freshness and fatigue. I’ll work the science out later when I’ve got a few more tests completed :thinking:

Some background on the test protocol here: Science And Cycling e.g., don’t forget to lay off the double espressos until AFTER you’ve checked your Heart Rate Recovery.


#13

I tracked the LSCT warmup for over a year, tracking HRmax, HRR and %HRR. For me, at least, it only worked to reinforce the obvious at the extremes of fatigue. I was off the bike for a week and felt really well rested - my HRR% was great, big surprise, right? By contrast, the first workout after a stage race where I also hadn’t slept well between stages - HRR% was crap. So at the extremes it works. I tried correlating %HRR with CTL, ATL but it didn’t correlate. So, I’m not sure it’s useful for day-to-day fatigue because of the inherent noise in HR. It’s a decent warmup protocol though.


#14

Great info, thanks! I’ll keep at it to earn my geek points…and for the warmup!


#15

Tuck,

According to some coaches, Pw:Hr metrics are important.

Here is an article from TrainingPeaks: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/how-to-use-aerobic-decoupling/

If you want to know what your Pw:Hr, then you need to use a HR monitor and a power meter.

Be Well and Train On!

Gordon

Tha


#16

That was a good read, thanks. I’m firmly in the position now that “It sure doesn’t hurt and it’s not that expensive, so why not.” Thanks everyone.


#17

In my experience, when I start in any sport I find using my heart rate as a good proxy for my perceived exertion until I get things dialed in. With cycling especially, I didn’t have a good grasp on my power and/or how hard I was working and it helped me gauge my efforts.

That being said you do not NEED a HR monitor.