Over the last few years, visual Heart Rate monitor systems in fitness facilities have become all the rage… and for good reason! In many fitness studios the visual Heart Rate Monitor is central to the workout itself. At Ion Fitness we have implemented a great HR system to help supplement our client’s workouts. I have found numerous benefits to implementing a system into our classes and my own personal workouts. I will list them in the next paragraph. But in my few years of observation, I have noticed that there can be a down side to consistently using a visual HR system. For this reason, I think it may be a good idea to regularly practice a Heart Rate Monitor Detox!
As I stated in the first paragraph, I really enjoy using the HR system at our facility. From an instructor’s perspective, it is a great tool. I can quickly glance at the monitor/app, and know how my class is doing. This can help with the overall direction of the class while also being aware of our level of intensity during any particular exercise. It can also help me focus more on an individual who may be over training or needing a stronger push. Our clients at Ion fitness really see the benefit in wearing a HR Monitor.
Benefits of HR Monitors:
- You Can Monitor Your Progress – The user instantly knows the data for their workout and can manage it accordingly.
- Safe Exercise – The user can visually see if their heart rate is running too high for too long. This will typically prompt a break or ease in activity.
- Calorie Burn – Most heart rate programs identify calories being burned. This usually motivates a person to work harder so to hit their personal goals.
- Starting from Zero – For some people, visually seeing zero calories (mentally) prepares them for the workout ahead. It is as if a switch is turned on from 0 to 1 calorie burned.
- Body/Heart Rate Awareness– Typically people are aware of when they are working too hard or too little during exercise. I have noticed many of my clients being more motivated towards getting into (and staying in) the Glycolysis & Aerobic zones. (Blue, Green, and Orange zone)
As one can see, there many benefits to wearing a heart rate monitor during a workout. However, over time I have noticed some bad habits being formed. First (and the most apparently) is un-healthy competition between classmates. Some competition between classmates can be beneficial and helps push the heart rate user to work harder. However, this should be a momentary thought. Pushing too hard to “win the race” reduces the focus on form and results in unnecessary injury.
Too much focus on the data
One of the benefits, as listed previously, is the ability to monitor real-time progress. However, this can sometimes become an obsession – to the point where the exercise/movement becomes secondary to the data. When this occurs, the person’s form and technique breaks down. Not only can this become dangerous to the person but the intended exercise loses its effectiveness.
Also in terms of the data, I have found that users will associate a good workout with the amount of calories burned during it. Yes this can sometimes be the case. If you hit 600 calories, you may have completed a good workout that day. However, it does not always result positively, especially in our strength training classes. Some days, we are doing more lifting and less cardio – which typically records less calories. In this case, the user should not assume the workout was less effective. Unfortunately some do.
Lastly, I have seen HR monitor’s occasionally glitch which causes the user to get distracted. Most of the time this is only momentarily. However, when the issue is not resolved quickly, it can seriously distract the user. In fact, I have seen people completely disregard their workout because an HR monitor was not reading correctly.
Heart Rate Monitor Detox
My studio is not giving up on our Heart Rate monitor system any time soon. But recently we have implemented a Heart Rate Monitor “Detox” for a week. This is where no one uses our house system during classes and PT sessions, for an entire week. What I have noticed is my clients getting back to the basics and focusing again on form. They are concentrating on what we are doing in the moment. I am also seeing their technique and overall attitude improving. Similar to needing a break from our iPhone’s from time to time, the same should apply with heart rate Monitors. It should always be viewed as a supplement to the workout and not as a necessity. The HR Monitor “detox week” allowed us to reset and re-establish a healthy relationship with our Monitors once again.
I have not mastered the frequency as of yet, but I am planning on having a week “detox” every three months – or as needed. I plan on adding to this article in the future as more information develops.