Please read this to fully understand both sides of the article, and why I disagree.
Jeff Gaudette: Fluctuations do not correspond to effort level. Specifically, the author mentions that sleep, stress, dehydration, weather and caffeine will elevate (or lower) heart rate, thus, if you're using heart rate as your guide, you'll not be working at the correct heart rate.
My Response: While it is true that the other factors mentioned above will affect heart rate, that's all the more reason to use heart rate and be knowledgable about the effect of outside factors. In fact, in a case of being sleep deprived or stressed, your heart rate will most likely be elevated and should be taken into account when planning your workout for the day. A simple heart rate test to determine Ambient heart rate or Delta heart rate (see the tests) would be an excellent way to measure just how much these factors are affecting your physiology. Adjusting your training downwards (less training load in the form of less duration or intensity) may be necessitated. If you didn't use heart rate, you wouldn't know if you were truly stressed (by any factor) and how to adjust your training. Being dehydrated could be a life threatening situation, thus, knowing that your heart rate is elevated, and adjusting your training downwards, could actually save a life.
Jeff Gaudette: Lack of concrete data to establish training zones. Specifically, the author mentions the use of numerous formulas to determine maximum heart rate, confusing the consumer, the athlete, and even the coach. Further, most individuals should not attempt a maximum heart rate test.
My Response: Yes, it is true that there are numerous formulas that are used to predict or estimate maximum heart rate and that there is a high degree of error with formulas. Further, the author is correct that a graded exercise maximum heart rate test is not appropriate for most individuals. Fortunately, there are some excellent sub-maximal field tests, using actual data (your data) that are substantiated by research, that can help you determine your maximum heart rate and your training zones. Such tests, developed by Heart Zones, and substantiated by Dr. Carl Foster, University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse (a world expert in this area) have been in use for decades, and are SAFE for a majority of individuals. In fact, when completing several of these tests, an individual can gain a high degree of confidence in his or her maximum heart rate and training zones. Additionally, maximum heart rate is not the only basis for training heart rate zones. Using threshold heart rates and corresponding training zones are highly effective. Threshold heart rates can be determined using the "Can You Speak Comfortably Test", by Dr. Carl Foster. (This test has been substantiated in the lab to be highly accurate.)Jeff Gaudette: Faulty readings and inaccurate data. The author states that many heart rate monitors give errant signals that can skew an individual's training.
My response: Certainly, some monitors are inferior, and can give you inaccurate readings, but that's not a good enough reason to not use one. That's a good reason to get a better heart rate monitor. In fact, the more often you use your heart rate monitor, the more you'll get to know and understand exactly how the most important muscle in your body, the heart muscle, reacts to all factors; stress, exercise and rest. Knowing that your heart responds a certain way in different situations is invaluable, because when it doesn't respond as you expect it to, you should be concerned. Take that concern and take a deep look at what's going on inside your body. Is it overtraining, stress, lack of sleep, heart disease or something else? If you're familiar with how your heart reacts in different situations, you'll be better armed with information to make an accurate determination.
Kathy Kent is owner of 365fitt, a company that focuses on Healthy Active Living. Kathy is author of Living 365fitt, A 12-Week Program to Lifestyle Wellness, and is creator of the Living 365fitt Program for Coaches and Individuals. Kathy is also a Heart Zones Level 5 Master Trainer and is an experienced marathoner and Ironman triathlete. www.365fitt.com
Information on the various heart rate tests mentioned in this article can be found at www.heartzones.com.