Friday, March 25, 2016

Swimming with Heart Rate

It's time to try swimming with Heart Rate again.

About 20 years ago, I started using heart rate as a guide for all my workouts, as I swam, biked and ran my way through numerous Sprint, Olympic, Half-Ironman and Ironman distance triathlons.  Heart Rate became my Coach.  Heart 
Rate kept me motivated to go harder when I had to do speed work and interval training, and kept me honest when I had to do an easy or recovery workout.  Heart Rate kept me motivated and accountable.  I never did a workout without Heart Rate.  I rose to the top of my game with Heart Rate.  We were inseparable.  Until we parted ways.

Fast forward to today.

Heart Rate is back in my life, although this time around, we're having more fun than ever before.  Heart Rate never lost value, but, the technology had changed significantly enough that it needed to be revisited.  Gone are the chest straps that wouldn't always work in the water and were uncomfortable to wear.  (I had heard stories of men who used duct tape to secure the chest strap to their chest for swimming!  Ouch!)  Today, we are using arm bands securely affixed to the upper arm, Big Board displays, iPad's and iPhones.  (Notebooks and other smart devices work also.)  I had an opportunity to demo this new product during a recent trip to Sacramento, while visiting Sally Edwards and her team at HeartZones.  

The "Heart Zones System" combines user friendly hardware with software to create a personalized experience for users.  Since I was demo'ing this product by myself in the pool, I made a few modifications:

  1. I used the water friendly armband to send my heart rate via Ant+ technology.
  2. I used the Heart Zones bridge, to receive the signal.  Think of the bridge as a "gatherer of signals".
  3. The signal was then sent to an iPad, which was placed at the end of my swim lane, on a tripod.  
  4. The iPad was opened to the Heart Zones PE App to get realtime data during my swim.  It's large numbers were easy to see (and can accommodate a large group of users at the same time.)
  5. After the workout, I was able to send a copy of the workout to my email.  Here's a copy of my workout.
I have since swam with the arm band utilizing my iPhone and the Heart Zones Training App.  I simply placed my iPhone in a ziplock bag and placed it at the end of my swim lane.  This kept my phone safe and dry, while allowing me to see my heart rate displayed in big numbers (useful for those with poor vision, who are unable to read heart rate on a small wrist monitor).  The arm band remains comfortable to wear in the pool.  I'm able to use either maximum heart rate to set my zones, or T1 and T2 to set my thresholds.

Twenty years have gone by, and technology has definitely made it easier to give us big data in real time.  I'm a fan of Heart Rate - my old coach, who is back in my life and I'm looking forward to seeing how we can move heart rate into more clubs and pools across the country.

If you have any questions about swimming with heart rate, please feel free to contact me at your convenience at

Swimming 365fitt,

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