Here is a great question from a sailor seeking to better his PFT run time and has gathered extra information about training with heart rate monitor training. "How much emphasis should I put on target heart rate while training for the PRT run? The Navy PRT web page says the target heart rate for my age group (25 years) is 117-146bpm, with a max HR of 195. I'm working on faster run times, which means I'm pacing faster and really pushing myself. I don't own a HR monitor, but the treadmill I used today indicated that I quickly worked my HR up to a pretty steady 172 BPM. I was physically comfortable with that, but is this a problem, or is this what to expect when pushing yourself to a new level? I tried staying in the "target zone," but that was just way too slow."
"All I'm trying to do is get faster, not lose weight, so what's the use of a target heart rate in PRT training?" Training using a heart rate monitor can offer immediate feedback and give you an indication of effort, but if you workout enough you know when you are at your peak exertion levels. I have used and still use my Polar Heart Rate monitor infrequently especially when I start a new phase of my workout. When I change my routine and lift harder or do distance running instead of speed work. I like to gauge where my heart rate is when I reach muscle failure or a comfortable running pace. Where I personally get the most use is observing my recovery time from near max heart rate to 40-50%. This is a good way to gauge if you are getting more fit with your routine. If your recovery time decreases with PFT type exercises you are getting in better shape.
To answer your question, no you really do not need to adhere to the 117-146bpm zone for your PRT training. If you are training for ace the PT and the run, you will need to build speed through interval and faster pace training. Typically the heart rate zone you see on the cardio machines are target zones for you to optimally burn fat (staying aerobic) and not pushing the envelope of increasing your PRT scores. Now, if you can run faster at your PRT goal pace and have your heart rate in the aerobic target zone, that is impressive! This is how champion marathon runners can hit 5 minute miles for 26 miles! This takes hardcore conditioning training and that that level a heart rate monitor is almost essential to improving performance. At the National Strength and Conditioning Association the Tactical Strength and Conditioning component utilizes the information obtained from heart rate monitors when worn by Special Ops, Police SWAT Team, and Fire Fighters when they perform their job. Heart rate monitors are useful in seeing exertion and adrenaline rushes occur during the performance of their duties. Using this information, you can create workout plans that can better simulate the job experience by adding in short sprints in between sets of weight training or calisthenics for instance. Learning how to recover from the adrenalin rush is helpful in managing stress either on the job or not.
So in a nutshell, heart rate monitors are very useful whether you are a beginner or an advanced athlete or tactical athlete. However, for improvement of running, I would focus on speed and endurance workouts. Check out the "Running and Cardio article archive" for previous articles to help you.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.