should I wear a heart rate monitor?

should I wear a heart rate monitor?

I have a confession to make: I've never worn a heart rate monitor.

heart beat graphic

I've trained for speed. I've trained for endurance. I've trained for team sports and individual sports. I've trained for weight loss. I've trained for triathlons. I've even trained because my wife wanted a workout partner.

All this training over the years has helped me become pretty good at listening to my body. I know when I need to pace myself a little better, when I can push myself harder, and when my muscles are fatiguing. I do a pretty good job of giving my body an extra day of rest when it needs one, and hitting another workout when it can handle it. (although I've over-done it on more than one occasion..)

Why I don't wear a heart rate monitor

1.) I'm an Unpaid Amateur. I'm not a sponsored athlete, I don't race for money, and no amount of improvement is going to change that. I train for me, and I'm happy with my results as they are.

2.) Max Heart Rate. I understand my max heart rate. I don't know the exact number, but I know that when I push myself really hard, my heart beats faster, my lungs ache for air, and I get tired. Sometimes I can even make myself dizzy. I can only handle a certain amount of max intensity before I need to slow down again.

3.) Different Exercises for Different Purposes. I run. I Kettlebell. I do Fit-20. Sometimes I swim. I play sports with my kids. And in each of these exercises, my workouts change depending on my mood and my goals. Sometimes I do speed work, sometimes I go for endurance. Once in awhile I try to break a Personal Record. But above it all, I workout because I enjoy how I feel, and how I look, when I'm in shape.

4.) I Don't Count Workout Calories. I've referenced knowing how many calories you burn in a day many times on this site. ( is an easy way to find out.) And I always recommend using the sedentary option on that calculator, because the "active" options leave too much room for error. Using this number is a great way to build an eating plan - eat fewer calories than this number if you want to lose weight, and any exercise will only help you lose weight faster. (If you're counting on exercise for weight loss, you need to rethink your plan, as your eating habits will determine about 90% of your success in weight loss.)

4a.) I Can Estimate my Workout Calories. I know that moving my body 1 mile burns somewhere between 100 - 120 calories, regardless of how fast I go. I also know how I feel running at various paces - a 7-minute pace wipes me out, an 8-minute pace is challenging but doable, and a 9-minute pace gets a little easier. I can workout for 20 minutes, compare how my body feels to determine a similar running-pace, and then ballpark how many calories I burned. I've never needed to be more specific than that.

5.) It just doesn't look comfortable. Enough said on that one.

heart rate monitor

It all boils down to listening to my body. If I want to push myself a little harder, I push harder. When my body tells me to slow down, I slow down. Sometimes there's a power struggle between my brain (saying to push harder) and my body (saying to slow down) - these are the times when it's important to understand the body's different voices. (It's kind of like the different cries a baby can make - "I'm hungry" is different from "I'm in pain.") The body's "I'm out of breath" is different from "I'm getting injured", which is different from "I'm in serious trouble"..

Should I wear a heart rate monitor?

Sometimes I think it would be nice to know:

  • Exactly how many calories I burned during a workout.
  • How hard my heart is working during intense exercise.
  • An exact comparison (calories and heart rate) of which exercises are harder. (and whether my gut feeling is correct.)
  • If I could improve my results by pushing myself harder than I am currently.
  • If I could improve my max heart rate over time.

But, as of yet, none of these reasons has been important enough to get me to wear a heart rate monitor.

What about you? Do you wear a heart rate monitor? Why or why not?

-Chris Butterworth

Image credits:
heart beat graphic -
man with heart monitor -