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Why Heart Rate Training is the Smart Way to Workout

Using real-time heart rate data during your workouts means you have instant insight into how your body is responding. This means you’ll be training smarter, which is always better than simply training harder. Here we take a look at the different types of heart rate training and what their benefits are.

Heart rate and exercise intensity

In a nutshell, sports training is based on three variables:

  • Frequency: this is easy to understand. It’s how many times you exercise during a period of time, for example per week.
  • Duration: again, a simple concept. It’s how long you exercise at a time, usually counted in minutes.
  • Intensity: this one is a bit more complicated – and that’s where your heart rate zones come in. 

Your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during training. Instead of trying to ‘guesstimate’ the intensity of your workout, your heart rate is a trackable number, just like frequency and duration.


There are many reasons for you to track your heartbeats, including both health and performance-related benefits. For example, it may surprise you to learn that faster and harder doesn’t always mean you’ll get the most out of your workout. 

Heart rate training optimizes your effort, ensuring every minute of each session count. When you track your workouts with a heart rate monitor and prioritize your recovery time, you’ll increase your fitness and improve your performance.

So, a solid training plan should include a variety of workouts that are spaced to include time to recover: some shorter and some long, some tough and some light. It’s this diversity that elevates your training.

What is low-heart rate training?

So here’s a groundbreaking concept for you: running slow can make you faster. Fitness coach Phil Maffetone pioneered the concept of low-heart rate training as a way of improving aerobic fitness without risk of overtraining and it has become a popular approach from new runners to triathletes alike.

The idea is that by consistently training at a low heart rate, in time you will become faster without having to push your heart or body too hard. For many people, this means starting at a very slow run/walk pace for the first couple of weeks or months as you gradually build speed.

Learn how to calculate your low heart rate!


While this can feel a little frustrating at first, particularly if you’re used to running at a faster pace, the long-term benefits are considerable. In time, you will be able to: 

  • run close to your race speed while maintaining a low heart rate.
  • decrease the likelihood of strain, illness, or minor injuries from overtraining.
  • decrease the likelihood of feeling exhausted after your runs.
  • maintain a more consistent level of performance.

Discover why professional triathletes Chris Leiferman and Bart Aernouts feel low-intensity training works best for them.

What is HIIT? 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a popular workout that strengthens your muscles, metabolism, and heart all at once. It involves a series of short exercises that push your heart rate to an intense level, followed by a brief recovery. 

People love adding HIIT sessions to their training plan because it’s a fast way to see results that don’t require a huge amount of exercise time. Including your warm-up, a HIIT workout should only take around half an hour. If this seems too short, you can always do an active recovery session, such as yoga

When you first give HIIT a try, make sure you only include one high-intensity session per week in your training plan. Over time, you can increase your HIIT days as your fitness level improves. While most people picture a boot camp-style workout when they think about HIIT, it can actually be applied to any type of exercise, including running and cycling.

Lean how to use your heart rate with HIIT!


The many advantages of including HIIT sessions in your training plan is the key to its popularity. Here are some of the key benefits of this type of heart rate training:

  • increased endurance.
  • burns fat while building lean muscle.
  • boosts metabolism for up to 48 hours after working out, while the body recovers from the greater demand for oxygen.
  • shorter workouts, making HIIT perfect for busy people.
  • improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels when compared with more moderate forms of exercise. This means a lower risk of conditions like heart disease.
  • more efficient use of glucose by muscles. Research has shown that regular HIIT sessions can help people with Type II diabetes reverse the progress of their condition within a couple of weeks.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to share so that others can find it, too.

Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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