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SUP Cheap: Training Without a Heart Rate Monitor

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

SUP Cheap: Training without a heart rate monitor

Develop an internal sense of effort and pace (you should do this even if you use a heart rate monitor)

I’ve been paddling since 2011, and I’ve never owned a heart rate monitor. I’m not the fastest paddler, nor am I the slowest. Maybe one day I’ll buy one and see what all the hype is about. Granted, heart rate monitors are relatively inexpensive when you look at the cost of the board and paddle, I’m still always looking for ways that I don’t have to spend more money. Even though I do believe that they can aid in training, I think that humans can get along fine without one. A brief example being Kathy Alfino, who has been at the podium at the Ironman World Championships: she doesn’t use a heart rate monitor and after racing for 29 years stated that her times are faster the older she gets.

Although heart rate monitors can be beneficial for some, they can also be misleading. Fluctuations in heart rate may not correlate with you actual effort during an exercise session. Lack of sleep, stress, caffeine, hot weather, and dehydration can all increase your heart rate anywhere from a few beats to 7.5% of your heart rate. The readouts need to be constantly interpreted by the user and effort adjusted to maximize your training. By taking the readout too seriously, and not listening to your body you could undertrain and never reach your goals. With the small errors associated with heart rate monitors, it becomes important for a paddler to know their own body.

If I’m going to use base my training off of how I’m feeling anyway, why do I even need a heart rate monitor?

The main argument from seasoned heart rate monitor users is that paddlers (or other athletes) will injure themselves by going to hard too fast or training in the wrong zones. While this can, in fact, cause more harm than good, I don’t think the argument has anything to do with the use of a heart rate monitor. These same people that want to train hard will do so with or without a heart rate monitor. The keys to any training plan are KNOWLEDGE and a little self-discipline. At the most basic level, you have to train both your aerobic and anaerobic systems by alternating fast and slow workouts through a series of build weeks and recovery weeks. This can be accomplished with or without a heart rate monitor, but a quality training plan helps.

So, bottom line, how do you train without a heart rate monitor?

How can you know when you’re training too hard or too light?

The key is to develop a good calibration of