For a while now I’ve been running with my Polar heart rate watch to better gauge the effort I exert during training runs and rides. When I first got the watch I read the manual and went through the set-up process according to the directions. In the manual it stated pretty clearly that the watch would beep whenever I was above or below my target heart rate zone. In the last six months that I have been using the watch I have become slowly tolerant to the beeping. I have had runs where it only beeps for a little bit because I quickly get into and stay in my zone and I’ve had other runs where it beeped the entire time because I was a digit over my heart rate zone. The first time I wore it on a bike ride it also beeped the whole time because I was a couple digits under the heart rate zone.
Once I wore the watch during my interval runs and then it beeped the entire time because my effort in running intervals was significantly higher than during a long or easy run. The difference during that session with my watch beeping the entire time was that I was on a track. With other runners. I was that girl. For a solid three miles round and round the track other runners had to endure the obnoxious beeping of my watch telling everyone that I was not in my target heart rate zone.
That same week I left out for a long run with the watch and chest strap strapped on and no sooner did I exit my neighborhood than the watch started beeping. Somehow the watch had also reset my target heart rate zone so that my max HR was down to 145 where it had previously been set to 162. Oddly the watch was registering an HR of only 45. I knew from my pace that there was no way my HR was actually 45 and after the first 10 minutes of incessant beeping I was finally annoyed with what used to be a helpful signal that I was not in my target HR zone. I had a solid 11 more miles in front of me and so I simply shut the watch off.
As soon as I shut the watch off I felt at peace and noticed the quiet of the street I was running on. It didn’t take long though for me to also notice how dependent I had been on the beeping of that watch and the ability to glance at my heart rate to gauge my pace. I was all of a sudden able to run without the distraction of the watch yet I desperately wanted to know my heart rate. I got so caught up in thinking about this that I stopped paying attention to my pace. It was like I had to learn pacing all over again, the natural way. Instead of relying on my heart rate watch to tell me how hard I was working I focused on my form and my breathing.
For the rest of the run I went back to basics. Breathing in through my nose, exhaling through my mouth. I concentrated on looking a few yards ahead of me. Made sure to keep my shoulders and arms loose. Tried to keep my footfalls square underneath me with a comfortable landing and push off to the next stride. As it turned out, by the end of that quiet, beepless run with no clue as to what my heart rate levels had been, I felt as though I’d had the best run yet. During the entire run I felt as though my pace was consistent and I ended the run with great endurance. When I got home and logged the run I discovered that although my pace felt great, my time was not at all what I had hoped for.
Although it was great to get back to basics and run without the dependence of my heart rate watch, when it comes to training it really is a valuable tool. So, I broke the manual back out and read through all the settings yet again. And there, where I had clearly missed it before, were the very simple directions for how to mute the watch.
I now get to enjoy more beepless, quiet runs and monitor my heart rate.