Is a heart rate monitor crucial for training?

At 44, I have recently become a more serious cyclist and this Fall got a Zwift-compatible smart trainer and cadence monitor. I have been working on some of the training programs on Zwift and have been wondering if I should add a heart rate monitor. I have never done any kind of formal athletic training and I don’t know what an HRM would do for me or what I would do with the information it gave back. Since these things are $100+ dollars, I’m wondering if it’s worth it for me to get one or not.

Thanks!
_matthew

Hi Matthew,
training with a heart rate monitor can be very useful even though these days
power numbers are often seen as more important. (having both is probably the best set up)

I am sure you can get a heart rate monitor and chest strap for about $50 which link to Zwift. Some Polar monitors can link and record at the same time which can also be of use.
I’m no expert on this subject but always train with one myself.
Before you spend it would be worth reading as much as you can on training with a HRM to see if it is something you want to get into.
From a Zwift point of view if you are thinking of maybe some racing most of the racing organisers like to see users display heart rates. This is mainly for the upper levels or Cats
I have always used a HRM. For me it is more important than power as if my heart rate is higher than normal for a given effort or power it means I have a problem. I am perhaps under the weather, have a cold, dehydrated maybe etc, so take it easy or have a day or two off.

Morning pulse can be a good indication of well being and there are phone apps that test your (HRV) heart rate variability, which is a more scientific check on well being with the idea that it can determine how hard you should train that day or if you need a rest day.

The subject is big ( I didn’t even mention heart rate zones and different formulas) and like I said I’m no expert, but it could be worth reading more official information if you think it’s for you.
Sorry it’s a long post.
“Ride On”

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i use the tickr from wahoo, their site shows it at $50, but i think i got it for $40 on sale.

i highly recommend using an HRM indoors. it made a big difference in how i approach a ride, and i think it improved my strength and my enjoyment of each ride.

before i had the HRM, i would ride without any real idea of how tired/maxxed out i was. eventually, i’d hit a wall and then i’d soft pedal for the rest of the ride. it wasn’t very fulfilling.

after the HRM, i now know where my different heart rate zones are. i know what my max heart rate is, and i know that if i hold at my my max for more than a few seconds, i’m toast for the rest of the ride. i can sit in “threshold” for quite a while, and i can push hard up hills/in sprints while watching my HRM to see if i’m maxxed yet or not. if i’m pushing in a group ride, i can gauge whether i’m going to blow up or be able to maintain.

now, i only soft pedal when i purposefully maxxed my heart rate – but it’s all a known quantity! i mostly finish at tempo now, and it’s a lot more fun. also, some days i’m just not “on”, and i can see that before i have a miserable ride.

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I use a magene hr sensor from aliexpress. 20€/$ and works perfect, also with my garmin.

Wahoo tickr is supposed to be great. Chest strap type are better any more reliable than wrist watch type. $40-$50. No need to spend $100+.

As far as the data provided I give preference first and foremost to power. You have a smart trainer and your training zones should be set based on power. Heart rate is second. I do track it and know my max, etc but I do not train by HR. Lastly is just RPE. Mostly for outdoor fun rides where I will use RPE and HR together.