How to determine pulse rate while running
January 15, 2013 4:29 PM   Subscribe

OK, maybe the verb 'determine' is ambitious but having a close enough estimate is also good. There is a catch, I am not running on a treadmill and I do not have any gadget on my wrist or body. Is it still possible to have a nice guess of the pulse rate because, say, I want to be in the cardio zone and not in the fat burning zone. I think it is a function of age, fitness, speed and running duration but could not find an online chart for this kind of relation. And yes, I know the speed I run at.
posted by raphael19 to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just take your pulse. Practice finding your pulse on your neck, and then when you are running record the number of beats you feel in 15 seconds. Multiply by four.
posted by Nightman at 4:32 PM on January 15, 2013

Taking my pulse while running is a very difficult thing for me to do. Perhaps you have a more palpable pulse, but I cannot feel my pulse through the vibrations of running, and I am pretty thin, and feel pulses professionally.

There are only two solutions that I have found:

1. Stop running, and take my pulse manually. (isn't exactly accurate, as I begin to recover a little in the 15 seconds it takes to get an estimate, also the interruption is annoying)
2. Wear a heart monitor. (I own one, it's around here somewhere, but I never use it as subjective exertion proved to be a close enough indicator of pulse rate for me that I got no useful information from the monitor.)
posted by 517 at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2013

Do 517's (1). Do it for only ten seconds if you want to really minimize any falloff. But assuming your rate of recovery is relatively close across different runs, the difference won't matter as your measurements will all have this effect and so be comparable.

Eventually you'll probably learn to match your burn rate to your breathing rate, which is much easier to keep track of.
posted by zippy at 4:40 PM on January 15, 2013

I've seen pulse oximeters, which normally give a readout of both your pulse rate and the oxygenation level of your blood, for 30 US$ at Walmart. (It's a small device not much larger than a whistle that would be easy to keep in a pocket or wear around your neck. To use it you clip it on the tip of a finger sort of like a clothespin.)
posted by XMLicious at 4:40 PM on January 15, 2013

Instead of measuring your pulse you could use the "Talk Test"
posted by SyraCarol at 4:45 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just as an fyi, the last time I used a cheap oximeter it said I was dead. So maybe check the reviews first.
posted by fshgrl at 4:45 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Slow down a bit, feel your pulse on your neck. it's impossible to miss. Right below your jaw. I do 6 seconds times 10 as opposed to 15 times 4 but whatever. Note that I can't do it if running faster than 3-ish MPH - like I said, slow down.
posted by GuyZero at 4:45 PM on January 15, 2013

If you know your speed you could theoretically figure out how long it takes you to take X number of steps, then count your pulse in your neck or wrist over that many steps, and extrapolate from there. But I don't think that's going to be very accurate.

Really, I think a gadget is the way to go for this. Wear a heart rate monitor, or just wear a watch and count your pulse over a certain number of seconds. In my experience there are too many other variables at play to get a very accurate estimation vs. an actual measurement. When I started running I had to practically walk to stay in the 70%mhr range. Now i have to run pretty hard to get up in that range. So you'd have to recalibrate your calculation every week or so as you get in better shape. Also, the terrain you're running on can make a huge difference. My heart rate elevates when I jog uphill, and downhill I can practically go at a full out sprint without my heart rate getting as high as it gets on the uphills. I notice this even on very slight inclines & declines. So speed isn't necessarily going to be an accurate multiplier.
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:46 PM on January 15, 2013

Count seconds using the "one one-thousand" method while also counting your heartbeats.
posted by grateful at 4:50 PM on January 15, 2013

Another option is to count heartbeats for a measured distance - made easier if you're running on a track.
posted by grateful at 4:52 PM on January 15, 2013

Like others, I pause in running (I walk) while counting my pulse (on my neck) for 15 seconds. If you're concerned about your heart slowing down int his time, you can probably find you pulse while still running and then slow down and start counting.

If you don't wear a watch while running, and you're ok with a rough estimate, one option is to run on a treadmill for a week or two, and pay attention to how you feel at 120, 130, 140, 150 bpm.
posted by pompelmo at 5:30 PM on January 15, 2013

The talk test is very reliable. As is simple perceived exertion: if you're going as fast as you can without feeling any major discomfort or impending exhaustion of any muscle group, you're around the top of your aerobic capacity.

JFYI 'fat burning' and 'cardio' HR zones are heinous broscience. If all you care about is calorie burning, go at any intensity you like: fast burns more calories per minute, but you can do less; slow burns fewer calories per minute, but you can do more. So it tends to balance out in the long view. The only difference is the former generally demands a higher pain threshold and recovery time.

If you want to get more scientific about your energy system development, you'll really need to buy a HR monitor for moment-to-moment tracking.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:41 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

One other suggestion- are there any public clocks on your running route? There's one or two on mine now that I think about it. They don't all have seconds though.
posted by fshgrl at 9:39 PM on January 15, 2013

If you have a smartphone, there are a variety of apps to help with this. The best have you press your finger against the camera, and can "see" the image.get lighter and darker with your pulse.
posted by miyabo at 4:51 AM on January 16, 2013

You can get a "strapless" (wrist only) heart rate monitor watch for about $30 at WalMart, and they're frequently on sale for around $20. It is absolutely worth the minor investment if you are in any way serious about cardio training. There is a reason why virtually everyone uses them now, rather than doing the 80's jog-in-place-while-feeling-your-neck thing.

Even if you can take your own carotid pulse while moving (and it's pretty hard to do without slowing down a lot, which will immediately drop your pulse), you'll need a watch to be remotely accurate -- your count of seconds, if you just try to do it in your head, will speed up or slow down along with your pulse and you won't get a particularly useful value. So given that you'll need a watch anyway, you might as well get one that just gives you the information you want without a bunch of extra screwing around.

If you're willing to wear a chest strap, those are both less expensive (~$15ish) and more accurate than the purely wrist-based ones, FYI. (And most of them will relay your HR to common types of gym equipment, if you ever do indoor cardio workouts.) But the chest strap is a bit of a drag, admittedly.

The nicer watches will let you put in your target HR and then will give you an unambiguous up/down, so that you don't have to keep thinking about the number: you just run (or do whatever) and keep the intensity high enough so you're meeting the target. Some of them will beep if you drop below, which is handy as you're learning what your target feels like in terms of subjective intensity, or when you're trying a new type of exercise.

Just better all around than the old way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:07 AM on January 16, 2013

« Older Keyboard Shortcut in Illustrator   |   Straightforward way to reduce hardwood floor shine... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.