Heart rate monitor while kayaking.

Dose anyone have any feedback on this subject. I would like to utilize one while training for long distance (10-30 miles)kayak races. Thank you in advance for any help offered on this matter.

I’ve used a wrist watch/chest band style
monitor in the past to simply keep my H.R. in any given zone/exertion level for sake of consistency in my workout. Kept me from slacking-off.

My polar wrist one
works fine. It’s a good idea to make some kind of homemade doohickey so that you can secure it in front of you on the coaming. Doesn’t do you much good on the wrist.

only way
to fully know if a boat is ‘fast’ or ‘slow’! folks are always claiming this or that, fast or slow and unless you strap on a HRM you freakin’ don’t know. wow a poet and don’t know it!

yes, excellent way to track your fitness, boat speed, pace, etc.

We use them alot for efficiency testing hulls for Confluence (and our competition!).

We use an older Timex Body Link, GPS, wrist, etc. It’s not as fancy as many newer ones, but it works.


Most who want “serious” training use
an HR. I’m not one of them “fitness nuts” or racers who need to be in top shape. Neverthless I am very curious about the speed as well as the HR when I paddle so that I can both maximize my benefit from the exercise as well as avoid some dangerous overloads. Plus, as Steve mentioned, using one gives a very good indication of a boat’s efficiency and I’m still searching for “the perfect” boat so that aspect would be utilized as well at some point in the future -:wink:

The Garmin ForeRunner 305 that I got recently seems to do all basics well enough. Plus it has some basic navigation capabilities that can be handy (take me back, way points, compass, trace route…). I could not make myself pay the price for the new 605/705, which are much better in terms of functions and can be used like a real GPS.

It is also a lot of fun to upload the traces to a computer and study them.

Also, I highly recommend you strap the HR monitor while driving during your daily commute. I was somewhat surprised at the changes in my hart rate while driving in various “normal” traffic situations and how my HR drops as soon as I stop at a traffic light. And how much it jumps-up when I’m driving more aggressively (due to stress, not physical effort). Lots of stress on DC and urban MD/VA streets, I can tell you that!

305 works well for me
Forerunner 305 shows me speed, time, distance and hr all on one screen, and with the included strap it velcros easily to the bungees in front of the cockpit where I can see it easily. I wish the HR number was a bit bigger, its kinda small and occasionally my old eyes combined with sunshine glare make it tough to see. The other numbers are bigger.

I upgraded from the 301 which didn’t have the hr monitor. In flat calm conditions, speed is a decent indicator of effort, and the 301 was enough. I knew how fast and far I could go in a given boat. Wind and currents add another dimension however, and the 305’s hr keeps me from hitting the wall when conditions slow me down.

I also recommend electrode gel, without it my hr occasionally loses contact. I prefer that over a wax job.

Never having used a heart rate monitor, I wonder how consistent the measurements are. If you performed a test at a reasonable distance, say, 2 to 6 miles, and paddled at a constant speed, would your heart rate increase over the hour or so of the test? Would you then average the heart rate over time? If you repeated the test, say a dozen trials, would you get consistent heart rate data? Would there be a trend?

I am skeptical of the use of a heart rate monitor without closely looking at the consistency and errors of measurement.


I took this avenue to consistancy
I would give myself till I reached a certain point on my paddling lake (warm-up point) to reach my desired HR and would do my best to keep it (my HR) right there for the entire workout (I might have to slow slightly or paddle slightly harder occasionally) till a point I’d determined as the warm-down point on the return leg. I figured IF I could keep HR in my desired range for the whole workout distance (that being between my warm-up point and my warm-down point) any given day, I could duplicate/regulate my training fairly consistently.

HR measurements seem very accurate

– Last Updated: Jan-23-09 8:34 PM EST –

I've compared the readings from the HR monitor to my own "manual" counting at the same time and they seem to match closely. If there is any error it would most likely be "random" on either side of the "true" beats per minute.

So I would say one can rely on the HR monitor result. Now, using these results optimally is an entirely different matter and I have a long way to go before I figure that part out so I can't comment on it -;)

The only time the HR monitor is not good is when your skin is dry. Get started with a little water rubbed on the skin where you put the strap on. AFter a few minutes if you are not sweating, then you are probably not really exercising in a way to matter what your HR is, so I think that is not an issue for most. Not sure about excessive hair though -;)!

Also the distance measurement is very accurate to within a few feet. Even in a moving car in street traffic it more often than not shows which lane I'm in (when I superimpose the GPS ttrail on Google Earth). I've also compared the distance over some of my paddles to the distance measured on nautical charts and these match as well.

they are very accurate
averaged over a given speed, time, distance, HR, it don’t matter, the heart doesn’t lie. I can fully tell where I’m at now that I have tuned myself to a certain criteria. For instance by just pushing a HR by 10 beats will make me sweat. It’s accurate.


still skeptical
I do not doubt that the monitor accurately measures heart rate. The issue, rather, is how you use the monitor to determine the relative benefit of various techniques or equipment.

For example, say you wanted to know whether increasing paddle length by 5 cm was beneficial. So you paddle a fixed distance maintaining a fixed speed (with gps, assuming no current), and record heart rate. Alternately, you could paddle a fixed heart rate and record speed. The chosen fixed distance would be different depending on objectives. A sprinter might choose 1000 meters, while a touring kayaker might choose 10 miles.

So I ask, assuming an accurate heart rate measurement, what would be the difference in recorded speed if this experiment were repeated a dozen times? Would it be repeatable enough to determine the benefit of a 5 cm change in paddle length? Would it be repeatable enough to determine the benefit of a 1 cm change? I doubt anyone knows.


prolly ain’t worth debating and fer shure not 1cm.

BUT changes in HR with changes in gear do show up. I get a change using a skeg fully deployed, tho quite slight.


Don’t know yet…
Perhaps some who have used it for this can chime-in.

It is natural some days to tire more easy than on others, so there is no absolute measurement, I presume.

If you try different boats or paddles on the same outing and switch back and forth you can probably rely on the results enough to tell some differences.

1-2 cm may not be easy to figure out for most people. But 5-8cm on the same paddle or wing vs. non-wing paddle or different types of stroke on the same paddle I think are quite significant changes in efficiency so that you should be able to quantify things like that fairly reliably, I hope.

i use one, but…

– Last Updated: Jan-24-09 2:31 PM EST –

I must say that I have a hard time figuring out what to do with the data. This whole zone thing makes no sense whatsoever. It's awfully activity dependent. Here's an example of the problem:

I'm 42. Max HR measured is about 185. Resting is 44.

Fairly standard workout:

25 mins bike: perceived intensity 60%, HR goes fairly quickly into the 140's, probably max'es around 150

25 min Cybex stair/elliptical thing: perceived intensity 85%, HR fairly stable in the 160's, max around 168

5K rowing (just under 20 mins): perceived intensity for the first 4K 70%, HR starts in the 160's and climbs into the 170's with no obvious change in perceived exertion. Last 1K sprinting, HR climbs to about 181, perceived intensity close to 100%.

So what the heck to do with that kind of data? My HR is higher on the rower, but my perceived intensity is less.

it gets worse when I use the HR on the Speedstroke. Today I did 30 mins on the Speedstroke, feeling like I was pushing hard (perceived intensity 80%), HR barely climbed into the 140's, only by seriously sprinting could I bring it into the 150's. Got on the rower for 20 mellow minutes, and the HR climbed right up to 170, no problem, feeling easy.

HR is very hard to interpret, IMO.


The zone
I agree, the heart rate zones are interesting science, but I don’t have time to schedule and track all the precise training that is required to spend the right amount of time in the right zones.

But, with my HRM I have learned I can maintain a rate of 160 - 170 for around an hour, which is the length of most of my races. If I push harder I’m likely to start cramping.

In my last long race (42.5 miles), I kept the hr around 140 for the first 3 hours and then kicked it up over 160 for the last hour. Had my best finish ever, with no cramping like last year. I was going 10 mph with the current, so GPS speed was no help in measuring effort.

I agree
I can get my HR into the 170s running and rowing–over 180 when I’m really pressing, but cap at the 130s-140s in the kayak, and 150s on the bike. It is related to two things, I think: the size and number of the muscles you are using in each activity, and your relative fitness in each activity. I’m assuming that people kayak racers who do regular, intensive sport-specific training can get closer to their max HR in kayaking, because their sport-specific muscles are more developed than mine.

But if you really wanted to do meaningful zone training, I think you’d have to work out a different set of “zones” for each aerobic activity you engage in.

Under 140?

– Last Updated: Jan-28-09 2:37 PM EST –

How are you paddling? I hardly fall *below* 140 last time I checked. And that was in relaxed paddling in flat protected water...

Of course, the conditions were not conductive to relaxed paddling much of the time -;)


EDIT: Just re-reading your note about "sport-specific muscles" being more developed. I'm sure far from this level -;). I would say however, that when paddling in 20mph wind with 30 mph gusts and very steep waves, either against or with the wind/waves makes your heart rate stay pretty high even if you are not pushing it too much (e.g. just playing around vs. racing/paddling all out in these conditions). That's where my posted readings are from and that day I was not really too tired after close to two hours on the water.

Even in flat conditions, with good body rotation, leg drive, and abs crunch (using GP) I would say pretty much evey large muscle in the body is involved so reaching any desired HR should not be an issue. As the others said though, figuring out what's "desired" is the hard part...

Zones and formulas
I was using a HR monitor for a while and realized all the formulas and zones were not accurate …If i followed the formulas and stayed in the zones calculated for me , i would never get anywhere. The best way to get accurate numbers is to have a VO2 max test done so that you can get accurate numbers for your specific body and fitness level. I dont race anymore so im not really worried about it.

seems to me
that instead of averaging over the whole trial, you’d want to record instantaneous heart rate vs. speed at frequent intervals. Plot one against the other over several trails with the same equipment & conditions, and see if the points all fell on a consistant curve. If so, there’s your baseline.

Even though you rotate and have great form, the speedstroke burns fewer calories than the row machine. Orbital uses big leg muscles more and there fore burns more calories, therefore more HR.

You really should go to hardware store and spend $5 on a lazy susan swivel to go under your speedstroke seat. Amazing improvement. Then put a 12 in fan in back of computer you have more oxygen and burn more calories. Think turbo charged and may you keep up the great workouts.

Bushnell swears by his HR monitor but how do you know where is safe for your heart?