Programming a heart rate monitor is the process of setting the functions of the unit. Some models have buttons to press to change the operation of the monitor. There is no standard way of programming monitors, and often they are not intuitive; each manufacturer uses its own unique programming system. Functions include start-stop, lighting, lap, reset, time, split, record, mode, set, and zones. Holding down one of the programming buttons for several seconds may also trigger a different set of programming features, much like opening a file drawer to access the folders inside.

Students should learn to program their own monitors, freeing you up to concentrate on other Heart Zones Education (HZE) activities. Your challenge is to learn how to program

all of the monitors your school may have acquired over time. As the instructor, you must become proficient in every monitor your students will be using. As with any technological tool, the best way to do this is to read the user’s manual and then use each version yourself before introducing it to your students. Most manufacturers also publish their user’s manuals online. Reading the manual and developing programming proficiency may take several hours. Then, you must teach your students how to program their monitors, ideally by designing a model-specific lesson plan.

Some monitors use a projection system that involves students wearing only chest strap transmitters that send signals to a single receiver hooked up to a computer and managed by the teacher (see figure 3.1). This type of system eliminates the need for students to learn to program and manage their own heart monitors. It also has certain limitations. Appendix A addresses the pros and cons of the various systems available to help you select equipment for your program.

Precise Heart Rate Monitoring

Today, almost any heart rate monitor is accurate if used properly. Numerous investigators have compared heart rate monitors with laboratory equipment and found them to be extremely accurate.

The numerical information generated from a heart rate monitor is called output data. In general, most teachers use monitors to measure the exercise dosage or quantity of physical activity. Output data can be used to assess the following:

  • Time in zone: The number of minutes in each heart zone.
  • Flex heart rate: A direct measurement of oxygen consumption and heart rate while lying down, sitting, standing, and performing exercises at varying levels of intensity.
  • Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE): A subjective ranking, based on a scale of 1 to 10 (i.e., least to most strenuous).

From these various assessments of exercise intensity, the simplest and most accurate method of assessment, particularly in a school-based program, is the time-in-zone method. Indeed, time in zone is the core of HZE.

Some monitors have an audible or visual alarm that sounds or flashes when the user is exercising above or below the programmed zone. Be sure to learn how to set this out-ofzone alarm, especially how to turn it on and off.