I have been running with a fairly cheap (under $50) Polar FS-1 heart rate monitor for almost 5 months now, consistently. Despite the price, it is very easy to use (just one button!) and gives me all the information I need in huge big easily readable numbers: my exact heart rate, elapsed exercise time and the time of day. The monitor isn't nearly as bulky as my old Garmin 350 and the strap which goes around the chest is more comfortable than the Garmin version as well. My only criticism - that you can't pause the stopwatch feature. But that is minor. I pretty much strap it on all the time and it has changed the way I train. No more trying to hit a certain pace - I just glance down and if I'm not around 128 BPM on a long run, I slow down or speed up a little. The only place where I don't use it is on the track as it would be rather pointless on short repeats such as 200 meters.
Where a heart rate monitor really comes into its own is on long runs and tempo runs, also during races. On long easy runs I have figured out that if I keep my HR at around 127 to 130, I stay just below my anaerobic threshold. So it is relatively comfortable (if you discount the Houston weather), I can keep going for a long distance while getting a pretty good all-round workout and yet - most importantly - I am not overly stressing my cardiovascular & pulmonary systems. Or my leg muscles. Which means that come the following Tuesday (hill work) and Thursday (track), there's some life left in these aging legs and I can still give it a go. Ditto for races. If you kill yourself with running too hard all the time, you will either get injured or over-trained. Well you would if you were my age...
This morning Kathleen and I did our longest run in several months - 12 miles - from Memorial Park towards downtown on the trails along Buffalo Bayou. An hour out and an hour back. Much of it felt like the second half of a death march. Definitely not fun: much too hot for being 0630A at the start, and of course unbearably humid. We saw dozens of other runners, including many from Kenyan Way, walking towards the end of their long run. Kathleen and I stumbled through the entire thing, stopping only twice, at the turn-around point and then again for water at a convenience store. The next few months here in Houston will be an endurance test for most long-distance runners. I take my hat off to the hardy runners who are training for a fall marathon such as Chicago or New York. You will definitely have earned it come October and November.
Dinner last night was a chickpea tamarind stew - quite easy if you happen to have some cooked chickpeas and tamarind paste handy. Together with some onions, crushed tomatoes, maple syrup, a bit of chili powder and cumin, and some peas, it was flavorful in a spicy, almost Moroccan kind of way. With sides of brown rice and a carrot puree, we had a quick meal loaded with nutrients and fiber and practically no fat. And of course zero cholesterol. The tamarind chickpea stew recipe is from 1000 Vegan Recipes.