GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR EXERCISE PROGRAMS BY ADDING ONE MORE FEEDBACK SOURCE: YOUR HEART RATE
Get the most out of your exercise by listening to your heart rate.
F or the average Joe looking to stay fit, common-sense standards like “20 minutes of physical exercise a day” work well enough. For those more serious about their exercise regime, however, more data and more feedback can always be useful. And today, with the ubiquity of suitablyequipped fitness trackers like the Fitbit bracelets or smartwatches like the Samsung Gear series, everybody can incorporate heart-rate monitoring into their exercise plans.
The short version of this approach is that you adjust the amount of effort you expend when you exercise (or during various stages of exercise) so that your heart rate falls in a specific zone, with each zone indicating a percentage of your maximum heart rate.
Now, before we go on any further, please note again that this whole fitness concept deals with percentages of your maximum heart rate— which is defined as the highest heart rate you can achieve through exercise. Ideally, this would be tested by a physiologist, but the American College of Exercises has devised a simple equation you can use: 208 – (0.7 x age). So, a 30-year-old man would have a maximum heart rate of 208 – (0.7 x 30) = 187 beats per minute or bpm. It should be noted that this method is not 100-percent accurate, though.
Step Into the Zone
After you’ve determined your maximum heart rate, it’s time to look at the aforementioned zones. This particular division of zones, by the way, is based on guidelines developed by Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance. Basically, there are five different zones:
Zone 1: Comfortable effort, for warming up, cooling down and recovery; 50 to 60 percent
Zone 2: Average effort, best used to train aerobic maintenance; 60 to 70 percent
Zone 3: Above average effort, ideal to train up aerobic capacity; 70 to 80 percent
Zone 4: Hard effort, good for maintaining anaerobic capacity; 80 to 90 percent
Zone 5: Basically all out, which is how you develop anaerobic capacity; 90 to 100 percent
So, if you’re simply looking to burn fat and stay in shape, daily exercise routines in Zone 2 should suffice. If you’re looking at joining a runner’s club, however, you might want to adjust your exercise to include time in Zone 3. Sprinters and powerlifters, on the other hand, would do well to stay mostly in Zones 4 and 5 as these sports depend on fast twitch muscles that operate using anaerobic metabolic systems.
All that being said, having a well-rounded exercise plan is highly recommended no matter what your fitness goals are. On the flip side, focusing on one or two zones based on your primary fitness goals will go a long way to help you actually achieve those goals.
Speaking of well-rounded, heart-rate monitoring can also be used to determine ideal resting periods between exercise sessions. You may have seen training programs that include exact rest periods between sets or intervals (for interval training, obviously). The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t take into account each person’s individual recovery ability, which might vary due to age, overall fitness level and various physical conditions.
A person’s heart rate, however, can be a good indicator of his readiness to continue exercising. So, instead of following a fixed standard or simply taking a guess, you can simply rest until your heart rate returns close to your resting level. Around 110 bpm (the normal resting heart rate for adults is around 60 to 100) would be a good point to resume exercising.
IS It for You?
Heart-rate training used to be the domain of athletes. Now, as the technology becomes more readily available, it has become viable for just about anybody. Should you consider adopting this method? The best answer would be “why not?” As always, it’s highly recommended that you consult with a professional fitness instructor or with your physician. And, of course, a simpler commonsense to exercising will always work just as well. Still, especially considering how easy it is to get a heart-rate monitor-equipped gadget these days, creating this kind of custom-based training program can be a superb solution.
“HEART-RATE TRAINING USED TO BE THE DOMAIN OF ATHLETES. NOW, IT HAS BECOME VIABLE FOR JUST ABOUT ANYBODY”