Monitoring your heart rate during exercise is a fantastic way to judge the intensity of your workout. It also provides you with some excellent information as to how much your fitness is improving from session to session, day to day or week to week.
Heart rate monitors measure your heart rate in Beats Per Minute (BPM) which surprise, surprise in the number of times your heart is beating in one minute.
For the average person, your heart rate while at rest is around 70 BPM. But the heart like any other muscle can be trained and improved, so as you train hard and your fitness improves, you will begin to see a gradual decline in your resting heart rate. But dont worry that doesn’t mean you are slowly dying! This happens because your heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood & oxygen around your body to muscles and organs that need them. Doing the same job with less effort and therefore actually creating less stress for your heart.
You can also use measures of your heart rate to set out your intensity during exercise. The easiest way to do this is to firstly establish your theoretical heart rate maximum. Sounds complex but all you have to do is just subtract your age from the standardised figure of 220 (e.g. if you are 35 years old it would be 220—35 = 185. Your theoretical maximum heart rate is 185 B.P.M) Using that figure you can set out various exercise intensities that will all have slightly different effects on the results you receive from your training. We shall have a look at 4 exercise intensities and their training effects.
60—70% of HR Max
Exercise at this intensity is likely to be at a reasonably comfortable level. The benefits you will receive include improvements in muscular endurance allowing your muscles to be capable of performing tasks for longer, your aerobic fitness also improves due to increases in your respiratory capabilities . This level of heart rate is often used as the recovery stage in interval circuits. or for longer duration steady state exercise. Due to the slower speed and lower intensity of this zone the slow and efficient oxidisation of fats will the the primary energy source utilised through out.
70—80% of HR Max
This is the intensity that most people will generally find themselves exercising in, at this intensity you be able to develop your body’s cardiovascular system, improving your ability to deliver the oxygen required to working muscles and remove the bi-product carbon dioxide from the working muscles. In this zone carbohydrate is the main fuel source due to the higher intensity and increased demand for faster burning energy, but as your fitness and energy utilisation begins to improve, more and more fat will also begin to be used to help spare valuable carbohydrates for higher intensity activity.
80—90% of HR Max
Now we are starting to really push ourselves and get into some higher intensity activity. In addition to the benefits you will be getting from the lower HR zones and largely due to the increased utilisation of carbohydrates as the main fuel source you can also start to push the boundries of your lactate tolerance. Lactate is a bi-product that is produced as a result of your body utilising carbohydrates as a energy source. The burning feeling you get in your muscles during a hard session is lactate taking effect, by continually putting yourself under the duress that lactate imposes you can increase your tolerance to it and keep working harder for longer.
90-100% of HR Max
This is when you know you are working hard! This kind of intensity takes a lot of effort to reach and sustain over a long period of time, so it is mainly used as part of high intensity interval training or in competitive circumstances. Yet again carbohydrates will be the main fuel used to provide the energy requirements for this kind of activity but only highly trained individuals will be capable of maintaining this intensity for longer periods of time as the high carbohydrate utilisation also means there is a rapid production of our old friend lactate making it pretty tough to push continue to push through.
Give heart rate training a try and let us know what zone you got up to and how you felt, we would love to hear how you go.
For more information on heart rate monitors and where to get them contact firstname.lastname@example.org