Heart Rate

Have you ever finished an interval effort at the end of your workout, like a run, a row, swinging a kettle bell, or doing burpees only to find yourself laying on the ground bacon-sizzle style, unable to get back up for a few minutes, heart pounding out of your chest, gasping for air, legs numb, and an overwhelming pride that you were able to finish and utter relief that it’s over? Not only can this type of high intensity effort drive a stimulus that can lead to an increase caloric burn, fat loss, and a release of hormones that can help with everything from better skin to more active and healthier adrenals, but these types of high intensity efforts can improve fitness and performance. 

But how do you know how hard to push? How do you know if you’re going fast enough? How many reps do you need to do? How out of breath should you be? The answer to these questions is the juice that allows us to really know if we are creating enough intensity during a workout to get the benefits. 

I have listed several subjective cues that can guide you: out of breath, legs numb, laying on the floor… However, we can use another tool that can help give us some guidance. Depending on how we use a heart rate monitor, it can give us some very valuable feedback during a training session. What we typically know as max heart rate (220-age) is far from the guidance that will get us the results we want. There is another way to use heart rate to get to the point where we really experience high intensity. 

Our heart rate is different day-to-day depending on state of readiness, stress, fatigue, and even what time of day it is. Our heart rate will vary with different types of activities, like running vs. rowing vs. assault bike. Having a set of numbers that represent your heart rate zones that doesn’t change based on the workout or how you feel that day doesn’t make any sense. We have to use a stepped approach each time we train in order to find out what is possible during that day’s training session. This means keeping your eye on heart rate during warm up, then testing your heart rate with each element. How high you get your heart rate with a one minute effort row might be different than swinging a kettle bell all out for one minute, and that heart rate might change from day-to-day. By becoming aware of your heart rate values, you can correlate a heart rate to your subjective cues. This will give you more information in terms of readiness to train and how high of an intensity you are able to reach on a given day. It gives new meaning to the phrase 'knowledge is power'.

Do you use heart rate to train? If you do, have you given thought to how much it can vary and what it might mean for you? Let me know if I can be helpful in giving you some more specific guidelines so you can get more out of your heart rate training.

We are starting our Fit Heart Rate session again, using a combination of strength, intervals, and metabolic conditioning. We will run a 6am session every Thursday in April. Sign up is limited, so please click hereto sign up in advance. 

FitnessAaron Leventhal