It's still the most common problem I see inside the gym and out: people struggling with their weight. Why is this epidemic still so prevalent in today's society? The answer remains the same: people are not educated correctly on how to lose weight and keep it off. Even with celebrities explaining the truth to the masses, there are still so many people out there who just don't understand how to find the path to a healthy lifestyle. One thing that I want to enforce is that it takes focus in many different areas to achieve goals of desired weight loss. The purpose of this article, however, is to explain just one of those areas: heart rate training.
Essentially, heart rate training is a method by which we monitor our own heart rate to achieve our desired goals of physical fitness and weight loss. "But how is this possible?" you may be asking. The answer is a rather technical one, but once you understand it, the payoff can be great.
One thing I have often talked about in regards to weight loss is the importance of cardiovascular or aerobic training. Heart rate training works in conjunction with aerobic activity. Almost all gyms and health clubs these days have heart rate monitors built into the machines. Even so, many people still do not understand the purpose of heart rate and what it means in regards to exercise intensity. What heart rate monitors tell us is where our heart rate is at any given intensity of cardiovascular activity. Perhaps even more accurate than the machines themselves are the personal heart rate monitors which many exercisers wear around their arms and chest.
In order to gain a better understanding of heart rate training, I will explain the purpose of the heart rate zone. We all have a heart rate exercise zone that we should be working within while we are exercising. The formula used to calculate your own personal zone is easy to follow. Basically, you subtract your age from 220. This number is your Maximum heart rate.
This formula was developed by the estimated assumption that the heart beats 220 times per minute when we are born, and for every year thereafter, we lose one heart beat per minute. It is by no means 100% accurate. But it does give us a rough guideline to work by. Obviously, whatever number you derive from this formula would not be a desired goal when doing heart rate training. Working at maximum heart rate can be very dangerous and should always be avoided. But now that we have this number, we can plug it into another formula to find our specific zone. To do this we simply multiply this number by 60%-90%, which will give us two numbers, an upper one and a lower one. These two numbers represent the Target Heart Rate zone that you should be working in while you are doing cardiovascular activity.
We'll use me as an example. I'm 39 years old. That gives us the equation of 220-39=181. This means that 181 is my maximum heart rate (MHR). I would now plug that number into the second formula:
181×60%-90%= 109-163= THR zone. This gives me a Target Heart rate Zone of 109- 163 beats per minute.
But this now presents a whole new series of questions. There is a pretty big gap between 109 and 163. So how do I know what heart rate I should be at within my zone? The answer to this question depends entirely on each individual and their current level of fitness. Obviously, if someone is sedentary, and they just begin an exercise program, I'm not going to have them work at the 90% end of their zone. They're going to be much closer to the 60% end or even lower. Like I said before, these formulas are not 100% accurate. If someone is new to exercise, they should rely more on their own perceived exertion than anything else. However, if someone has been exercising regularly for a long time with no health risks are currently present, then they can probably work toward the 90% end of their zone with no problem.
One important point that I want to make is that it is always good to work at different heart rates within your zone. We wouldn't want to spend all our time working at the 90% end, because that could possibly lead to overtraining. On the other hand, we don't want to constantly work at the 60% end, because it would take us a very long time to see progressive results. Again, newcomers and people with health risks may be the exception here. Variety in heart rate training can only have beneficial results. By working in a lower heart rate zone, we are actually burning more fat calories, not to mention improving our health. However, by working at a higher heart rate, we burn significantly more calories.
One excellent form of training that allows us to get benefits from both ends of our zone is called interval training. With interval training, you work at two different cycles, the work cycle and the rest cycle. The work cycle is always shorter in duration while the rest cycle is longer in duration. Basically, the work cycle involves rigorous exercise and is then followed by the rest cycle which could also be called active rest, because even though you are not at a high intensity, you are still working. This form of training allows you to work at both ends of your heart rate zone, and therefore allows you to reap the benefits of both ends.
As you can see, there are many benefits of using heart rate training during exercise. It has been a proven tool in motivating people to lose weight. By looking at the numbers, and seeing themselves improve, it becomes very gratifying for the person who is seeking weight loss. But by no means is this tool just for people looking to shed some inches. It really is a valuable tool for people at all fitness levels to use to achieve their goals.
Michael Elder has been working as a fitness professional in Chicago for the last thirteen years. He comes from a background in gymnastics and is certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He can be contacted directly through his website, www.MichaelElder.com.