Welcome to my personal training blog. There is so much information around regarding exercise and diets it's hard to know what is going to work for you. With over 12 years in the industry, I aim to bring my experience and knowledge to this blog so you can learn the best way's to achieve your health and fitness goals.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

How fast does your heart beat?

One of the most important factors in cardiovascular exercise is heart rate yet very few people have any idea what theirs is during exercise or what it should be. Imagine you’re a racing car driver and you jumped in your car to discover the mechanics had removed the speedometer. You would be severely handicapped compared to other drivers and your performance would suffer. Your heart rate is like the cars speedometer, it gives you vital information on how hard your body is working.

What heart rate should you exercise to?

That depends on what you are training for. The common belief that you should exercise somewhere between 75% and 85% of your maximum is unfortunately a very simplified recommendation that doesn’t really address any of the specific training zones.

To measure your heart rate effectively whilst training you need a heart rate monitor. Is it worth buying one? If you are serious about achieving results then the answer is a resounding yes. They are so cheap these days it doesn’t make any sense to do all that training without having one.

Maximum heart rate is the highest level at which your heart rate will reach. This is different for everybody. The basic rule of 220 minus your age is a very simplified one and only works for around 50% of the population. I’ve had clients aged forty with max heart rates over 200 and clients in their late teens with max heart rates around 170. It is not related to fitness at all. What is related to fitness is how long you can maintain a certain percentage of your maximum. For example if we use the racing car analogy again if you compare one car that can reach a top speed of 100miles an hour but only briefly with a car that can cruise at 100miles an hour comfortably then obviously the latter car would be the preferred car if you want to cruise at 100 miles an hour.

Similarly, one person ( we’ll call him Norm) may be able to hold their heart rate to 85% of their heart rate maximum (max hr) for only a few minutes and another person ( let’s call him Gebreselassie ) may be able to hold it there for over an hour. Gebresalassie is obviously fitter. If we looked at actual heart rates and not percentages you might see it a little differently. Gebresalassie might have a max hr of 170 so 85% is 144 and Norm might have a max hr of 210 so 85% is 178. Norm may be able to hold a heart rate of 144 ( the same as Gebresalassie ) for well over an hour as 144 is only 68% of his max hr and thus if you compare heart rates only Norm would appear to be the fitter when in actual fact Gebresalassie is far fitter.
If you got lost in the numbers there don’t panic, I was just trying to illustrate that what your actual heart rate is doesn’t really matter , what matters is the percentage of your maximum heart rate.

So unless we know what our maximum heart rate is it is impossible to determine the percentages.

Determining Maximum heart rate.

There are a number of ways to determine your maximum heart rate some of them safe for beginners some not. If you are already accustomed to relatively intense cardiovascular exercise and have no heart conditions or any other medical conditions that affect your hearts response to exercise such as medication, high blood pressure etc ( if unsure check with your doctor) then the best way to find your maximum is take your heart rate to it’s max. This is akin to taking your car to an airfield runway, putting your foot to the gas and seeing how fast you can go!
There are a number of ways to do this but one of the simplest is as follows. Choose your cardiovascular exercise, doesn’t matter if its run, bike, cross trainer, stepper etc but be aware that heart rate maximums are dependant on exercise, typically running elicits a higher heart rate than bike riding which is higher than swimming. This is not a hard and fast rule as it depends what exercise you are accustomed to.

Ok once you have chosen what you are going to do find somewhere that you can exercise without having to think about traffic or running into other people e.g. on a machine in the gym or at a running track.(a treadmill is not advised as if you can’t keep up with the treadmill anymore you don’t want to faceplant!) After a thorough warm up of around 10-15 minutes that brings your heart rate from resting up to a point where you feel like you are puffing relatively hard, rest for a minute or two to recover and now you’re ready. Perform one 2 minute effort as hard as you can then rest for approx 2 minutes then repeat. Note your heart arte at the end of each interval. Keep repeating this until you find your heart rate at the end is lower than the previous interval. It should only take 2-4 repeats. If you did this test when you are relatively fresh then it should be within a few beats of your maximum.
If you are new to exercise then this technique is obviously not for you. Instead try this formula

Max HR = 217 - (0.85 x Age)

The next blog will discuss the fat burning zone - does it exist? What percentage heart rate should you be at? Is it beneficial?

No comments: