Get Out What You Put In – Know Your Heart Rate Zones!

Are you getting out of your workout what you put into it? Seeing the results you want to see … or find yourself wondering what you’re doing wrong? It could be a matter of perceived versus actual intensity – and luckily, it’s one of the easiest factors to check, and if necessary, fix, throughout your workout. Monitoring your heart rate is one of the fastest and easiest ways to determine exactly how hard you are pushing your body throughout your workout.

The generally accepted formula for calculating heart rate is:

220-Age=Maximum Heart Rate

For example, my maximum heart rate would be 220-31=189. From here, you can calculate your zones. There are five generally accepted zones, from recovery (50-60%), up to interval/speed (90-100%), as the chart shows. Depending on your goals, you may fall into a number of zones during your workout, and throughout the week (if we went easy all the time, we’d never get anywhere … and if we went hard all the time, we’d end up burnt out and potentially injured).  I usually try to keep my heart rate during cardio around 85% (the rate at which many experts suggest for maximizing fitness and encouraging a higher overall calorie burn) – which for me is about 160 beats per minute.

One quick note … don’t obsess over staying in the “fat burning zone.” You may burn 150 calories in 30 minutes, with 120 of them being from fat … but you’re much better off working at a harder level, burning more calories – say 300 in 30 minutes – even if you’re burning less “fat calories,” because you’re still burning far more overall calories. You want to ideally spend most of your cardio time in the “Improved Fitness” zone as shown above (60-90%).

Many treadmills and ellipticals have technology that will calculate these numbers for you (and include the chart right on the interface) – all you have to do is hold on to specially designed handles for a few seconds. For the most accurate reading, I definitely suggest invest in a heart rate monitor. My trusty Polar is as much a necessary part of my gym attire as my tank and knee pants. Stay tuned – by request, there is more on these phenomenal gadgets coming soon!