Heart Rate Training Primer: Quick tips for determining rates.




Every beat of your heart clues you in to how your body is reacting during exercise. Too fast, and your workout could be unhealthy, not to mention downright painful. Too slow, and your workout might be wasted time. That ain’t pretty either.

First, you have to know what the right place for your personal ticker is:

The heart has a theoretical maximum number of beats per minute it can pulse without breaking down. Researchers say that’s 220 beats per minute for men, 226 for women (our little hearts beat faster…). And the heart muscle can take a little less as we get older. So you subtract your age from 220 or 226. The result predicts your 100-percent maximum heart rate—how fast it can supposedly beat without exploding—without hooking you up to gadgets and gizmos in a laboratory. For example, Bob, who is 35 years old, subtracts 35 from 220 and comes up with 185.

But, hold on, that’s not how high his pulse should be during exercise. For those moderate, aerobic workouts, experts recommend sticking to a pulse between 60 and 80 percent of your predicted maximum. Our theoretical 35-year-old Bob, then, would exercise with a pulse between 111 and 148 beats per minute for aerobic conditioning of the heart and lungs.

Novice exercisers might want to stick to the lower end of range. Or even a well-conditioned person who normally runs might find themselves huffing and puffing at lower rate when they try a new sport that uses different muscles, like cycling.

Serious athletes-in-training go a step further. To go faster in races, they need to train their bodies to use oxygen when working at higher intensities. For them, some of the best training comes with exercise at 85 or 90 percent. For less fit people, working at such a high intensity can cause injury.

Now that you know where your pulse should be, how do you keep track of it? Sure, you can stop and count, finger to neck or wrist. But who can really find the right place, especially while moving. That’s where high technology helps out. With wireless electronic monitors, like the most well-known from Polar, slap a plastic belt around your rib cage that transmits your heart’s electrical impulses to a special watch on your wrist, and you’ll know your pulse every second by a glance at the watch face.

These monitors aren’t just for Olympic athletes, either. A monitor can act like a personal trainer, telling you when to slow down or to speed up. And they eliminate fumbling for your pulse.

The power of your pulse can keep your purring along.

-Therese Iknoian

 

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