Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Heart Rates, Part 2

In Part One I asked each of you to calculate some basic figures. If you look at a typical fitness club heart zone chart, it is an extreme estimate. It does not take into account your resting heart rate, but rather uses an average based on age. Obviously the more precise the raw data used, the more accurately YOUR heart rate zones can be calculated.


These zones reflect exercise intensity. In a Recovery or Warmup Zone, the HR is generally under 50%. If you go back to Part One and recall the 30YOA male who had the HR-Rest = 50, his 50% intensity value is 120 BPM. During an easy warmup session, his HR should stay under 120 BPM.


The next higher intensity zone ranges from 50-60%. I personally detest the naming of a "fat burning" zone as it gives the false impression that a fatter person should stay under 60% intensity. I prefer to call it a low to moderate zone. Training partners can usually maintain a fluid conversation while operating in a 50-60% zone.


Aerobic fitness zones range from 60% to 80% intensity. This is where most endurance runners tend to operate. As intensity climbs towards 70%, speaking ability drops...breathing rate is too high to keep a conversation.

The highest zone is over 80%. This is for extreme athletes who are hell-bent on performance. When training in an 80% range, conversation is next to impossible. As the need for oxygen rises, breathing (and pending recovery) becomes the main focus of the athlete.

Here are some talking points:

As intensity goes up, duration goes down. Simple enough, right? The same person running 3 miles will maintain a lower HR than when s/he runs a 400M sprint, and probably a higher HR than when running 6 miles. The shorter the duration of the event, the higher the intensity of the activity.


Performance is bettered in higher zones. In a few posts ago I discussed my errors when training for stair climbing races. My biggest error was that I had not been spending time in the 80% and up heart rate zone. What I was asking my body to do was to get better at performing a task (climbing stairs) faster and faster, yet I didn't actually increase my speed/intensity. Rather I incorrectly added time duration to the training sessions. In future years when I reached into the 80% zone, I saw big changes in performance.


Interval training. Interval training, especially running, has big benefits. These sessions alternate between high intensity sprints and lower intensity jogs or even walks. As I discusssed in the above paragraph, higher zones need to be reached. Also the long durations cannot possibly be kept as well. In these runs, "resting" periods must be factored in. One popular method to account for balanced intervals is by using telephone poles along a roadway. A runner will sprint between 3 poles, then jog between 5 poles. I also like using my GymBoss timer. I've been using a 5 minute repeating timer to alternate running-walking for a couple of first time 1/2 marathon competitors. Down the road, we'll be decreasing rest periods to 3 then 2 minutes, and eventually to NO rest periods...only running. Interval training definately keeps the boredom to a minimum!!! There are so many ways to spice it up.


Cardio Machines. In my workplace gym I have access to some of the most top-notch pieces of cardio machines: rower, treadmills, versa-climber, stairmaster, elipticals, bikes...you name it. Some of them have the smart handles that monitor heart rate. Most have the option to interface directly with my Polar chest strap. I use these bike and eliptical machines almost exclusively for warmups and cool down sessions. I find it nearly impossible to get my HR into a zone higher than 60% with them. Now the versa-climber (picture to left): I can almost get up to 80%! It's one of the most grueling machines out there.

Beginner workout zones. For those of you just starting off a fitness program, I highly recommend using a HR monitor. It is important to ease into any new program...and by "ease" I mean limiting your HR during training sessions. Do not jump right into a 70-80% zone!! But on the flip side: if you've been exercising for years and you stay in the 60-70% zone, then it's probably time to add intervals and higher intensity workouts to your fitness model.


It might take a little bit to learn your body's limits when it comes to intensity and duration and interval work. It is worth the money to invest in a HR monitor and definately worth the effort in figuring out the math of how your body responds to work. Start today by simply taking your pulse rate before, during, and after your sessions.

1 comment:

espen said...

Good article, off I am to buy myself a cardiometer