Are you pushing yourself? What does your heart tell you?
Our bodies are dynamic and constantly adapt to become more efficient. As we train we get stronger, our endurance increases, and over time, a workout that once left us in a puddle of sweat on the floor, and sore for days, turns into something that doesn't challenge us. It's amazing to see our bodies getting stronger and adapting to our workouts but no one wants to hit a plateau or see their progress stagnate.
I like to be in tune with my body and make sure I'm adjusting my workouts to maximize my results. While my main motivation for working out is to feel good, it's also really nice to see some progress, right? So, how can we make sure that our workouts are pushing us, and if they're not, how can we step it up?
This is where heart rate comes in. As we all know, increased effort equates to an increase in heart rate. If you want to use your time at the gym efficiently and get the most out of your training, you've got to understand your heart rate.
So, let's talk about heart rate zones. Heart rate zones are calculated based on your individual maximum heart rate (MHR). There are a few different ways to calculate your max heart rate but the simplest is done by subtracting your age from 220. For example, I'm 28 years old so my MHR should be approximately 192 beats per minute (bpm). Now...with this info you can move forward determining your heart rate zones.
Heart rate zones are a percentage of your MHR.
50%-70% -Low Intensity
This zone is where you want to be when warming up or cooling down after an intense workout. It is also the perfect zone for low intensity workouts that are focused on burning fat. Fat metabolism requires oxygen, training in this zone ensures your body is getting all the oxygen it requires, which pushes it to metabolize fat. Activities for this zone: Walking, yoga, possibly jogging depending on fitness level
70%-80%- Moderate Intensity
This zone is more about endurance and burning calories. The overall energy demand on your body is greater and requires burning of fat and carbs to fuel the activity. If you're working on increase endurance and overall level of fitness, this is where you want to be. Activities for this zone: Running, biking, and dancing
80%-90% - High Intensity
This is your anaerobic zone, where your body's oxygen demands are higher than the available supply. This forces your body to rely on energy stored within muscles. High intensity activities can only be sustained for a short period of time. Working out in this zone improves your VO2 max and helps your body to use oxygen more efficiently. This is the best zone for building strength and increasing muscle mass. Activities for this zone: Interval sprints, weight lifting, resistance training circuits, jumping rope
90%-100%- Max Intensity
This zone is your body's limit and is the least comfortable to work out in. You are literally working as hard as you can. This zone is usually reached after you've been in your high intensity zone for several minutes and is usually only reached by those that are pretty fit. This is zone is a goal for HIIT training. You won't be able to sustain it for long and if you're new to working out you might not hit it at all. It's useful to judge your HIIT training, however. Activities for this zone: Prolonged interval sprints, weight lifting, resistance training circuits, jumping rope
As you continue to train week after week you will get stronger and your endurance will increase. If you monitor your heart rate you'll find that an activity that used to push you into your desired zone might not quite get you there anymore. That's great news because you're getting fitter, but it's also a sign it's time to change things up to keep your body working! If you want to maximize your results, whether that's fat loss or muscle building, knowing what zones you're working out in and how to push yourself into the zone your want to be in is essential. If you find your body adapting to your current routine, try pushing yourself by increasing speed, increasing incline, increasing number of reps, increasing weight, increasing circuit times, etc. You'll be amazed at how your training, and progress changes.
Photo credit- Don Huynh @slcdon