Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"To the beat of our noisy hearts..."

Yes, those are lyrics and they come to mind when I think of my new toy: a Polar FT1 heart rate monitor. I broke it out yesterday morning for the first time during my Circuit Sculpt class, which is a mix of cardio and strength training. I expected my heart rate to be all over the place and it was, but with an average of 122 beats per minute (bpm). More on that later.

The plastic transmitter:

I thought it would be super uncomfortable but it really wasn't. I tucked it underneath my sports bra, sort of like this:

I think it made all the difference in the world. This little guy, by some science unbeknownst to me, transmits my heart rate to a computer. Otherwise known as a watch on my wrist.

Gorgeous, isn't it? Yes, that was sarcasm. But looks can be deceiving, and they are in this case. The information it ultimately provides is the ticket to a great workout. Wait—why am I wearing two watches? This brings me to my only complaint thus far. I wish the Polar FT1 heart rate monitor had a stopwatch on it. When I teach Circuit Sculpt, we do a lot of exercises based on time, rather than repetition, so I need to have some sort of stopwatch available to me. And the clock isn't the best of help when you're face-down in a plank, so I'm going to have to wear two pieces of jewelry when I teach. Stinky, but I can deal.

Let's talk about heart rates.

It's really rather important that you know what your target heart rate is. This information helps you train at a level your body can handle. Of course, you also have a maximum heart rate which needs no explanation. Except, well...I will give you one. Obviously it's the highest heart rate your ticker can handle. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise. It's always best to check with him or her first, but generally speaking, you should only shoot to train within 60- to 70% of your maximum heart rate. This, of course, is your target heart rate. Anything above it is pretty hardcore, and not necessarily the best for you or your heart. But training right around that target heart rate, even for a little bit, is good for you. And your waistline, too.

Back to my average of 122bpm. My target heart rate (THR) is actually somewhere between 152 and 140bpm. Although I achieved said THR at various points throughout my workout, it makes sense that I didn't sustain it since the class combined cardio and strength training into one. Think of it as a bit of interval work. (You know how good intervals are for you, right?)

Now remember, you don't have to purchase a heart rate monitor to keep track of your heart rate. Simply find your pulse in your neck or wrist, count the number of beats you feel in ten seconds, then multiply that number by six. That's your heart rate. And if you know what your target heart rate is, you'll be able to tell whether or not you need to pick up the pace (or slow down). Now, there's no need to check every minute of your workout, just off and on throughout. Or whenever you feel your heart rate pick up.

You can also go by ratings of perceived exertion.

This brings me to one last heart rate tip: Keep track of the exercises and/or classes that get your heart rate going. It'll give you a solid bank of exercises to turn to when you need a good, heart-pumpin' workout.

Oh, and if you can't figure out which song houses the aforementioned lyrics, I give you the following:

Question: How do you incorporate target heart rate into your workouts?


Anonymous said...

I teach group fitness and Spinning classes. I feel lost w/o my HR monitor! I rely on it for Spin classes which are HR based.....
I also run and while training for races I have specific HR parameters I follow in order to improve my endurance. I went through metabolic testing in order to find out my "true" numbers which are so different from what the chart says.. it's amazing!! I am lost w/o my HR monitor- true story!!

mike said...

A heart rate monitor is a better choice than relying on the heart rate monitors on cardio equipment. The ones on the machines are unreliable.

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