Top Weight Loss Site

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Heart Monitor Training #2

By Alex Sinha

How To Use a Heart Rate Monitor

Heart monitors are tools that provide feedback specific to your body. As a result, heart monitor training can only be effective if you use that information to design and implement a workout regimen that is tailored to your body and fitness level.

To do this, you will calculate the various work-rate zones for your heart, and use these zones to guide your work-rate during your workouts. The first thing you will need to do in order to accomplish this is to figure out a couple of key values.

Specifically, the zones you will calculate can be derived from two numbers: your maximum heart rate (MHR), which is the fastest rate your heart is able to beat per minute, and your resting heart rate (RHR), the rate at which your heart beats when you are completely at rest and in the absence of stressful external stimuli.

Step 1: Establish Your Max Heart Rate

Simple Formulaic Estimation of the MHR Based on Age: In general, this method will provide reasonable accuracy for about 80% of runners, but it should almost invariably be supplemented with an actual test. Typically, one of three simple formulas is used to estimate one's maximum heart rate.

Formula #1: The first formula involves simply subtracting your age from the number 220 (for men) or from 226 (for women). This method is preferred for beginning runners, those who have been leading a sedentary lifestyle. Simple Heart Zones Calculator

Formula #2: The second formula is very similar, but is preferable for those who are already quite active. For this formula, simply subtract half of your age from the number 205.

Formula #3: The third formula runs along the same vein as the two preceding it. For men, subtract 80% of your age from the number 214. For women, subtract 70% of your age from the number 209.

All of these formulas provide approximations that are based on the standard curves representing the "normal" MHR's for any given age, and they get you close to your own MHR, but not close enough. The numbers you will get when you plug in your own age would best be used as a guide, as opposed to an accurate measure.

Actual Testing of the MHR Through Physical Exertion: The only way to truly find your maximum heart rate is to exert yourself vigorously for several minutes, obviously while wearing your heart monitor. In doing this, you have two options.

Option 1: Personal Test Perhaps the best way for most people to find their MHR is to calculate it themselves. The most effective method is to do interval training, preferably on a hill. A hill of at least 200 or 300 meters will suffice. Sprint up the hill and jog back down, using only the jog as a resting period.

Repeat this cycle five or six times, and you will likely attain a heart rate that is at least very near your MHR (your MHR being simply the highest number of beats per minute that you were able to provoke). In the absence of a hill, you may wish to extend the length of your intervals to 400 meters.

Option 2: Lab Test In a lab test, you will be put on a treadmill with a pulse monitor, and asked by a specialist to run a specific, short, intense program. This option tends to cost around $150, and is best if you have a heart condition, or if you are unsure of your physical health, for medical personnel and equipment are all either present or nearby.

Keep in mind that your MHR can be a little elusive. If, a week after you determine your MHR to be 186 BPM, you see 192 flash across your display as you do interval training, then your MHR is actually 192. This does not indicate a change in fitness or health, but would instead serve as evidence that when you tested you MHR before you were tired, rundown, or perhaps did not exert yourself hard enough.

Your MHR is genetically predetermined, and has basically nothing to do with your level of fitness. Some athletes have had MHR's in the 160 BPM-range, while others have rates that exceed 200 beats per minutes. The sole variation in your MHR is a decrease of approximately 1 BPM a year, a process that accompanies aging.

Step 2: Establish Your Resting Heart Rate

Unlike your MHR, which is basically fixed, the RHR is a measure of fitness, and should slowly decrease, as you get more and more fit. In general, the resting heart rates of different individuals can vary greatly.

Someone leading a sedentary lifestyle can have a RHR nearing or even exceeding 100 BPM. Most endurance runners will have one below 60 or 50 BPM, and possibly even below 40 BPM. The absolute lowest RHR's belong to elite runners, some of which dip below 30 beats per minute. The reason for this is that the stroke volume of these elite runners is so high that each heartbeat pumps more than twice as much blood as that of a sedentary adult.

This allows the heart to slow its rate substantially, while still supplying the entire body with adequate blood flow. A high stroke volume is reflective of a large, strong heart, which results from a high level of aerobic fitness.

Your resting heart rate is exactly what it sounds like: the rate at which your heart beats when you are totally at rest. While finding this number is less strenuous than calculating your MHR, it is easy to make the mistake of trying to derive your RHR at an inappropriate time.

The best method for determining your RHR involves strapping on your heart monitor when you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed. Simply lay there for two or three minutes; your lowest pulse rate will be your RHR. Doing this test first thing in the morning is logical, for there are many factors aside from physical activity that can lead to an increased heart rate - including stress and the presence of caffeine in your system - which can be eliminated by doing the test immediately after waking up.

Dehydration, on-setting illness, and insufficient rest can also manifest themselves in an increased RHR.

Step 3: Calculate Your Training Zones

Calculating training zones allows you to customize your workout to your heart and current fitness level. Using a heart monitor without tailoring your workout to your own personal training zones essentially eliminates the benefits of heart monitor training.

Once you have your MHR and your RHR, you can grab a calculator or visit the heart zones calculator, and easily set up a chart to help you determine how much strain you are putting on your heart at a given heart rate. Typically the chart is based on percentile markers, where your MHR is 100%. To create your chart, calculate the percentile markers in 5% increments, descending from 100% to around 50%, and using the following formula:

((MHR-RHR) x Percent level) + RHR

For example, suppose your MHR is 190 and your RHR is 50. Your calculation for your 95% level would look like this:

((190-50) x .95) + 50) = 183 BPM

For your 90% level, your calculation would appear as follows:

((190-50) x .90) + 50) = 176 BPM

Your chart, then, would show 190 as 100% of your max, 183 at 95% of your max, 176 at 90% of my your, and so on down the line until you reach 50%.

These zones will be crucial when you determine your training program and start to track results.

Step 4: Implement A Training Program And Track Your Results

If you have completed the first three steps, then you are prepared to begin training using your heart rate monitor.

How you wish to train, however, depends on your ultimate goals. Some trainers recommend that runners should not run two consecutive days over their 70% level, setting that value as the ceiling for recovery days. Most agree that hard days should be run at the 85% level, if not higher.

Regardless of how you are training, and what you are training for, it will be useful to keep track of your results. It is highly recommended that you track not only your heart rate for each workout and the activities that the workout entailed, but also that you record your RHR daily.

Some have even worn their heart monitors for entire days, simply to see what kinds of activities and stimuli provoke what speed of pulse.

Where to Buy:

You can find heart rate monitors at your local running or fitness store. This site, offers a wide selection of monitors and is committed to providing the lowest prices.

For more weight loss information...

No comments: