Mar 31, 2014

Monitoring Your Heart Rate

Spring has sprung and if you're like a lot of people this time of the year, you're whipping that body into shape. Wearing a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) during your workout can be a helpful tool to track progress. Apart from tracking how many calories you're burning, here are 3 reasons why tracking your heart rate will help take your workout to the next level:

  • Push Yourself: A HRM (like this one) will tell you at what percentage you're working by using your maximum heart rate. You may think you're working at a certain intensity, when in fact you're working below your abilities. Tracking your heart rate throughout your workout will keep you accountable. If you want to stay at a certain intensity, you'll be able to see when you start to fall behind. 
  • Exercise Safely: By wearing a HRM you can track your progress and make sure that you aren't over training or wearing yourself out. If your heart rate is abnormally high before or after your workout or if it takes you longer than normal to recover during your workout, you may be over training. If you ever start to feel faint, a HRM is a great tool to continue working at a safer intensity.
  • Track Your Progress: One of the best things about using a HRM is that you're able to track your progress. Most HRM will give you a summary of your workout including max heart rate, how many calories you've burned, and more! It's hugely motivating to track your results and see how you're able to push yourself harder than the last week. Perhaps two weeks ago you were only able to sustain 60 seconds at 90% intensity, where as now you're able to spend 2 minutes or more! 

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
The heart rate monitor is an excellent tool to keep you accountable and track your intensity levels, but don't get hung up on calorie counting. After any workout (especially weight training) you will continue to burn calories (that won't be tracked) as your muscles rebuild themselves. 

Also, until you've used your heart monitor a couple of times, pay attention to what it says versus how you are actually feeling. If you reach 100%  on a regular basis (your max heart rate) for an extended period of time, chances are, your max heart rate needs to be adjusted -- max heart rate should be higher. On the flip side, if you feel like you've pushed yourself to the max and you're still only reaching 80-90%, then reduce your inputted max heart rate. While, your max heart rate is determined by using a scientific formula (220 minus your age), it can vary per individual. 

Max heart Rate While Pregnant:
Keeping your heart rate below a certain beats per minute (some say 140 and some as high as 160), is an old school myth. To put an umbrella number on everyone who is expecting is silly. Just remember to always listen to your body. We can dictate what our max heart rate should be through perceived exhaustion. Are you out of breath? Are you getting dizzy? That's when it's time to pull back a little. (Click here for more Pregnancy & Exercise Myths)

PS. While I recommend this Heart Rate Monitor, there are several great brands out there. Just make sure that you get one with a chest band because it will track throughout your exercise and not just when you stop and place your finger on the watch... not so effective. 

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