Get Familiar With Your Heart Rate

Posted: January 22, 2013 by Justin M. Strawn in Encouragement
Tags: , , , ,

If you are exercising, crazy thought here, but I bet you want to get the most out of it that you possibly can. There are lots of really good exercise programs out there, but it doesn’t matter how great they are if you aren’t paying attention to your heart rate while you exercise.

Why it matters

Plain and simple, how fast your heart beats determines the number of calories that you are going to burn. If it isn’t going fast enough, you won’t burn that many calories. If it is beating too fast, then your body is going to just try to hold on for dear life and you won’t burn as many calories. So how do you know it is too slow or too fast? Start with calculating your max heart rate.

Calculating your max heart rate

There are ways to get it to the exact number, but it’s simpler and accurate to just use a simple formula. When you are first born, the most your heart can beat in a single minute is 220. Every year you grow older, this number, on average, decreases by 1. So take 220 and subtract your age. That will give you your max heart rate. For example, I will be 34 in less than a month. 220-34=186. My max heart rate is 186.

How hard should you work your heart

A good starting point, especially if you are new to exercise, is to keep your heart rate at about 60-70% and see how you do. 60% of my heart rate would be 111. This will burn some calories, but it won’t over exert you. If you handle that well, try bumping it up to 70-80%. 70% of my heart rate is 130. You’re going to feel a substantial difference. You will start to break into a sweat and you will be tired when you are done. If you can handle that,  go up to 80-90%. This is a strenuous exercise heart rate. 149 is 80% of my max and 167 is 90%. You will sweat a lot, and you will be exhausted by the time it is over. Going over 90% is working your body too hard and you start to see a steep drop in efficiency if you go over 90%. If you are below 60%, you really aren’t working hard enough and you won’t burn too many calories. Don’t waste all the time you are putting into this. Keep track of your heart rate!

Heart rate monitors

If you are going to keep track of your heart rate, you need a heart rate monitor. There are two different kinds. The more common version is the type that has a chest trap that sends your heart rate to a watch. The other allows you yo skip the chest strap and measure it by pressing your fingertips to a sensor on your watch. So what’s the difference between the two?

The finger tip variety has one distinct advantage. You don’t have to deal with a clunky chest strap if you elect to go with one of these. There are a number of drawbacks however. The biggest is having to stop and place your fingers on the sensor. Many times, you can get a reading within a second or two. There are times though where it can take more than 10 seconds to get a reading. If it takes that long, you may not be able to get an accurate reading. You also do not get a constant heart rate. To get the most accurate heart rate you can while exercising, you have to take your heart rate often. This can also take away from your work out. Another common complaint, and something that i have noticed, is that if you sweat profusely, the monitor has a difficult time picking up the heart rate, and sometimes, giving a vastly inaccurate reading.

The chest strap variety has only one real disadvantage and that is the chest strap. It can be difficult to keep it in place and is somewhat cumbersome. The positives are vast, however. You get a constant heart rate reading so you don’t have to stop and have it be recorded. The amount of sweat you produce has no effect on the monitor.

So what should I look for?

Heart rate monitors can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a lot for it to get the job done. Here is what you should look for in order of importance, at least in my opinion.

1. A chest strap. They are far more accurate than the finger tip variety. You’ll get used to wearing it in time.

2. Calorie Tracking. A decent one will allow calculate the number of calories you burn based off of your heart rate.

3. Weight entry. For the amount of calories burned to be accurate, you need to be able to enter your weight. The lighter you are, the less calories you will burn and vice versa.

4. Age entry. Not as important, but it can give you a slightly better idea to how many calories you are burning.

5. Heart Rate Percentage or a Heart Rate Zone Entry. We have already discussed the importance of knowing your percentage, if the monitor can tell you what that is or allow you to input a zone you want to stay in, even better.

You can normally find them on places like Amazon for decent prices. It is very easy to spend in excess of $200 on heart rate monitor, but you can find for far more reasonable prices. Check the reviews before you buy one. One bad review shouldn’t influence your decision, but if you see the same problem being mentioned repeatedly, you might want to reconsider.

What I use

Mine is a Timex with a chest strap. It calculates my calories burned, and allows me to enter a zone I want to keep my heart rate. I enter my weight every Monday to make sure that it is accurately calculating the number of calories burned. I don’t have a way to enter age, but that isn’t that big of a deal in the long run. It was a gift from my mother-in-law, so I can’t tell you how much it cost, but I know it is under $100 based on similar models on Amazon. If you find it on sale, you can typically find it for under $50 probably.

Maximizing your work out means knowing what your heart rate is. You don’t have to have a heart rate monitor, but they most certainly help. I hope you have a great day ladies and gentlemen and may all of your fitness dreams come true!



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