Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Heart Rates and Training Zones

Knowing your heart rate and understanding the importance of training in different "zones" can be crucial when trying to meet your goals.

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
Your true MHR is the highest pulse rate you can attain during all-out effort.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
Your RHR is the number of times your heart beats per minute while at complete rest. First thing in the morning, before you sit up or let your feet touch the floor, find the pulse in the right side of your neck, just below the jaw line. Counts the beats over one minute. This value is your RHR.

The Energy Efficient Zone, Recovery Zone, Fat Burning Zone - 60% to 70% of your MHR
Training within this zone develops basic endurance and aerobic capacity. One advantage to doing cardio workouts in this zone is that while you are essentially burning fat you are also allowing your muscles to re-energise with glycogen, which has been expended during those faster paced workouts.

The Aerobic Zone - 70% to 80% of your MHR
Training in this zone will develop your cardiovascular system. The body's ability to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, the working muscles can be developed and improved. You will become fitter and stronger from training in this zone and it will improve aerobic capacity.

The Anaerobic Zone - 80% to 90% of your MHR
Training in this zone will develop your lactic acid (a.k.a. "the burn") system. In this zone, your individual anaerobic threshold (AT) is found - sometimes referred to the point of deflection. During these heart rates, the amount of fat being utilised as the main source of energy is greatly reduced and glycogen stored in the muscle is used. One of the by-products of burning this glycogen is lactic acid. There is a point at which the body can no longer remove the lactic acid from the working muscles quickly enough. This is your anaerobic threshold (AT). Through the correct training, it is possible to delay the AT by being able to increase your ability to deal with the lactic acid for a longer period of time or by pushing the AT higher.

The Red Line Zone 90% to 100% - of your MHR
Training in this zone will only be possible for short periods. It effectively trains your fast twitch muscle fibres and helps to develop speed. This zone is reserved for interval running and only the very fit are able to train effectively within this zone.

Now that the different heart rate zones have been explained try exercising in each of them - no need to try the red line zone unless you really want to :) A heart rate monitor works well for these experiments. In order to find out your own MHR, take the number 220 and subtract your age from it. That number is your MHR. Now to figure out what your heart rate should be in each zone: my MHR is 190. 190 times 60% is 114 and 190 times 70% is 133. So, if I wanted to workout in my fat burning zone I would need to keep my heart rate between 114-133.

Whatever zone you are exercising in you are burning calories because when we expend energy we burn calories. When we burn more calories than we eat our bodies turn to our fat stores to find the additional energy they require. Thus when we eat more calories than we burn we gain weight, and when we burn more calories than we eat we lose weight. In conclusion, varying your workouts is so important. If you are comfortable during exercise then you're not pushing yourself hard enough. Sprints and intervals are grueling but they push your heart rate into an anaerobic zone - and force you out of your comfort zone. Exercising at different intensity levels will make you faster, stronger and overall more fit!

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