It was the hardest stretch of the competition, 1000 meters almost vertical slope stood between me and the finish line. As I approached the summit, my heart felt that it would break through my chest. I didn't need my Fitbit to tell me I was working hard on this litter, but I looked down at my wrist and there it was: 185 beats per minute. I reached my highest heart rate.
($ 385 on Amazon) and most but they rarely explain what to do do with that information.on many fitness trackers such as Apple Watch
Before practicing for a half marathon, I wasn't really sure what to do with heart rate data, but when I got out I could use it to improve my performance and achieve my goal of completing it in just under two hours.
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Why is heart rate important?
Heart rate can tell a lot about your overall health and it is one of the best ways to measure overall exercise, according to Dr. Anthony Luke, Director of Ground Care Education at the University of California San Francisco.
The lower the heart rate, the greater your cardiovascular fitness. "If your base pulse is slow, it means your body is more efficient and you don't have to be torn down to get things moving," Dr. Luke.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal healthy adult should have a dormant heart rate from 60 to 100 beats per minute, although some elite athletes may have a dormant heart rate close to 40 beats per minute.
As you work out, your heart beats faster to deliver the nutrient-rich and oxygen-rich blood your muscles need to keep you moving. In turn, you can use your heart rate as a gauge of how intense your workouts are – the higher your heart rate, the harder your body works. But there is more to it.
Measuring Your Heart Rate
You don't really need a fitness tracker or a chest strap to figure out your heart rate. Just feel my pulse on my wrist, or the side of my neck would have confirmed the obscure I already knew into my chest, while I scaled that hill.
That being said, smartwatches and fitness trackers have made this information so readily available that all you have to do is look at your wrist. It is especially useful when exercising, to stop in the middle of a run to take your pulse manually is much less convenient.
Here's our guide to the many ways you can measure your heart rate.
Finding Your Highest Heart Rate
If you just started your exercise trip, it is probably too early to dig into your heart rate data. Any kind of physical activity that takes you off the couch and causes your heart to pump over your baseline is progress. But ultimately, you can understand your heart rate so you can stay focused on your long-term fitness goals, such as losing weight or increasing your speed.
Most importantly, heart rate can help you answer the question "Is training effective?" To find that answer, you must first calculate your maximum heart rate.
Maximum heart rate is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity, according to the Mayo Clinic. This number is not always easy, as there are other factors to consider – including gender – but for a very basic calculation, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 30, your MHR would be 220 – 30 = 190 stroke / min.
Heart Rate Zones
Once you know your MHR, you can then calculate your heart rate training zones, helping you to exercise.
Some fitness trackers and apps do this for you. For example, Fitbit breaks up into three zones: fat burning, cardio and peak. However, it may be more than three zones and the names and numbers change slightly depending on your program.
Here is a very general look of what these "zones" mean and what you can achieve at each one.
50-70% of your MHR: That's what the American Heart Association considers to be moderate exercise and can also be called "fat burning zone". Working in this zone, as the name suggests, will burn fat and even build endurance.
70-85% of your MHR: Excessive exercise also known as aerobic or heart zone. Training in this zone can help improve cardiovascular training and build strength.
85-95% of your MHR: This is high intensity or anaerobic exercise, which can increase speed.
How to Use Your Heart Rate Zone
Not everyone needs to pay attention to heart rate zones when exercising. If your main goal is to lose weight, it is more important to burn more calories. All of the above training zones burn calories, but the more intense the exercise, the more calories you burn. But before you press your heart rate limits during your next workout, you know that while a higher intensity workout burns the calories faster, it can also burn you out faster and increase the risk of injury, which can lead you to your workout.
In fact, some evidence suggests that heart rate zones are not always what they promise and that the main goal of weight loss should burn calories. It is therefore a longer, moderate exercise can be just as effective in achieving weight loss or in some cases even more effective in the long run, as it is more durable over time.
If you like me, prepare yourself for a competition, the intensity of the workout. I knew that I needed to increase my speed to reach my goal, so I aimed to keep abreast of most of my runs and made sure I pushed for intensive training for a few minutes in each session.
Regardless of which training zone you are targeting, there are many factors that can affect your heart rate and it is best to check with your doctor before drastically changing your exercise routine, especially if you are over 50 or have a history of heart-related conditions.
If you are an elite practitioner, you want to get even more detail about your heart rate than a traditional optical heart rate sensor (available on most fitness trackers) can provide. Therefore, serious athletes prefer chest straps that track the electrical activity of the heart.
But perhaps the most important measure of success is your dormant heart rate, and you don't need a chest strap to measure it. You know your training trip pays if you notice that your dormant heart rate has decreased over time. This will not happen overnight, but it may have lasting effects on your health. Lowering your dormant heart rate helps strengthen your heart and reduce your risk of heart disease.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical care. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.