How To Train With A Heart Rate Monitor
All athletes, or want-to-be athletes, should know how to train with a heart rate monitor. No matter your physical ability, heart rate monitors will help you achieve the most significant results in the shortest period of time. Everyone can benefit from using these devices – from the armchair athlete to the elite professional sportsman. When used properly, heart rate monitors help to improve cardiovascular fitness in the most efficient manner possible.
To train with a heart rate monitor, you will need:
- A heart rate monitor
- An understanding of your fitness goals
- First, determine your maximum heart rate. A reasonable approximation of your maximum heart rate is 220 – your age. For example, if you are 40 years old, your maximum heart rate would be about 220 – 40 = 180 beats per minute. A more accurate measure of your maximum heart rate can be found through a cardiac stress test by a physician, though the approximation is adequate for most people.
- Determine your training goals. Training with a heart rate monitor is only beneficial if you match your heart rate to your training goals. Different training goals include improving overall cardiovascular fitness, increasing endurance, burning fat, increasing your anaerobic threshold, or increasing your VO2 maximum. You may also have a combination of these goals, several of which can be worked on through a coordinated training plan.
- Understand the correlation between heart rate and training goals. Exercising at different percentages of your maximum heart rate helps you to achieve different training goals. Warm-up occurs at 50% - 60% of your maximum heart rate. The most efficient heart rate to burn fat while improving endurance is 60% - 70% of your maximum heart rate. Aerobic training and endurance improvement occurs at 70% - 80% of your maximum heart rate. Anaerobic training takes place at 80% - 90% of your maximum heart rate, and VO2 maximum training occurs at 90% - 100% of your maximum heart rate.
- Calculate your training zone. Now that you have determined your training goals and understand the relationship between heart rate and those goals, calculate your training zone. For example, if you are a 40 year old man (maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute) trying to lose fat, you should exercise at an intensity where your heart rate is 108 – 126 (60% - 70% of maximum heart rate) beats per minute. Train with a heart rate monitor to ensure you are hitting the proper zone for your goals.
- Set up your heart rate monitor. Once you have calculated your training zone, you must set up your heart rate monitor. This typically includes inputting your maximum heart rate and desired training zone, as calculated above. Your heart rate monitor can also be set to give you an audible warning when you enter your training zone or when your heart rate is too high or too low to be in your training zone.
- Coordinate your heart rate monitor with your cardiovascular exercise of choice. These days, most cardiovascular equipment interacts with heart rate monitors to provide a readout onscreen of your heart rate. Elliptical machines, treadmills, and stationary bikes can all provide this benefit. This helps you monitor your heart rate to make sure you stay in your desired training zone. If you are not training on a machine, regularly glancing at your heart rate monitor will allow you to adjust pace and intensity as necessary to remain in your zone.
Regular exercise, no matter what your training goals are, is necessary to improve cardiovascular fitness. Heart rate monitors are an effective tool to help improve fitness in the most efficient manner possible, provided you stick to a regular routine. Strive for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for 3 days a week.