Monitoring your heart rate is a great way to gauge exercise efficiency

Monitoring heart rate is a great way to gauge exercise efficiency / Image source: James Martin/CNET

Monitoring heart rate is a great way to gauge exercise efficiency / Image source: James Martin/CNET

Monitoring your heart rate is a great way to gauge exercise efficiency

When we’re exercising, we want to make the most of our time. No matter what the activity, you want to feel like you’re putting in the right amount of effort to reach your goals. 

The easiest way to measure exercise efficiency is through heart rate training. For all the exercise trackers out there with their different modes, the most important feature you can use to quantify your workout is a heart rate monitor. Calorie counters are nice but often inaccurate — and I’ll tackle this in an upcoming blog. If you know your heart rate, you can maintain a proper level of intensity and adjust throughout your workout. 

To train successfully based on your heart rate, you need to know the maximum times your heart should beat during an activity. The best way to do this is to take 207 and subtract 0.7 times your age. This is called the theoretical maximum heart rate (MHR). 

You can take this number and apply it to the different heart rate zones, depending on the activity. 

  • Low intensity, the “fat-burning zone”, is 50% to 70% of your MHR.
  • Moderate intensity is 70% to 80% of your MHR. This would be when you’re putting in effort but are not uncomfortable.
  • High intensity is 80% to 90% of your MHR. This is where you’re pushing the anaerobic threshold. At this intensity, your cardiovascular system can’t deliver oxygen to your muscles fast enough. 
  • Maximum effort is 90% to 100% of your MHR. Very few people can maintain a heart rate here — even highly trained athletes.  

Depending on your goals, you may spend time training in different zones. If you’re running a marathon, you need to keep a steady pace. This translates to time spent in the Zone 1 and Zone 2 because endurance is key. If you are training for a 5K or doing intervals, you want to spend more time training in Zones 3. In this situation, short bursts of intensity will propel you forward.  

But what about the “fat-burning zone”? If you want to lose weight, shouldn’t that be what you should aim for? Does this mean low intensity exercise is superior to high intensity activities? Zone 1 is only called the “fat-burning zone” because the body relies more on stored fat (versus carbs) as its primary fuel source when you work at a lower intensity compared to a higher intensity. Performing aerobic exercise at a low intensity is not a better way to lose weight than more intense physical activity.

No matter what you do, it is recommended that we spend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to stay healthy. Heart rate training will ensure that you are working as efficiently as possible to meet your fitness and health goals. It can take the guesswork out of your workout. 

When time is crunched, HIIT and Tabata can help you work out harder rather than longer

Tabata workout: woman planking / Image source: 8fit.com

Tabata workout / Image source: 8fit.com

When time is crunched, HIIT and Tabata can help you work out harder rather than longer

I have so much free time. It’s easy for me to schedule my workouts and still juggle my to-do list. My first priority? It’s spending an hour on the Elliptical a day. I never miss a yoga class. It’s not something I would ever do.

Well, a trainer can dream.

Our lives are busy and fitting in full workouts can be challenging. When we are overscheduled, working out and eating mindfully drops to the bottom of our list — when it should be right at the top. Taking care of these essentials will keep you strong for those difficult times. Physical activity helps you release stress and improve your mood.

But what happens when you’re so overbooked and overstretched that even the idea of getting to the gym is creating anxiety? First of all, it’s time to rethink what a workout is. You don’t need to spend hours and hours on a piece of equipment to get results. There are many ways to maximize your workouts so they are an effective stress reliever instead of an added cause of concern.

When time is short, you need to work harder, not longer. Even a fifteen-minute circuit can get your heart rate up, clear your head, and achieve results. Both centered around intervals of high intensity exercise paired with periods of complete rest, HIIT and Tabata can inject a short burst of energy in minimal time.

HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is exactly what it sounds like. HIIT promises the best workout in the least amount of time. By alternating high intensity exercise for 30 seconds with a recovery period of 90 seconds, the goal of a successful HIIT workout is to reach 80% of your maximum heart rate. No matter how long you rest, the key is that you bring everything to your intervals. Whether it’s sprinting or upping the resistance for 30 seconds, followed by recovery, going all in is essential for this streamlined workout.

Tabata training is one of the most popular forms of HIIT. It consists of eight rounds of ultra-high-intensity exercises in a specific 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off interval. It may only take four minutes to complete a Tabata circuit, but those four minutes will  push your body to its absolute limit. Tabata is a shorter workout where one activity is repeated.

Both HIIT and Tabata can maximize your workout time when you have a lot on the go. These under-30-minute workouts are effective and efficient. Like most workouts, results may vary, but just making the time in your busy schedule and committing to making the most when you’re putting on your running shoes can help you prioritize yourself and manage stress.