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What heart rate zone should I be in when doing cardio?
There are a few different ways to determine your training heart rate. Popular methods in the past have included 220-age(%.55-.85) at discretion of a fitness enthusiast or professional. The Karvonen formula is another which is similar. Sixteen years ago when I first started my career as an intern at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN metabolic testing was used to determine exercise heart rates and training programs for individuals who are athletes to cardiac rehab patients. This was done because it was the most effective way of determining an effective training zone. An exercise prescription must be hard enough to challenge your body and force an adaptation. The prescription also needs to be safe.
Testing allows a vehicle to provide both safety and a challenge that will get results. Five to ten years ago fitness centers could not provide these services mainly because it was cost prohibitive. Technology now allows most major fitness centers and even some training studios to do metabolic testing. This testing does not diagnose a health problem, however it can provide good heart rate training recommendations and basal metabolism information. Generally, people will get the most out of their time if they use the data from these tests to guide daily workouts.
I get asked almost daily by clients and members about heart rate training? Common questions are:
- Why should I get a Metabolic Assessment Profile?
- Is testing really worth the money?
- What is this going to do for me anyway?
- What is anaerobic threshold?
- I just want to lose weight, so why do I need to be so specific?
- Will I need to get tested again?
- Do I really need this heart rate monitor?
Answers are as follows:
1) A (MAP) or Metabolic Assessment Profile will provide an owner's manual for your body that you can leverage with recommendations from me or our Metabolic Specialist. This profile will provide the following information: a) caloric burn at rest, b) caloric burn during exercise, c) anaerobic threshold, d) aerobic base (best fat burn heart rate), d) sub-maxVO2, e) as well as a recent addition of a computer generated workout specific to your test results! You need this to be efficient with your time, challenge your body and have a healthy approach to your program.
2) In my opinion this testing should be the first thing you focus on to get results in your programming! The investment you make in testing will pay dividends for at least 3-4 months of training. Since we have been doing testing I have seen hundreds of people do the testing and very few are disappointed.
3) When you're done you will walk away with a solid cardiovascular training plan based on your bodies' abilities. This will include 5 heart rate zones which can be programmed into your heart rate monitor. Next, you now receive a specific plan laid out on a spreadsheet for you to begin to follow in your workouts! Finally, the RMR or resting metabolic rate testing will give you data to start determining a good meal plan with the help of myself or our Nutrition Coach.
4) Anaerobic Threshold represents the point in your heart rate at which your body is utilizing almost all carbohydrates. This is because at this stage your body is not able to supply enough oxygen to the working muscle to combine with fat for fuel.
5) Most people are after lasting results. There is nothing more frustrating than the yo yo up and down of weight loss programs. This type of programming is meant to be progressive over time and be adjusted for changes in your body. This allows for continued adaptation and change in muscle cells and your cardiovascular system to occur.
6) Re-testing is recommended every 3-4 months. Most people get frustrated with results or bored with their program. This will allow you to make adjustments to keep the train of change going and relieve yourself of some boredom.
7) About 8 years ago I learned the hard way that "Heart Rate Training" and use of a heart rate monitor is beneficial. After having chronic tendinitis, plantar fascitis and subsequent back pain I finally turned to heart rate training. My Chiropractor at the time sat me down and said, "Brian you need to back off, slow down, mix it up". Well shortly after that I met a Polar guru who shared how he felt heart rate training would help me avoid over training and get the results I desired. I skeptically proceeded and have never looked back. It is by far the best thing I have done with my running and general cardio conditioning. I have avoided further injury and continue to enjoy running regularly.