Heart Rate based training- love it or leave it?

People often wonder how much and in which intensities they should train. The simplest means of determining this is to listen to your own body. Heart rate based training gives clear guidance on how to train to reach your individual goals, based on your personal heart rate and heart rate variability. Although there are many subjective clues as to how your body is doing during exercise – such as perceived exertion, breathing rate, and physical sensations – none is as reliable as measuring heart rate.

Being an accurate measure for workout intensity, recovery level and long-term progress, heart rate is a window to your own fitness. Each person reacts to physical strain individually, depending on the size of the heart, fitness level, skills, and daily changes of stress level. This can be seen in heart rate variability, which measures the variations in the time between successive heart beats. Unlike common misconception, heart does not beat as regular as clockwork. On the contrary, the healthier the heart, the better it adapts to different situations and changing circumstances. Polar training computers can detect these slight changes in heart rate variability by measuring beat-to-beat intervals in milliseconds.

With regular training, the heart muscle becomes stronger, so it does not have to contract that often – therefore decreasing heart rate both during exercise and in rest, and increasing heart rate variability, which is a sign of fitness and a healthy heart. Polar has introduced number of features based on heart rate and heart rate variability that help athletes and active people in fitness assessment, guide them in their training and give tools for training follow-up. This way heart rate monitoring enables you to accurately adjust your training program, helping you vary your training depending on your fitness level and the goals you want to achieve by training.

YOUR WORKOUT SESSION

Regardless of the type of sport you choose, warm-up, cool-down and stretching are also important to fitness improvement. Including recovery periods in your weekly schedule is crucial to fitness, as well. To maximize the benefits to your heart and safeguard against injuries, it is good to include workout session always includes all three of the following phases:

1. Warm-up

2. Exercise in target heart rate zone

3. Cool-down and stretching

Warm-up

A proper warm-up prior to an exercise session prepares your heart and muscles for the action that lies ahead. It stimulates blood circulation and makes muscles more flexible. It can also prevent injuries. Begin each workout slowly, giving your body a chance to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes at a heart rate below your selected target zone. Then gradually increase the intensity of your exercise until your heart rate reaches your target zone.

Exercise in Target Zone

Once your heart rate has reached your target zone, maintain that intensity for a set amount of time (typically 20 minutes or more), making sure you stay inside your target zone. It’s important to be sensitive to your body’s reactions while you exercise. Be sure to keep your breathing regular. If you feel exceptionally breathless or dizzy, you’re probably working too hard (and pushing your heart rate beyond your target zone), so ease up a little.

Cool-Down and Stretching

Cool down by gradually reducing the intensity of your exercise to bring your heart rate back down to below your target zone. Then, stretch the main muscles you just worked to prevent injury and stiffness. For example, stretch your leg muscles after a run. And keep the following guidelines in mind while stretching:

– Don’t bounce

– Stretch slowly and steadily

– Hold the stretch for a slow count of ten

– Don’t push yourself into a painful stretch

from PolarUSA.com ( I make no money from Polar, I just happen to like their products. I am trying to get a Timex HRM for a review comparison)

I personally have 2 workout watches- A Polar with chest strap, as you cannot beat the accuracy and you need to have a constant display and also a touch pulse watch for casual exercise or game activity, just to check once in awhile! (insert weekend warrior).
I strongly recommend to find one that suits you, AND as always use it!

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