Fitness & Training, Cardiovascular fitness, Health & Fitness, Workout at home

Why and how to train by monitoring your heart rate

Monitoring your heart rate during exercise is both a safety measure and an effective way of training. By measuring your resting heart rate and then calculating your maximum heart rate according to your age, you can determine precisely the intensity ranges you should train at.

3 reasons to monitor your heart rate during exercise

Heart rate tracking is a reliable method of personalising your fitness journey:

  • The speed at which your heart beats reflects your physical condition and determines how safely you can work based on your abilities.
  • Your heart rate is a very motivating indicator: as you work out, you can work longer and longer at a given heart rate without getting out of breath or you can perform an intense effort that you previously thought was unattainable.
  • Depending on your objectives, you can optimise your activities by working in the most efficient heart rate zone: for example, at the aerobic threshold (the highest heart rate you can sustain without being too out of breath), energy is produced by oxidising fat.

By measuring your resting heart rate and performing a few calculations, you can estimate the heart rate you want to achieve, according to your goals. A few tests with a heart rate monitor will then be enough to manage your training.

Resting heart rate and maximum heart rate

heart health cardio strength training

Resting heart rate (RHR) is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute. The more trained your heart is, the stronger and slower it beats. To find out your resting heart rate, count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds and multiply by 2. Measure at a calm moment, while sitting or lying down.

The effort zones are defined by the maximum heart rate (MHR) that the heart can theoretically reach. There are two calculations to estimate your maximum heart rate according to your age:

  • MHR = 220 – age
  • MHR = 207 – 0.7 × age

The point is not to draw conclusions about your physical abilities (you are unique), but rather to use these two numbers as benchmarks.

The different effort zones

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The intensity of physical activity can correspond to two main effort zones:

  • The 50% to 70% MHR zone corresponds to a moderate aerobic endurance effort: running, swimming, cycling, rowing and so on. This is the perfect intensity for looking after your heart, in sessions of about 30 minutes, several times a week.
  • For a more intense effort, in split training, for example, it is possible to work up to 80% or 85% of your MHR over short periods, though this type of training should be reserved for regular athletes.

Benchmarks and tips to personalise your workouts with heart rate monitoring

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From the determined effort zones, you can see whether your training is effective or not:

  • If you do not reach 50% of your MHR during your exercise sessions, increase the intensity of your efforts slightly.
  • Conversely, if the effort is too intense, if you are out of breath or if you are unable to continue exercising for the desired duration, monitoring your heart rate will allow you to check that you are not too close to your MHR. Reduce the intensity of the effort in all cases and note how comfortably you are working at your endurance heart rate. Your results should quickly improve.

To decide which intensity to work at, take into account your resting heart rate: if it is rather high, aim for a moderate effort: 50% of your MHR, for example, at least at first. This will allow you to strengthen your heart gradually without rushing.

Do tests over 20 minutes to find a pace that suits you. The aim is to maintain the effort over time to gradually improve your cardiorespiratory capacity.

To help you personalise your training according to your heart rate, NordicTrack’s devices are equipped with ActivePulse™ technology, compatible with the leading Bluetooth® heart rate monitors on the market. The resistance and speed of the workout are adjusted in real-time according to your heart rate to get you working in the ideal effort zone without you even thinking about it.

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