A very good way to measure the intensity of your workouts is with a Heart Rate Monitor. Knowing what intensity level you are working at will tell you what effect it is having on your body. Different target Heart Rate (HR) Zones generate different benefits and knowing this will help get you the maximum benefit from your workouts. Working out in the correct Zone will prevent you from going too hard, which can result in injury, or going too easy and not seeing any improvements.
The target zones and how to calculate them without a Heart Rate Monitor are as follows:
~ A new more accurate calculation to determine your maximum HR developed in a large research study by Ulrik Wisloff, the director of the K.G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim is based on the calculation 211 minus 64% of age. (The old 220 minus your age formula has been shown to be oversimplified and inaccurate for most people.) The more detailed online calculator developed by Dr. Wisloff’s lab for Max HR is located at:http://www.ntnu.edu/cerg/hrmax.
Zone 1 ~ 50 to 60 % of max HR helps with recovery the day after a strenuous workout or race. This rate is too easy for your regular workouts to be highly effective.
Zone 2 ~ 60 to 70 % of max HR is best to increase fat metabolism and loose weight, general fitness and endurance.
Zone 3 ~70 to 80 % of max HR is still mainly aerobic and can consist of longer interval training and recovery. For a healthy runner this is a great Zone to be in for your average daily workouts.
Zone 4 ~ 80 to 90 % of max HR is now working your anaerobic tolerance levels. This level is achieved in intervals up to 12 minutes with similar recovery time between each one and will improve your high-speed endurance.
Zone 5 ~ 90 to 100 % of max HR is for short intervals up to 3 minutes each and helps improve sprint speed.
Zone 4 and 5 workouts are used to help you perform at your top potential but increase the chance of muscle soreness and injury. They are usually done only once every week to two weeks because of the extra time the muscles need to recover from these efforts.
These Zones work for any activity that you want to do whether it is running, swimming, biking or skipping rope. Your body adapts to routine so you have to vary your workouts to improve your overall fitness. You can go for longer runs at an easy pace in Zone 2 one day and then a tempo workout the next at under 80% of max HR which is Zone 3. Doing some interval workouts or hill repeats on another day adds another dimension to the overall program.
Most Heart Rate Monitors cost around 99.00 to 259.00. The difference in models is in the extra features you get such as lap times and calories burned. The accuracy of the HR reading should be the same on ‘brand name’ models as long as they use the chest transmitter. The models that are worn on the wrist with no chest transmitter are less expensive but definitely less accurate.
You will get many years use out of a good HR monitor.
A hint to extend the life of your batteries is to make sure the transmitter strap is dried off after each use and kept separate from any other watch or other electronic items. This keeps it from picking up the electrical signal and continuing to transmit after you have finished with it.
If you are interested in improving and maybe want to compete in races and are not sure when in the yearly cycle of training you should be doing which type of intensity or how much, then joining a running club or taking a clinic with an experienced coach will help you greatly.
A good website to check out is www.polarca.com for additional information.
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