You have decided to start running or are taking up a sport you once loved. How cool is that? Check with your doctor and learn a bit about monitoring your heart rate.
A way to know if you are working out with any intensity, is to monitor your breathing and heart rate.
Did you ever notice how hard it is to talk and breathe when you are really exerting yourself? It takes a while to build up stamina.
Your Heart Rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. You can detect it by taking your pulse, either by putting your finger on your carotid artery in your neck along your windpipe, or your radial artery on the thumb side of your wrist.
Count the number of times your pulse beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.
A heart rate monitor does the same thing. It has a sensor that reads the pulse in your wrist.
Another way to tell is by how easily you can converse while you are working out.
Often this is spoken about in “Zones”.
Zone 1: This is used for warming up and cooling or slowing down at the beginning and end of a workout
Zone 2: Often called “conversation zone” because you can talk and hold a conversation while you work out. You may need to stop talking up hills but you are not huffing and puffing.
Zone 3: Here is where you really see the connection between heart and breath. You can only use short sentences at this stage.
Zone 4: You can only manage one or two words during this stage.
Zone 5: You are almost up to your Maximum Heart Rate and cannot talk at all.
Your Maximum heart rate is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. So if you are aged 20, 220 – 20 = 200 . That means your heart rate should not exceed 200 beats per minute. If you are 60, then you subtract 60 from 220 = 160 BPM and so on.
If you don't have a training buddy to talk to you can recite a short poem, or perhaps the Pledge of Allegiance out loud, and see how far you can get, but frankly having a Heart Rate monitor is much simpler.
Today Heart rate monitors are not just for professional athletes. They are more accurate, affordable and attractive than they once were.
When you start out your training you should warm up a bit by just walking (zone 1) and gradually pick up your pace.
It is advisable to take 5-10 minutes to warm up and 5-10 minutes at the end of your workout to cool down or slow down your heart rate. The time in between, you should be working to train at 50-85% of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR).
If your heart rate rises above your MHR you are overtraining, and you may need to slow down. If your heart rate dips below 50% of your MHR you may need to speed up, especially if you want to lose weight or build muscle.
Gradually work up to training to 85%of your MHR. This may take a while but it is worth the consistent effort.
The American Heart Association provides the following chart to help gauge your heart rate during a workout.
Target HR Zone 50-85%
Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%
100-170 beats per minute (bpm)
The Average Heart Rate for each person varies because variable factors influence heart rate such as age, fitness level (runners tend to have lower heart rates than non-athletic people), stress, humidity and heat, as well as some medications or medical conditions.
Now that you know the target zone you are looking for, how do you feel? Get into the habit of checking your heart rate as you exercise.
Note that some drugs and medications can affect your heart rate, if you have a heart condition or are taking medication, check with your doctor and ask her what your Maximum Heart Rate should be.
Some Tips Before Beginning
The heat will cause more sweating, so preventing blisters may call for a more synthetic sock.
Wear loose fitting clothing that will not chafe at the underarms or thighs.
If you drink before a workout, stick to water or non-sweetened green tea.
Avoid milk or soy based drinks, surgery or fruity soft drinks, carbonated drinks, or alcohol before a workout.
Log Your Progress
Keep a log and check your progress, whether you monitor distance/time or heart rate training (duration of time at a certain heart rate). People used to train distance/time — how long it would take them to go X number of miles or kilometers.
Heart rate training relies on zones based on your maximum heart rate. This measures how long you trained at certain heart rate levels or zones. This has become easier with the use of heart rate monitors.
What Is a Recovery Day?
Give yourself recovery days as well.
A recovery day is a day where you do not push yourself further, instead you just take a rest. You should not go hard for two days in a row unless you are an experienced runner.
Rest days prevent injury and help you improve.
When you run, you cause microscopic tears in the muscles and you need a day to heal.
Recovery days reduce the risk of injuries and stress fractures.
If you run five days per week, three days should be recovery days and two with more intense or longer workouts.
So how do you build up?
Initially, in between your warm up and cool down, you start your real workout by a combination of walk, then run, and walk again.
Contrary to what you might think, you are not walking because you are tired.
Depending on your fitness level, a walk-break runner may walk for a minute and run for a minute, then walk for a minute. Build up to walk for a minute, run for two minutes, then walk for a minute.
A marathon runner may walk for a minute only every mile or kilometer.
Remember to reward yourself, check your Heart Rate as you go, be consistent, and enjoy the run.