How to use a Heart Rate Monitor - training tips

Train Effectively - Use the Zones   
      Home   Order   Books

If you are a beginner with the goal of improving overall fitness, losing weight or reducing stress, exercise in the healthy heart zone which is 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate.

  1. If you already exercise regularly but are aiming to lose body fat, exercise in the weight management zone which is 60-70 percent of maximum heart rate. Build up to a work out of one hour of continuous exercise.
  2. If your goal is to improve aerobic capacity or athletic performance, exercise in the aerobic zone which is 70-80 percent of maximum heart rate.
  3. Competitive athletes may need to add interval training sessions during the week in the anaerobic threshold heart rate zone, which is 80-90 percent of maximum. This high intensity exercise helps train muscles to handle lactic acid.
  4. Vary your training both in duration and incorporating the different zones.

However, train sparingly at these upper limits. Exercising regularly at a heart rate intensity that is too high does not produce additional aerobic benefits and increases the possibility of an injury. Interval training and anaerobic threshold workouts require a high degree of fitness, and is not necessary for general fitness training.   It is always best to vary the types of training you do and thus you should use your heart monitor to insure that your hard days are hard enough and your easy days are easy.   In addition, to help improve your performance, always work on your form to improve your efficiency.  In the long term this will lead to improved performances.  In addition, always give yourself time to rest, this could include easy days, easy weeks or even an easy month. 

Once you determine your individual training zones, you can easily program them into your Heart Monitor monitor. Your monitor will notify you with a beep if you are exercising above or below the pre-programmed zones. Many Heart Monitor models record heart rate at selectable intervals. You can then evaluate your exercise after each session and adjust your intensity if needed. Recording heart rate also allows you to monitor your fitness improvements over time.

Tips on Effective Training:

- Warm up & cool down. Always do a slow warm up of 5-10 minutes, followed by some gentle stretching. Then gradually climb into the target range you have set. End every workout with a 5-10 minute cool down, again followed by some gentle stretching. The importance of this can not be over emphasized. Studies have shown that people who warm up and cool down adequately have fewer athletic injuries.  Also it is important to warm up gradually before stretching.

- Type of exercise. Choose activities that use large muscle groups and which are continuous in nature. Some good examples are walking, swimming, running, aerobic dance, stair climbing machines, ski machines, treadmills, cycling or exercise bikes. Feel free to include more than one activity - cycle one day, swim the next, and do aerobics on the third. This is called Cross Training and helps exercise all muscle groups, reduces boredom and keeps motivation high.

- Frequency of exercise. Exercise in the target range that you have set at least 3-5 times per week, with no more than 48 hours between sessions. Even on 'rest days' gentle exercise such as a leisurely walk can be beneficial.

- Intensity of exercise. Select an exercise intensity zone that is both within your capability and in which you can achieve consistency. Studies show that people who exercise at too high an intensity, especially in the initial stages of their program, drop out sooner, have more injuries, and tend to develop a negative impression towards exercise in general. If necessary start in a low exercise intensity zone and build up.

- Time exercising Aim for 20-60 minutes of continuous exercise in your target zone each session. If you are unable to exercise for 20 minutes initially, slow down and gradually build up to this.

Before you begin your exercise program, get an assessment of your overall fitness level. You must get clearance from your doctor that it is safe for you to exercise.