A heart rate monitor is an invaluable tool to use to lose weight or improve physical fitness. Your heart rate is the key to reaching the next level in your fitness goals, and by monitoring your heart rate, you’ll be able to establish a baseline and put quantifiable figures to your improvement. Whether you are new to jogging or you are a professional triathlete training for an Iron Man, your heart rate is the key to achieving maximum performance and efficiency in your training.
What is the Maximum Heart Rate?
The fist thing you need to know about your heart rate is your max heart rate. This can be established by simply subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 30, your max heart rate is 220-30, or 190 beats per minute (BPM).
Keep in mind that you can only operate at your max heart rate for a very short period of time, and most of your exercise will be done at a percentage of your max heart rate.
So, how do you know how high your heart rate should be during a workout? Use these basic standards to guide your workouts based on what your personal goals:
Endurance training: 60-70% of max heart rate (using our 30-year-old this would be 114-133 BPM). Endurance training is ideal for cardiovascular and muscle efficiency, and teaches the body to use stored fat for energy.
Aerobic training: 70-80% of max heart rate (Age 30: 133-152 BPM). Aerobic training focuses highly on improving cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, and weight management. When maintaining a heart rate in this zone, the body will largely burn stored fat and carbohydrates.
Anaerobic training: 80-90% of max heart rate (Age 30: 152-171 BPM). Anaerobic training is generally interval training, and is not sustainable for an extended period of time. This is typically used to increase lung capacity and improve the body’s ability to operate in a lactic acid rich environment.
Competitive Athletes vs. Non-competitive Athletes Heart Rate
Most competitive athletes are striving to improve their athletic performance (faster times, longer distances, etc.) will incorporate all three types of training into an exercise regimen. A heart rate monitor can greatly facilitate this by improving precision during workouts, as well as providing a baseline measurement.
For the less competitive athlete intent on weight loss or improving overall health, a heart rate monitor offers an easy way to ensure they are hitting the target fat-burning zone. Many heart rate monitors also have features that will use age, weight, and heart rate to help determine caloric burn during any given workout.
How to Pick the Right Heart Rate Monitor for Me?
Picking a heart rate monitor can be confusing. Prices range from as low as $30 to upwards of $250, and it’s often hard to know what functions you need in a monitor.
The best place to start is with the basic anatomy of a heart rate monitor. Do you want one that has a chest strap that measures your heart rate and sends it to a watch you wear on your wrist? Or do you want a heart rate monitor that is an all-in-one watch without the chest strap?
Benefits and drawbacks to both exist: The chest strap monitor will be more accurate and often times can cost less than a wristwatch monitor. At the same time, it can be uncomfortable for runners who aren’t used to having pressure around their chest while they run.
In comparison, while the wristwatch monitor can be more comfortable, it may not be as accurate as the chest strap monitor, and because it’s an all-in-one deal, wristwatch monitors tend to be more expensive than chest strap monitors.
For the dedicated or professional athlete who is on a strict training and diet regimen, a heart rate monitor with a chest strap is ideal. These deliver a precision reading to track training performance. This exacting precision isn’t an absolute must for the average athlete who may be looking to lose weight or simply maintain physical fitness.
Once you’ve decided chest strap or wristwatch, you can begin to look at what’s available to you within your budget…and decide whether or not you need the monitor that has the GPS, altimeter, clock, calculator, and phone-a-friend features. Depending on how closely you intend to track your training, you may want to look for a heart rate monitor that connects to a phone app or your computer to help get a closer look at your physiology during a run.