Friday, August 29, 2014

Its All About The Heart

One thing many exercisers, endurance athletes specifically miss is the concept that in order to improve aerobic capacity and speed, you have to vary the intensity of workouts on both ends of the spectrum. Some days you will push hard and other days you will barely move, all by design. Heart rate training is an effective tool to help you achieve optimum fitness.

Heart rate-based exercise training has been around for years. It is an effective way for people with a wide range of goals—from weight loss to elite-level athletic performance,  to monitor and control the intensity of their workouts. One of the most common mistakes in cardio exercise programs is failure to vary the intensity of workouts in a practical way.

The concept of heart rate-based training is simple. Heart rate has a well-known positive correlation with exercise intensity. As the workload increases, so does the demand for oxygen. Heart rate will also increase in order to supply the increasing oxygen requirement in the attempt to sustain the activity. 

The heart rate response to exercise stimulus is highly individual. There are a number of factors that influence individual heart rate responses to exercise. The most important factors are as follows:

Size: Larger individuals typically have lower resting heart rates.
Age: Maximum heart rate tends to slowly decline with age.
Fitness: Aerobically fit individuals are able to sustain higher heart rates for longer periods of time.
Heredity: A number of genes influence resting heart rate, maximum heart rate and innate aerobic fitness level.

Because each person has a unique heart rate profile, effective heart rate-based training requires that target heart rate zones be individually customized. There is an excellent book titles Heart Rate Training by Benson and Connolly that provides methods for establishing HR Zones.

A common mistake made in cardio exercise programs is training at the same moderately high intensity in most, if not all, workouts. The majority of exercisers regulate their cardio workout intensity primarily by perception of effort. Research has shown that when men and women "go by feel" in cardio workouts, they consistently select an effort level that which is just below the lactate threshold or anaerobic state and may be described as a moderately high intensity.

According to endurance fitness expert, Matt Fitzgerald, the problem with training at the same moderately high intensity day after day is that it is simply not as effective as a program in which intensity is more varied. Research has suggested that a program in which 80% of total training time is spent below the lactate threshold, 10% is spent at the lactate threshold, and the remaining 10% is spent above the lactate threshold yields greater cardiovascular fitness improvement than a program of equal volume in which 70% or less of total training time is spent in the lower intensity range.

Other studies, according to Fitzgerald,  have demonstrated that most recreational athletes do as little as 45% and seldom more than 70% of their training in the lower intensity range. This tendency to push the pace a little in every session creates a burden of chronic fatigue that prevents the exerciser from fully adapting to the work being done, and also prevents him or her from performing optimally in the highest-intensity workouts. This some workouts need to be much slower and less intense in order for the training effect to produce results.

Most individuals will regulate their workouts ineffectively. The proper use of a heart rate monitor, however, can help exercisers avoid wasting their time. With a little self-study and application a Hear Rate monitor with an individually constructed exercises plan can dramatically improve your fitness.

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