Using a heart rate monitor when exercising has changed my style of exercise regime immensely, it allows me gauge my workout intensity based on a percentage of my heart rate max.
The test I would recommend using to calculate your heart rate max would be the 1.5 mile run test. Using a heart rate monitor with a chest strap, such as the Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor , which you can get on amazon for around $100 for all these options.
1.5 Mile Run Test
- purpose: This test measures aerobic fitness.
- equipment required: 2.4 km flat and hard running course, stopwatch
- procedure: The aim of this test is to complete the 2.4 km course in the shortest possible time. At the start, all participants line up behind the starting line. On the command ‘go,’ the clock is started and they begin running at their own pace. Although walking is allowed, it is strongly discouraged. A cool down walk should be performed at the completion of the test.
- scoring: The total time to complete the course is recorded.
- norms: here are some classifications of cardiovascular fitness for the cooper 1.5 mile run test for males and females aged 20-29 years. original source unknown.
- The aim of the test is to finish the test as fast as you can while wearing a heart rate monitor with a chest strap you will be able to see how high you can get your heart rate.
Often times this test will reveal you may be able to go past your age predicted heart rate max (220-age) which allows for a better representation of true heart rate max.
*Disclaimer– Needs to be completed outside on flat ground or a track, not a treadmill*
Once you have either your tested hr max or age predicted you are able to decide which percentage you want to work in for your workout.
Having an idea on what your heart rate is allows you to gauge your workout in a way you can push a littler harder, take a little less rest if your heart rate is down to a certain set of beats/ min for the exercise you are doing. You could also determine your next set based off when your heart rate gets back to a certain amount of beats.
As someone who likes to have a hard workout, get in and get out in a timely manner it helps keep me on track when choosing which exercise is next, if I should add in some plyos (later post to come on this topic) or a super set.
A few points I have noticed since paying more attention to my heart rate when training include:
- Increased Lactate Threshold: That burning feeling you get when you are working out as your muscles tire is the build up of lactic acid. Since paying attention to HR I have been able to push past the lactate threshold and for longer, therefore, it happens later and I can work at a higher intensity for longer.
- Increased Leg Strength: I am incorporating more plyometric (jumping) exercises to my workout which is allowing me to have a greater power output through my legs.
- Workout Intensity Increases: Monitoring my heart rate has allowed me to workout at a higher intensity for a longer duration, therefore, burning more calories in a shorter amount of time.
So if there is one thing I can conclude with, it is, get yourself a heart rate monitor and give it a try!