Finding Your Target Heart Rate

Target heart rate, resting heart rate, metabolism? All of these terms are so confusing when beginning a new workout regimen. Just exercise and go, right? Most gyms require members to monitor his or her own heart rate for safety reasons during every workout. Learning how to keep track of your heart rate isn’t nearly as complicated as it might seem.

Why is it so important to monitor heart rate while exercising? The reasons are many. Let’s begin with looking at what our heart rate tells us about our level of exercise. The simple reason for monitoring heart rate is based on clearly defining our workout intensity level. How much we sweat just doesn’t accurately measure our energy expenditure. We need a measurable value to determine exactly how hard our heart is working during exercise.

Smiling woman at aerobics class in gym

Another important factor is exactly how hard we should exercise to reach the optimal fat burning level. We don’t want to travel below this target heart level because we don’t get the maximum benefit from a workout. Nor do we want to exceed our target heart rate because this can lead to injury. We need to find a happy medium right in the middle.

Target heart rate isn’t just some magic number your trainer slaps onto your person. You’re going to have to do a little math to figure it out. The benefits will far outweigh any computational annoyance you might feel. Look at it this way, you’re establishing the optimum workout intensity level for you. You’ll know exactly how to pace yourself to get the most from every exercise session. It’s worth the aggravation.

Taking Your Pulse

Some folks suggest taking your pulse for 1 full minute. Others suggest taking your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6. Either method is fine as long as you get the most accurate number possible.

To take your pulse, place your pointer and middle fingers on the carotid artery on your neck (below your ear). You should feel the beat of your pulse. You can also take your pulse on your wrist. Place your pointer and middle fingers on the opposite wrist (on the thumb side). Press down gently just outside the centerline of the wrist. You should feel the beat of your heart.

Determining Your Heart Rate – all figures are beats per minute (bpm)

1. Find your Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

When you first wake up in the morning, take your pulse. This figure is your “resting heart rate.”

2. Establish your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

MHR = 220 minus your age

Example: 220 minus 30 = 190 bpm (MHR)

3. Find your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)

This figure is the difference between your resting and maximum heart rates.

HRR = MHR minus RHR

Example: 190 MHR minus 70 RHR = 120 bpm (HRR)

4. Calculate your upper and lower Training Heart Rate (THR)

Training heart rate establishes the boundary of your target heart rate range. When you work out, your heart rate should always fall within this zone.

THR upper range = HRR x .85 + RHR
THR lower range = HRR x .50 + RHR

Example: 120 HRR x .85 + 70 RHR = 172 bpm (Upper Range Training Heart Rate)
120 HRR x .50 + 70 RHR = 130 bpm (Lower Range Training Heart Rate)

Doctor Monitoring The Heart-Rate Of Patient On A Treadmill

So what do these Training Heart Rate numbers mean? It’s simple. When you take your pulse during a workout, your heart rate should be falling within these two numbers. In our example, your target heart rate would figure between 130-172 beats per minute if you were performing an effective workout.

What do you do with these numbers?

The object of all this mathematical figuring is to find the best point where any exercise is giving you the optimal benefits. You are trying to hit your “fat burning zone” which, coincidentally, is located right smack in the middle of your upper and lower training heart rate numbers. Fancy that.

Heart rate monitors are available on the web on many fitness sites. There is also a general scale of target heart rates based on age. However, it is much more accurate to figure your own target heart rate. Give it a try. You’ll find that knowing your target heart rate will help you maximize your workouts for the best possible results.

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