WOW what a workout!! I had a hard time keeping up. I am out of breath, sweating profusely and wiped out! This workout really kicked my butt! What a great workout! But, was it really great? All too often many of us get caught up in associating a good workout with excessive intensity and complete exhaustion. But what is the real goal of the workout? What are the intended results or the workout? How do we achieve these results the most effective and safest way possible? With the advances in heart rate training, your energy system training or “cardiovascular” training can be more individualized than ever before producing the best results possible.
What makes the heart rate monitor so useful? The heart rate monitor allows us to completely individualize your work and rest periods within a group metabolic interval-training format. Why does this matter? Well, the hard science has shown that metabolic interval training is the second most important to utilize (next to your resistance training program) to help us lose body fat. In the past, we were forced to simply assign a fixed work period and fixed rest period (for example 30 seconds work 45 seconds rest) at all times because we were unable to utilize the appropriate data to individualize. These fixed work and rest numbers were our “best educated guess” based on what we know about exercise physiology, and they still work, but heart rate technology allows us to completely customize it for each person to optimize it much more.
This is how it works in our Metabolic Zone training classes. We instruct you to go until you get into the red zone, which is around what is called your ventilation threshold, which is about 90% of your age predicted maximum heart rate. This is the point you want to reach so you know you are working hard enough to get the maximal effects from your metabolic workouts for fat loss. You will then rest until you get down to the green zone, which is about 70% of your maximum heart rate, before you start your next work bout. You will continue this for the prescribed time using the prescribed exercises. Sound simple? It is! Go until the red and stop; when you get to the green you go again.
These monitors are powerful tools that can help assess cardiovascular health, measure exercise intensity, train the body to become fuel efficient, improve fitness and performance, and avoid injury. Exceeding 90% of your estimated maximum heart rate can be dangerous to your health, as exercising at an extreme intensity is associated with increased risk for a cardiac event, according to a 2002 study published in the “Canadian Medical Association Journal”. The research found that exceeding your prescribed heart rate range leads to poor heart rate recovery, meaning it takes longer for heart rates to return to normal. Heart rate recovery is a measure of cardiovascular fitness. The study also found increased incidence of non-sustained ventricular tachycardia and ST-segment depression, both of which are indicators of increased risk for cardiac mortality. If you don’t have coronary artery disease or risk factors for a heart attack, it is possible to go over your recommended heart rate without injury. However, it is still not a good idea because you are more likely to suffer sore joints and muscles and also raise your risk for a musculo-skeletal injury. Exercising above 90% of your estimated maximal heart rate also puts you at risk for over-training. When you over- train your systems get weaker instead of stronger, which leads to increased fatigue and decreased performance. You are also more prone to injury and illness when you over-train. More is not always better! Harder is not always better!