Ever see those people wearing something around their chest when running on the treadmill, or always looking down at one of those fancy watches when running? Well they are not just there for a little extra bling to add to their workout attire, these are devices worn to measure your heart rate.
They can either be watches or chest straps as mentioned, and are great tools to help find your “exercise sweet spot” while working out, yet are they really necessary?! Some say they are and have found them to be more beneficial to their workouts, while others have found them to not be necessary and discovered their own ways to monitor their heart.
First let’s start with why many people wear them to begin with. Many athletes use these heart rate monitor tools to help them find a so-called “exercise sweet spot” to make sure their heart rate stays within an optimal range. This is range is between where they are pushing their body yet not hard enough to risk any injury or overuse, otherwise known as your target heart rate zone.
According to an article Should I Use a Heart Rate Monitor During Workouts on Greatist.com, “exercising in our target heart rate zone assures that we’re getting our fitness bang for our buck: burning enough calories, but not going overboard and risking injury.”
Many find heart rate monitors useful with different training workouts that require your heart rate to stay within an optimal zone. Some examples of this include the fat-burning zone, this where you keep your heart-rate max between 50 and 75 percent during your workout to burn the most amount of fat. There is also the aerobic training where you heart-rate max should fall between 75 and 85 percent to receive the most aerobic benefits from your workout.
While heart rate monitors are great tools to help you make sure you are working out at just the right intensity, don’t think that means you can’t get in a good workout without one. Many people have found that other simple free tests are just as effective for them; this includes things such as the talk test or the Rate Perceived Exertion (RPE), which is rating how you are feeling on a scale of 0-10.
These are both great ways to monitor your heart rate specifically for you individually. As the greatist article states, “heart rate levels can vary: They depend on the person and differ based on factors including genetics, fitness level, nutrition, and surrounding environments. Several types of medications can alter resting and active heart rate, too.”
Yet while these “tests” may work for some, others feel the use of a heart rate monitor is necessary. Some find it motivates them to bump up their intensity, as well as be more in touch with their bodies and heart rhythms. They are also great tools to not only make sure you are going hard enough, but not going beyond to the point of over training the heart which can be very dangerous, especially for those suffering any heart problems. Cardio workouts are meant to keep your heart healthy as we’ve stated before here, so you’ll want to make sure you are not over doing it during your cardio workouts and causing the opposite to happen.
If you do so decide to try one out, they are fairly simple to use. First you’ll need to figure out what heart rate you are aiming to reach. As the above mentioned Greatist.com article mentions, “this number is normally 50-80 percent of our maximum heart rate: the largest number of beats per minute a person can reach when pushing it to the max.”
You get this number by subtracting your age from 220; however this can vary up to 10 percent due to different fitness, health and genetic factors. Once you know your number you simply check the monitor during your workout to make sure you are hitting that mark, or whether you need to slow it down or pick up the pace.
Try NordicTrack’s wireless heart rate monitor that straps directly on your chest for a hands free option. This monitor can transmit the data directly to your treadmill’s console so you won’t have to be checking your watch every so often to make sure you are within that target zone.
While heart rate monitors are not necessary for every athlete, as it is only an estimate, they are useful tools to make sure you are getting the most from your workouts and not cutting yourself short. As they are also affective in making sure you are not over doing it.
Many have found they can do this by simply listening to their bodies, yet if you are a beginner and still not in tune with just how hard you can push yourself, it may be best to start out with a heart rate monitor to get a better feel for what exactly your range should be.
Heart rate monitors are great ways to measure how we’re feeling during our cardio workouts, listening to your body and not going beyond exertion, yet knowing when you are capable of kicking up the intensity, is also a reliable way to ensure a heart-pumping workout.
Still unsure if it’s the right choice for you?! Here are even more Advantages and Disadvantages of an Exercise Heart Rate Monitor.
Do you use a heart rate monitor?! What do you like or dislike about them?