Why Train With A Heart Rate Monitor?



Your heart rate during exercise provides some very valuable information. Your heart rate in an exercise bout will determine not only the number of calories you burn but what your body predominantly used as fuel (fat vs carbs).  Don’t rely on a buddy who is going through the same workout as you, to give you the calorie burn for that workout. You are two different people with two different heart rates. What may be challenging (raising your heart rate) to you may not be challenging to your friend and your heart rate (and therefore your calorie burn) will reflect that.

When it comes to choosing a heart rate monitor I recommend one that has a chest strap so the monitor is getting a constant read on your heart rate fluctuations as you go through your exercise.  At lower heart rates your body burns predominantly fat.  At higher heart rates your body burns more carbs BUT it burns more calories.  Many of us want fat lose so you may be thinking – keep my heart rate low.  The problem with staying at a lower heart rate is that you need more TIME at that lower heart rate to get the same amount of calorie burn that you see at higher heart rates……SOOOO what is the solution?  INTERVALS!!!!  This is the best “bang for your buck” in terms of calorie and fat burn.  If you have never used a heart rate monitor I challenge you to invest in one.  There are many out.  Some have an incredible number of features that you likely will not use.  I would encourage you to make sure 1) it has a chest strap and a watch 2) it shows your calories burned not just your heart rate.  Once you have your monitor wear it during different exercises.  Notice the difference in the calorie burn between 30 minutes of steady state walking on the treadmill at a set pace and incline compared to 30 minutes on the interval setting on the treadmill.  (NOTE – I am assuming that during the walking you are keeping your heart rate at 60 – 80% of your heart rate max and that on the intervals your heart rate is at least 80% or above of your heart rate max.



How to Determine Your Heart Rate Max

There are other formulas out there but the American Heart Association still recommends using the Karvonen Formula.  Please know that these numbers are estimations and I typically tell clients that the ranges established are plus or minus 10 beats per minute depending on your cardiovascular fitness level.  If you are new to cardiovascular exercise you may find yourself having higher heart rates than the ranges you calculate.  Please do the following:

  • Write down what your heart rate looks like during exercise.
  • Listen to your body in each workout don’t overdo it just trying to get to a certain range. If you feel light headed please back off the intensity.
  • Stay consistent in your efforts with cardiovascular exercise and see how your heart rate improves with consistent training.

Karvonen Formula: 220 – your age = _____ (estimated heart rate max +/- 10)

90% – 100% HR max : BURN CARBS_______ 
Training in this zone will only be possible for short periods of time. It effectively trains your fast twitch muscle fibers and helps to develop speed.


80% – 90% HR max: BURN CARBS_______
Training in this zone develops your lactic acid system. In this zone your individual anaerobic threshold is found.  The amount of fat being utilized for energy is reduced.  The body relies on glycogen (stored carbohydrate) in the muscle for energy.
 70% – 80% HR max: BURN FAT______  
Training in this zone will develop your cardiovascular system. The body’s ability to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, the working muscles can be developed and improved. As you become fitter and stronger from training in this zone you will get the benefit of some fat burn and improved aerobic capacity.
60% – 70% HR max : BURN FAT_______
Training within this zone develops basic endurance and aerobic capacity. Another advantage to running in this zone is that while you are happily fat burning you may lose weight and you will be allowing your muscles to re-energize with glycogen, which has been expended during those faster paced work-outs.


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