How to Use A Heart Rate Monitor To Increase Your Fitness (Part 1)

heart rate monitor

Take your fitness to new levels by getting the immediate feedback of a heart rate monitor. With a heart rate monitor, you can get objective feedback on how hard you are working, whether it is in keeping with your training goals, and even whether or not you are overtraining. This is better than simply relying on perceived exertion.
Fortunately, using a heart rate monitor with your home fitness equipment couldn’t be easier or more effective. Integration with your Polar Heart rate monitor is provided on most pieces of Johnson Fitness equipment, including the Elite E9 Elliptical. This makes it easy to track your heart rate throughout your workout and to see how your heart rate responds to the changing demands of your workout.
Once you have the right equipment, you can start reaping the tremendous benefits of heart rate training with a few simple steps.

How To Get Started Using A Heart Rate Monitor:

Step 1: Know your Max Heart rate

Remember that old maxim of 220 minus your age? The truth is, you can do a lot better when it comes to calculating your maximum heart rate. If you’re completely new to working out, 220 minus your age is a comfortably conservative way to calculate your max heart rate. You can use that to establish your aerobic fitness for a month or two (more on that below) before trying another method. When you’re ready for more personalized feedback, try this:

Max Heart Rate Training Test

After warming up for ten minutes on a treadmill or elliptical (standing upright is better than being in a seated position for this drill), start your heart rate monitor and go as hard as you can (as though you are running a race) for another 20 minutes. The highest number you see on your console during that time represents your max heart rate and can be used to calculate your training zones for future training. You can also calculate your lactate threshold based on your average heart rate during that time.

Step 2: Establish your Base

A base of aerobic fitness is essential before beginning intense training drills. Building this base prepares not only your heart, but also your tendons and muscles for the demands of more intense workouts. To work in your aerobic training zone, you should keep your heart rate at about 75% of your maximum heart rate. If you are new to exercising, spend around four weeks working at this level for at least 20 minutes. You can work up to 30 minutes or more per training session. Experienced athletes also benefit from using this type of training as a recovery from intense efforts, such as races or peak seasons, as well as to establish fitness prior to beginning a training season, such as building a running or cycling base in the spring.
Want to level up and really increase your fitness? Read Part 2 to learn how to use heart rate to do lactate threshold training. For more ways to establish your base heart rate, read this article.


About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

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