Why Continuous Heart Rate Monitoring?
Heart Rate has long been used to gauge Exercise Intensity because…1. It has a predictable relationship with VO2Max (how intensity is measured in Exercise Research), 2. It’s convenient, and 3. It’s fairly inexpensive to monitor during training (especially if you just stop and take your pulse).
Back in December, we upgraded The Shop to incorporate “Polar Flow”, which provides on-screen continuous heart rate monitoring (CHRM) during interval training workouts. This technology is allowing our coaching staff to:
Better monitor training sessions, ensuring safety
Optimize the design and flow of our workouts, enhancing the desired outcomes (i.e. fat loss and/or improved cardio-respiratory fitness), and
Coach with objective information, thus allowing us to more accurately encourage our clients to work harder or less hard, to recover less or more.
Ultimately, CHRM is helping to take the guesswork out of training…
Training Zones and Colors
The Polar Flow system color codes the specific Training Zones for easy recognition from anywhere in the Training room. But, what do the Zone’s mean?
The Training Zones (colors) reflect an individual’s current heart rate relative to his/her Predicted Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax).
Gray – 50-60%
Blue – 60-70%
Green – 70-80%
Orange – 80-90%
Red – 90-100%
Gray and Blue are typically viewed as “recovery” or “resting” zones.
Green is commonly recommended for “steady state” exercise (i.e. continuous training at the same pace/intensity).
Orange and Red are your “tempo” (i.e. at or near race pace efforts for 20-30 minutes), or “interval training” zones (i.e. high intensity efforts mixed with lower intensity recovery periods).
How do you set up your Training Zones?
When you set up your Polar Flow account and enter your birth date, the system generates your predicted maximum heart rate from the following equation:
HRmax = 220 – Age
The system generates your semi-customized Training Zones based on this number.
If you want to enhance the accuracy of your numbers, there are a couple simple things you can do:
1. Measure your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) and enter it into your Polar Flow Profile. True RHR is assessed first thing upon waking, before you get out of bed. A pulse is taken for 1 full minute over 3 consecutive days, and use the average number. You may also wear your Fitness Tracker to Sleep and use the number it provides. The system will take this number into consideration and tweak your Training Zones as RHR reflects your fitness level.
2. Complete a Maximum Heart Rate Exercise Test. There are a few HRmax Exercise Tests that can be completed in the field (i.e. outside of a medically supervised testing location). The tests are designed to progressively elevate your Heart Rate until you hit a plateau at your HRmax. You can simply take this number and enter into your Polar Flow Profile. If you’re interesting in learning more about this, let us know.
Training Zones in Action
The benefits of interval training, which have been heavily touted by researchers, are based on achieving training intensities at or above the lactate threshold. Lactate is a by-product of muscle contraction, which at low intensities, is adequately removed from the tissue allowing continued movement. Above the lactate threshold, which commonly occurs between 80 and 90% of HRmax, lactate production exceeds removal and consequently hydrogen ions build up in the muscle. This is what causes the burning sensation in your muscles with intense exercise. (note…it’s not lactic acid 😉 )
We design our Interval Training workouts to target the Orange and Red Zones in order to optimize training above the average lactate threshold. This is why you hear “get to orange”, or “redline” during workouts.
To optimize repeat efforts, adequate recovery is also essential. Seeing your Heart Rate drop to Green allows us to eliminate guess-work and facilitate consistent performance throughout the workout.
The implementation of our Heart Rate Training system will be a work in progress. There are a lot of variables to adapt to, in addition to helping educate everyone so that each person is able to maximize their training. We understand that there will be a lot of questions, and encourage you to e-mail them to us. In most cases, you are not the only one with the same question.
In the meantime…here are a few interesting Fitness Facts and Tips regarding Heart Rate and Exercise that may have been on your mind since we began using the system 2 months ago:
Heart Rate response to Exercise Training is similar in both men and women. Yep, that means your significant other, or training partner is probably just in better shape than you
A Lower Resting Heart Rate is representative of higher fitness.
Individuals with higher fitness levels can achieve peak Heart Rate (HRpeak) faster, sustain HRpeak longer, and recover from any given intensity more quickly than less fit individuals.
It takes about 10-20 minutes for the average person’s heart to warm-up to high intensity efforts (>85% HRmax). This is why everyone has a hard time hitting their Training Zone goal on the first round, or two in some cases. If you show up early…start moving!
Maximum Heart Rate varies widely from one person to the next. The HRmax prediction equation is based on a bell curve. Thus, there are outliers who have a lower than average HRmax for their age, and those who have a higher than average HRmax for their age. If we’ve been on your a** to work harder b/c your not hitting Orange or Red, yet you’re completely gassed you might fall into this category. Similar, if you are hitting red and you’re hardly out of breath you might fall into this category. The only way to know for sure is to undergo a graded exercise test during which maximum heart rate is measured directly, as indicated above. That’s not always completely practical, or necessary for our purposes. Instead, we’ll help you to match up your heart rate with your perceived exertion. Once we can assess that, we can give you advice on how to adjust your Polar Flow account to compensate for the variation.
Maximum Heart Rate is not believed to change with training.
The Polar Transmitter that we use is based on Bluetooth wireless technology. It needs to be “visible” to the receiver (iPad) in order to pick up your heart rate signal. By “visible” we don’t mean you need to train with your shirt off. However, the more “layers” of clothing you have on the more difficult it is for the receiver to pick up your Heart Rate. Note: we’ve found that women who are wearing two sports bras have had issues with the transmitters.
The transmitter reads your heart rate via the electrode strip on the skin-side of the Chest Strap. To facilitate proper function, you should wet the electrode strip after you put on your Chest Strap. Note: if you have a hairy chest, you should use the ultrasound gel (provided) for better conduction.
The Chest Strap needs to be snug. If your band is NOT tight enough, the sensor will likely cut in and out. If it’s too tight, you might not be able to breathe. Note: make sure you have the correct size Chest Strap. Do not shorten the Chest Strap so much that the metal overlaps the electrode on the Chest Strap. If you’re not sure, please ask us for assistance.