You’ve probably noticed that most of the cardio machines at your gym have built-in heart-rate monitors. If you’ve never used a heart-rate monitor before, you’re probably not sure how to use one or why you even should. Heart-rate monitors simply allow you to track your beats per minute (BPM) while you are exercising so you can know if you’re working out too hard or not hard enough.
Find Your Target Heart Rate
The first thing you need to do before you start using a heart-rate monitor is find your target heart rate (THR). Your THR should be between 60 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR). To find out what your MHR is, simply subtract your age from 220. This is not an exact calculation but it will give you a rough estimate. The lower limit of your THR will be .6 multiplied by your MHR. The upper limit will be .85 multiplied by your MHR.
Vary Your Heart Rate
It is important that you vary your THR throughout your workout. You don’t want to just workout at the upper limit of your THR for your whole workout. You should warm up for five to 10 minutes at 60 percent of your MHR. After you’re warmed up, gradually start increasing your intensity until you reach 70 to 85 percent of your MHR. As you begin to reach the end of your cardio session, slowly decrease the intensity until you come back down to below 70 percent of your MHR and stay there for five to 10 minutes to cool down.
Keep a Record of Your Results
Keeping a record of your monitor results is a helpful way to track your progress. For example, if you’re training to increase your endurance, you should write down how long you were able to maintain your target heart rate after each workout so you know if you’re making progress. You can also keep a record of how long it is taking you to reach the upper limit of your THR and how intensely you had to perform to reach it. Generally speaking, the more fit you are, the harder you will have to work reach the upper limit of your THR.
You should always avoid stimulates, such as caffeine and nicotine, before you workout with a heart-rate monitor. Stimulates artificially increase your heart rate, and therefore, can skew the results you’re getting from a heart-rate monitor. Although alcohol is a depressant, in small amounts it acts as a stimulate, as well; so, if you were thinking of having a glass of wine or beer with your lunch or dinner before you head off to the gym, you shouldn’t.