Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Calculating your heart rate 'zones'

In my first post on monitoring your heart rate, I explained why I'm convinced that a heart rate monitor is essential to maximise the efficiency of any cardio-vascular exercise programme.

If you do purchase one, the first thing you need to do is calculate your minimum and maximum heart rates.

Minimum heart rate
Wear your heart rate monitor to bed over a period of three days (Note: when you're exercising, a good smear of spit is enough to act as a start up conductor between your chest strap and your skin, with sweat soon replacing it. However, for this test you may need to use electrode gel to make sure the chest strap picks up your heart's electrical pulses, although any water-based lubrication gel should do).

Check your heart rate on first waking up each morning, and calculate the average of the three readings. This is your 'resting' heart rate. (Warning: if you wake up busting for the toilet, this will significantly raise your heart rate).

Maximum heart rate
Perform some kind of cardio-vascular exercise for fifteen minutes or so at a moderate pace (if you can't do this, then you're not ready for this test). Then gradually up the pace until you are working flat out - and I mean FLAT OUT. The best way I've found of doing this is with someone else, either cycling up a hill, or on a decent stationary rowing machine. Then keep going until your pulse rate isn't increasing... this usually occurs just before you fall over in a groaning sweaty heap.

Now you've got your minimum and maximum heart rates, visit Sark Products.

Feed in your data, and you will get the 'zones' for various levels of activity. The 'age/swimming/male/female' buttons don't apply because you're providing the resting and maximum heart rate. However, your maximum heart rate will be less if you are swimming, so if this is part of your exercise, you should do a 'maximum' test for this as well.

In a future blog I'll take a look at how to use this information to make the most of your cardio-vascular exercise sessions.