INTRODUCTION TO HEART RATE BASED TRAINING
People often wonder how much and in which intensities they should train. The simplest means of determining this is to listen to your own body. Heart rate based training gives clear guidance on how to train to reach your individual goals, based on your personal heart rate and heart rate variability. Although there are many subjective clues as to how your body is doing during exercise – such as perceived exertion, breathing rate, and physical sensations – none is as reliable as measuring heart rate.
Being an accurate measure for workout intensity, recovery level and long-term progress, heart rate is a window to your own fitness. Each person reacts to physical strain individually, depending on the size of the heart, fitness level, skills, and daily changes of stress level. This can be seen in heart rate variability, which measures the variations in the time between successive heart beats. Unlike common misconception, heart does not beat as regular as clockwork. On the contrary, the healthier the heart, the better it adapts to different situations and changing circumstances. Polar training computers can detect these slight changes in heart rate variability by measuring beat-to-beat intervals in milliseconds.
With regular training, the heart muscle becomes stronger, so it does not have to contract that often – therefore decreasing heart rate both during exercise and in rest, and increasing heart rate variability, which is a sign of fitness and a healthy heart. Polar has introduced number of features based on heart rate and heart rate variability that help athletes and active people in fitness assessment, guide them in their training and give tools for training follow-up. This way heart rate monitoring enables you to accurately adjust your training program, helping you vary your training depending on your fitness level and the goals you want to achieve by training.
YOUR WORKOUT SESSION
Regardless of the type of sport you choose, warm-up, cool-down and stretching are also important to fitness improvement. Including recovery periods in your weekly schedule is crucial to fitness, as well. To maximize the benefits to your heart and safeguard against injuries, it is good to include workout session always includes all three of the following phases:
2. Exercise in target heart rate zone
3. Cool-down and stretching
A proper warm-up prior to an exercise session prepares your heart and muscles for the action that lies ahead. It stimulates blood circulation and makes muscles more flexible. It can also prevent injuries. Begin each workout slowly, giving your body a chance to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes at a heart rate below your selected target zone. Then gradually increase the intensity of your exercise until your heart rate reaches your target zone.
Exercise in Target Zone
Once your heart rate has reached your target zone, maintain that intensity for a set amount of time (typically 20 minutes or more), making sure you stay inside your target zone. It's important to be sensitive to your body's reactions while you exercise. Be sure to keep your breathing regular. If you feel exceptionally breathless or dizzy, you're probably working too hard (and pushing your heart rate beyond your target zone), so ease up a little.
Cool-Down and Stretching
Cool down by gradually reducing the intensity of your exercise to bring your heart rate back down to below your target zone. Then, stretch the main muscles you just worked to prevent injury and stiffness. For example, stretch your leg muscles after a run. And keep the following guidelines in mind while stretching:
- Don't bounce
- Stretch slowly and steadily
- Hold the stretch for a slow count of ten
- Don't push yourself into a painful stretch
Exercise puts positive stress on the body by forcing it to function outside its comfort zone. During rest, the body will make adjustments to better face the challenge next time you exercise. These adjustments are what will make your body stronger. In other words, fitness improves not during exercise but during rest. Giving your body ample time to recover from exercise is therefore crucial to getting fit.
Disregarding the need to rest and recover is quite common practice and may lead to injury, overtraining or fatigue. Resting properly isn't the same as skipping workouts or being lazy. Resting is about giving your body the time it needs to get stronger and fitter.
AEROBIC AND ANAEROBIC EXERCISE
The working ability of a muscle depends on sufficient blood flow and intake of oxygen and nutrition.
The body uses two different systems to supply the muscles with energy:
1) Aerobic system: Carbohydrates and fat react with oxygen to metabolize into carbon dioxide and water.
2) Anaerobic system: Carbohydrates are used for energy production without oxygen and metabolized into lactic acid or lactate.
At lower training intensities, the use of oxygen by your muscles will match oxygen intake. This type of activity can be sustained for long periods of time. At high intensities, however, your heart and lungs cannot supply enough oxygen to keep up with the demands of your muscles. As a result, your muscles begin to work anaerobically.
The problem with anaerobic energy production is that after a few seconds, waste products like lactate rapidly build up. Lactate blocks fat metabolism and forces the body to stop exercising. The metabolic turning point at which the body shifts from the aerobic to anaerobic energy system is called the anaerobic threshold (AT).
Your Anaerobic Threshold (AT) is the exercise intensity at which you begin to go anaerobic and build up lactate. If you want to improve your performance, it's useful to train for short periods (three to five minutes) at a heart rate just below your AT.
If you're out of shape, your AT might be at 70-80% or less of your maximum heart rate. However, if your training progresses intensively, your AT will increase. In very fit competitive athletes, AT can be at 90% of maximum heart rate.
STRENGTH TRAINING GUIDANCE (featured on select products)
Strength training should be made a part of any training program. It defines muscles, tones the body and decreases body fat. You’re probably also interested in getting better results in less time. The Strength Training Guidance feature tells you how long to rest between each set, based on your heart rate. It helps you optimize your strength training by showing a graphical curve of your heart rate on the display and telling you when you’re ready for the next set.
The aim of the Strength Training Guidance is to guide you through your strength training routine for more effective results in less time. A validation study proved that heart rate based recovery time improves strength more than training with traditional recovery periods and, on top of that, Strength Training Guidance shortens training time nearly to half – to sum it up, more results in a shorter time.
Heart rate monitoring makes your strength training individualized when the Strength Training Guidance tells you optimal recovery periods for effective strength training based on your heart rate. So forget standardized recovery periods between the sets and get more reliable guidance by listening to your body.
For initial resistance levels, loads corresponding to 8–12 repetition maximum are recommended in most movements. The training should be progressive, i.e. a slow and gradual increase in loads is recommended, provided you can perform one or two extra repetitions with good technique. For training frequency, two or three days per week is recommended for novice and intermediate training, while four or five times a week should suffice for advanced training.
1. Piirainen et al. Effects of the HR based recovery period on hormonal and neuromuscular responses during strength training in men and women. Oral presentation at the ECSS annual meeting in Oslo, June 2009.