The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system, and without it, well, let’s just say you wouldn’t get very far. It pumps all the nutrients required to our muscles to allow them to perform as our workouts demand them to. Learning to monitor your heart rate effectively is a crucial aspect to not only staying safe in intense boot camp and outdoor workouts, but to increasing your own fitness performance as well. The key to both of these elements is learning some simple ways to monitor your heart rate during workouts.
For starters, it’s good to have some idea of what some typical heart rate measurements you might encounter. The first is your resting heart rate, which is how many beats per minute you’ll hit doing nothing. According to WebMD the normal resting heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. Keep in mind the more fit you are, the lower your resting heartrate tends to be, so a very fit athlete could see this number actually hovering in the 40s.
After your resting heartrate, it’s also good to have an idea of your maximum heart rate. This is the max pulse you can achieve, and the closer you get to this, the more you need to be careful. The general formula most often cited to calculate your max heart rate is 220 – Your Age, so a 25 year old would have a max heart rate of around 195 beats per minute. It’s important to know this is just a general estimate; actual max heart rate can vary depending on if you are taking medications, age, and overall fitness.
Having an idea of your max heart rate is important because it allows you to shoot for your target heart rate. This is the heart rate you want to achieve in exercise, and is usually where you see the best results as far as cardio conditioning and calorie burn. In general, people tend to shoot for 60%-80% of their max heart rate for their target heart rate. So the 25 year old athlete we mentioned earlier would want to shoot for a heart rate of 117-156 beat per minute during a boot camp or outdoor fitness workout.
So we know what to shoot for, but how do we know when we’re there? When it comes to monitoring your heart rate, you have a few options.
1) Electronic Heart Rate Monitors
These are all over the place now, and thanks to the ever evolving tech world their getting better and better. Garmin and Fit Bit are some of the leading brands, but be careful just grabbing the most expensive or popular one you see as purely wrist based fitness watches don’t always return accurate results. If you can, find a variety that has a chest strap and syncs to a smart watch the ensure accurate and easily accessed tracking.
2) Old School
Using an electronic monitor certainly looks cool, and can be quite easy, but by far the simplest, cheapest, and most effective way is the old school two fingers on your wrist or along the carotid artery on the side of your esophagus. Simply count the beats for 30 seconds, then multiply by two and you have your current heart rate.
3) The Talk Test
The talk test is a simple way to monitor heart rate, though a bit indirectly. It wont return a specific beats per minute, but if you can’t stop to actually calculate, it’s a great second option. The talk test is simple, if you can talk with ease during exercise, you’re still in a pretty easy level exertion and the heart rate is likely not in the target range. Once talking becomes quite uncomfortable, you’re likely beginning to enter your target heart range. If you find you cannot talk, or inly manage one to two word responses, you are nearing the upper ends of your target heart rate and are exercising near your max capacity.
These are just some of the methods you could utilize during an outdoor and boot camp style fitness program to monitor your heart rate, stay safe, and find your edge to push you to the next level of fitness.