Heart rate is something that most people pay no attention to. However, there are a lot of us who do. People who want to lose weight might pay attention, some at first and some not until later. Athletes, particularly those in training for events might pay attention to this too. Then there are people who like to monitor their progress and use it to help determine new goals or to push themselves a little more.
I wear a Heart Rate Monitor. I love my HRM. I can plug in my data and it calculates my heart rate as I workout. Mine determines at which rate I'm in the "fitness" zone and which I'm in the "fat burning" zone. The fat burning zone calculates a THR of 60-70% of my maximum heart rate. This is said to be the zone at which people burn more calories; lower intensity and usually for a longer period of time than what you'd do at a higher intensity. This can be misleading to those who want to lose weight. A higher percentage of fat is burned at those lower intensities. However, weight loss is basically a calorie game and in order to burn calories you have to get that heart rate up! Your body will burn more fat calories at a higher intensity. The word "percentage" might be misinterpreted or left out and people think "to burn more I have to work in this zone." Percentage-wise, that's correct, but if you want to really burn calories, work higher.
There are many formulas online to determine your resting heart rate, training/target heart rate, and all things heart rate. The most basic formula for finding your training heart rate is this:
220-your age. This determines your maximum heart rate. You then multiply that by the percentage of your maximum heart rate in the range where you want to work.
Often 70% is used as a figure for training heart rate. The heart rate should be between 60 and 80% depending on your fitness level. It's said that a beginner should stick to the 60% figure, and increase gradually. Interestingly, 60-70% is generally the fat burning zone. Someone who has been working out longer should aim for a THR in the 70-90% range. This makes sense, as you need to increase exercise in order to continue to lose weight. By increasing your exercise intensity, you'll be increasing your heart rate.
Here's an example of the formula using the 70% figure and my age.
220-31 = 189. 189 * 0.7 = 132.
So, my heart rate should be at 132 to exercise at 70%. This? Is low for me. In just walking fast I can get higher than that! Of course, that's on the treadmill, and I generally walk with my heart rate in the 140s. Walking outside, especially with someone else, might result in a lower heart rate. Luckily I monitor and sometimes find myself saying "oh my gosh we need to walk faster, my heart rate is low!" Well, it's not REALLY low, it's usually in the fat burning zone (113-132 of me) but I'd like to walk faster than that!
I generally use the 130s or high 120s (depending on the number my HRM suggests for fat burning range to start) as my cool down point. I generally walk to cool down until I hit the fat burning zone, and then I stop. That's just my preference but it works for me. I've not really studied the info on what your cool down range should be, but I'd guess that it's probably lower than that.... In cooling down, you should be getting back to your resting heart rate. Obviously I get to that point, but when I get to fat burning zone is when I stop actively cooling down. At that point I stop watching it and let my body recover.
I generally work at an intensity above 80%. This generally helps me to burn the amount of calories that I'd like. For me, 80% is 151.2. I like to keep my HR above that when I am doing cardio. If I'm at at least 80% I'm happy. If I'm running I often go into the 85% zone, which for me is about 161 (160.something). If I'm running I like to work in the 160s. At times, I go into the 90% range which for me is 170. I feel like I am really working when I hit the 170 mark. I cannot sustain this level for long, which makes sense. Occasionally I end up working out above 95% of my THR. 179.55 (I round to 180 just because) is the rate at which I hit the 95% mark. My heart rate, when I'm running for an extending period of time, at a higher intensity (faster, different surface) has been known to go into the 180s. This doesn't happen every time I run because I often get too tired to go that fast for long. If I hit the 180s I usually try to walk for a couple minutes or make myself slow down. The highest I recall seeing is 183, but it's possible it's been higher.
Why am I discussing heart rate? I thought I'd give you some background so that when I start rambling about my heart rate and running (in less than a minute), you'll know what I'm talking about. Or you'll at least have a basic idea, provided my explanation was clear!
When I use the treadmill, I walk at a brisk pace and get my heart rate into the 140s. I refuse to walk in a lower zone than that, unless I am cooling down. I expect to sustain my rate no lower than that when I walk. When I run I refuse to allow my heart rate to drop below 152. if I hit 150, I know I need to pick it up. Lately I've noticed that when I run, I generally stay higher than this without effort. Perhaps this has something to do with me being completely inactive for just over two weeks. It takes me a while to get back "in shape" after I've been off. Usually, my treadmill running pace is the high 150s into the 160s. Not bad considering that puts be above 80% of my max heart rate.
What I've noticed is that when I run outside, my heart rate goes higher, faster. I've read things online and it often seems that people work harder on the treadmill rather than outside. I am the opposite. This leads me to believe that I do not work as hard as I could when I use the treadmill. I guess I just don't give myself the credit for being able to do what I can when I'm on it. Although, I do notice that I can run longer on the treadmill than outside; probably because I am going a bit slower. I have seen my heart rate reach the 170s several times on the treadmill, and even the 180s but it's more frequent when I'm outside.
When I'm outside though, my running pace usually puts me in the 160-170 range. Usually if I see 170 I start to get tired and back off a bit. I know that one of my problems is that I think I start out too fast. Those first few strides are awesome. I love the feeling of running. I feel free and ready to tackle the run....For a little while anyway. Eventually I get tired and slow down, and have to walk.
I don't mind this. I know I can run at least one mile without walking, which to a runner is probably laughable. to a couch potato, it might be admirable. To me, it's just because I like to run and it's a good form of exercise. I know that I have never been "a runner." I don't have the typical runner's body type, which probably contributes to my abilities. Typically athletic runners are long and lean. Those of us who do it for enjoyment may not be.
I have a booty, hips, and thighs. It wouldn't matter how thin I was, I'd still have this shape... This shape that is not the typical shape of a runner. My legs have a bit of weight to carry, most of which is in my lower body. I know that weight is weight and the legs will have to carry it no matter what, but I think that my shape does make a difference in my ability. Hmmm...My top half is much smaller. I wonder if that would make me a bit more aerodynamic. Maybe I should start running slightly bent over? Haha..Kidding, of course.
However, in my eyes I am a runner. I can run; and do. I do it because I like it. I do it because it feels good. I do it because it's good for me. Can I run miles and miles on end? No. I run for a while and then need a short walking break. The thing with running is that you can do it at your own pace. You can do it as fast or slow as you want. Will I ever win a race? Nope. I'm slow and I'm okay with that... At least I get out and do it!
For me, running is my me-time. I shut myself off from the rest of the world (well, other than the cars, people, and animals I need to watch out for when I run). It's a time when I don't have to talk to anyone. I can get lost in my own thoughts (as long as I pay attention and don't get lost on my route!). I focus on my breathing; my sweating (which can be a distraction when it gets in my eye). For me running is stress relief. It's something I enjoy.
I think I got off-track. Slightly. Or a little more than slightly.
My point with heart rate and running is that when I run outside my heart rate is much higher than when I run inside. I must run faster outside... I mean, I'd have to in order for my rate to be higher. Right? The thing is that I don't know how to go slower. I think I did okay with this yesterday when I ran. I tried to keep it at a lighter pace and keep my heart rate a little lower, which worked. At first. Then I sped up. Then I'd take a walk break. When I'd run again? I forgot to watch my heart rate and would see it's higher than I wanted.
Knowing this information, I know that I am not at the point where I can run fast and maintain it. I'm just not in that shape. I'm healthy, but I'm not in shape for being a runner. For the 5K that I'm doing this weekend, I'll likely end up walking. I haven't trained myself to run at a slower pace that I can sustain outside. This is where the treadmill is of benefit for me. The belt doesn't move unless I move it, so I can maintain a comfortable working pace. I'll really have to watch my heart rate so that I can kind of monitor where I need to be. If I can maintain a slower, more comfortable pace, I probably can run most (if not all) of it. The chances of that happening? Not so great. I definitely need more training on speed maintenance. I think that I try to go fast to reach a certain time to compete with myself and sometimes others. Even though I know that there are many people who can, and will, run faster than I can, I still find myself pushing too hard. Pushing too hard is what makes me have to walk and in the end, I'm still slower. If I'd stay at a slower running pace, I could run longer, which in the end might mean a better time than I'd get with so much walking.
Slow and steady wins the race? Well...Kind of. It may not make me win the race against everyone else. It will help me win the race with myself though. I won't get so tired. I'll walk less. I'll finish with a better time. I'm not in shape like a runner and shouldn't push myself to try to be like that when I'm not.....Especially considering that before surgery I was focusing mostly on BR workouts so I wasn't running as much. Then I was out of the game completely for a little over two weeks. I'm just getting back into the swing of things. By focusing on BR for so long, my running ability obviously decreased a bit. Considering my workouts for the last few months and my lack of training, I should be satisfied that I'm doing it.
I think I'm going to take tomorrow off. I wasn't going to because I didn't think that running would make me tired for the 5K. I'm re-thinking that. I've noticed that my muscles are starting to get back into action after not having to do much for a while. I feel the soreness in my thighs and in my glutes (the sides anyway). I don't want to run and make myself sore for Saturday. I may not take the entire day off. I love my physical activity too much. But I might just do a light walk, if my cousin is up for it. If I were to go solo, I know I wouldn't be able to resist the urge to run....Being with someone who wants to walk will help me to not run. Perhaps it will be a complete day off if she's not up for a walk. Or maybe I'll do some biking, just to get some exercise....Even if it's light.
I'm excited for this 5K. My friends are at similar levels and have trained about the same as me (not much!). It's nice to know that we will all be in this together. We're doing it for fun. We're not out to win....We don't have to "beat" anyone. I do have that slight competition with myself to beat last year's time, but I trained last year. At the same time I feel like I should be better than where I was last year, which I guess is true, but I haven't been training or running much so in that sense it's not a true, or fair statement. I'm going to try to just have fun and go with it rather than worrying about beating my previous time. Last year I trained. I didn't do mostly BR for months. I didn't have surgery. I wasn't off for two weeks before getting back into the swing of things. Last year was a different time; a different race. I need to focus on finishing strong and getting a good workout.
One more thing to remember for the race....
Push the start button on the HRM. Last year I forgot to hit start when the race began and didn't notice until I was about a mile in. This gave me an inaccurate calorie burn. This year, I'd like to monitor my calories accurately. I'd also like to use the HRM to monitor my progress and know when to kick it up a notch (even if that means running slowly rather than walking!).
I never in my life thought I'd be writing a post about my running performance, or my target heart rate! Oh how life can change -- and for the better!