Monitor your heart rate to boost your workout

Stay on beat

Stay on beat

Knowing your target heart rate will help you determine if you are undertraining, which could keep you from losing weight and limit any gains in endurance and strength, or overtraining, which can lead to injury.

“Your target heart rate zone ensures you are burning enough calories but not going overboard and risking injury,” said Robin Curry, M.D., sports medicine physician.

Start by measuring your resting heart rate, or the number of times your heart beats per minute, in the morning when you first wake up. To find your target heart rate, count your pulse for 10 seconds while exercising and multiply by 6. This rate varies for each person. Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. Dr. Curry says it is recommended to exercise at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate if you are in good physical shape. If you are new to exercising, aim for a target heart rate that is 40 to 50 percent of your maximum heart rate.

While anyone could benefit from monitoring their heart rate, Dr. Curry identifies two main groups who should make it an everyday practice: those with heart conditions who need to stay within a safe heart rate, and serious athletes who are eager to optimize their fitness.

“Overall, it is a great tool to help people work out at the right intensity,” Dr. Curry said. “It can provide feedback on improvement and encourage motivation.”

High-tech and no-cost ways to keep ‘pulse’

You don’t have to make a huge investment in a heart rate monitor. Heart rate monitoring gadgets are available for everyone’s budget and fitness level. You also can manually check your pulse throughout your workout.

Check your pulse

• Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, below the thumb.

• Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels in your wrist.

• Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply the number of pulses by 6 to find your beats per minute.

Be sure to keep track of how your heart rate fluctuates based on your intensity level and type of workout activities. If you don’t want to take your pulse, the treadmills and elliptical machines at most gyms have onboard monitors that can measure your heart rate as you exercise.

There also are a variety of heart rate monitors you can purchase and wear during exercise. The most popular is a chest strap that transmits data to a wristwatch-style receiver. This type of device monitors your heart rate continuously, giving you a complete picture of your heart rate during exercise. Other wearable monitors include wristbands that monitor your radial pulse or use a finger sensor to activate the monitor. There are even smartphone apps that use the phone’s camera lens as a finger sensor to monitor heart rate and store results for comparison later.

“Heart rate monitors provide instant feedback regarding your workout intensity,” Dr. Curry said. “This feedback can allow you to adjust what you are doing in order to achieve a more optimal workout and monitor your progress.”

It’s marathon training time!

As the official medical and training provider for the 2015 Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/miniMarathon, Norton Sports Health is offering a free training program for all levels of walkers and runners that includes a comprehensive training manual, a weekly running group and more.


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