By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
The other day in the gym, I was doing my high intensity intervals on one of the fabulous Woodway treadmills on the main floor. Next to me was a new member. She kept saying, “OMG, this workout is killing me. My heart rate is so high and I can barely catch my breath.”
Whew! I asked her if she was all right and she smiled and said she was and loved the feeling. But I began wondering about how much people, especially newcomers to exercise, really know about heart rate and breathing during exercise. Sure, we all know that exercise improves heart health, improves endurance and reduces breathlessness, among a myriad of other health-related benefits. But think about it for a moment and you’ll agree that many people comment more about pounding heart and breathing rates during exercise, than almost anything else.
Let’s break these two down, heart rate goals and the amount of oxygen consumed during exercise. The first, heart rate, is a standard guideline when determining aerobic intensity. People count their pulse, or better, use a heart rate monitor. There are three different types of heart rates and it’s important to know the differences, and then there’s several ways to measure your V02.
Target heart rate– This is generally considered to be about 50-75% of your maximum heart rate. Treadmills and other equipment in the gym have easy to measure heart rate monitors on them, and though they may not be the most accurate, you would be wise to check your heart rate frequently during a workout. Sure you can go all out and pump it at 85-100% of your maximum heart rate, but better be in great shape or have a buddy nearby for safety. Better yet, have a personal trainer from the gym help you build your max heart rate, and your V02.
Maximum heart rate– Your maximum heart rate can be affected by as much as 10 beats/minute depending on your age, size of your heart, heat while working out, hydration and several other factors. The easiest and best-known method to find your maximum is 220 minus your age equals your heart rate max.
Want to get really detailed? Use this formula: HRmax = 217 – (0.85 × age)
- Subtract 3 beats if you are an elite athlete under 30
- Add 2 beats if you are a 50 year old elite athlete
- Add 4 beats if you are a 55+ year old elite athlete
- Use this HRmax value for running training
- Subtract 3 beats for rowing training
- Subtract 5 beats for bicycle training
- Subtract 12 beats for swimming
Resting heart rate-
While many of us have resting heart rates between 60-80 beats/minute, physically fit people tend to have lower rates and older folks have higher rates. Best way to check this is to simply take your pulse in the morning after you wake up from a good night’s sleep before getting out of bed.
While most of us generally can tell we are overdoing it during a cardio session when we can barely talk, fitness pros measure the volume of oxygen they consume while going all out. VO2 is measured in ml you use in one minute per kilogram of body weight. The fitter you are, the higher your VO2 value. Work out for about 20-30 minutes three to five times a week at between 65-85% of your maximum heart rate and you can increase your VO2 maximum value. Computers are generally used to measure your VO2 but here is another method that has about 95% accuracy. Run for about 15 minutes at an all out pace that you can handle. Round off the distance you’ve logged to the nearest 25 meters. Divide that number by 15, subtract 133, multiply that total by .172, then, add 33.3.
Confused? Try this link instead http://www.ntnu.edu/cerg/vo2max You may not hit 50-80 VO2 value, which is considered excellent, but this link will approximate your overall fitness age as well. Armed with this information, may just boost what you get out of your next workout. At the very least, you’ll be much more informed about the progress you are making in your exercise routines, and that’ll lead to greater motivation. One of the gym’s trainers can certainly help you assess and build your heart rate and VO2 values, while growing fitter, healthier and happier.
Side note: Our spin classes are great for building your overall fitness as they practice high intensity interval training.