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Training Heart Rate -
Getting to the Beat of It

I'm going to tell you about a secret formula. It's something simple you can do that may dramatically increase the effectiveness of your cardio workouts, and it only involves about one minute of math.

It's called the Training Heart Rate. That's how fast your heart should be beating to get the most out of every workout.

STEP ONE: Find out your Resting Heart Rate. Before you get out of bed in the morning, place two fingers (your middle and index finger) under your ear, then slide them down until they are directly under your jawbone, pressing lightly. You should feel your pulse. Count the beats for one minute. This number is your Resting Heart Rate. To help ensure accuracy, take your Resting Heart Rate over three mornings in a row and average the three heart rates together.

STEP TWO: Decide which of the zones below you're going to train in. For traditional cardio, there are four primary intensity levels or Zones. Here's what they mean.

60% to 70% is the Energy Efficient or Recovery Zone. Training within this zone helps increase your aerobic capacity, develops basic endurance, burns fat and allows your body to replenish glycogen* that has been depleted during faster-paced workouts.

* Glycogen is the main form of carbohydrate storage in humans and is readily converted to glucose to satisfy the body's energy needs.

70% to 80% is the Aerobic Zone. Train in this zone, and you will develop your cardiovascular system improving your body's ability to transport oxygen.

80% to 90% is the Anaerobic Zone. If you train in this zone, the amount of fat your body burns is greatly reduced, and glycogen stored in your muscles is the predominant energy source your body will use. One of the negative side effects of burning glycogen is the buildup of a runner's worst enemy, lactic acid. As lactic acid builds up, you will experience a rapid rise in heart rate and a slowing of your running pace.

90% to 100% is the Red Line Zone. Training in this zone is possible for only short periods of time. It develops fast-twitch muscle fibers and helps build speed. This zone is reserved for the very fit and interval running only.

STEP THREE: Once you decide which zone you're going to train in and you know your Resting Heart Rate, you will need to put those figures into a formula. You can use our calculator by clicking HERE, or figure it out by following the steps below.

The Formula

For MALES: 214 - Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate
For FEMALES: 209 - Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate

Take the Maximum Heart Rate - Resting Heart Rate = DIFFERENCE
Take the DIFFERENCE and multiply it by the Zone you want to train in. If you want to train in the 60% range multiply DIFFERENCE by .60, if you want to train in the 70% range multiply DIFFERENCE by .70.
Add your Resting Heart Rate, and you get your Training Heart Rate.

(Please Note: This formula gives you the LOWER number in the Maximum Range of your Training Heart Rate. The automatic calculator gives you the HIGHER number in the Maximum Range of your Training Heart Rate. Both numbers are valid! You should use the lower number as your initial goal and work toward getting up to the higher number.)

FOR BEST RESULTS: Use the Interval Training Method. Learn how to do it by clicking HERE.

Check your pulse frequently throughout the workout to make sure you are maintaining your Training Heart Rate.

Want another tip? If you want to do things the easy way, get a heart rate monitor. It's extremely accurate and gives you instant feedback to ensure you are exercising at the proper level.

Finally, lacking any other method, the Talk Test is a quick way of making sure you're not working too hard. When you're working out, you should be able to carry on a conversation. If you're out of breath or can't talk, you're working too hard. Slow down. Now get out there and start exercising!

CAUTION: Some medications may affect your exercise heart rate. Before beginning any exercise program, check with your doctor or health care professional first.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 10/16/2011
Updated 1/30/021