Resiliency Series: How to use your heart rate monitor to prevent overdoing it!

Welcome back for the resiliency series, HEART RATE MONITOR EDITION! WTF?

Are you someone who is always sore? Maybe you have been told by trainers or coaches that it’s good to take rest days but like…

What is a rest day?

How should you go “light” during a workout? Keep reading.

I began using an Apple Watch back in the summer. I was never someone who cared too much about my activity levels but I really needed to know what time it was and I love new gadgets, so why not…

This is not a blog to promote the Apple Watch at all BUT it is a post to talk about how you can use your heart rate monitor to gauge how hard you are working and why that’s important!

If you have read all the other resiliency series posts, you’ll be sick of hearing this but here’s goes…

Over the next few months (or however long it takes for me to run out of content), I will be covering the most common areas of the body where people have their aches and pains. Each week will cover a specific area that we suggest people work on in order to resist injury. 

This will NOT serve as a way to treat an injury or direct medical advice, but it will be a resource that will house the most up-to-date information on how to make yourself stronger and and more… RESILIENT! We ALWAYS suggest you seek medical attention if you feel you need more help.

This time is a bit different! I am going to talk about exercise intensity, aka “how hard your body is working at a given time”.

Why do you care? ONE BIG REASON!

Most people who get hurt, get hurt because they put their body through more than it can handle, time after time, after time without enough lighter days…

Most gym goers aren’t in touch with being able to fine tune their exercise intensity – it’s either really hard or nothing.

I am going to explain how you can use your heart rate monitor (Apple Watch, Fitbit, OT beat, Garmin… the list goes on) to decrease your injury risk and use it as a tool to monitor your exercise intensity!

Here is what is recommended by the Academy of Sports Medicine:

“All healthy adults aged 18–65 yr should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 min on five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 min on three days per week.”

– Directly from the ACSM website, “Physical Activity Guidelines 2020”

Note how it recommends some moderate intensity days and some vigorous intensity days? They say that for a reason! We aren’t supposed to push our bodies into a puddle of sweat every workout!

That being said, most people don’t know what moderate vs vigorous feels like. You can use your favorite heart rate gadget to help!

Start with calculating your max heart rate…

Do you know how to calculate it? You can quickly do some math,

220 – (your age) = Your maximum heart rate

We can gauge our exercise intensity by using a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

It is easy to break it up into zones

Very Easy = 50-60%

Light = 61-70%

Moderate = 71-85%

Vigorous (high intensity) = 85% +

So why does this matter?

If you are someone who goes hard every, single workout, it is eventually going to catch up to you. Maybe you haven’t gotten hurt, but maybe you are just sore all the time… should we just chalk it up to a good workout? That’s not how you should feel all the time! Soreness and stiffness CAN be a precursor to injury.

Key Points

  1. It is recommended that you exercise twice per week at a high intensity (85% or more max HR), and at least three times per week at a moderate intensity (71-85% max HR).
  2. Use your HR monitor DURING a workout to gauge how hard you are working! Do the math so you know what your moderate intensity and high intensity numbers are ahead of time!
  3. If you “aren’t feeling it” on a given day or you know you should be going easy, use your HR monitor to tell you how hard you are working and stay in the easy to light zones!
  4. You can decrease your risk of injury by varying your intensity levels throughout the week to prevent yourself from overdoing it!

I hope this brought some light to how valuable heart rate-based training and monitoring can be. Next time you are in a workout, try and guess what your HR is based on how hard you are working… Maybe you can get so in tune with your body that you can accurately guess the number!

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