The use of a heart rate monitor can be extremely beneficial in tracking and achieving your workout goals. And while using one isn’t essential to having good workouts, getting a heart rate monitor can help you take the next steps in improving your workouts by better understanding how your body is responding to them.
Having a heart rate monitor will allow you to actually see how hard your body is working while you are going through a workout. You may be very surprised to find that sometimes when you think you are pushing your body, it can actually be pushed much further. Or, you may even find you are pushing your body too much! How much your heart is beating directly indicates how hard your body is working and what systems are being activated (whether you’re building endurance, burning fat, or putting on muscle).
There are different zones that your body’s systems function in during an exercise and these are based off of a percentage of your maximum heart rate. You can calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) by taking 220 and subtracting your age (Eg. if you are 30 you would do 220-30=190). It’s not perfect, but in general that is a pretty good estimate of your maximum heart rate.
The percentage of your MHR your heart is working at is directly correlated to the gains/improvements that you will receive from an exercise. When you are doing a very light workout (approx 50-60% of MHR) your body will actively burn fat and recover. Whereas when you are training at or near maximum capacity (90-100% MHR) your body is building up its maximum performance capabilities and increasing speed. Below is a great example chart. Here they are using a 30 year old’s MHR chart to break down the basics of what is going on in the different zones and the improvements that your body is making in each zone.
Having a heart rate monitor can also be extremely important for recovery as well. When you have high intensity exercise days, it is important to stay in the lower MHR ranges for the next day or two during your workouts. Your body needs time to recover and it can’t do this if you are consistently in the high ranges.
Heart rate monitors aren’t for everybody and maybe they won’t be for you! But they are a fairly cheap item to add to your routine that might help you truly maximize your workouts!