What feedback do you get from your cardio workouts? You might know how far you’ve run and in what amount of time, but do you know how hard your heart was working? Or if your fitness level has improved.
When you exercise, your body will use energy in 2 ways, aerobically (with oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen). During activity such as a long run, you will use energy aerobically, which will give you the ability to maintain energy levels over a long period of time. A short sprint will require the anaerobic system, which allows for short bursts of energy. The Anaerobic Threshold (AT) is the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream and will give you that burning feeling when you are working extremely hard. You know when you have reached this point during activity as your breathing will become labored but still manageable. This level is different for everybody and your AT can vary based on the activity you are performing. For instance, your running AT may be different from your cycling AT.
There are formulas for determining your AT and you can also have it tested at different rehab facilities. You can also test it yourself by using your heart rate monitor during your next run or bike ride. Slowly increase your pace, monitor where your heart rate is at the point where breathing becomes labored, but maintainable. This will represent an estimate of your AT. Once you have this number, you can use it to calculate your five heart rate zones, allowing you to effectively measure and manage your cardio training. Each of these five zones provide different levels of intensity, and thus will have a different physiological effect on the body. Training in all five zones will provide the most effective way to improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Heart rate monitors are available with many different features. Some available options offer a calorie counter, automatic zone calculations, workout storage capacity, or feature protection that will keep your signal from crossing with another. While use of a monitor does provide you with valuable feedback, listen to what your body is telling you and don’t neglect how you feel during those workouts. Variables such as stress, lack of sleep, and overtraining can alter your resting heart rate and will affect your workouts.
Whether you are an athlete looking to shave time for the big race or want to improve your ability to burn fat, heart rate monitors are a great tool for feedback when used with a good cardio program. They can certainly make your workouts more fun and challenging on the way to reaching your fitness goals.