The Benefits of Tracking Your Heart Rate

2016-08-17 14:07:05

Adding heart rate tracking into your workout can take your fitness routine to the next level. Getting in the habit of knowing and tracking your heart rate means you can better see your progress, encouraging you to reach your fitness goals.

How to Take Your Heart Rate

Your heart works hard to deliver blood and oxygen to your working muscles. The harder your muscles work the harder your heart works. When your muscles get stronger your fitness level increases. This means your heart gets stronger as well and doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to your muscles.

The easiest way to take your heart rate is to manually find your pulse or by using a heart rate monitor. To find your pulse manually place two fingers on your neck just below your jaw bone or on the inside of your wrist and count the beats for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 to find your heart rate per minute.

There are many wearable fitness trackers that can take your heart rate but few that can track in and out of the water. The Waterproofed Fitbit Blaze and the Waterproofed Fitbit Charge HR have a heart rate monitor built in so you can check your heart rate at any part of the day, your workout, or your swim.

Figuring Out Your Heart Rate Range

Your heart rate can act as a personal coach that lets you know if you need to up your level of intensity or pull back. Tracking your heart rate helps you to focus on what you want to accomplish and is a great indication of what exertion level is associated with different types of exercises. In order to do all of this it is important to determine your heart rate range. This means figuring out your maximum heart rate, your resting heart rate, and the target range in between.

Determining Max Heart Rate

Your maximum heart rate is the fastest rate your heart can beat in order to pump blood to the rest of your body. Scientifically there are many factors like age and gender that determine what your maximum heart rate is. The safest and most popular way to determine your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220.

For example, if you are 35 years old your max heart rate would be 185 bpm (beats per minute).

220 - 35 = 185

This formula is usually used for exercises where your feet hit the ground like running. It is recommended for exercises like bicycling to subtract 5 more beats and for swimming subtract 10 more beats. So the max heart rate in this scenario for bicycling would be 180 bpm and for swimming 175 bpm.

Finding Your Resting Heart Rate

Fitbit Charge HR Heart Rate Monitoring

Determining what your resting heart rate is the next step in figuring out your target heart rate range. Your resting heart rate is when you are at your most relaxed and are doing little to no activity. It is best to take your resting heart rate when you wake up in the morning or have been sitting on the couch for a little while. Do this manually by checking your pulse or checking your heart rate monitor, and if you are checking your pulse when you wake up it’s best to wear your tracker overnight.

A normal resting heart rate is 60-100 bpm. Men typically have a normal resting heart rate range of 60-80 bpm and women 70-90 bpm. Again, resting heart rate can be determined by a number of factors but typically a lower resting heart rate signifies that you are in good physical fitness because your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to push oxygen to your muscles.

Finding Your Cardio Target Heart Rate Zone

Now that we know our maximum heart rate and our resting heart we can determine something called our heart rate reserve. This is the range in which we can work our heart rate at different levels of intensity in order to reach our exercise goals.

Typically in a workout you want your heart rate to be in the target zone of 50-85% of your max heart rate. The lower level of your target heart rate zone works on things like basic fitness and endurance whereas the top level of your target heart rate works on aerobic fitness, performance, and burns the most calories. To figure out your target heart rate zone you can do this by working out a simple equation.

For example, if my max heart rate is 185 bpm then 50% of my target heart rate would be 93 bpm and 85% of my max heart rate would be 158 bpm.

185 x .5 = 93 bpm 185 x .85 = 158 bpm

The key focus of staying within these zones, especially within the higher range when working out, is to keep you in check with your desired level of intensity. Knowing your heart rate can push you harder and raise your effort level ultimately increasing your fitness performance.

Another thing to consider when working out is recovery. Recovery is important because it gives your body the chance to calm down and rest after a workout. After you reach a peak level in a workout you want to bring your heart rate down to a recovery pace in order to help your body repair itself. Your recovery heart rate is typically 20 beats within your pre-workout heart rate and you want to reach it during the cool down phase of your workout.

Scenario: How to Track Your Heart Rate During a Swim Workout

Tracking your heart rate during a swim workout is just as important and useful as any other aerobic activity. Like other exercises, it is important to warm up your body before jumping straight into high intensity bouts and is important to cool down in order for your body to have a healthy recovery.

  • 10% of your workout is warm up - focusing on staying in the 50% range of your max heart rate.
  • 50% of your workout is dedicated to moderate work - focusing on staying in the 60-75% range of your max heart rate.
  • 30% of your workout is dedicated to high intensity work - focusing on staying in the 70-85% range of your max heart rate.
  • 10% of your workout is dedicated to cool down - focusing on bringing your heart rate below the 50% range of your max heart rate.

*Please note this is an example formula and not a prescribed formula. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your heart rate and what may be the best focus for you please consult your doctor.

Track, Track, Track

To effectively add heart rate tracking into your routine, try and remember these things.

  1. Consistency is your friend: By tracking your resting heart rate, max heart rates you hit in your workouts, and heart rates averages for different activities you will begin to see patterns. You’ll notice things like your heart rate will change when you feel under the weather, when you have breakthroughs in your intensity levels, and what exercises make you work the hardest.
  2. Write it down: Keep a journal of your heart rate at all levels. Being able to look back at how far you’ve come will help you to realize the things noted above and more.
  3. Keep working hard: You can do it! Who knows what you will accomplish with the help of heart rate tracking.


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