Training Outside of the Zone

out of zone

Are you training within your individual heart rate zone? If so, you may not be getting the most out of your workout. First and foremost, let me say this: I am not a fitness expert or a personal trainer. I’m also, most definitely not a doctor, so if you’re not sure what your maximum heart rate is, you should consult an expert, especially if you’re new to regular exercise.

Secondly, everybody is different. You know your body better than anyone, what feels right and what doesn’t. Listen to it.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what I had to go through to get the picture above. I was running. Training for my first full marathon to be exact. And I was in the middle of one of my best pace times this year, but I really wanted to post about the subject. First, I had to retrieve my cell phone from my arm pouch while on the go, albeit at a slower pace (about 147 HR). Then, I had to get the camera settings ready, all while still running because when you’re training, you really don’t want to stop. If that wasn’t already enough, I once again had to pick up the pace to bring my heart rate back up so I could demonstrate, and then pause just at the right moment to snap a clear enough picture. This is what I go through for you!

I tell you all this to (hopefully) better illustrate my point. Heart rates, when you take time to notice, fluctuate greatly, if not quickly. My heart rate, for example, can drop back to its almost resting state (in the lower 70’s) within a few minutes of reaching maximum when I come to a complete stop, thus the need for snapping a quick pic.

While I’m in the middle of a training run, my heart rate monitor–even though it’s a very good one–consistently tells me I’m training out of my zone. As in I’m training at a higher level. When I’m running at a good pace, I’m usually hovering between 160-170 range and sometimes even higher than that. But that’s okay because I know my maximum heart rate is actually somewhere around 180. And even though I’ve programed my maximum into my Polar monitor, it tells me my “zone” is between 117 and 153. I know that if I’m consistently running at 150 I’m not working nearly hard enough, and therefore not getting the  most out of my workout. That’s when I try to amp it up, if only for a few minutes at a time.

If I didn’t already know my personal maximum heart rate and glanced down to see my running rate was, say, 172, I would probably worry I was pushing for a coronary. As it is, I know I’m working. Hard, yes, but still well within my abilities. Having this information helps me know when I need to push myself and when I can let off.

Maximum heart rates depend on a number of things. If you Google it, you’ll likely find an infinite number of methods and opinions on the subject. According to a few calculations I tested, mine figured out to be 171, 177 and 172, while it was actually closer to the male calculation at a straight forward method of 220-age. So, how do you find out your personal maximum heart rate? I had my fitness and nutrition expert help me figure out mine. Basically, it’s based on a number of factors, including your age and gender. But a straightforward calculation like the one above may not take into account your individual fitness level. Also, as with anything, it likely fluctuates based on the activity you’re performing. If you’re serious about training and getting the most out of your exercise time, it’s an important number to know. No matter what method you choose, I urge you to find out yours!


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