Heart Rate Exercise Zones

presented by: IndoorCycleMagazine.com

Exercising With Your Heart The basics you need to know

The best and most efficient approach to personal workouts . .

is done with an understanding of your personal Heart Zones. Whether your goal is to shed a few pounds or to tighten up your workout sessions, understanding and training with your heart zones is the key to wellness and a new physical life. Your heart is a muscle and probably the most important muscle in your body. Your heart's job is to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all the organs and tissues of your body. Your heart does this by pumping blood from the lungs (where it picks up oxygen) to all the areas in your body (where it drops the oxygen off). The heart then pumps blood back to your lungs, completing the loop that keeps you alive day and night year after year. A normal, healthy heart automatically regulates its own heart rate. The human heart is an organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. Every day, your heart beats about 100,000 times, sending 2,000 gallons of blood surging through your body. A man's heart weighs about 10 ounces, while a woman's heart weighs approximately 8 ounces.

The heart is a muscle which is hollow and cone-shaped located between the lungs and behind the sternum (breastbone). Two-thirds of the heart is located to the left of the midline of the body and 1/3 is to the right. Your heart and circulatory system make up your cardiovascular system. Your heart works as a pump that pushes blood to the organs, tissues, and cells of your body. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to every cell and removes the carbon dioxide and waste products made by those cells. Blood is carried from your heart to the rest of your body through a complex network of arteries, arterioles, and capillaries. Blood is returned to your heart through venules and veins. If all the vessels of this network in your body were laid end-to-end, they would extend for about 60,000 miles (more than 96,500 kilometers).

Therefore, making your workout most efficient involoves these two fundamental concepts:

  • Improving your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR)
  • Increasing your aerobic endurance
Improving lactate threshold, is accomplished by completing simple training sessions and including more challenging workouts that raise your heart rate as you continue to increase the number of your workout sessions. Aerobic exercise places extra demands on your muscular system, causing your muscles to require extra oxygen. Your body sends more oxygen to your muscles by causing your breathing to deepen and speed up, and by boosting your heart rate. Knowing how to keep track of your heart rate while exercising helps you get the most benefits from each exercise session. Two factors determine whether you utilize fat as a source of energy during exercise: intensity and duration. It takes your body a little while to begin the fat-buring process, so you must be able to sustain the exercise or activity for a prolonged period of time in order to ensure that you are burning carbohydrates or far.

Starting with the Heart Rate . .

which is measured in beats per minute. Your heart rate or pulse does vary from person to person. It is your most important heart-health gauge. Technically, our ambient heart rate or our resting heart rate is that measurement taken when you are most relaxed or sedentary. Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it is at rest and pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because your are not exercising. Generally speaking, it is around 70 beats per minute. Remember to take your resting heart rate over at least 3 days so that you can get an average reading. In general, we train to attain a lower resting heart rate. With improvement in your fitness level you should see your resting heart rate decrease. As you become fitter through aerobic exercise, your heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood around the body, especially if combined with a reduction of the plaque (fatty deposits) within your arteries. Your resting heart rate is best measured when you first wake up in the morning and prior to getting out of bed or raising your head from your pillow.

Your Maximum Heart Rate or Max HR, is the fastest that your heart can beat for a period of one minute. There are a number of accepted stress tests that can be used to find this particular, personal number.

Some interesting facts about your maximum heart rate:

  • Maximum heart rate is not correlated to fitness level. The amount of work you can do at your maximum heart rate is the thing that is related to your fitness level.
  • Medications in the Beta blocker family (Lopressor, Tenormin, Lopid, Metoprolol, Atenolol Propranolol etc.) will lower your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.
  • Maximum heart rate is not a trainable attribute. This means as you become more or less fit -- your maximum heart rate does not change
  • The more fit you become the more work you can do at your maximum heart rate. This means you will be biking or running faster with improved fitness.

To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse. Place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery - which is located on the thumb side of your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to calculate your beats per minute. The measurement of the human heart rate is very useful in medicine and science. At rest heart rate can indicate levels of fitness or the presence of disease or stress, during exercise it indicates fitness level and exercise intensity, and the maximum level is a measure of your cardiac capacity and is an indicator of fatigue.

The four heart rate exercise zones . .

are your keys to efficient and smart workouts. PERIOD. Each heart rate training zone is a range that defines the upper and lower limits of training intensities. While exercising if your heart rate is too high, you are straining. If it is too low and the intensity feels light then you may want to push yourself to exercise a bit harder. Heart rate zones can help you optimize your workout by targeting different training intensities. Your zones are calculated based on a percentage of your estimated maximum heart rate.

The body uses oxygen and fuel to generate energy. The cardiovascular system delivers oxygen to the skeletal muscles which then use this oxygen to burn or consume various internal body fuels such as carbohydrates (fats) to yield the necessary muscular energy. That rate of burned oxygen in the muscles is the best measure of aerobic work. Futhermore, the rate of oxygen consumption is measured in liters per minute and calle VO2.

Zone One is called the "Recovery Exercise Zone" and is certainly defined by the lightest work of the four zones. It is appropriate for "active recovery" workouts which should be done between high-intensity workout sessions. Training at this intensity means you can stay active without becoming fatigued. This zone is useful for very early pre-season and closed season cross training when the body needs to recover and replenish. You can also use the Talk Test to determine if you are in this zone. You should be able to sing a song when you are in Zone One. You typically reach this zone by walking. This zone is the perfect zone for people who are just starting fitness training. It is also the zone for warm-ups and cool-downs. It is the lowest level of workout that will result in increased health levels. People who work out at this level can decrease body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This is the easiest level to work out, you burn fewer calories than other zones and you typically don't sweat. The body gets its energy by burning 10% glycogen stores, 5% protein and 85% body fat. You just aren't expending too many calories. You will get healthier, but you won't increase your cardiorespiratory endurance or lose much weight by working out exclusively in this zone.

Zone Two the most comfortable exercise zone. It is used primarily for building aerobic fitness, fat-burning capacity and endurance. Studies have shown that by working out in this zone you gain muscle mass, improve your heart health, and can train your body to more effectively burn fats (carbohydrates). You burn about 6-10 calories a minute. As in Zone 1, the body gets its energy by burning 10% glycogen stores, 5% protein and 85% body fat. Working out in zone two teaches your body to burn fat as a fuel source and encourages your body to produce more mitochondria. Exercising in this zone will help to develop your aerobic system and in particular, your ability to transport and utilize oxygen efficiently.

The transformations that occur with this level of training include:

  • increased stroke volume (amount of blood pumped per heartbeat)
  • increased oxygen transport in the blood
  • improved use of fat as a fuel, thus teaching the muscles to conserve the limited carbohydrate (glycogen) supply

Zone Three extends the benefits of Zone Two and powerful fitness booster. Training in this zone improves the ability of your heart to pump blood and improve the muscles' ability to utilize oxygen. The body becomes more efficient at feeding the working muscles and learns to metabolise fat as a source of fuel. This training zone is most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness. Exercising are targeting this particular heart rate zone, increases your cardio-respitory capacity: that is, the your ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells. It is also very effective for increasing overall muscle strength. This is the zone where you start to sweat. Working out in this zone will improve your heart's ability to pump blood and will increase your lung capacity. Since your heart will get stronger, your resting heart rate will decrease or lower. If you are training for an endurance event, you need to train in this aerobic zone. In this zone you are burning glycogen and fats at about 50% - 50%. By working out in this particular aerobic zone, you will greatly improve your cardiovascular fitness.

The transformations that occur with this training include:

  • elevation of your VO2 max
  • elevation of your anaerobic threshold
  • improvement in economy or efficiency of your cardiovascular system

Zone Four is very intense and even stressful. The point at which the body cannot remove lactic acid as quickly as it is produced is called the lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold. It generally occurs at about 80-88% of the Heart Rate Reserve. Training in this zone helps to increase your lactate threshold, which improves performance. Training in this zone is hard: your muscles will fatigue and your breathing will become heavy. You should only train in this zone if you're very fit and only for short periods of time. Lactic acid develops quickly as you are operating in oxygen debt to the muscles The value of training in this zone is that you can increase your fast twitch muscle fibers which increase overall speed. When you work out in this zone, your body cannot get rid of the lactic acid that is the byproduct of anaerobic metabolism. Since you are working out a higher level, more calories are burned. The body receives about 85% of its energy from glycogen and 15% from fat. You can stay in the anaerobic training zone for a limited amount of time. Interval training will take you into the anaerobic zone and will increase your VO2 Max.

The primary fuels during aerobic and anaerobic training are fat and carbohydrates, respectively, but it is very important to understand that both fuels are burned simultaneously at virtually all levels of exercise; it is not just one fuel or the other, except at the very highest intensities (close to 100% of Max Heart Rate). Race simulation exercises and sprinting are examples of anaerobic training, whereas walking and jogging are typically considered aerobic, although you could walk or jog fast enough to make it anaerobic. It is likely that you are working anaerobically (above 85%) if you're out of breath during a workout and working aerobically (less than 85%) if you're only slightly out of breath. It has been shown that at about 80-90% of maximum heart rate, there is no longer adequate oxygen supplied to working muscles. This is known as the Anaerobic Threshold, because, beyond this heart rate anaerobic glycolysis must be used to contribute to the extra energy. When this happens lactic acid will start to accumulate in the targeted working muscles. The actual percentage will vary slightly from person to person, but is relatively constant within the individual.

The transformations that take place with this type of training are:

  • elevation of VO2 max
  • raising of the anaerobic threshold
  • increased removal of lactic acid
  • decreased production of lactic acid
  • increased tolerance of the pain of lactic acid being built up in the muscles
  • patterning of specific nervous system muscle fibers required for racing.

Heart Rate Monitors . .

A heart rate monitor consists of two parts - a transmitter attached to a belt worn around the chest and a receiver which is usually worn on the wrist like a watch. As the heart beats, an electrical signal is transmitted through the heart muscle in order for it to contract. This electrical activity can be detected through the skin. The transmitter part of the heart rate monitor is placed on the skin around the area that the heart is beating, and picks up this signal. The transmitter then sends an electromagnetic signal containing heart rate data to the wrist receiver which displays the heart rate.

Heart rate monitors measure the rate at which your heart is beating through sensors built into a strap worn around the chest. The feedback is then displayed on whichever compatible device you're using. Using a heart rate monitor, it becomes easier to monitor your personal workouts. The heart rate monitor allows you to measure exercise intensity independently of what activity is being performed by focusing on heart rate as the measure of exercise intensity. A heart rate monitor is the most general safety precautions that the majority of folks who exercise routinely do not employ is a heart-rate monitor. This simple device can help you maintain your target workout heart rate and help you know when you have exceeded that point. It is also a fantastic way to maximize your fitness routine to get you in shape and build up cardiovascular endurance.

The 9 Components that define fitness . .

Basic fitness can be classified in four main components: strength, speed, stamina and flexibility. Recently exercise and fitness scientists have further identified nine components that comprise the definition of fitness:

  • Strength: the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (e.g. free weight training or restraining an object).
  • Power: the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start)
  • Agility: the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions. Agility or nimbleness is the ability to change the body's position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, and endurance.
  • Balance: the ability to control the body's physical position, either stationary or while moving. Simply put, the ability to maintain equilibrium when stationary or moving (i.e. not to fall over) through the coordinated actions of our sensory functions (eyes, ears and the proprioceptive organs in our joints). We depend on a complex system for keeping us upright. The inner ear, which senses head motions, has an important role. Balance depends on the central nervous system and our ability to integrate input from the inner ear, eyes, muscles and sensations of the lower extremities.
  • Flexibility: the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue. It is the absolute range of movement in a joint or series of joints, and length in muscles that cross the joints to induce a bending movement or motion. Movement demands include strength, endurance and range of motion.
  • Local Muscle Endurance: a single muscle's ability to perform sustained work (e.g. indoor cycle). Local muscular endurance is the ability of certain muscles or muscle groups to perform repeated contractions against a submaximal resistance.
  • Cardiovascular Endurance: the heart's ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (e.g. running long distances). It is the ability to exercise without becoming overly tired because your heart, lungs and blood vessels are healthy.
  • Strength Endurance: a muscle's ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (e.g. continuous rebounding through an entire indoor cycle class). Strength endurance is built around the utilization of large muscle groups to power the activity such as the case with rowing, where for example the quads, gastrocnemius, biceps, triceps, deltoids and the Latissimus dorsi muscles predominate the scene. Strength endurance is the ability to produce force for and over a period of time. The more strength you can generate, and the longer you can do it for, the faster you will ultimately travel over distance.
  • Co-ordination: the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved. The ability to control the movement of the body in co-operation with the body's sensory functions.
Of all the nine elements of fitness, cardiac respiratory qualities (cardiovascular endurance, stamina, etc.) are the most important to develop as they enhance all the other components of the workout/exercies conditioning equation.

Most people still think that in order to improve your cardiovascular fitness, endurance training is a must. But this is actually not true. Slow twitch muscles are the red muscles, which are activated by traditional strength training and cardio exercises. The fast and super-fast twitch muscles are white muscle fibers, which are only activated during high intensity interval exercises or sprints. Traditional cardio exercises work primarily the aerobic process, associated with your red, slow-twitch muscles. High-intensity interval training, on the other hand, work both your aerobic AND your anaerobic processes, which is what you need for optimal cardiovascular benefit. Quite simply, if you don't actively engage and strengthen all three muscle fiber types and energy systems, then you're not going to work both processes of your heart muscle. Many mistakenly believe that cardio works out your heart muscle, but what you're really working is your slow twitch muscle fibers, associated with the aerobic process only. You're not effectively engaging the anaerobic process of your heart.