As I put my son to bed this evening I was still not sure what I would write about today. Being able to give information that people would find useful and that they can apply in their own lives is important to me. One of the fundamental reasons for committing to a daily blog was because we felt that people are being fed so much garbage through marketing and from so many angles, it is challenging to know what is right and what will help your cause. We wanted to provide some education to set the record straight.
What I have found is that when you write to a wide audience, the challenge really is around the fact that we are all different – not so much in makeup but in what we perceive health and wellbeing to be; what we want out of training; how hard we are prepared to push ourselves and what outcomes we want. I read an article today in the Herald about the Fitbit 10,000 steps per day. It once again highlighted how a worldwide brand has created a "one size fits all" campaign that we as the public have automatically taken on as being accurate for us. For the record I don't own a Fitbit, but as I have spoken about before, I do use a Garmin multisport watch – and I believe these wearable devices have a large role to play in us taking a proactive approach to our health and wellbeing – no matter what that means to you.
It would be fair to label me an advocate of using your heart rate as the central tool in your training. As a matter of fact, I would go further than that, I'd consider myself a raving fan of the principles behind heart rate training. I will attempt to explain this in layman's terms (because the technical way is just not me) in the setting that was applicable to what I was trying to achieve – being that I wanted to complete a half Ironman having never done a triathlon before, but it truly is a case of experiencing the value because, in a way, it is hard to believe.
Your heart pumps at the rate it does because at this moment in time the flow it creates is what your body required based on your age, size and activity level or even fitness level – it is the rate at which your heart is comfortable and knows it can serve your body without causing alarm or concern or over exerting itself. Now when we are out there trying to get fitter, faster or build up endurance, what do we need from our heart? Well firstly what you need from yours and what a 90-kilogram man at age 48 years needs from his would very likely be different. That said, conceptually, you are aiming to gradually increase the amount of work your heart and your body can do to get the required amount of oxygen and nutrients to muscles around the body to perform these activities for whatever the required timeframe without breaking down.
What very often happens is we accelerate our training at a rate that is faster than our heart, body and base fitness level is comfortable with. The outcome invariably is injury. Injury is the body's way of telling us that we are pushing too hard and that the body is not there yet. Strap a heart rate monitor on and the data will be there to back that up. Your heart is amazing, stop for a second, put a hand on your heart and feel the power of it – it beats without you thinking about it; it keeps you alive and it provides your entire body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to do every little activity – never mind the strenuous stuff. When you 'plug into it' through a heart rate monitor, your instantly know what is going on with your body – when you are a bit sick or ill, your heart rate would be slightly elevated or will increase at a faster rate than normal when taking on exercise.
Heart rate training then (remembering we are looking at it in an endurance sport setting) allows you to set a rate at which your body can perform an activity but in order to do so, you may initially start off really slowly. In my case this was running. Out of interest to maintain that same rate (which for me was 137bpm) on a bike was far easier and the only time I got close to 137bpm on a bike was on a steep or long incline. Running, well I wasn't even past the post-box and I was pushing the 130's! It is not a case of you feeling tired performing at this rate either, I distinctly remember when I started out running at 137bpm, I was crawling along at over 7 minutes per kilometre but I used to stop running after an hour because I thought it was too early in my training program to run for longer. Which it turns out was the right move. What was fascinating though was that with a rather rapid increase in base level fitness, you can quickly see the progress you make by running at the same heart rate but the pace (minutes per kilometre) drops as swiftly. So, your constant is heart rate and the success factors is distance and pace/speed. What was really interesting is that when your base level had increase (remembering that this base rate is set by a calculation around age, activity level, experience and so on but is low and slap bang in the range that relies on fat burning for energy) your heart rate climbs a lot slower even when you step up the intensity.
That is all interesting but how is this relevant to you and being healthy and how can you apply it in your training? The more cardiovascularly fit you become, the higher your anaerobic threshold becomes. This increase in base fitness means you will be able to push yourself harder in the high intensity classes and reap the full benefits of fully participating rather than having to stop or quit because your body is not up to it yet.
Heart Rate training is about training within zones to achieve certain goals once you grasp these concepts, it will transform the way you think about your personal health and wellbeing. This means no longer putting everyone in a box or relying on marketing and the media to dictate what is good for you. It can help you achieve so much, across the spectrum from endurance training or racing on one end through to HIIT (high intensity interval sessions) on the other.The small print: now is probably a good time to encourage you to have a discussion about your personal situation with your doctor, a nutritionist and the Body and Motion trainers to work out how best to achieve any challenges you have in mind. The thoughts in these blogs are my own personal opinion and shouldn't be taken as direct advice. Some of the choices around what I consume or what activity I partake in may not be endorsed by Body and Motion. However, the team will always be keen enablers of your fitness goals! Talk to us today.