One of the many new ideas I brought home from the last Mental Meat Heads workshop was the value of using a heart rate monitor in my workouts.
Normally I eschew any type of measurements that lend themselves towards distraction, at best, or obsession, worst. The main focus of your training should be the training itself — what you’re doing right here, right now. But the heart rate monitor adds a level of feedback that can actually enhance that experience rather than detract from it.
You’ve probably heard me talk before about the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous systems (PNS). At its simplest the PNS handles restorative functions like digestion and growth and the SNS handles fight or flight functions. When training we use a simple formula (180 – age and 160 – age) to determine both high and low end ranges.
For instance, since I’m now 43 my top number is 137 BPM (180 – 43 = 137) and my low number is 117 BPM (160 – 43 = 117).
The high end range indicates That we’re slipping into that sympathetic state. That’s important because once the SNS takes over certain benefits of exercise like fat loss and cardiovascular development diminish. It’s as if you’re body is saying, “Oh crap! This is hard!” and becomes more concerned about surviving the workout than responding with positive change.
This doesn’t mean we’ll never go over that top number just that we use it as a marker to let us know, “Hey, it’s time to rest.” That rest interval should last just long enough for us to return to the low number.
In terms of the workout and its experience, keeping your heart rate in this relatively lower range allows you to be more present in the work. By not pushing yourself into the Oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die zone you can pay more attention to the work itself and not on how bad you feel. Additionally you can be certain that you’ll reap more benefit from the work you’re doing.
I recommend all of my clients invest in a heart rate monitor, especially if you identify as a body composition client or are over the age of 35. Polar has a very basic model for under $40 on Amazon. You can check it out HERE. **Full disclosure** if you purchase from this link I recieve a 4% commission.
Other brands and models are available and acceptable, although I do recommend you stay away from the non-chest strap models which require you place your fingers on the monitor to get a read. I prefer the ability to get live feedback while you are working.
To our perfect imperfection,
P.S. Early bird rates are still available for Mental Meat Heads 8. Don’t miss out!