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With an abundance of fun tech available, more of us are using a variety of tools to enhance our workouts.  Measuring your heart rate can be useful and is something that a lot of people are incorporating into their training. That being said, many of us rely on our gadgets to provide us with this information but do we really know how to utilize it?

Did you know?

1. Heart rates are specific to the activity you are doing.  While there is a relationship between heart rate and exercise intensity, it varies for different exercises. 

2. If you are training in hot weather, use your feelings of fatigue and comfort as a guide rather than heart rate.  If you are training in a hot environment your heart rate can increase up to 13 beats per minute.

3. Don’t be tempted to compare heart rates with others.  Everyone has an individual maximum heart rate and those with the same fitness level can have a 20-30 beat difference in heart rates.  Training programs should not be based on generalized heart rate guidelines but should be based on the individual.

4. During steady state training your pace should remain the same despite an increase in heart rate.  Many factors contribute to heart rates: emotional stress, heat, hydration, fatigue, overtraining, sleep debt, altitude and even your clothing.  If you are exercising for 60 minutes or more your heart rate is going to increase as your body tires, so if you were to slow down to keep your heart rate at the “optimal” level you would be changing the training effect for your muscles.

There are lot of different formulas out there to calculate what your “optimum” heart rate is, but they are all based on an average value.  As stated above, your heart rate is individual to you and your fitness level, so using a formula may not give you the accuracy you’re looking for.  To get a accurate reading of where your heart should be, there is the option of a graded exercise test (GXT), although they are generally used for elite athletes or heart patients and can be costly.

Heart rate training can be essential for the elite athlete, since they will have an accurate reading when starting out and they have coaches and specialists available to help them adjust their training program.  Since most of don’t have access to a team of specialists, it’s recommended that you exercise caution when deciding to implement heart rate training into your exercise regimen.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. BREHM B. Understanding Heart Rate. Fitness Management. April 2008;24(4):212.
2. Hayes S. Thresholds?: What Thresholds?. Bicycling Australia. May 2011;(169):114-116.
3. High-Tech aids for weight-loss. Active Living. January 2012;21(1):18.
4. Moen E. Training: Heart Rate vs Power. Bicycle Paper. May 2009;38(3):10.
5. Purposeful Training Means Heart Rate Training. Running & Fitnews. May 2010;28(3):3-5.
6. Sachs L. Heart Rate Training: Exercise results can be improved with proper use of a heart rate monitor. IDEA Fitness Journal. June 2011;8(6):28-31.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.