No longer solely reserved for the pros, heart rate monitors are an incredibly useful tool for anyone regardless of their fitness level. Ergatta has partnered with Polar as our preferred heart rate sensor, which can be easily linked to your rower so you get the most out of every single workout. Read on to learn how to factor heart rate tracking into your workouts to not only fly past your competition during Races, but also improve your overall health and prolong your lifespan.
Please Note: Heart rate training and assessments cannot be used if you are on medications like beta-blockers used in the treatment of high blood pressure. These medications keep your heart rate artificially low and your rate of perceived exertion is probably a better method for estimating your level of workout intensity.
Why should I measure my heart rate during exercise?
Being in tune with your heart rate has several benefits. Use a heart rate monitor during your workouts to:
- Determine your overall stamina
- Discover how hard your heart has to work to accomplish something
- Intelligently determine your ideal workout intensity on any given day
- Improve your recovery — crucial for getting the full benefit of your workouts
- Measure biological changes and progress in your body
Now that you know the overall benefits, let’s dig into how exactly you can reap them.
How do I determine my target heart rate zone?
Your target heart rate zone is a range of numbers indicating how intensely you’re exercising based on your heart rate — measured by Beats Per Minute (BPM). You can determine your target heart rate by first measuring your maximum heart rate.
Gauge your max heart rate using the max heart rate calculator from Polar. This rate can be measured in fitness assessments or estimated based on your age. Once you have this value, refer to Polar’s heart rate zones article which will help you determine your target heart rate zones.
By monitoring your heart rate and keeping it within your unique heart rate zones, you’ll be able to correspond how intensely you are working out with the workouts you are completing. Each heart rate zone induces unique physiological outcomes which is extremely useful for improving your training. We’ll explain exactly why this is and how to apply it to your weekly workouts in the next section.
You can use this chart in tandem with Polar’s heart rate zones article to create a workout plan that’s suitable for your unique fitness level:
|Intensity of exercise||Heart rate zones||Energy system||Minimum recommended training guidelines||Who is this best suited for?|
|Moderate*||Zone 1 & 2||Aerobic||150 minutes per week||Better those looking to start up their routine.|
|Vigorous*||Zone 3, 4, 5||Anaerobic||75 minutes per week||Better for those who already have a routine, but looking to improve.|
|Ideal (A combination of the two)||80% Moderate 20% Vigorous||Both||120 minutes per week
15 minutes per week
|Everyone, especially those looking to see better results.|
*Moderate and Vigorous Minimum Recommended Training Guidelines according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
How can I use heart rate when choosing my workouts?
During your Ergatta workouts, keep an eye on your heart rate to see which target heart rate zones you fall into. Workouts at Sprint and Race intensity zones will probably shift you into the vigorous target heart rate zone mentioned above. Conversely, workouts at Steady and Paddle intensity zones will likely shift you into the moderate target heart rate zone.
You’ll want to use this information to plan your weekly workouts. Let’s break it down.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are known for being big time savers for those looking for an efficient workout. However, because HIIT is done at a vigorous intensity, this should only comprise a fraction of your workouts. You’ll also notice on the AHA training guidelines above that HIIT/vigorous workouts are best suited for people who have already built a base level of conditioning.
For those just getting started, you’ll want to initially focus on building your base level of conditioning, so you have a strong foundation to build upon. You can think of this “conditioning base” (or, aerobic base if you want to get technical) like the gas tank in a car. You can push the speed as fast as you want, but if you always run out of gas 5 miles down the road because that’s all your tank can hold, then it doesn’t really matter. Focus on building a bigger gas tank first.
Once you have that base built, an ideal breakdown to optimize your recovery and results is to spend 80% of your time exercising at a moderate intensity and 20% at a vigorous intensity. This is because the time you spend exercising is actually not the time your body is actively getting stronger, faster, etc. The act of exercising essentially breaks down your body, and it is during the time spent recovering from the stress after a workout that your body is able to adapt and improve.
Vigorous exercise is very taxing and requires time for your body to recover, so working out in this intensity zone too frequently will limit your recovery and thus limit your results. Maintaining that 80/20 balance will help you build a stronger foundation while allowing your body to recover.
How can I use heart rate to track my progress?
Alongside optimizing your workouts in the moment, tracking your heart rate also has long-term benefits. Measuring your heart rate over time lets you tangibly see how your physical fitness levels are improving over time.
One way to track progress over time is by identifying and tracking your resting heart rate — or how many times your heart beats per minute when you are not exercising, or at rest. A low resting heart rate is a great indicator of strong physical fitness. Lowering your resting heart rate (1) decreases the amount of work your heart has to do (2) gives you a higher work capacity during exercise (3) and aids in longevity.
Gauge your resting heart rate by sitting in a supportive chair or lying down. Breathe calmly for a few minutes without moving, and then record your resting heart rate. (For a more detailed explanation, reference this post from Polar.) As your conditioning improves, your resting heart rate will become lower. You can track your resting heart rate every few mornings to monitor how your workout routine is impacting your heart health. A goal is to lower your resting heart rate below 60 beats per minute.
Another way of measuring progress is through heart rate recovery. This is measured by looking at how quickly your heart is able to bounce back from intense exercise.
A standard way to measure this is to track how much your heart rate drops during a 60-second window after an intense bout of exercise. You’ll take your heart rate at the end of your effort minus your heart rate 60 seconds immediately after. For example, if your heart rate is at 175 BPM at the end of a workout, and it goes down to 150 BPM after a minute, your 60s Heart Rate Recovery is 25.
As your conditioning level improves, you will be able to lower your heart rate more quickly after intense work efforts, which will allow you to fly past your Rivals in Race workouts. Try our “800m Heart Rate Recovery” Race workout and check how much your heart rate drops after the first 60 seconds of your rest break. Another place to test this is in an Interval workout, using the last 60 seconds at Paddle as an active rest period where you can measure how much your heart rate drops during the cool-down.
Reference this chart to track your fitness level as it relates to your 60s Heart Rate Recovery:
|Fitness level||Resting heart rate (BPM)||60s heart rate recovery (BPM)|
|Low||> 70||< 19|
|Average||55 – 69||20 – 39|
|High||< 54||> 40|
No matter which tactics you use to measure success, you’re rowing your way to a healthier heart.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about medical conditions or health objectives.