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Working Out Your Maximum Heart Rate the Three Zones of Success

Why Knowing Your Target Heart Rate Is So Important

While lifting weights will get your muscles chiseled, you need cardiovascular exercises to strip the fat away so you can show them off.  You should know what your heart rate has to be and for what length of time to get the optimal performance and weight loss from your cardio workout. 

When we talk about different levels of a cardio workout, we are actually talking about a range your heart rate will fall in to.  Your maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart should beat at any given time.  But, this is for information purposes only.  You should never ever try to reach this rate.  You calculate what your maximum heart rate should be by subtracting your age from 220. So, if you are forty years old, your maximum heart rate should be 180 (220 – 40).  But, again, you should never try to reach your maximum heart rate. 

During a workout, you should try to hit three heart-rate zones if you are healthy enough. These are:

ZONE 1: 65-75%

Multiply your heartbeat maximum by 0.65 and 0.75.  This will give you the range where you are in zone one.  So if 200 is your maximum heart rate, zone 1 will range from 130 to 150 beats per minute.  Your heartbeat should get to zone 1 with slow running, easy swimming, and walking.      

ZONE 2: 80-85%

For this zone, use the factors 0.80 and 0.85 times your maximum heart rate.  Circuit training, aerobics, and Tae-Bo will get you into this zone. 

ZONE 3: 86-90%

Use the factors 0.86 and 0.90 times your heartbeat maximum to determine this zone.  These exercises are very difficult to perform and include heavy weight training, spin classes and sprints.       

Zone 3 is the proverbial “for experts only” level of exercise.  If you are just starting your cardio regimen, you should go no higher than zone 2.  If you can’t remember the last time you exercised, you probably shouldn’t get out of zone 1 for a while.  Regardless of which zone you qualify for, you should consider getting a physical from your doctor to make sure your body can handle the stress of a cardio workout before you start.

Generally, 20-25 minutes is all the time your cardio workout needs to be.  So, if you are advanced enough for all 3 zones, you will need to work each zone into that 20 minute time frame, which means spending no more than 2-3 minutes on each zone and factoring in a 5 minute warm-up session and 5 minute cool down. 

Many machines have built-in heart monitors you can use to track your heart rate.  There are also many heart rate monitors you can buy which strap to your arm or leg.  Of course, you can always count the heartbeats in your wrist if you don’t want to invest in one of these monitors. 

If you become light-headed or nauseous during your workout, there’s no shame in slowing down.  In fact, these are warning signs from your body that you’d be wise to give the workout a rest. Above all else, make sure your safety is your first priority.