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5 Heart Rate Training Myths

On February 4, 2013, in Health through Fitness, by Brandon Keller

The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and the Chupacabra are three myths that we don’t really know if they are true or not. Well there are some heart rate training myths out there we know are wrong!

The Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot. The Chupacabra. All of these myths have been circulating since the beginning of time. Since we do not have concrete evidence either way, there is no possibility of reaching a verdict as to whether the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or the Chupacabra actually exists. However, when it comes to myths about heart rate training, we have answers as solid as steel. Read below for some common heart rate training myths, and the truth behind them.

1. If you want to burn fat, it is best to get your heart rate as high as possible. You better be working out until you are sweatier than John Goodman’s third chin after a set of crunches in a sauna.

WRONG: This statement has about as much validity as Manti Te’o's girlfriend. The best method for burning fat at a higher percentage is a steady, consistent workout in Zone 2 (60-69% max heart rate), the fat burning zone. This zone uniquely targets fat because fat is a slow burning fuel, so if you do a long and less-intense workout, your body will target a higher amount of fat cells then carbohydrates. While you may burn more net calories in higher heart rate zones, you will burn the highest percent of fat calories in Zone 2.

2. The best way to check your heart health is to see how far you can push yourself during a workout and how fast you can go. After the workout is over, check out how far you traveled and what time you got to truly determine if you are in good health.

WRONG: If you are physically active on a regular basis, a great way to check your heart health is by checking your heart rate recovery after an intense 10-15 minute workout. You can figure out your heart rate be either using Digifit iCardio’s recovery feature, or by manually figuring out your recovery. Either way, if your recovery is between 22-52 beats per minute (BPM) after a 10 minute ramped up workout, it is average. If your recovery is higher than 52 BPM your heart is very healthy, and below 22 BPM your heart is slightly older then your calendar age.

3. When it comes to Heart Rate Zones, you are fine just going with the default formula of 220-your age for max heart rate. The corresponding zones are very accurate, and you don’t need more specialized zones unless you are a serious athlete.

WRONG: I would not wish this amount of uneducated bliss on my worst frienemy. Custom heart rate zones are the key to informed workouts, which will lead to better results. Not only will custom heart rate zones make zone based training as easy as a Kindergarten spelling test, but it will also result in drastically more accurate calories burned in your workouts if you are using a fitness application. Custom zones also allow for a caloric breakdown of how many fat and carbohydrate calories burned during a workout. Complete a Digifit Fitness Assessment to get custom HR zones.

4. In order to become better at endurance workouts, get your Forrest Gump on and go as far as humanly possible. Try to drive your heart rate higher than James Franco was in Pineapple Express. If you are going less than ten miles a day on your workouts, might as well throw in the towel and try your hand at knitting.

WRONG: The best way to train for endurance is to workout with steady pace workouts in the Aerobic Zone, which is zone 3 (70-79%). Do not run a race distance every day because that is just asking for an injury! However, once a week try to work in an LSD workout. No, I’m not saying you should be scoping out Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and “feeling colors” while you run, but rather a Long but Slow Distance workout, in which you run for a long distance at a slow and steady pace.

5. When it comes to working out, monotony is your friend. If you find a routine that works for you at an intensity level that feels right, make like a Carnival ship and keep cruising. If you mix things up too much you are danger of becoming dangerously spontaneous, which often results in a putrid body odor, sore hamstrings and the inability to pronounce “hospitable”.

WRONG: Interval training based on heart rate zones might as well be called the blender, because they are a great way to mix up your workouts. If you find you are constantly doing the same routine or route during workouts, try an interval workout to add a dash of spice to your exercise life. One great type of interval workouts is High Intensity Intercal Training (HIIT), or more specifically Tabata intervals. Tabata interval training is basically when you elevate your heart rate to Zone 5 (or 90-92 % of your max heart rate) for 20-60 seconds, followed by periods of shorter or equal rest. HIIT and Tabata is a great way to burn fat, or just to switch up your routine to keep you engaged!

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