Aug 21

How to Make Your Workout Count

Focused Workout

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You’ve been working out for weeks now but your body isn’t showing any signs of progress. Why bother working out at all? It’s frustrating. It just makes you want to give up. But there’s something you can do about it.

Have you been checking your heart rate? You may be surprised to learn that how fast your heart is pumping can have a dramatic bearing on the effectiveness of your workouts. That’s because the heart rate zone you’re exercising in determines the results of your workouts.

Your heart rate is measured in beats per minute. To measure your own you can buy a heart rate monitor or do it the old fashioned way. Place a finger with a small amount of pressure across your wrist or the side of your neck under the chin until you can feel the beat. Time yourself for 15 seconds and count how many times it beats. Multiply that number by four to get your BPM or Beats Per Minute (15 seconds x 4 = 60 seconds or 1 minute).

Your heart rate zones determine the effectiveness of your workout. To understand your heart rate zones you must know your maximum heart rate. A quick, but generalized way to do this is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 20 years old your maximum heart rate would be 200 BPM (220 – 20 = 200). The heart rate zones are determined by percentages of your maximum heart rate.

60%-70% The Aerobic “Fat Burning” Zone
70%-80% The Aerobic “Endurance” Zone
80%-90% The Anaerobic Zone

Let’s continue with the example of the 20 year old with a maximum heart rate of 200 BPM. To reach the “Fat Burning” Zone they would have to be working out at over 60% of their max heart rate. If they wanted to make sure they were in this zone they would check their heart rate to make sure it was above 120 BPM (200 x .6 (60%) = 120 BPM). To reach the “Endurance” Zone their heart rate would have to be above 140 BPM (200 x .7 = 140). To get to the Anaerobic Zone it would have to be 160 BPM (200 x .8 = 160).

So what are the benefits for each zone? The “Fat Burning” Zone is a bit deceptive. Working out at this low-to-moderate intensity will burn more fat than the others, but it will burn less calories. This means it will take a longer time exercising to lose weight. If you are someone who a physician has ordered to work out at a low intensity this is the zone you will use to lose weight.

In the “Endurance” Zone you begin burning carbohydrates for fuel along with fat. You will burn more calories than you would in the “Fat Burning” Zone. As an added bonus, your circulatory system will improve in this zone. That’s because your heart and lungs become more efficient the more that you exercise in the “Endurance” Zone.

The Anaerobic Zone is the pick of the litter. It’s named this way because when you are in it your body is no longer able to use oxygen to help it create energy. This makes it difficult to reach and more difficult to keep performing within it. In fact, your body can only exercise in this zone for about two minutes before it jumps back down to the “Endurance” Zone.


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It’s worth climbing back into the Anaerobic Zone as much as you can when you work out. To begin with, it burns the most calories out of the three zones in the least amount of time. But the magic unlocks at this level. That’s because in the Anaerobic Zone you will build lean muscle mass. Lean muscle will increase your metabolism, making your body burn more calories when you aren’t working out. Enough anaerobic exercise will turn your body into a calorie burning machine! Exercising in the Anaerobic Zone can also improve your joints, increase your energy, lower your blood sugar, make you stronger and decrease the soreness you feel after exercising. Awesome!

You may be wondering about what lies beyond 90% of your max heart rate. This is called your VO2Max Zone. It increases your body’s ability to use oxygen. But only professional athletes will need to worry about it. For the rest of us the Anaerobic Zone will show great improvements.

Your workouts no longer have to be in vain! Calculate your maximum heart rate and make a chart of your zones. While you’re working out check to see which zone you fall into. Pick a target zone that matches your goals and try to stay in it as much as you can. Keep it up for a few weeks and you’ll see results. You’ll never have to be frustrated again!

To learn more about how to reach your target zone and get the body of your dreams check out How to Eat Out, Lose Weight and Stay Healthy. For more tips on exercise and healthy eating keep reading the Vegan Eating Out blog.