Wearable technology (think Fitbit, Apple watches, Polar, Garmin, Oura Ring) is now a $100 billion industry and has routinely been one of the top 3 fitness trends since its popularity first started being tracked in 2016. Smart watches, heart rate monitors, fitness/activity trackers, and GPS devices are now part of our everyday lives. And why wouldn’t they be? These devices collect so much information about our health and fitness, and even allow us to stay connected to everything else in our lives that’s - emails, phone calls, messages, weather, delivery alerts, and music – just to name a few. Some fitness trackers are so well designed they pick up on your physical activity and start accumulating data without you even telling them to do so. If you wear a Fitbit, you don’t have to tell it you’re going to sleep – it just knows. Your Fitbit will also pick up when you start a run and start gathering data without you needing to do a thing. One of the best features and important benefits of our ever-advancing wearable technology, however, is the ability to track your heart rate.
Tracking, and varying your heart rate during your workouts will help maximize your efforts - your fitness will improve and so will your performance - regardless of your sport or hobby! We’ve talked about the ways we vary our types of training (cardio, weight lifting, yoga), the areas of focus (upper body vs lower body), the weight we use, the movements we engage in (isometric vs isotonic) and the benefits associated with that variation. Varying your heart rate during training should occupy a stop on the top of the list of ways to vary your workouts. And here is why.
Undeniably, training at a higher heart rate such as HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training) has many benefits. It helps the body more efficiently burn body fat while building muscle and keeping your metabolism revved up for 24-48 hours after your workout is over. Whether you are trying to build muscle mass or lean up, you can accomplish as much (if not more) in a shorter time training in your higher heart rate zones. It helps to improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels – both of which can lead to heart disease. Overall, training at a higher heart rate has its benefits. But it also has drawbacks.
If you continuously max out your heart rate during every workout you are robbing your body of an opportunity to recover. And recovery is essential to gaining strength and building lean muscle mass. Training at a lower heart rate is known as “active recovery” training. Active recovery training helps you bounce back from those grinding sessions that leave you super sore for a day or two - you know those workouts that leave you walking funny because your glutes or quads are talking to ya or that “don’t make me laugh” feeling from a killer core workout. Training in the lower heart rate zones allows your muscle groups to recover from the exertion, fatigue, and stress from a grueling workout. In this period of recovery, your muscles rebound and strengthen – leaving you stronger than they were before – which helps increase/improve your training base and advances your fitness objectives. Importantly, active recovery training helps prevent overtraining which can lead to injury or burnout.
Learning to train in your lower AND higher heart rate zones (versus just one or the other) will only help improve your training efforts and maximize your results…which is ultimately what we all want!
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