Heart rate training is difficult for our students to understand, but it is also confusing for us as instructors. During orientation you were instructed to use the heart rate charts in our manuals and perceived exertion to help dial in target heart rates for our students. Well that is good for starters, but as our students get more fit and need to take their exercise program through their next plateau, a simple formula may not work very well.
A couple of years ago, I did some extensive research on the aging heart and its implications on exercise prescriptions. Part of that research included the various heart rate formulas that have been published. My research alone turned up over 50 formulas. All have inherent flaws. For the most part, the largest issue is that formulas anchor themselves around a maximum heart rate and assumes that our heart rates decline with age. Both of which may create an inaccurate measure for our students.
Heart rate formulas are good to get students started. As students progress along their fitness journey, they should consider having a metabolic test done. Some tests are as simple as analyzing the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration in ones exhaled air. Others are as complex as measuring blood lactate levels, core body temperature, exhaled air and several other bodily functions. The simple tests may run around $150, while the others are much more expensive and are often performed at a university or hospital. Either one will provide individualized information for your students that will help them dial in their training zones and at least their lactate threshold.
Once the initial test is completed, we can begin to set a program for our students based on their lactate threshold rather than a percentage of maximum heart rate. After a period of 12 weeks the student should be retested to see their progress and recalibrate their training targets.
Consider getting yourself tested and watch your progress.
blog by Ralph Mlady 06/10/2011
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