Technology is quickly becoming a novel differentiator for group fitness businesses, and heart rate monitors are generating buzz as one of the new “must have” toys. After researching various options, we decided upon the monitoring system from MYZONE. If you’re considering a system for your box, there are three primary areas I like to study to help our athletes gauge the improvement in their fitness. One is a simple metric known as “Heart Rate Recovery” and the others are fuzzier concepts that help them adjust to their total training load and find true intensity.
Heart Rate Recovery
Throughout our year, we like to use 8-week training cycles of changing workloads. These cycles are part of a larger, yearly cycle plan, and consist of smaller, weekly cycles. Altogether, these concepts are known as macrocycles, mesocycles and microcycles. But, that’s another article.
We repeat workouts at the beginning and end of these 8-week mesocycles. By recording an athlete’s heartrate immediately at the end of WODs and again two minutes later, we can gauge how much fitter he/she is becoming. The decrease in heart rate two minutes after exercise is known as your Heart Rate Recovery (HRR). If your HRR is between 53-58 bpm two minutes post-WOD, you have a “healthy heart”. If your HRR is between 59-65 bpm two minutes post-WOD, you have a “healthier heart,” you exhibit a greater fitness level, and your physical age is moderately less than your calendar age. And finally, if your HRR is more than 66 bpm two minutes post-WOD, you have a “very healthy heart,” you’re considered very fit, and your physical age is a lot less than your calendar age.
If we test a workout at the beginning of an 8-week mesocycle and then again at the end of a different mesocycle later in the year, but don’t see a noticeable difference in time, we might be confused on whether that person is fitter. But, by looking at the heart rate information, we might see that this person held the same WOD time at a lower heart rate. This data is evidence of efficient training, and should always result in less burnout and fewer/zero injuries, which is a fantastic benefit for the adult athlete.
Adjusting to Training Load
Especially for our newer athletes, I think it’s important they monitor their heart rates to help gauge their recovery. Our intermediate and advanced athletes can sustain higher intensities and handle higher training volume because their hearts aren’t working as hard during the training. Through our monitoring system, we can help our newer athletes see how much time they’re spending at a 90+% max heart rate and explain how much of a training load that is on them. The same work performed by novice, intermediate and advanced athletes has a drastically different effect. As a result of this new workout stimulus and total training load, new athletes are going to need more recovery time between sessions. So, we help them understand that recovery is as important as training.
But, we can help them recover and continue to make progress by recommending they come in the next day and letting us modify the workout. We’ll keep their intensity lower so they spend more time in an aerobic threshold zone (60 to 70 percent max heart rate) to safely build capacity while still promoting recovery. The additional aerobic capacity will help them become fitter faster, so workouts no longer have them working at 90+%. Instead, they’ll soon find themselves working comfortably in the range of 80+%. This ability to modify workout intensity means these athletes won’t fall into a loop of chronic under-recovery.
Finding True Intensity
The last issue is much rarer, and one I focus on mostly just for our novice and early-intermediate athletes. It’s an inability to push oneself to a higher intensity. Many newer athletes have come from other fitness realms or have just gotten used to one intensity level in our classes, and they seem unable to push themselves past an 80 percent heart rate during class. They’ve adapted to a certain level of exertion and need the heart rate monitor system to remind themselves that they have more in the tank.
Heart Rate Monitors are an inexpensive method for you to quantify the fitness improvement in your box members. Plain and simple. Heat, humidity and dehydration can affect heart rates, but by and large, buying a monitoring system allows you to objectively measure improvements in their overall fitness. The MYZONE system can’t measure Heart Rate Variability (HRV) yet, but that is one area that I hope it ventures into in the future, as another method for measuring fitness. In the end, changes in body composition are important, as are pounds added to the back squat, or seconds deducted from a “Fran” time, but heart rate is also great objective tool.