Are you fit by the way you look?

It’s very common for most people to measure their level of fitness by how their body looks and how they perform during their workouts. when, in fact, the real measure of fitness is largely ignored by most people!

Knowing your heart rate during your workouts, when you’re not exercising and when you’re resting or sleeping can lead you to optimal wellness. It can also give you the peace of mind that your heart is strong as the rest of you.

After all, having a fit-looking body is one thing, but having a strong and healthy heart is EVERYTHING!

Unfortunately in the world of social media where fitness models and celebrities are countless, most people believe that they can tell if someone is fit by the way they look and how their physical appearance is. Which I think it can be true to some extent but most of the time isn’t!

Despite all of the recommended exercise measurements, amount of weights lifted, sets and reps, distances ran, body fat percentages, weight gained or lost, personal records and food/supplement intake, we’re missing the most obvious measurement of all:


Beliefs aside, your heart rate can tell you exactly what your fitness level is!

What’s going on in our hearts both in and out of exercise?

Your heart rate changes over the course of your exercise session, but just how much is it changing and are these changes normal?


Taking heart rates before, during, and after your exercise session will give you hard measurable numbers for which to compare from one workout to the next and these are easy and convenient to take if you use a heart rate monitor.

You can easily monitor your heart rates with a Digital Heart Rate Monitoring Device or Watch which can be linked to your computer to gather data for all of your exercise sessions including both weight training and aerobic workouts or keeping your records on a workout log.

Here are the exact times you should measure heart rates and other variables during all your exercise sessions:


Sit down, take several deep breaths, relax, and clear your mind for about 1-2 minutes. After this, start your heart rate monitor on your wrist and off you go. The key variable here is your resting heart rate while being in a totally relaxed state before you do any warming up r exercising at all.

Now, once you start your exercise session, your heart rate takes on an entirely new meaning.


This is where things would get you different readings so record your heart rates after each exercise and write them in your workout log. Most people do not record heart rate during weight training but they would be surprised about what they find. In fact, I have had many weight training sessions where I have been in the aerobic zone for most of the workout. That’s why most people don’t know whether it is an aerobic or anaerobic exercise that they are doing.


Maybe the most important measurement is how your heart rate responds after your exercise session is done.

This is where you can see just how-fit your heart really is.

Typically, a healthy heart will immediately start dropping its rate once exercise has stopped, whereas an unhealthy heart or an unconditioned body will cause your heart rate to remain high after exercise has stopped.

This could be a sign of a serious health issue, it could mean your exercise intensity was too high, or it could mean a case of deconditioning.

After my workouts, I do as I did before I started my exercise session: I sit down, take deep breaths, relax, clear my mind for a few minutes, and then look at my heart rate.

Now, what about when you’re not working out? Do you need to keep track of your heart rate then, too?


A really neat thing to do is to pick a day and wear a heart rate monitor from the time you get up till the time you get home from work and look at the readings. In addition to the same readings you get when you work out, you can see how many steps you’ve taken, calories burned across the day, and even see if you’ve met your activity goals for the day. You can check your heart rates at work, after lunch, when you feel stressed, and any other time of the day.


Sleep is your body’s chance to recuperate and it’s also the best time for your heart to recuperate as well. You can wear your heart rate monitoring watch while you sleep at least once a week and compare the readings to those both in and out of your workouts.

Of course, your heart rates during sleep are considerably lower, but this is a strong indicator of how good or bad your sleep really is.

So, once you have these essential heart rate readings recorded with your monitor, simply you’re your monitor into your computer and download all readings and activity into the monitor web service. By doing this, you can see daily, weekly… heart rate readings. And the biggest benefit of all is that you can see if your heart is truly getting healthier or if you need to change things with your exercise programme. Well, most of the heart rate monitoring providers are offering these services.


Your heart rates will vary according to age, type of exercise, your level of conditioning, health issues, medication, exercise goals, and exercise environment. You can ask your doctor where your heart rates should be or do the research yourself.

You can get started by doing a simple calculation to find out your

Maximum Heart Rate or HRMAX and that is:


And then use it to calculate your heart rate zones listed below.


This is a very low-intensity zone. Training at this intensity will boost your recovery and get you ready to train in the higher heart rate zones. To train at this intensity, pick sports during which you can easily control your heart rates, such as walking or cycling.


Exercising in heart rate zone 2 feels light and you should be able to go on for a long time at this intensity. This is the zone that improves your general endurance: your body will get better at oxidizing, burning fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.


Running in heart rate zone 3 is especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles. This is the zone in which that annoying lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream. It will also make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.


You’ll be breathing hard and running aerobically. If you train at this intensity, you’ll improve your speed endurance. Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.


Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes, you won’t be able to continue at this intensity.


Generally speaking, the aerobic threshold is a steady-state effort that you could perform for hours. If you’re working out in an aerobic range, your breathing will be light, and you should feel like you can keep moving for hours. Think of running a long distance (check Steady-State Workouts bellow) while holding a conversation with your running buddy without getting out of breath or huffing and puffing.

The easiest way to figure out your roughly calculated Aerobic Zone is Subtracting 30 Bit per Minute from your Maximum Heart Rate.

Your Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Your Age.

So if you are 40 years old and want to know your Aerobic Zone or threshold, the result will be as follow:

MHR= 220 – 40 = 180 B/M and Your Aerobic Threshold Zone = 180 - 30= 150 B/M.

Aerobic and Steady-State Workouts:

Those longer steady-state workouts on your training plan, like long runs, or steady efforts in the gym or swimming pools, are Aerobic threshold workouts. For these workouts, your goal is to stay comfortably burning oxygen and sustaining a specified effort for a longer period of time.

Everyone’s aerobic level is different, the easiest way to determine if you’re in your aerobic energy system is to see how long you can sustain your effort. If you’re unable to maintain your effort for longer than three minutes, your body has probably gone anaerobic.

So if you’re out for a run and have to drastically alter your pace within three minutes, you’re no longer working out in the aerobic zone.

One tried and true way to measure whether you’re staying in your aerobic threshold zone is to keep an eye on your Heart Rate and make sure it remains in the steady, moderate effort zone for the duration of your workout. So, if you have an aerobic-specific workout on your plan, consider intervals and HIIT sessions off your mind and workout log.


There are many controversies amongst fitness community about Anaerobic Threshold Zone. but in simplest terms, it’s commonly thought of as the point at which lactic acid, a by-product of energy being made from glucose, starts to build up quickly in the blood.

This happens because lactic acid can no longer be removed quickly enough and recombined with other molecules to make more energy. At this point, exercise intensity feels more difficult and some people feel a burning sensation in their muscles!

Muscles burn glucose two ways: aerobically, which means with oxygen, and anaerobically, or without oxygen.

Most athletes enter the anaerobic threshold zone when they’re putting in some serious work and a lot of power output over a short period of time, like during an interval or sprint. You’re utilizing energy that’s readily available, but that won’t last long.

As you rest and recover, between intervals, for example, your aerobic system recharges, readying you for the next push.

HIIT Workouts:

The purpose of high-intensity interval training is to get your heart rate so high (near to your MHR) that the body continues to demand oxygen for hours after the workout. Think of doing 20 Burpees in 30 seconds where your heart bits will be up on the roof.

Interval Training Workouts:

Interval training is composed of hard work phases and easier rest phases. One way to determine what is hard and what is easy is your personal heart rate zones.

So, now you can see what your heart is doing before and during your workouts but there’s more…

The anaerobic threshold varies from athlete to athlete. For athletes who regularly do an interval-style workout, their anaerobic thresholds will be much higher and more conditioned than those who only do long, steady-state workouts or don’t train at all.

The more you perform high-intensity workouts, the better you can condition your anaerobic threshold and process lactate in the body and the faster you’ll be able to swim, bike, or run and recover quicker and easier.


It’s important for athletes to understand aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

The aerobic energy system gives you more long-lasting energy because it burns mainly fat stores. So for endurance athletes, it’s an important system to train. But the anaerobic energy system can produce energy more quickly and allows us to exercise at higher intensities, so that’s crucial, too.

In other words, make sure your training plan includes high-intensity intervals, steady-state workouts and rest days to recover from both. Because slow, steady, fast, and recovered are what work together to win the race if that’s your goal.

Please note that the information provided above article cannot replace individual advice from health professionals or physicians. Please consult your GP or a doctor before starting a new fitness program.

Naghi Beikzadeh

Certified Online Fitness Coach and Nutrition Adviser

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