Exercise! - Heart rate - could this be right?

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07-23-2008, 04:18 PM
Okay, I have been working out everyday, and have learned SO much from you guys. I now know about my heart rate, and HIIT so I have been trying my methods. Today I read a post about what your target heart rate should be and I am back to being confused. I am 30 years old, and according to the formula posted on here, my target heart rate should be around 145. Now to the confusion...... I use both the elliptical, as well as the treadmill. If on the ellipitcal, I do the interval setting, on the treadmill I walk at 3.5 for 120 seconds, and run at 7 for 60 seconds. I don't have a heart rate monitor just yet, so I use the ones on the machine. My heart rate once I get going is usually at about 160-175. Am I doing this wrong? All the hard work for nothing??:?: HELP!!

Thanks in advance!

07-23-2008, 04:28 PM
Well, I think your max hr would be 190, so 170 would be 90% of that and good HITT levels, right? Maybe I'm confused too!!

07-23-2008, 04:35 PM
I think your first problem is that you've come up with an absolute number for your heart rate. You said that your heart rate "should be" 145? Where/how did you come up with that number?

Your heart rate, as you exercise, is usually referred to as a percentage of your maximum, not a fixed number.

The *very general* (i.e. open to interpretation depending on your fitness level) rule is that your MAXIMUM heart rate should be 220 - your age. So if you're 30, then your MAXIMUM heart rate is 190.

If you're working at 65% of your max = 124
If you're working at 75% of your max = 143
If you're working at 85% of your max = 162
If you're working at 90% of your max = 171

When I'm doing HIIT I work to keep my low intensity around 65%-70% and to make sure my high intensity gets up to at least 85%.

And even if you don't hit those numbers, you're still getting the benefit of exercise. There is no one perfect number that you have to be at for your exercise to work to help you get in better shape and lose weight. Ok, well, you can't just loiter along .. you have to get your heart pumping, but outside of that, it's not like your "perfect" number is 145 and if you go over you're just not doing anything.


07-23-2008, 04:58 PM
I agree with Nori and PhotoChick that your numbers are great just where they are. :)

Just to add, the heart rate percentages that PhotoChick posted are usually divided up into zones of intensity:

Low intensity exercise = 65 - 75% of your max HR

Moderate intensity exercise = 75 - 85% of max HR

High intensity exercise = 85 - 90% of max HR

You WANT to be in the high intensity zone on your peak intervals when you're doing HIIT and for you, that's 162 - 171. So you can see that right now you're hitting the correct HR zone when you do HIIT. :carrot:

There's a ton of misinformation about heart rates out there and what's worse, the myth of the so-called fat burning zone just refuses to die. Try not to be confused -- it really isn't that complicated once you figure out what zone you want to be in.

So you absolutely aren't wasting your time! HIIT is best for fat loss overall, plus the higher your HR is, the more calories you're burning. It sounds like you're doing great, so keep up the good work!

You know, we get so many questions about HR that we should put together a sticky thread. :chin:

07-23-2008, 05:20 PM
You guys ROCK! That cleared up my confusion right away! I think you are right, a sticky would be very helpful!

Many thanks again!!!!!!!

07-23-2008, 05:34 PM
Glad to help! :)


07-24-2008, 09:10 PM
Also, be aware that the machines may not be accurately reading your heart rate. They are never able to accurately read mine. Frequently, they are obviously wrong--less than 60 bmp or over 200 bmp. Once a machine reported that my towel had a heart rate of 200 bmp :lol:; I do sweat a lot, so my towel does have to work hard but I find it hard to believe it was working that hard ;). If the machines are obviously wrong sometimes, how do I know if they are ever right?

Another useful way to gage if you are working hard enough is the perceived exertion scale (http://exercise.about.com/cs/fitnesstools/l/blperceivedexer.htm). I'd love to have a heart rate monitor with a chest strap, but not enough to pay for one, so the perceived exertion scale is all I use to monitor the intensity of my workouts and I've found it to be perfectly sufficient. I never bother trying to use the HRMs on the machines, but if you do use them, the perceived exertion scale is a good way to check the accuracy of the number the machine is reporting to you.

07-25-2008, 03:46 AM
So if your heart rate is higher than the so-called "fat burning zone" you will still lose weight? A trainer told me that if I exercise and my hr goes higher than the "target rate", I'll be burning off muscle and won't lose weight. Anyone know anything about that?

07-25-2008, 07:47 AM
subbing b/c I have similar questions

07-25-2008, 10:03 AM
So if your heart rate is higher than the so-called "fat burning zone" you will still lose weight? A trainer told me that if I exercise and my hr goes higher than the "target rate", I'll be burning off muscle and won't lose weight. Anyone know anything about that?The trainer needs to be knocked up side the head with a 2x4 for spreading that myth again and again.

When you exercise you burn calories. When you go into a calorie deficit (either through exercise or eating less or a combination of the two) you lose weight. When you lose weight you lose fat AND lean muscle mass. That's why it's important to exercise while dieting ... and even to lift weights or do some kind of body resistance training ... so you build the muscle back. (That's also partly why it's unhealthy to lose weight too fast - you're losing muscle as well as fat.)

There's no such thing as a "fat burning zone" where you burn only fat.

Many exercises require that you bring your heart rate up to 85% or 90% of your max for a short period of time. HIIT is one. And often when you lift weights, during the lifting phase, your heart rate will also go up, then drop back down during your recovery.

It's actually better for losing weight to have that kind of variance than it is to just plug along at steady state cardio where you keep your heart rate at the same level.


07-25-2008, 04:37 PM
Thank you for that PhotoChick! That myth is what had me confused from the start!
Blue to Blue - many thanks for the link, I am going to study it now!

07-25-2008, 04:54 PM
Looks like we're all on the same page. I like to change things up as often as possible. My trainer says it's good to have muscle confusion??? So your body doesn't get used to the same thing and adapt more i.e. it gets easier to burn more calories efficiently.

I know it's time for me to cool my jets so to speak if I get to 170. Then I just slow it down for a few and get back at it again. That's during the peak of my workouts. I do intervals and hills and alot of climbing things. Actually was able to run for quite abit of my 20 minutes on the dreadmill. I love exercise, once I get to the gym. Which is generally 6 days per week. Still I lose no weight per se. Did LA for a few months and doing this and FitDay, have a personal trainer and just joined onto a Spin and Pump class for 6 sessions. As long as I watch my HR and don't do anything crazy I'll be fine lol.....

Anway nuff said from this end of the pond.

Exercise is good:carrot:


07-26-2008, 11:10 AM
Thanks, PhotoChick and KCbytheC. I've been working out for about an hour in the high intensity zone. This same trainer says that's too much - if I'm going to exercise at 80-90% then I only need to workout for 15-30 minutes max because hours after the workout I'll still continue to burn calories/fat. However, if I want to do an hour then I need to exercise in a lower zone (like 60-70%). This is when she said working out in the high-intensity zone for over 30 minutes is basically a waste of time because after 30 min. you're only burning muscle. Has anyone heard of this? Is it bad/less effective to exercise in the high intensity zone the whole time?

Shannon in ATL
08-25-2008, 01:10 PM
I'm going to bump this because I have the same question as the one just above by alexapink about working out for longer periods of time in 80%-90% heart rate... I tend to keep my heart rate in that range for 40 minutes of my 50 minute cardio. Is that a bad thing?

08-25-2008, 01:33 PM
I'll start with the disclaimer that I'm not any kind of medical or training professional. Everything I say here is based on my research (lots of it) and personal experience.

You say you're working at 85%-90% of your heart rate ... which I'm assuming you're basing on the whole 220-[your age]=[your max heart rate], right? Or you're using the numbers on the machine, which is based on that figure.

But the thing is that those numbers are GUIDELINES. If you are in good enough shape that you can work out at 90% of that figure for an hour, then you're probably not working out at what is high intensity FOR YOU. (The *for you* part is really important.)

When I first started working out, I couldn't handle 85% of my calculated heart rate for more than a minute. I remember trying the interval program on the elliptical and collapsing in tears after 5 mins because I couldn't breathe during the high interval parts.

Now? I can do the interval program on the machine for an hour and no problem. When I do intervals, I have to time them myself because the machines don't take into account that I'm in much better cardio shape than the majority of average gym-goers.

Now, FOR ME, "high intensity" is not 90% of 180 (which is my calculated maximum at 220-40 (my age) which would be a heart rate of 162). For me, in the shape I am now, "high intensity" is closer to between 175 and 180.

This is where the "perceived exertion" scale comes into play. This is where you judge your intensity by how hard the exercise feels and how well you can breathe/talk while you're doing it.

I hope all of that makes sense - it's hard to explain when typing it out. :)

So ... ultimately here, if you are able to work out at a certain level for an hour (or close to an hour) then you're probably working at what is medium to medium-high intensity for you. If you kick it up to where you cannot sustain the level and still breathe (but not talk) for more than 1 or 2 mins, then you're kicking it up to high intensity, for you. (All the "for you" is important.)

Working at medium intensity will burn more calories immediately. Alternating medium with high intensity will burn calories for longer as it raises your metabolism for longer.

Either way, when you burn calories, you burn a combination of fat and muscle. Always. Which, as I said above, is why it's a good idea to include muscle building exercises *and* cardio ... to help sustain and rebuild the lean muscle tissue you lose when you lose weight.


08-25-2008, 09:40 PM
This thread is very useful--thanks all! I have been doing HIIT and have been wondering if getting a heart rate monitor might be worth it. I'm getting in better shape and think it might be beneficial to not just work my butt off but to actually pay attention to my heart rate. I'm also curious as to how high my heart rate gets when I climb the Giant Hill on my bike ride home. (The first time I biked all the way up the hill, I think I measured 9.5 on the perceived exertion scale. Yes, I was in fact half dead. ;) )

Once a machine reported that my towel had a heart rate of 200 bmp :lol:

Quoting for utter awesomeness. :joker:

On my other forum, (Yes, 3FC, I see another forum. But you're much smarter! And prettier!) we quote someone in our signature when they have said something brilliant/hilarious/wonderfully dirty. It is one of the highest compliments paid. People don't seem to do that here. So may I quote you in my sig, BlueToBlue? ;)

08-25-2008, 09:44 PM
The towel quote made me laugh out loud. I scared the cat! :)

I have to say that my Polar heart rate monitor ranks up there with the top 5 items I've ever bought for sheer usefulness. I freaked out about spending $100+ for one, but I can't imagine working out w/out it.

I highly recommend getting one. It'll really open your eyes to how you work out. (Kinda in the same way getting a good food scale opens your eyes to how you eat! :D )