If your goal is to lose weight or gain fitness there is that question mark over whether or not you’re working in the right zone.
There have been so many contradictory theories over the years as the most efficient zone to be in for different wokout, but without getting too scientific if you want to burn a certain number of calories, then the harder the workout the shorter the length of the session.
Of course if you are training for a specific event then there will be training phases between recovery and working weeks, alternating different energy systems…but how do you know if your training is actually giving you the results you are after?
If you are just embarking on a fitness routine (hello Summer) then it can take a little longer to see changes (4-8 weeks) as your body has no base or ‘memory’ to call upon. Changes to your body shape such as a flatter tummy or small thighs are a great way to tell if the workout is going places. If you actually feel stronger and faster but without any body changes then this is probably due to improved neuromuscular efficiency. This is achieved in two main ways
1. Muscle fiber recruitment: The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) learns to recruit more muscle fibers in response to the challenge of lifting heavier weights.
2. Rate Coding: The central nervous system sends faster signals to the muscle fibers so they contract more quickly and more forcefully.
There are a few simple ways to check if you are working out hard enough
1. Wear a heart rate monitor – this never lies and can help with those that are just getting into fitness to get a feel for where they should be within the workout. The goal is to push the heartrate towards its maximum ability without overworking it. Cardio can be broken into four zones with 60 to 70 percent of resting heart rate as “recovery,” or light exertion, 70 to 80 percent for aerobic exercise, 80 to 90 percent for anaerobic exercise, and 90 to 100 percent for red line (max exertion).
To find your heart rate, place the index and middle finger over the carotid (neck) or radial (wrist) artery and count the pulse for ten seconds. Multiply that number by 6 to get the base bpm. If you have a smartphone there is a super simple instant heart rate app that takes your pulse by placing your finger over the camera (I have to remove protective case)
2. Do the talk test. By no means is this a ground breaking method but it does give you a general indication of where you’re at. At low intensity you can carry on a conversation or sing the alphabet while exercising (yes I have been know to do this while pushing the pram when in need of a diversion). Moderate to high intensity is when you can’t carry on the conversation without pausing and high intensity is having no chance at all to talk or you will have to stop (usually around 80%).
3. Rate of exertion – whether it is a scale 1-20 or 1-10, if your exercising for health you should aim to have your workout in the middle range of the scale. If your an elite athlete they will typically be in the 75% – 80% range.
Of course if your diet is off kilter then it won’t matter how much you exercise, the scales won’t show for it. So there you go, different goals for different working zone, it is now just up to you to decide which one you want to take up.
Have I confused you even more?