How to Calculate Your Heart Rate

Can you explain what the target heart rate zone is and how I can ensure that I’m hitting it?

Training intensity can have a significant impact on the success of your exercise program. One of the best ways to detect exercise intensity is by monitoring your heart rate. This acts as good marker for the exercise intensity during cardiovascular training.

Cardio machines calculate your heart rate based on the information you provide. This calculation is based on your Heart Rate Max (HR max). The machine’s calculation can vary in accuracy from machine to machine and person to person. In order to be sure that you are exercising at the appropriate intensity, I recommend ditching the machine calculations and formulating your own. No machine knows your body like you do.

Your HR max rate can be calculated manually by the following formula:

HR max = 220-age
e.g. 188 = 220-32

Your HR max is the baseline for determining how hard you should exercise, from here you can determine your target heart rate. The best way to determine your target heart rate range is to base your calculation on your exercise experience, goals and current fitness levels.

Beginner target heart rate is 55-64% of your HR max
Intermediate target heart rate is 65-75% of your HR max
Advanced target heart rate is 75-90% of your HR max

For example, a 32-year-old intermediate exerciser should train at 65-74% of her target heart rate:

HR max = 188 b.p.m. (beats per minute)
Target heart rate 65 % –> 188 x 65% = 122 b.p.m.

In order to utilize this information (HR max and Target HR) you must first memorize your numbers and then practice finding your pulse. Find your pulse on your wrist or side of the neck; count the number of beats you feel in 15 seconds and then multiply by four. This may take a bit of practice, but it is a worthy skill.

Next time you step onto a piece of cardio equipment, warm up for five minutes and then start to increase your intensity. After an additional five minutes, check your pulse, if you are not in your target HR increase your intensity and check again in another 3-5 minutes until you have reach your target range. Continue checking your pulse every 5- 10 minutes ( depending on the length of your workout) to ensure that you stay in your target zone. Remember an effective workout should feel hard to very hard.