Listen to Your Heart!

Elizabeth Sheinkopf CPT

Elizabeth Sheinkopf

Most of the time we think of MyZone and heart rate monitoring in general as a method to improve our performance when working out so that we can get the most out of each exercise session. It works great for this, and the results are usually obvious right away. For those of us who are overly zealous (ie, obsessed, driven over-achievers who just don’t know when to stop), heart rate monitoring has another really important function: it lets us know when we need to rest.

At the beginning of the March MyZone challenge, I decided to wear my monitor on a dog hike I do often, just to see if I’d earn MEPs during this time. It turned out that I was completely in the grey (meaning my heart rate was low enough that what I was doing really wasn’t considered exercise) during the hour-long hike, so I didn’t wear the monitor anymore when walking the dogs. Toward the end of March, I came down with a virus that progressed to walking pneumonia. After getting antibiotics, I started to feel better and decided to take the dogs on our usual hike. I thought it would be interesting to wear the MyZone, just to see what was going on during my recovery. It turned out that I was in the blue zone (60-69% of max heart rate) a bit over half the time and in the green zone (70-79% of max heart rate) the rest of the time! I was really surprised because I knew this was an easy hike and I thought I was feeling pretty good. If the monitor could speak to me, it would have said, “You’re still sick. Go lie down and watch something on Netflix!”

There are many things that can affect heart rate and performance: quality and quantity of sleep, diet, over-training, stress, and, like I experienced, illness. It is sometimes difficult to know when to train and when to lay off, based solely on how we’re feeling and the thoughts we’re having about how we feel. Anyone who works out regularly has probably had the experience of inertia, of unwillingness to go to the gym or get on the bike, and when we finally go, ending up having a great workout. Having an objective tool that isn’t tied to our emotions is really helpful when determining when it’s a good idea to exercise and when it makes more sense to rest.

So, for those of you who feel like a heart rate monitor is for super athletes only, think again! It is one more tool that you have to enhance your workouts and your overall health.