High intensity interval training, done right, is incredibly effective for burning fat and increasing cardiovascular fitness.
At New Image, we use interval training along with other types of cardio to improve body composition and performance.
The way that most people complete intervals is by time prescription, for example 1 minute hard work and 1 minute of rest. This isn’t necessarily a bad way to train – we sometimes do this too. But there is a better way to perform interval training.
What tends to happen with time based interval training is that by interval three, after giving it all you’ve got, you feel terrible!
We want you to feel amazing when you train, even when you’re really pushing yourself. The trick is to train to your own ability, not a time limit. The best way to do this is with heart rate intervals.
Why heart rate intervals?
Using your heart rate (HR) as an indicator of intensity and recovery is more effective than using a timed dose because your HR gives you a live update of how hard you’re actually working. It doesn’t lie.
Unless you’re completing really short intervals (under 20 seconds), your HR will continually elevate to 80-90% of your max HR if you’re working really hard. When you rest, the HR will decrease slowly towards your resting HR. This indicates how efficiently your heart recovers, or how fit you are. That’s why it’s a great idea to use heart rate interval training.
How can I measure my heart rate?
Before we get a little technical, let’s determine how you’re going to measure your heart rate while you’re training. There are a few options:
- Your fingers on your pulse and a clock. This method is unreliable, especially when you’re fatigued. Don’t do it.
- The HR sensors on the equipment you are using. This is also unreliable as the equipment isn’t accurate. Don’t do it.
- Garmin, Apple Watch, Fitbit are a few of the wearables. They work, but in my experience it takes way too long to locate the HR and then it’s already time for the next bout of exercise.
- MYZONE heart rate monitors. These are the most accurate I have found. Yes, we sell them because they are awesome but you can buy online at www.myzone.org
How do I do HR interval training?
You have two options that I recommend.
Step 1: Calculate MHR (Max Heart Rate). Multiply your age by 0.7 and subtract that number from 208 to get a theoretical MHR.
Eg: 50 year old person. 208 – (50 x 0.7) = 173bpm MHR
Step 2: Use this number to determine percentages to work within or as guidelines. If you intend to work at 80% effort or above and rest at 60% effort, you would design a program that looked like this:
Intervals: 10 x 2 minutes @ 80% effort. Rest until HR reaches 60% of MHR.
So, our 50 year old would complete 2 minutes @ HR of 138bpm, and then rest until HR reaches 104bpm. Complete 10 times.
Step 1: Determine your RESTING HEART RATE. This can be done as soon as you wake up or when you’re completely rested. Lay down for 5 minutes in silence and focus on breathing slowly. Do not move, and after five minutes measure your heart beat for 15 seconds, multiply it by four and you’ll have a good indication of your resting HR. This will decrease over time as you get fitter.
Step 2: Determine your theoretical MAX HEART RATE. Subtract your age from 220. That’s your theoretical max heart rate.
Step 3: Calculate your target heart rates from your HRR (heart rate reserve) which is the difference between your RHR (resting heart rate) and MHR (max heart rate). Here’s the formula for a 50 year old with a RHR of 65 as an example:
MHR: 220 – 50 (age) = 170
MHR – RHR: 170 – 65 = 105
Let’s say the person in this example wants to work at 80% effort and achieve 50% HRR in recovery. Here is how you would calculate the heart rates to achieve:
80%: (170-65) x 0.8 + 65 = 149bpm
50%: (170-65) x 0.5 + 65 = 118bpm
This client would now have a good indication of heart rates to use to determine intensity (Am I working hard enough?) and recovery (How efficient is my heart? Have I waited long enough or too long before working hard again?)
Intensities and recovery can be modified according to what you really need and want.
- STOP just using time as an interval prescription and use your heart rate
- Buy a reliable heart rate monitor
- Decide which method you will use to calculate HR percentages
- Use that method diligently
- Decide what you want to achieve and how hard you need to work
- Use the tools above to make sure you have the most precise interval training experience ever.