There are many things I don’t love about my job, but one really nice perk is a super duper “executive physical” at a local hospital every year. I first did this physical in 2008, when I was about 15 pounds overweight even though I worked out regularly. I requested an appointment with a trainer at the hospital and asked him how best to structure my workouts to drop some LBs.
He recommended that I do cardio 4 times a week for about 45 minutes per session, and – here’s the key – get a heart rate monitor to ensure I stay within my target heart rate zone. A heart rate monitor has two parts: a watch-like piece that you wear on your wrist (which shows how many times your heart is beating per minute), and a strap that you wear around your chest.
The trainer told me what my target heart rate number was. I bought a heart rate monitor and was shocked that while I had thought I was working hard before, I was not in my target heart-rate zone during my cardio sessions. Trust me, the heart rate monitor doesn’t lie! After a few months of using the heart rate monitor and doing the recommended four 45-minute cardio sessions per week, I had dropped two clothing sizes and about 15 pounds. I’ve been using a heart rate monitor religiously ever since then, and I’ve never been healthier. Not bad for a 48-year-old!
How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate
It’s easy to calculate your target heart rate. Just subtract your age from 220 (which is your maximum heart rate), and multiply that number by .8 (which gives you your target heart rate). For example, I subtract 48 from 220 and get 172 (my maximum heart rate), then I multiply 172 by .8 and get 138 (my target heart rate).
Before each cardio session, I put on both parts of my heart rate monitor. While I’m running or doing the elliptical or stair climber, I keep an eye on the watch part of my heart rate monitor to ensure that my heart is beating around 138 heart beats per minute (a little lower when I’m warming up and cooling down, and a little higher when I’m at the “peak” part of each session).
Where to Buy a Heart Rate Monitor
You can buy a heart rate monitor at most any sporting goods store. Polar makes good ones, which you can get for less than $100. I usually order mine from Road Runner Sports because they don’t charge sales tax in most states, and if you join their VIP club, you get a discount on everything you order
Motivate Yourself with Music
I do my cardio before work in the morning. Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to get out of a warm bed and go down to the workout room in my building. My Ipod is a big help. As a motivator, you may want to create a mix on your MP3 player that includes some of the following songs, and whatever songs you love that give you positive energy. I call this mix “Positivity”, and it never fails to give me an emotional boost:
- “Beautiful People” by Chris Brown.
- “Perfect Day” by Hoku.
- “Firework” by Katy Perry.
- “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson.
- “Don’t Rain on My Parade” by Barbara Streisand (the Glee version is good too).
- “If You’re Out There” by John Legend.
- “New Attitude” by Patti Labelle.
- “Walking on Sunshine” by Aly and AJ.
- “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown.
- “Soar” by Christina Aguilera.
- “Live Like We’re Dying” by Kris Allen.
- “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.
- “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the Hairspray soundtrack.
- “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.
- “Step By Step” by Whitney Houston.
- “Something to Believe In” by Parachute.
Just Do It!
Once you start using a heart rate monitor, you’ll never go back. And if you’re like me, you’ll want to tell everyone else to get one too because it makes such a big difference in the results you get from your cardio workouts. I’d love to hear if you get a heart rate monitor of your own, and about the result you get from using it.