Breathing should be controlled and relaxed lasting at least 2 or more seconds on the inhalation (in through the nose) and exhalation (out through the mouth) phases. This is true during recovery or light activity. During recovery or light intensity exercise, the individual should be able to prolong the exhalation phase longer than the inhalation phase. When the mouth begins to open more visibly and the individual is unable to breathe through the nose or talk in complete sentences without pausing (also known as the “talk test”) the individual has moved from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism as the primary phase of energy production. Even during anaerobic metabolism and moderate to high intensity work it is important for the client to work to control breathing, to supply a steady supply of oxygen and to avoid excessive strain on the heart or excessive rises in blood pressure. It is important for beginning exercisers who have not exercised regularly (at least 3 days per week) for the past several months to stay “aerobic”, until a baseline of low level conditioning can be established. Exerting at moderate (70-80%) to high (80% or above) intensity levels too soon in an exercise program can create a greater likelihood of injury to connective tissue and muscle, which has not had time to adapt to the new stimulus over a period of several weeks. Additionally, the endocrine system response may be com-promised with an inability for the body to be able to repair not only muscle tissue, but the immune system as well. The same efforts that can help the body can also hurt the body if not applied properly. Remember that exercise is intended to stave off illness and disease, not invite it by working out too intensely. Weight loss goals and desired body changes cannot outweigh the greater need for total body health.
Most people are in a hurry to get fit or healthy. It took a long time to get unfit or unhealthy, so it should not be surprising that the body will need sufficient time to adapt both internally and externally for long term health, fitness and performance benefits.
Heart Rate and Perceived Rate of Exertion
The following table should be used to help define various perceived exertion and heart rate training concepts. Heart rate can be a useful indicator of the intensity of effort and the body’s physiological adaptations. Heart rate monitoring is an important component to determining cardiovascular fitness as well as a form of guidance in training to help determine appropriate FITTR variables. Monitoring of HR should always be used in conjunction with RPE to ensure that an optimal level of stress is achieved to obtain consistent positive adaptations toward improvement.
Knowledge of how the heart works, heart rate variations due to training, stress and health problems, will enable the user to take more responsibility for his or her training. Training that is too low in intensity may lead to a lack of results and if it is too intense, can lead to overtraining – resulting in fatigue and downward spiraling improvement. Unlike using RPE, the heart does not lie. It shows the body’s response at the time of activity (acutely). The continuously measured heart rate gives a very accurate picture of the individual’s physical condition and how his or her condition changes. It is, in a manner of speaking, a reflection of the load.
Heart rate monitoring can be used as excellent biofeedback to monitor body stress at any time, as the heart rate monitor displays the reactions of the heart to different factors both reliably and as accurately as an electrocardiogram (ECG) test would. The user can now listen to their own rhythm of their own body, to help regulate workout intensity.
In using heart rate monitoring as a tool for measuring intensity, the trainer must decide which form of measurement is most appropriate. For beginning to moderate level individuals, utilization of the heart rate reserve (HRR determined by using the Karvonen Equation) method for determining heart rate training zones may be more accurate than the traditional practice of determining training intensity as a percentage of maximum heart rate only.
Karvonen Equation = [(220 – Age – RHR) x desired training intensity % + RHR]
Traditional Method for Determining Training Heart Rate = 220 – Age x desired training intensity %
The Karvonen Equation and determination of heart rate reserve (HRR) may be more accurate for beginning to moderate level exercisers because it takes RHR into account, for a more accurate picture of aerobic conditioning. Oxygen consumption is a primary measure of exercise intensity and the heart rate reflects how efficient the body is able to utilize oxygen. However, the traditional method may be just as accurate for athletes or those with higher fitness levels as the heart rate reserve method.
To learn more, see the NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer Certification.