Monday, April 11, 2011

Strength Heart Rates

Last week, one of my regulars (not to mention one of my inspirations), Dan, came up to me asking what he should do if he's already at 85% during a strength ride.  He said he was at 85%, but felt comfortable.  I mumbled stuff about maybe his calculated heart rate wasn't right and all that, but truth be told...I didn't know what to tell him.  I wasn't comfortable telling him to go beyond 85%, without knowing that doing so would be effective for him.  So I pawned him off on the personal trainers, hoping they'd have better info, and went home to do some reading.

Turns out, I was right...I was missing the point of strength training.

Aerobic base building is VERY heart-rate centric, and when you're training strictly aerobically, it's very important to keep tabs on your heart rate and keep it below 80% of your max (whatever that is...bearing in mind that if 85% is an invalid number for you, 80% very well may be as well, so it's worth poking around and finding out your true values, for more effective training).  However, the point of strength training is to improve your anaerobic threshold which you can't do if you're aiming for a number that has no meaning for you.

So going into this week, I'm going to teach my strength classes using RPE (rate of perceived exertion) rather than a number.  Around your threshold, you should be breathing in and out through your mouth (because you have to, not because you want to - and allergies don't count! :-}) but should not be breathless.  At threshold, you should be able to maintain a heavy (for you) load for a while (which is also dependent on you and your fitness level), but wouldn't want to stay there all day.  What we're going for is extending both how heavy that load is and how long you can stand it.  This week, I think I'll ask students to gear up to a level they think they can stand for 15 minutes, then settle in to that load, then check their heart rates after a minute or two.  Then I'll add gear challenges as I see fit.  :-)

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