Getting in the Right (Heart) Zone

Only One Workout Away from a Bad MoodI just interviewed the local franchise owner for Orange Theory Fitness and I'm quite taken by their philosophy. It's a group interval concept led by trainer and throughout the 60 minute workout, the goal is to be in the "orange  zone" for 12-20 minutes. So what does the "orange zone" exactly mean.

This is the range in which your heart rate is between 84-91% of your max heart rate. The total workout includes warm up and station changes so the intensity comes from short bursts of work within that time frame. Each client wears a heart rate monitor and their heart rate shows up on a television screen up on the wall. This is an interesting concept yet not a unique one. Every trainer or exercise regimen you read will tell you to have to get your heart rate up (and keep it up) in order to get results. Orange Theory Fitness just has a way of helping motivate you and guide through the intensity. It looks great for those out there who need the coaching and guidance, and if you are a beginner in the workout world, this would be a great place to start.

I would love to join a fitness center like this but alas, I am a poor mother of three who spends her last dime paying for sports, field trips, and frickin' Rainbow Loom rubber bands. (The guilt of buying all of that plastic knowing they're just going to end up taking up space in a landfill somewhere is eating me alive. But that's another post.) Back to the heart rate!

In the fitness industry, what seems to matter most is that our workouts can be short as long as they're intense, striving for a specific heart rate range for maximum calorie burn. I've recently been incorporating this type of workout back into my daily exercise and it was refreshing to hear that I'm on the right path.

So if you're wondering what your "max heart rate" means, it's the highest heart rate your body can handle without severe problems during the stress of exercise. There is a formula to figure out this out which is 207 - (.67 x age). This makes mine is 180, or 207 - (.67 x 41) = 180 . However, this is not the heart rate you should be exercising at. The range you should be aiming for is that 84-91% range. I take 180 x .84 to get the low end of my range and 180 x .91 to get the high. Therefore, my personal "orange" workout zone I shoot for should be 151-163 bpm.

I have a heart rate monitor ( from Target-New Balance for $60) which I love and can't workout without it. Just like how you think you are eating well until you track it in a food log, you may think you are workout out hard but that heart rate monitor tells the truth. It's like having a personal trainer pushing me to work harder. I set the range I want to stay within and it will beep when I go above and below the line that way I don't have to keep looking at my watch to check my numbers. AND when I hit switch screens, it also shows me how many minutes I have been in "the zone".

And whether you choose to workout for an hour or 20 minutes, being in the  "orange zone" for at least 12-20 minutes is great way to gain some significant strides in your physical endurance and overall fitness.  I would recommend those of you who are just starting out and would consider yourself a beginner to try to hit the orange zone for a minute at a time, letting your heart rate lower down to "talkable" levels in between. This is exactly what I was referring to in my HIIT and Run post a few posts back. Do what you have to do get your 12-20 minutes in. Do it in 20 second chunks or two minute chunks, it's all up to you.

But a huge point I want to make here is about the myth that you should work out at a lower heart rate in order to burn fat. Well, technically this is true because a lower intensity workout uses less quick energy (carbs) and uses fat as fuel. But, overall, you don't burn as many calories with this type of workout, unless you want to workout a lot longer. A more intense workout will burn more calories during as well as post-workout which in the formula of how to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than your body consumes or uses to function in a day to shed pounds.

Give it a shot and tell me how you like it. Try to stick with it for a few weeks to give yourself a chance to see some results. Of course, eating right and getting plenty of sleep will increase your chances for success as well as quicker results. Push yourself and don't give in. It will be hard but at the end of the workout, you are going to feel awesome.

The endorphins I feel after this kind of workout style are out of this world. I feel energized and upbeat when I'm done and I didn't have to spend 2 hours in the gym.


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