Cardio 101: The Basics of Cardiovascular Exercise

How to Know If You Are in the Zone

So now that you have figured out what your target training heart rate zone is, how do you know when you reach it? Generally, you will need to stop exercising briefly to take your pulse. You can check your pulse at your neck, wrist, or chest.
Many recommend checking your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side. Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist that are in line with the thumb.
Count your pulse for 10 seconds and then multiply this number by 6 to find your beats per minute. If you are doing moderate-intensity physical activity, you will want to stay within 50 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. For those doing vigorous exercise, you will want your heart rate between 70 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
If your heart rate falls within your target zone, congratulations! If your heart rate falls below your target zone, it means you need to kick it up a notch. If your heart rate is over your zone, you need to bring it down a level.
In the first few weeks of starting a cardio workout, try to aim for the lower part (50 percent) of your target zone. As you progress throughout the weeks, try to gradually build up to the higher part (85 percent). After about six months, you may notice that you can exercise comfortably at the upper end of your target zone. Many find this to be a good spot to reach, as you will notice that it becomes easier to exercise in that zone and easier to reap the most benefits from your cardio workout.
How often should you check your pulse? It is often recommended to check your pulse at regular intervals during your workout session, such as every 5 to 10 minutes. This will help you adjust your intensity level accordingly.
Not really a "math" person? Some people may not want to stop and do the math to check their heart rate. If this is the case, you may want to look into investing in a pulse monitor, which takes the math out of it.
Also, you can use some simple strategies to get a good idea of whether you are in your zone. For instance, you can use the "talk test." If you are too winded to finish speaking a sentence, you likely are overdoing it. If you find it easy to speak a sentence, you may need to step it up a bit.
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