A new client of mine is blind. I asked him how he regulates his exercise on the cardio vascular exercise machines at his gym. He has a stop watch that bleeps at him as he passes each minute on the machine, so he can regulate his effort based on how much time is left. But what about his intensity? We didn’t get round to talking about that during our one session but I’m guessing he won’t use a heart rate monitor unless there’s one that speaks your heart rate aloud, so that leaves him with good old fashioned feeling.
Remember the ‘fat burning zone’ we all used to go by? 60-80% of heart rate – stick in the zone or you won’t be burning fat? Now we know that’s a myth, and we’re utilising fat all the time, even when we go above 80%. The harder you exercise , the more absolute calories you burn, and the higher the absolute number of fat calories you use.
But do we need to look at our heart rate to know how intense our exercise is? We should be listening to our bodies as we run, cycle and swim, and learning how we react to different amounts of effort. The consensus in the fitness literature is that interval training is the most effective method of exercise training to elicit results including fat loss, cardiovascular improvements and strength. Pushing your body for periods of time during a 20 -30 minute exercise session alternating with easy periods will produce fitness benefits beyond those achieved by steady state exercise. This can be regulated by how you feel, for example by using a perceived exertion scale of 1 to 10. Push yourself so you would put yourself on 8,9 or 10 on the scale, using either timed 10-30 seconds intervals or self selected periods based on how strong you feel, then recover with easy pace until you’re ready to go again.
In my view, even though there is a place for technological devices which give the user all sorts of facts and figures, they are best used in conjunction with subjective feelings of intensity and enjoyment. Simply listening to your body can lead to a more natural, free flowing pleasant experience.