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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heart Rate Monitors

If you want to get fit or fitter, there is really nothing more helpful than a heart rate monitor (HRM). I stopped using mine after I gave birth to Little A, probably because I was sick of HAVING to use it everyday while pregnant to make sure I was exercising at a safe level (although the basic guideline is that if you can talk fairly easily and are not out of breath, you're fine). But recently I decided I had to change up my hill walking routine. Even though I tell everyone else not to get stuck in an exercise rut, I had done just that. I kept telling myself that I'd change it up when it started feeling easier, but that never happened. It always felt hard and I was frustrated. The extreme angle I was working at was also killing my hamstring. Although the physiotherapist told me I don't need to avoid any activities, and, in fact, need to do things that target the hamstring, on days when I did my hill walks I was in even more pain. But I figured the only change I could make was to decrease my effort and I was not willing to do that. Finally, I decided to play around with my speed and incline until I could find a different combo that kept me working at the same intensity. I put on my HRM only to find the battery was dead. Than I made the mistake of getting Adam to open it up so we could change the battery ourselves. Big mistake. Never do that. It's now in HRM heaven.

I was eager to get a new one, so I went to the mall and there was only one place that carried them. They didn't have Polar, the gold standard of HRMs and really the only brand you should buy, but I was impatient so I bought a "Sportline" brand. Big mistake #2. When I got it home, I discovered it only worked if I was sitting perfectly still. Not useful when I want to monitor my heart rate WHILE I'm exercising! So I went out and found another Polar. I did my usual workout the next day to see where I was at. In spite of the workout "feeling" really tough, my heart rate was not as high as I thought. So the next day I took the incline down to a more comfortable level but turned up the speed. Low and behold, not only did it not feel much more difficult, it actually got my heart rate up significantly higher!! This demonstrates the limits of rate of perceived exersion, which we fitness professionals always tell people to use. Sometimes it can be misleading. You really can't know for sure how hard you are working unless you have a HRM. I am so thrilled! My workout now causes less pain for my hamstring AND I'm able to actually push harder! I'm going to break through my plateau!!

Today was my first physio treatment and, fortunately, it wasn't as painful as expected. She basically yanked my pelvis into place. I was sceptical that she could do this but I did feel significantly different afterwards. My left leg felt longer and my weight was distributed much more evenly through my feet. Cool!

I ordered 3 new pilates DVDs since my physiotherapist said I should do a lot of core work: Denise Austin's "Hit the Spot Pilates", Kathy Smith's "Fat Buring Pilates" and "Peel off the Pounds Pilates". I got them for an amazing deal from inetvideo.ca. I just want to point out that you can't really burn fat or peel off pounds doing pilates. Why people try to make these claims is beyond me. It neither burns enough calories or builds enough muscle to help you lose weight. What pilates is meant to do is improve your functional fitness, like your posture, balance and core strength and to teach your body to move more efficiently. Don't expect anything else.

So my fitness tip of the week is: Get a heart rate monitor...and go for a Polar one.

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