13 Nov Are you fit? How to measure, interpret and improve your Resting Heart Rate.
How do you measure it? What does yours mean? How do you improve it?
When you’re training hard, it can be difficult to tangibly measure whether your fitness is improving. Some days you’re feeling great, smashing a session that you struggled with a month previous and running rings around your training partners. Other days, you’re wheezing your way through and wondering if you’re regressing, rather than progressing. Is it an off day, or is your training not working?
There’s an easy way to see where your fitness is, and it doesn’t involve being hooked up to any fancy machinery or shelling out for expensive tech. Measuring your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is a great indicator of your fitness level. Generally speaking, a lower RHR indicates a higher level of fitness. Your heart is a muscle, which gets bigger and stronger with the right exercise- the stronger it is, the more efficient is, and the more blood it can pump around your body with each beat.
How do you measure your RHR?
Timing is important. If you can remember (I set a tag with my phone alarm to remind me), as soon as you wake up is perfect as you’re at your most rested state. Whilst still lying down, set a timer or stopwatch and locate your pulse on your wrist with two fingers. Once you’ve located your pulse and your breathing is relaxed and regulated, count the beats in one minute. Repeat 3 times and take an average reading (they should be all around the same number).
What does yours mean?
RHR of 60-70 means that you’re comfortably in the top 50% with not much to worry about. Much higher, and you should probably start adding some cardio to your training.
I’ve taken two charts from topendsport.com for male and female RHR and where it puts you on the scale, from ‘athlete’ to ‘poor’. Where are you on the scale?
How do you improve it?
Cardio. Either through longer periods of moderate intensity fitness (running, swimming, cycling) or shorter periods at vigorous intensity (HIIT, boxing pad work, sprints). I used to measure my RHR weekly during an eight week fight camp. I’d start out at anywhere from 55-65 beats per minute, depending on the state I enter camp. 1-2 weeks from fight night, I could get to sub 50.
Knowing that your RHR is in the athlete range gives you huge confidence in setting a strong pace from the opening bell. I attribute this development to the brutal fight circuits we’d put ourselves through each week, where we’d constantly strive to push harder week on week.
Where is yours at?
Check your RHR against the scale above. Want to improve it? Train at a high intensity 3-5 times per week, for at least 20 minutes. The more you put in, the quicker it will go down, just make sure you’re not going full out 7 days a week, or you may end up overtraining and reversing your progress.