There’s a reason Orangetheory has become such a hugely popular workout – tracking heart rate is key to maximizing calorie/fat burn and building strength and that goes double for high intensity interval training (HITT). There’s an interesting New York Times article on this trend. HITT workouts involve spiking heart rate by, for example, alternating sprints with walks which in turn blasts away calories exceedingly more swiftly than say steady pace running. Hands down that most effective way to monitor that you’re working out optimally is by using a Polar Heart Rate monitor to keep tabs on all your heart beat fluctuations. Polar comes out on top time and time again when it comes to accuracy (way more accurate than Apple, Fitbit etc. by all accounts I’ve come across) and they have a number of different models so you can pick one that fits exactly your needs.
The best pick for most people is the Polar M430 ($199.95). It has all the bells and whistles you need while being intuitive to use and it forgoes all straps. If you’ve ever worn a chest strap to measure your heart rate you probably thought it was very annoying! Especially if you get sweaty and the strap starts to slip off… The M430 is accurate with its wrist-based heart rate. It also has integrated GPS (to measure things like speed, distance, pace, sleep tracking, and recovery metrics) and personalized and adaptive training guidance so you can make the most out of the metrics being generated. It’s also waterproof so you can use it for swim intervals and if you’re looking for weight management tracking and guidance you can connect it to Polar Balance.
Before starting the tracking, however, it’s important to know your numbers to help maximize your time spend in the fat burning heart rate zone (working out on an empty stomach increases the chances of burning fat for fuel during workouts). The first metric you need is your max heart rate which is roughly 220 – your age (you can test this more accurately with a stress test so ask your doctor next time you’re in for a visit). Once you have this number you’ll know more or less how hard to push yourself in your intervals and you can use your watch to see how much time you spend in each zone (hard, high-moderate, low-moderate, high-easy, and easy aka zones 1–5, based on the max you have calculated).
If this all sounds like a lot, it really isn’t especially if you’re working with a watch like Polar which guides you through where you should be. I used to hate tracking my workouts because I found it hard to disconnect, but as I get older and time gets more and more precious (and my metabolism gets more and more sluggish…) I want to know that I’m using my time at the gym as effectively as possible.