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David Freeze: Gotta’ Run

Resting heart rate and why it matters

 

When I teach a group class, I usually ask a series of simple questions early on. One of my favorites has to do with resting pulse rate. My question — “Who knows what your average resting pulse rate is?” While it seems a simple question, usually only about 10% have an answer. Why does it matter? Especially to a runner or fitness enthusiast? The resting pulse is a good measure of fitness, one that anyone can keep track of.

 

When a person makes a commitment to exercise, measures of improvement are motivating. The resting pulse rate, weight and blood pressure are three easy ones to track. Many years ago, when I decided to improve my own health, my resting pulse rate became almost an obsession. Here is what you should know.

 

“Resting” is the key word. Resting in this case means in a relaxed, non-stressed state. The very best time is upon awakening first thing in the morning. Second best, in my opinion, is upon waking from a nap. Don’t just run in from any activity and sit down and start counting. Let the body relax first.

 

Speaking of that, how do you count your resting pulse? Two fingers across the inside of your wrist or on your neck, just under the jaw. Practice that, finding the area that the pulse is easy to feel, and use a watch or phone to track the seconds. The simplest way is to count pulse beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.

 

Why does resting pulse matter and what does it tell you? Over my 40 years of running, I learned a lot of facts about working out, training methods and what makes those workouts better. There are a certain group of fitness enthusiasts who “train by heart rate.” Competitive athletes and pros take heart rate into their daily training equation. Those athletes are very attuned to their resting heart rate. Some wear a heart rate monitor when training, either a chest strap or a watch with pulse measuring capabilities. For reference sake, the watch is way less accurate due to contact point and sweat factors. The chest strap is much better.

 

A higher than normal heart rate could signify simple things like overtraining, sickness, stress and even poor hydration. A slightly lower than normal heart rate is a good thing, usually meaning that the heart and body are ready for action. In the case of the higher rate, most athletes would then schedule a less intense workout and add rest. The slightly lower rate could also mean that your training is paying off in better fitness.

The very best way to monitor the heart rate with the added benefit of blood pressure readings is to purchase a meter that uses an arm strap just like the doctor’s office uses. Don’t fall for the wrist strap meters. Their accuracy is lower. These arm strap meters do give an accurate reading for the pulse as well. I have become very interested in my blood pressure and monitor it several times a day. The $40 spent on a good meter was well worth it. One client told me, “I don’t want one of those because I don’t want to know my BP.” Don’t be that person.

 

 

Bottom line, our beginning runners class starts on Thursday at the PD downtown. Look for the facts at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org or call 704-310-6741 or 704-202-6601.

I teach the first night’s classroom session and will address resting pulse rate. Those who take the class, continue to its conclusion eight weeks later, and keep exercising usually see their resting heart rate lower gradually. The reasons — a stronger heart and cardiovascular system. A stronger heart requires less beats to push the blood around your body.

Do be that person!

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