What Your Pulse Rate Tells You

by Louise | July 11th, 2011 | Cardio

Did you know that your heart rate can tell you when you need a break from your current exercise routine, for example your daily run? Monitoring your resting heart rate can help you prevent over training and injury. The first thing to do is determine your resting heart rate.

Determining your heart rate: Your pulse rate is the number of beats your heart makes per minute, so determining your heart rate requires finding your pulse and counting how many times it beats in a minute. The easiest places to find your pulse are your radial artery on your wrist, and your carotid artery in your neck. Use your index finger and middle finger, because your thumb has a light pulse that might mess with your counting. When calculating one’s resting heart rate, it is better to not use shortcuts, such as counting for 10 seconds and multiplying by 6. This is because a difference of one beat in 10 seconds becomes a difference of 6 beats in 60 seconds, which is significant, especially for athletes with very low heart rates.

Take your heart rate as soon as you get up, while working at the office, or while watching TV – the key is taking it consistently and during a time when you have not recently exerted yourself. After a week or two of keeping track, you will know what your typical resting heart rate is. In general, the lower your heart rate, the more in shape you are. This means that if after months of running you notice that your resting heart rate has been decreasing, your workouts have been effective. A typical resting heart rate for an adult is 60-80 beats per minute, but conditioned athletes can have much lower rates. (For example, cyclist Lance Armstrong measures his resting heart rate at as low as 32).

If you notice an increase of 10% or more from one day to the next, ask yourself why. Are you anxious about something, or did you just wake up from a bad dream? If you can’t think of a simple explanation, the high heart rate may be an indication that you are developing a sickness or perhaps even an injury. It would be beneficial for your system to reduce the intensity or duration of your workouts, cross train, or even taking a day or two off, until your resting heart rate comes back down to normal.

If monitoring your resting heart rate isn’t already part of your daily routine, add it to the list. An abnormally high heart rate is one of your body’s ways of indicating that something is not quite right. Listen to your body and respond; take some extra recovery time, and you might save yourself from an injury.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.