What is Your Zone?

One of the most accurate and effective ways of keeping track of what is happening inside your body during exercise is to use your heart rate as a guide for your training.

A heart rate monitor can tell you exactly how hard or easy that you are training by measuring your pulse via a sensor in the chest strap. Wrist based heart rate monitors are good too but they tend to be less accurate.


Your heart rate can be used to ensure you are training at the right intensity based on your own metrics and for your personal goals. Other ways to measure intensity are the talk test i.e how easy you can hold a conversation, and to simply grade your training on how it feels on a scale from 0-10.  While all these tools can be used to define the intensity at which you are training, your heart rate is still the most accurate and easiest way to know how your body is responding to the training.

And this is where the heart rate zones come in.

Heart rate zones are the values that lie between your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate (HRmax). These zones correspond to different training intensities and have different training benefits. By monitoring your heart rate with a heart rate monitor, you can accurately determine the correct zone to train in and make certain that you get the best results from your training.


The special zones can be used for different situations and activities, for example:

  •  to make sure you hit the right intensity levels during a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session
  • to ensure you stay in the recovery phase after a competition
  • to help you plan the effort used during your next run

The heart rate zones are divided into five zones, 1-5, and are based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

Zone 1: Very Light Intensity 50-60% of HRmax

This is the very low intensity zone. Use this zone to prepare your body for work in the higher heart rate zones during your warm-up, but also during the cool-down and training at this intensity is also great for recovery.

Zone 2: Light Intensity 60-70% of HRmax

Exercising in this zone feels light and comfortable, and you should be able to go on for a long time at this intensity. If you want to increase your endurance, this is the zone to work in.

Zone 3: Moderate Intensity 70-80% of HRmax

Now it’s getting a little tougher but it stills feels easy to hold a conversation with your training partner. This zone also increases on your endurance but will challenge your body more than zone 2, and because of that it will make your body work more efficient.

Zone 4: High Intensity 80-90% of HRmax

Zone 4 is where the training gets harder. You’ll be breathing hard and while you may be able to speak in short sentences, whole conversations are definitely off the table.

Zone 5: Maximum Intensity 90-100% of HRmax

Heart rate zone 5 is your maximal exertion.  This is hard effort, and your body is working at maximum capacity so you will only be able to continue at this intensity for a couple of minutes before getting fatigued. This is where you want to be for short sprints and maximal effort.

If you are interested in learning more on how to incorporate heart rate zones into your training or want to know what zones are best for your training goals, book an appointment with us today and we will help you every step of the way.


Sport & Exercise Scientist Evelina Kortzon holds a Bachelor degree in Sport and Exercise Science and a Master of Philosophy in Skeletal Muscle Physiology from the University of Stirling, UK. Her main interests are muscle physiology, health and wellbeing, and as a former swimmer she is definitely up for giving clients an advice or two that can be used in the pool.

As a sport scientist, she takes a scientific approach when helping clients, using the data from performance tests and current research to give the best advice possible.  No matter if you are an athlete or just starting out your journey to a healthier lifestyle, working with a sport scientist can help you reach your goals.


Book an appointment with Evelina to learn more about how you can use heart rate zones to optimize your training and how she can help you reach your goals.

You can also book her and the other members of the XpertHealth team for workshops or talks at your company or sporting organisation.

Contact us today to learn more!

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Beat the Heat!

With temperatures in Shanghai reaching above 40°C and the humidity on top of that, most of us
are desperately looking for ways to cool down! Here are 10 tips that might help make this heat wave just a little more bearable.

1.  Cool down with Frozen Snacks! 

Cold snacks like ice cream, ice lollies, ice cubes and frozen fruit will be both tasty and thirst quenching for those times when the cravings sets in.

Try putting grapes and pieces of banana and watermelon in the freezer for a few hours, they will turn into delicious cool snacks that will satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you hydrated at the same time.


2.    Time for a Cold Shower! 

Cold showers, cool packs and cold compresses will help to reduce your body
temperature. Place a wet towel, a cool pack or a cold compress on your chest, neck or your shoulders, and relax as you cool down.

Or fill a basin with water and ice cubes, pull up a chair, grab a good book or put on your favourite TV-show, and soak your feet – this will cool your whole body!


3.    Give Yourself a Break! 

Readjust your schedule to adapt to the heat. Go to the pool, relax in the shade, shop online or go to shopping malls with air conditioning, and have dinner a little later in the evenings.


4.    Change your Exercise Routine! 

Exercise indoors to get away from the scorching sun or in the early mornings or late at night when the temperature is lower.



5.    Remember to Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! 

Drink plenty of water, sports drinks if you are training, and stock up on ice cubes.  Make sure you have bottles of water or a jug of water in the fridge so that you always have quick access to cold water.

If you want some flavour to your water add a couple of slices of lemon, peach or cucumber, or a few branches of fresh mint, for a refreshing drink. While it might be tempting, try to avoid large amounts of alcoholic drinks, coffee and tea, as these will make you dehydrate faster.


6.    Keep your Home Cool by:

  • Eating out instead of using the stove and oven.
  • Getting a fan.
  • Blocking out the sun by closing the blinds and curtains, and keep doors and windows closed.


7.    Dress Appropriately! 

Wear loose-fitting clothes in light colours made from materials like linen or cotton. Loose, light materials will help you feel a little cooler by allowing your skin to breath. Invest in a nice hat if you are spending a lot of time outside to keep your head cool.


8.    Feast on Fruit! 

Munch on juicy fruits with high water content like watermelon, grapes, peaches, coconuts (and coconut water), cucumbers and oranges to help you stay hydrated.



9.    Choose Food that will Lower your Body Temperature! 

Spicy foods might feel like a strange choice but by making you sweat it also helps lower your body temperature. Cold foods like salads, cold soups and sushi will also keep your body temperature down, making you feel more comfortable.



10. Protect Yourself! 

Don’t forget to use sunscreen to protect your skin and use a pair of sunglasses, with good quality glass, to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV-rays.


Know the signs!

Early Warning Signs of Heat Stroke:

  • Headache, dizziness, confusion and disorientation.
  • Excessive sweating and/or flushing
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Chills and/or goose bumps
  • Fainting

Signs of Heat Stroke:

  • Core body temperature above 40°C
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures

If you suspect that you, or someone else, is suffering from a heat stroke then:

  •  Call your hospital or if the situation escalates 120 for ambulance service (in Shanghai).
  • Try to lower the body temperature of the affected person by spraying them with cold water, cold baths, or packing them with cold packs and compresses.
  • If they are able to drink, give them cold water.

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Stretching for Performance

All of us stretch, some more, some less. Stretching is a natural occurrence and we often stretch instinctively, for example after a long sleep, after having spent time in tight spaces or in uncomfortable positions. By stretching we straight away feel more awake, but also more relaxed.

When we stretch, our muscles lengthen, muscle tension is reduced and that tightness or stiffness melts away.

The most common forms of stretching are 1) static stretching, where you stretch the muscle and joint to their maximum and hold the position for a set period of time, and 2) dynamic stretching, a movement stretch.

Over the past couple of years the science community has investigated the role of stretching in areas of, for example, pain management, exercise and athletic performance, as a prevention of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), flexibility and rehabilitation.

Stretching and Performance

In a review from 2016, Behm et al investigated the role of stretching on performance and the risk of injury. By analysing over 150 studies they found that stretching before exercise, that was either power-speed based or strength-based, reduced performance.

This reduction in performance is due to the reduced tension of the muscle as it lengthens during the stretch, and therefore it no longer has the right tension to create as powerful contractions, reducing the amount of force produced and performance. However they also found that not all types of stretching have this effect. Dynamic stretching actually resulted in a small increase in performance. A dynamic stretch is a movement stretch, which involves moving the active joint through the full range of motion, for example by swinging your leg forward to stretch out the hamstring and the hip joint.

The dynamic stretch increases blood flow to the muscle, decreases viscosity and increases the temperature of the muscle, and since it is often performed in a similar movement to the coming exercise the body is better at handling the exercise and therefore performs better.

Many of us like to stretch before heading out on a run or starting an exercise session. It feels good to release some of that tension ahead of the training session. If you are not too worried about your sprint times, the heaviest weight that you can lift that session then you should not worry about using static stretching ahead of a session. If you on the other hand are an athlete and performance is at the top of your list, then choosing dynamic stretching exercises will get you ready for your next training session or competition.

And then again, the effects of any stretching lasts roughly 15 minutes and after that your muscles are ready to perform at the top of their game again.

Does Stretching Reduce Injury Risk?

Yes it does! One reason why stretching has been recommended to athletes and people with active lifestyles, is that it reduces the risk of muscle and tendon injuries. It doesn’t matter what type of stretching but stretching is most effective for injury prevention in sprint and short distance running exercises. If however the stretches are performed in a rush or carelessly there is a risk of muscle tares, so when stretching take it slow, and listen to the feedback from your muscles.

There is a connection between the total stretching time and injury risk- the longer you stretch the bigger the protective effects get.

Stretching and Flexibility

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that stretching increases the range of motion and flexibility of muscles and joints. Stretching for as little as 10-30 seconds can increase the flexibility of the hip joint or the hamstring. However to make this permanent you need to stretch often.

Stretching not only increases flexibility through the reduction of the tensions in the muscles, it also builds up your stretch tolerance. This means that the more you stretch, the more used to it you get, and can therefore tolerate the feeling of the stretch better, hence allowing you to stretch deeper and for longer.

So for performance:

  • Stretch after your training sessions to release muscle tension.
  • Alternatively perform dynamic stretches before the training to increase blood flow to the muscles you will be using.
  • The longer the stretching session the better the protection against muscle injury.

And for flexibility:

  • As little as 10-30 seconds of stretching will increase your range of motion.
  • Perform often for lasting effects.

Happy Stretching!

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