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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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5 Tips to Run Faster

Running is becoming exceedingly popular in China, with every other weekend playing host to some sort of marathon, triathlon or trail run.

In light of this, XpertHealth wants to share with you a few hints regarding the best ways you can optimize your running efficiency to maximize your effectiveness.

First of all, running technique in the lower extremities comes down to a simple equation:
STRIDE LENGTH x STRIDE FREQUENCY
Research has shown that the optimal stride length and frequency will depend on the individual, however as you become fitter you can make changes to these factors due to improvements in your maximal oxygen uptake, ie: when you’re fitter your body doesn’t require as much oxygen and you don’t fatigue as quickly when running.

The image above highlights that oxygen consumption increases as the freely chosen running stride length (cm) increases. For this particular athlete, the optimal stride length at 14km/hr is around 135cm. As you can see, by taking a larger stride the subject places a greater stress on their lactate and cardiovascular system, hence improving your fitness should counteract some of these effects.

In saying this, if you are trying to improve your ‘cruising speed’ (the speed you can remain at for long periods of time), try to modify your stride length to be longer. Stride variability has been seen to vary with smaller stride lengths, which means a less efficient technique. Also, by increasing the length of your stride you will cover a greater distance at a faster rate, and this means a personal best time might well be on its way!

While there seems to be an optimum stride length and frequency for every runner and every speed, you can alter this to suit your needs by:

1. Improving your cardiovascular fitness. This will help improve the efficiency and rate of your maximal oxygen uptake. One way you can test your current cardiovascular fitness is via a VO2 Max Test.

2. Training via interval or sprint-based running. This will improve body composition and cardiovascular fitness, which will naturally increase both your stride rate and stride frequency. Hence, over time your cruising speed should improve as well.

3. Resistance train. Weights have been shown to improve a plethora of physiological responses to assist in improving your level of running, such as increasing neuromuscular efficiency and lactate threshold. This means you can run for a longer period of time before becoming fatigued.

4. Improve your body composition. Optimize your efficiency by having a better ratio of lean muscle mass to body fat. This can be achieved by working with a sports dietitian to help you manage your food intake and fine-tuning nutrient timing to adequately fuel your training.

5. Work on technique. Ask a friend to film you running and use the footage to assess your technique – is your foot striking under your knee? Are your elbows at 90 degrees or less? Are your hands relaxed? Most importantly, are you running comfortably and injury-free? Making small changes to your arms, torso and stride can all help improve your running effectiveness.

Ultimately, to be your best at running you will need to:

Optimize efficiency to maximize effectiveness!

Good luck with your event and don’t hesitate to contact us at info@xperthealth.comfor further advice or training/nutrition programs.

 

References:

1. Stride variability in human gait: the effect of stride frequency and stride length- F. Danion, E Varraine, M Bonnard, J Pailhous (2003)
2. How do stride length and stride frequency influence the energy-output during running? –Paul Hogberg

You need it – We got it at XpertHealth!

Click HERE to set up a FREE consultation today to take a step closer at becoming an Xpert of your health.


The Importance of Hydration For Performance

Why is fluid important?

Our bodies are made up of 50-70% water – it is found in every cell, tissue and organ. Our bodies need water to:

  • transport nutrients in the blood
  • help chemical reactions take place (eg: digesting food)
  • replace fluid lost through sweating and breathing
  • remove waste products through the urine

Why is fluid important during exercise?

During exercise, the body cools itself by sweating. This results in a loss of body fluid that can lead to dehydration if not replaced.

Sweat production (fluid loss) differs for everyone and depends on factors such as age, genetics, clothing, body surface area, exercise intensity and the training environment – with increases in temperature, humidity, and high-intensity exercise causing a higher rate of sweat loss, and therefore requiring a greater need for fluid replacement.

Dehydration and performance

Exercise performance can be impaired when an individual experiences even mild dehydration. The reason for this is reduced oxygen intake due to the cardiovascular system working harder to keep body temperature normal. This increase in heart rate and body temperature, with reduced oxygen intake, can make exercise feel more difficult (compared to training in a hydrated state) and mental fatigue can occur, bringing about lapses in skill level, concentration and decision-making.

But can you drink too much?

Drinking more fluid than required can also impair performance. A stomach full of fluid is certainly not comfortable when trying to exercise, and on a more serious note, over-hydration can dilute electrolytes in the blood causing serious side-effects such as headaches, disorientation and in very severe cases, coma or death. Please note this is quite rare and dehydration is a lot more common in exercising individuals.

How much fluid should I drink?

The amount of fluid you drink will depend on your individual needs. If you are a serious athlete, you should consult a sports dietitian who can assist you with calculating your sweat losses and help you devise a hydration plan.

Before Exercise

It is important to start exercise in a hydrated state. An easy way to gauge this is to check the colour of your urine as per the image below – if your urine is a light yellow colour, you are most likely hydrated.

If your urine is darker, you’ll need to start sipping on fluids leading up to your exercise session. Between 200-400ml is a good start to help you commence exercise with an improved hydration status without feeling bloated from too much water.

During Exercise

“Drink to Thirst”. This means sipping on fluids as you feel is required. This will avoid visits to the toilet and an upset stomach. Again, if you are a serious athlete, “drinking to thirst” may not be enough and a hydration plan may need to be devised.

After Exercise

The goal after exercise is to replace all lost fluids and electrolytes. One simple way to achieve this is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. If you weigh less after your session compared to before, multiply the difference by 125-150% and this is the amount of fluid you will need to drink over the next 4-6 hours to replace the fluids lost during exercise.

In regards to electrolyte replacement, drinking fluids alongside slightly salty recovery snacks such as bread, milk or cereal, will help your body rehydrate more effectively. Another option is to drink a sports drink – especially if the session was over 90 minutes in length and/or in hot and humid conditions.

What are the best fluids to drink?

For short duration, lower intensity exercise, water is the best fluid option before, during and after exercise. If you’re exercising for over 90 minutes and/or in hot and humid conditions, sports drinks may be a better option due to their concentration of carbohydrates (for energy) and electrolytes (stimulating thirst and helping the body re-hydrate more efficiently).

Two beverages that are not good to drink around exercise are alcohol and energy drinks. Alcohol is a diuretic (causing us to urinate), so drinking it before exercise will set you up for dehydration and prevent rehydration if consumed after exercise.

Energy drinks are another poor fluid choice due to their higher carbohydrate content, which can cause stomach discomfort during exercise. Also, while a small amount of caffeine via a coffee per se, may help you feel more alert and energized for exercise, a recent study found the caffeine from energy drinks results in more profound changes in heart rate and blood pressure, which could have serious consequences in regards to performance and health. This could be due to the other stimulants in energy drinks. (For more information on caffeine, checkout our previous article posted on 12 May 2017).

 

While many athletes and fitness-lovers focus intently on their training and nutrition, it is imperative that hydration is not forgotten. The consequences of dehydration can be quite serious – especially with Shanghai’s hot and humid summer months coming up. If you want to know more about fluid and hydration, or would like to schedule a nutrition consultation with our sports dietitian, contact XpertHealth via our WeChat page or info@xperthealth.com.

You need it – We got it at XpertHealth! 

Click HERE to set up a FREE consultation today to take a step closer at becoming an Xpert of your health.


5 Healthy Habits That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

From the XpertHealth team to you – The healthy habits that we try to live by.

Most of us have goals in many areas of our lives. We work towards big goals at work, using different strategies trying to achieve them; we have yet another set of strategies to achieve the goals we set with our training, and yet some other goals with our personal lives, our health and so on. For many of us it is our habits that make the biggest difference in the endeavour to reach our goals. This is also where some of us tend to struggle.

The way we look at healthy habits are very individual, and differs widely even within our own team. When asked to list five healthy habits that we try to incorporate in our lifestyles the members of our team all listed something different. This doesn’t mean that the five habits my colleague listed are more accurate than mine or the other way around, on the contrary. We base our replies on our own circumstances, goals, personalities, and knowledge.

Instead of using this article to tell you what we believe are the best five healthy habits to focus on, we hope that you will use this as inspiration to find your own five habits that will make sure your lifestyle supports your goals.

So here are some of the healthy habits that we try to incorporate into our lives.

Nutrition:

· Strive to eat as much fruits and vegetables in your diet as possible. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. The World Health Organisation recommends at least 500g of fruits and vegetables each day, which is around 2 pieces of fruit and 2-3 cups of chopped vegetables.

· Always try to have 1 fist-sized amount of vegetables each with your lunch and dinner.

· Remember to enjoy the food that you eat! Use the internet to learn about “Mindful Eating” and stop feeling guilty about your food choices. Choose that chocolate cake and savour it!

· Stay hydrated! Carry a water bottle with you every day and drink at least 1.5L of fluids (preferably water) per day, and even more on hot days or during exercise.

· No foods are forbidden- however you may need to eat less of some foods and more of others depending on your health and goals.

Sleep:

· Make sleep a priority!  Sleep is time for the body to rest, recover and relax and it is very important for our bodies and brains to have some down time.

· Try to go to bed before 11pm each night to make sure you get that much needed rest.

 

Exercise & Physical Activity:

· Make movement part of your daily life! Our bodies were made for movement, so move as much as possible and in different ways.

· Aim to be out of breath from exercise at least 3 times each week. Exercise helps relieve stress, releases endorphins (the body’s feel-good hormones), and reduces the risks of a multitude of chronic diseases and mental illnesses. Exercise is good for both your physical and mental wellbeing.

 

Life Balance:

· Strive towards a balance between all areas of life – work life, personal life, social life and love life.

· Try to minimise the use of electronics in bed before going to sleep – this includes your phone, iPad, laptops and TV. Screens omit blue wavelength that affect sleep. And surely there isn’t an email so important it can’t wait until the next morning?!

· Create a lifestyle where a healthy diet, exercise and your mental wellbeing are equally important.

 

Emotional Health:

· Never go a day without smiling and laughing! Life is better when you smile. If you ever struggle, fake a smile in the mirror and keep smiling like that until that forced smile turns into a real smile.

· Expect the unexpected in life! By removing expectations you will also reduce your overall stress and frustration.

· Keep the positive people in your life, and remove yourself from those who bring you down.

· Be kind to yourself! Take your current circumstances into consideration and don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes life gets busy and you need to change your plans.

· Listen to your body! It tends to tell us when to slow down, to speed up, to eat, drink and sleep. Are you listening?

You can choose to adapt to all, or none, of these habits but reflect on what is important for you, and what habits will help you
reach your goals. How does your lifestyle and health today compare to your goals and where you want to be? Are there any changes that you can easily make or are your habits really good already? If you know that you want to make a change but are not sure where to start, then contact us today and let us help you.

It all starts with one question: What is your goal? 

You need it We got it at XpertHealth! 

ClickHEREto set up a FREE consultation today to take a step closer at becoming an Xpert of your health.