Push harder and get better results in your workout by using a heart rate monitor—the right way

By Caitlin Carlson
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Have you ever spun through an entire cycling class and emerged nearly sweat-free while the rest of the class looks drenched? Here's why: it's easy to cheat yourself on a stationary bike and, without meaning to, just not try all that hard. (Check out these 5 Cool Cycling Trends to Try.) But, there's a foolproof way to monitor your effort level and make sure you're pushing hard enough to score a hard-earned glisten-and get the most out of your workout. And it works whether you're cycling, running-or even strength training.

"A heart rate monitor is a great tool that tells you exactly how hard you are actually working," says Drill Fitness instructor Angel Santiago. "Heart rate data doesn't lie." Unlike you when you tell yourself you can't spin any faster! (No judgments-we've all been there!)

In fact, Santiago and the team at Drill Fitness believe in the perks of this data so much so that they ask participants in each of their cycling and HIIT classes to don a heart rate monitor. "An instructor will guide you through the different intensity color zones, which correspond to heart rate data that indicates how hard you're working, and tell you when to aim to be in which zone," explains Santiago. But even if you're on your own, you can definitely still use this great fitness metric!

Pick up a monitor (Drill uses Wahoo monitors) and do this simple calculation: "Take 220 and subtract your age to get a general idea of what your max heart rate should be," says Santiago. (So if you're 35, that would be 185 beats per minute.) Then, consider how hard you want to work. If you're doing high intensity intervals-either cardio or strength-you should aim for 80 percent of your max heart rate, per Santiago (the average 35-year-old would want to hit around 130 BPM.) If you're looking to shore up endurance, aim for 70 percent, but try not to go below 60 percent of your max heart rate if you're hoping to score results.

And one more tip: don't focus on the data the whole workout, every workout. In fact, check out How Your Intuition Can Help You Get Fitter.

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