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Heart Rate Monitors, EPOC, and Our Philosophy at ZPT

Aug 10, 2019

ZPT: How we set up our programming and why we aren’t your
typical HIIT studio workout.

On the strength side of the Zoom wall our goal is to make you STRONGER and help you move BETTER. You will find that building functional strength will not only enhance your other cardio workouts (cycling, running, etc.) but will make it easier to get through your daily life tasks. We believe the best way to make your body stronger is to separate 'strength' from 'conditioning.' In order to truly get stronger (and by stronger we DO NOT mean “bigger”) you
must challenge yourself with the weights you are lifting. If I asked you to sprint on a treadmill and get into your max heart rate zone and then asked you to get off and immediately pick up a heavy weight, you would not be able to lift to your full potential. How can you get stronger if every time you try to lift a heavy weight, you are too tired to lift anything more than a few pounds? Exhaustion does not always equate to gains in strength, and quite honestly you should demand more bang for your buck when looking for a strength coach (because let’s be honest ANYONE can make you tired but it takes preparation and knowledge to design a program that
will make you a stronger and better conditioned athlete). An effective workout is much more than pushing to exhaustion and while you may sweat your ass off and burn a ton of calories in your basic HIIT or treadmill workout, an intentional strength program with one-on-one coaching attention, planned reps and rest in an organized fashion is the best way to see actual results.
This is why we separate our strength and conditioning during class.

Our classes are intentionally small to provide personal training in a small group settingas opposed to a more chaotic and crowded group fitness atmosphere, where a single coach cannot possibly keep track of all the stations. Our coaches are all certified strength coaches
and/or personal trainers to help you improve your form, avoid injury, provide modifications, and track your individual progress. So, FIRST we build strength and help you learn to move (think
movement correction, tempos, intentional rest). THEN the second half of class focuses on conditioning. For all of our “go-go-go” clients this is where we focus on improving your muscular
and cardiovascular endurance, getting your heart rate up, and turning you into sweaty mush!
The key here is that we are NOT your typical HIIT class and we format this way because we truly want to make you stronger, not merely tire you out. Stay tuned for more sneak peaks into programming.

Why we don’t mess with heart rate monitors

Heart rate monitors can be a very useful tool for competitive athletes when used correctly and when their purpose and limitations are understood by coaches and athletes.
Primarily used to track athletes’ “training loads,” my personal college hockey team at UVA used our top of the line Polar monitors to flag “overtraining” and warn coaches that injury was imminent without a decrease in training load. Thus the “red zone” was not used to compare players side by side or measure how hard each athlete was working, but rather was used as an indication that a rest day was needed and helped our coach decide when to schedule high
intensity practices.

Why not use heart rate to compare players? Heart rate is much more complicated than most people think and while it is true that heart rate will rise and fall with exercise and change over time as the heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood, there are MANY factors that affect heart rate. How much sleep you had last night, what you ate for a pre-workout meal, the temperature/humidity, caffeine intake, genetics, stress, even something as simple as walking vs.
driving to your training session can impact your heart rate. Wearing a heart rate monitor and tracking heart rate “zones” during a workout can have some benefits for competitive athletes
hoping to maximize their training sessions and avoid overtraining. However, the Average Joe may slap on a monitor, Fitbit or apple watch and expect their heart rate to tell them more about
their progress and fitness level than a $50 piece of plastic is capable of. Even the bits of useful data the device can provide (when it’s not sliding around) can be difficult to interpret and cannot be compared side by side with another person.

 People also find motivation by looking at the calorie burn or steps tracked by their devices without realizing they may be over or underestimating their actual activity. My Fitbit tracks twice the steps when I deep clean one row of bikes at zoom than it does when I push
through a sweaty 60-minute power ride. Even the expensive monitor UVA Athletics provided for me in college would randomly track sprints during a lifting session and often not track a single
sprint during our grueling fitness tests. The moral: technology is not infallible, and the steps taken on the day you forgot your watch were not a waste. 
When it comes to using heart rate as motivation and time in the “red zone” as a measure of your effort, you may become frustrated as it gets harder to stay in the red zone for longer periods of time (and thus less points in some fitness classes). The more fit you become,
the more efficient your heart becomes at pumping blood. Therefore, your heart rate will recover to your resting rate quicker and you may find you are capable of more volume and don’t need as
much time to rest in between sets. Classes that focus on heart rate zones can be frustrating as your cardiovascular fitness improves, since you may have been racking up more points when
you started your fitness journey despite covering shorter distances at slower speeds. You may find after a while that a hard, all-out sprint gets you less and less points since your heart rate is
quicker to recover back into your green zone. Heart rate is a good vital sign to be familiar with and aware of, but when it comes to tracking progress at ZPT, we focus on your ability to
recover after a taxing round and maintain consistent effort or increased effort during both strength and conditioning.

EPOC: Highly Coveted & Over-Hyped
A huge selling point for HIIT workouts nowadays is EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption or “the afterburn effect”). EPOC is the idea that your body requires more oxygen after intense exercise in order to restore your body to a resting state and better prepare it for the next bout of fitness-induced stress. This elevated oxygen consumption demands more calories and studies claim it can last anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours (meaning you
may continue to burn additional calories after your workout for up to 24 hours). Research shows the impact of EPOC depends on the duration and intensity of the workout and varies greatly
from person to person. So, two people doing the same exact workout will have very different calorie burn from EPOC depending on age, gender, weight, diet, stress, fitness level, etc.

Therefore, if you are walking out of class and your instructor tells you that you burned 700 calories and will burn an additional x percentage of those calories throughout the day, I wouldn’t bank on their math. Not only does this number vary greatly from person to person but research shows the effect of EPOC on weight loss is pretty insignificant. So not only is this number probably not accurate for you, but it may be an inflated estimation which can sabotage
your fitness goals if you are the type to “cash in” calorie for calorie the energy you burned in class for a giant greasy burger. While the fitness world has taken EPOC research out of context and blown it up, there is definitely some truth behind the calories required to restore the body to its resting state. However, you don’t have to max out your heart rate on a treadmill to achieve it. In fact, many studies show the largest EPOC effect comes from heavy resistance
training. SO, if you are still hung up on those extra calories I’d reach for a heavier bell before stressing over your heart rate metrics ��

Listen to YOUR BODY
There is no doubt technology has changed the way people work out, set fitness goals, and track their cardiovascular progress. While these pieces of technology can be a great tool when used correctly and can provide many people the motivation they need to get moving throughout the day, it is important to recognize the purpose and limitations of these devices. Over-obsessing with steps, calorie burn, or heart rate can get in the way of your fitness goals by misrepresenting your progress and preventing you from listening to your body. Plus, HR watches get in the way when push pressing and racking kettlebells and ain’t nobody got time for that

Becca Zamojcin

Instagram : @Beccazamojcin

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