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Cardiovascular Workouts + Weight Training

How to Measure

There are two places that you can use to take your pulse: your radial pulse, which is on the thumb side of your wrist, or your carotid pulse, which is located on your neck on either side of your throat. Use your index and middle finger to check your pulse at either site.

Once you find your pulse, count the first beat you feel as zero, the next as one, then two, and so on, for 10 seconds. Multiplying that figure by six will tell you your heart rate in beats per minute.

If you find that your pulse is ticking along comfortably at 138 beats per minute, say 5 beats or so above your calculated target heart rate, keep going. If, however, you're unable to mutter your name three consecutive times, slow down until you can tell someone what you had for dinner last night. In other words, use common sense. Jonathan recently saw a new gym member running on a treadmill like a business-man sprinting for the last train home. It seemed like only a matter of minutes before he was expelled from the revolving belt like a watermelon seed squeezed from one's fingers. When Jonathan asked this ambitious but misguided chap what he was doing, the wheezing runner explained that he was five beats below his target zone. (Jonathan checked his pulse and found out that in fact he was over his target zone by a wide margin.)

The moral of this story is this: Check your heart rate a few times to get an accurate reading. Second, listen to your body. Target heart rates are good guides, but they're not written in stone. If, you're cruising along comfortably at the top end of your zone, that's fine. If, on the other hand, you're struggling to keep pace at the low end of the zone, it's okay to back off a little.

If you don't want to be bothered with taking your pulse, but want to be sure that you're training in your target zone, heart rate monitors are available. A wireless transmission is sent from a chest strap to a wristwatch receiver, and you get an accurate reading of your heart rate. Some treadmills, bikes, and stair climbers in your gym may also be able to read your heart rate directly from the transmitter. Polar is the best known and most widely used heart rate monitor manufacturer, though others, including Cardiosport, have entered the market. Models range from the simplest version, which tells you nothing but your heart rate, to ones with alarms to tell you when you're out of your training zone, to the real fancy-schmancy ones with a stopwatch, bicycle speedometer, and computer interface.

Next: Spinning >>

Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.

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