Q: I am a few weeks into a new fitness programme and struggling to exercise for more than 20 minutes at a time. A friend thinks I am going at it like a bull at a gate and should slow down. I’m 57 and, while a little overweight, otherwise fit and well.
A: Buy a heart rate monitor (any decent sports shop will sell them) - it will allow you to stay within your optimal training range and ensure you never do too little, or too much.
As you become fitter you will have to push harder to raise your pulse rate into your ideal training range. At the beginning brisk walking may be enough, while six weeks later you could be cycling up hills.
To work out where you should be, subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate (MHR). Never exceed this in training. Your MHR is 183 beats per minute. Work out at an intensity that raises your heart rate to between 65% and 85% of your MHR, making your training range 120 – 155 beats per minute. For maximum benefit aim to exercise within your training range for at least 20 – 30 minutes four times a week.
There is some individual variation and these parameters don’t apply to everyone but they are the safest place to start - a good trainer will be able to tweak them if required as you get fitter.
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