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FAQ: Fitness Data

Tracking fitness data is useless – if you don’t actually use it. Fitness products automatically track several metrics but if you never look at the numbers or don’t know how to analyze and/or act upon your fitness data, all that data goes to “waste”.

If you’re one of the fitness enthusiasts who track everything, but don’t know why or what to do with your fitness data, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about fitness data.

How much physical activity should you do to stay healthy?

Adults between 19 and 64 years old and older people starting and above age 65 should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week. The recommendation is to keep each of your activity sessions continuous for 20-60 minutes. Aim to vary your workouts to improve different areas of your fitness: mix cardiovascular, strength training and mobility exercises.

If you want to spend more time training and less time thinking about what kind of workouts you should be doing, a smart fitness watch that offers ready-made daily workout tips may come in handy.

What’s the point of a training diary?

A training diary helps you visualize and monitor your workouts and gives you more objective insight into your training. Seeing all the workouts you’ve done right there in front of your eyes can give you an instant boost and motivate yourself to keep going – as seeing the results of all your hard work in your body and fitness may take some time (it always does).

If you use a fitness/ sports watch with an app, like Polar Flow, to track your workouts, your workout data will be logged automatically into your training diary with stats for each workout and summaries of e.g. training hours, sessions, calories burned, heart rate zones, training benefit and training load.

Why do I need to know my maximum heart rate?

When you know your maximum heart rate, you’ll be able to calculate your personal heart rate zones (or likely your fitness/ sports watch will set them for you based on your maximum heart rate).

If you use a fitness/ sports watch with HR, after you’ve set your maximum heart rate, you can monitor and use your personal heart rate zones to adjust exercise intensity to match your personal fitness goals. Sports watches and fitness trackers may also use maximum HR in several other calculations.

What’s a normal resting heart rate?

The resting heart rate for an adult typically varies between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but a well-trained athlete’s resting heart rate can fall as low as below 40 beats per minute. Compared to someone whose heart works 100 times per minute, the athlete’s heart would only need to take on around 40 % of the workload of the less trained heart.

Why is a lower resting heart rate better than higher?

The most significant health benefit of a low resting heart rate is a substantially decreased risk of heart disease and cardiac events, like heart attacks. The potential immediate downsides of a fast-beating heart are low energy levels, chest pain or discomfort, reduced blood circulation, and chest pain or discomfort.

What can my resting heart rate tell me about my fitness?

The point of measuring your resting heart rate is to evaluate your recovery status and the development of your aerobic fitness. Measuring your resting heart rate under the same or very similar circumstances will help you monitor your current recovery status, possible overload state and whether your fitness has improved.

If your heart rate remains high after exercise, it may mean your exercise intensity was too high, or it could mean a case of deconditioning. A high resting heart rate can be a sign of a low fitness level or a symptom of high stress levels.

How can I use heart rate zones during my workouts?

You can use heart rate zones to control the intensity of your workout. This will help you make sure that what you’re doing is aligned with the purpose of your workout and adjust the intensity of your workout accordingly.

Training with heart rate will allow you to monitor that your exercise intensity is just right during different parts of your workout (warm-up, HIIT, steady-state cardio, cool-down). For example, by keeping your heart rate within a low heart rate zone, you’ll improve your steady-state endurance and teach your body to use fat as energy, whereas exercising in heart rate zone 4 will increase your speed endurance.

What should my target HR be during my workouts?

That depends on your personal fitness goals and the purpose of your workout. Training in different heart rate zones (defined as percentages of your maximum heart rate) improves different areas of fitness.

What is VO2max and how do I measure it?

VO2max (the golden standard of aerobic fitness measurement) is the maximal rate of oxygen your body can use during exercise. Your muscles burn oxygen to generate power: the fitter your body is, the more oxygenated blood it can pump to your muscles, and the more oxygen your muscles can burn, the more power they can generate.

You can measure your VO2max with maximal exercise tests, like the treadmill VO2max test, that are very accurate and very tough. You can also estimate your VO2max with various submaximal tests that you can do in a lab or in field conditions.

Non-exercise tests, like the Polar Fitness Test, are not as accurate, but they’re easy, safe and convenient for setting a baseline.

What does VO2max reveal about my fitness?

VO2max tells you a lot about your cardiovascular fitness, giving you a good understanding of your ability to perform in sports that require aerobic capacity, such as running or aerobic-based group exercise classes.

If you’re aerobically fit – if you have a high VO2max – your cardiovascular system – your heart, lungs and blood vessels – have been conditioned to deliver a lot of oxygen to the muscles and that your muscles have been conditioned to use as much of that oxygen as possible. That means you’ll be able to, for example, run longer distances faster than someone with a low VO2max.

What’s the difference between tracking training benefit and training load?

Training benefit refers to the effectiveness of your training session. By monitoring the training benefit your workouts produce, you’ll learn about how different types of workouts improve different areas of your fitness. This allows you to compare different sessions and see how they affect your overall fitness and performance.

Training load measures how straining your training is for your body, which helps you to estimate how your workouts affect your body, track progress and plan your training more effectively. Monitoring your training load allows you to estimate the time you need to recover from a particular session (or your fitness/sports watch measures and shows you your recovery status).

Why would I track calories if I’m not trying to lose weight?

It’s important to know your energy expenditure whether you’re trying to lose, gain or maintain weight. The amount of calories burned per day and during exercise varies a lot. Knowing your calorie expenditure helps you plan your meals accordingly – it’s key to make sure that you get enough calories to make up for the energy you use.

Depending on the fitness/ sports watch you’re using, your daily calorie expenditure estimate will be based on several metrics, such as daily activity, the intensity of your workouts and also your personal information, such as height, weight, age, gender and maximum heart rate.

Why should I monitor my recovery?

For your training to be effective and progressive, you need to train hard enough and often enough. On the flip side, if you train too much, you won’t make the progress you were aiming for because without sufficient recovery your results won’t correlate with how much more you train. To improve your performance and avoid injuries, you need to recover in between workouts.

Learning to observe how recovered you feel is key, but if you’ve been overtraining for a while and fatigue has become the new normal for you, you may not notice the warning signals your body is sending you. That’s why it’s good to monitor your holistic recovery and let data guide you back to the right path, towards better fitness results.

What’s the benefit of tracking my sleep?

Sleep tracking helps you see patterns that lead to a good night’s sleep. If you monitor your sleep consistently, you can see how your daily activities, such as eating patterns, training, or stress from everyday life affect your sleep. Restorative rest and sleep will boost recovery, which in turn will help you reach your training goals and support muscle growth.

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