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Rushing to the gym with that ‘new year, new me’ feeling? What if you I told you there is a way to maximize your precious time and effort while you're there? You can do so with a little-known training secret—heart rate training.

Apart from training for an endurance sport like a triathlon or cycling event, heart rate training is not a widely used training tool, but depending on your goals it can be one of the best things you can include in your favorite cardio workouts. If you received a holiday gift of a wearable Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, or another training-enabled device (or if you already have one!), get ready to make the most of it.

What is heart rate training?

According to Brenda Boyd, Orangetheory Fitness regional head trainer for Houston, heart rate training tracks how much your body is exerting itself. Depending on how fit you are, you may or may not be exercising in the right heart rate zone. The way to know is by wearing a heart rate monitor such as a Fitbit. Heart rate training is the foundation of all Orangetheory Fitness classes.

How do I know the right heart rate range for my workout?

Heart rate training is effective if you make the heart rate zone match your goal. Take a few minutes to figure out what range your heartrate should be in based on your goals, such as weight loss, so that you can use your monitor to stay within that range. You can use this website to calculate your optimum range for training.

How hard should I train to target specific goals like endurance training and weight loss?

For fat burning or endurance training, you should train in the 50-75 percent range. For weight loss, interval training is most effective, which means bouts of time that are challenging at 75-85% maximum effort, followed by a short rest. 

Who can benefit from heart rate training?

According to Boyd, the answer is simple: everyone. "Building up your heart will help you live longer, reduce stress and build up your immune system. Everyone wants to look good, but training your heart is going to make that happen and benefit you in so many other ways,” she says.

If you are interested in finding a heart rate monitor, Consumer Reports has an extensive breakdown of the pros and cons of 11 popular models, ranging from $29 to $200. Use your heart rate monitor for the cardio and fat burning benefits to get the most of your workout, or make your Fitbit count more than just steps. Either way, it will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment and give your workout a more defined purpose.

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