Heart Rates—how and why

  Heart Rates how and why 

Taking student heart rates (heart beats per minute) throughout class has always been an integral and a serious part of Jacki’s Aerobic Dancing. Tracking your heart rate

  • enables you to monitor the level of your workout.
  • ensures your instructor that you are working at a level that is effective and safe for you.

Most students find their pulse by placing the first two fingers of either hand on one of the two carotid arteries, located in the neck straight down from each eye. Alternatively, you may place your fingers on the pulse at your wrist, or your hand over your heart. Do not use your thumb, which has a faint pulse of its own.

Your instructor will tell you how to determine your resting heart rate at home and will use it and your predicted maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) to help you determine your working heart rate (WHR) zone.

In every class, you will take a

  • pre-class heart rate at the beginning of class (6 seconds)
  • working heart rate after each aerobic dance (6 seconds)
  • recovery heart rate five minutes after the last aerobic dance (15 seconds).

The pre-class heart rate (6 seconds)

This count is taken during pre-class calf stretches. It establishes a base line for the hour’s activity. When the instructor calls “heart rates”, locate your pulse and start counting when she says “Start”. When she says “Stop” after six seconds, add a zero. Thus a count of 8 for 6 seconds becomes 80 for 60 seconds (one minute). Call out the 80 to the instructor when she asks.

The working heart rate (6 seconds)

Following the Body Sculpting Medley (during which the instructor faces the students), the Booster opens the aerobic portion of class. This first aerobic dance is called the Booster because is boosts you into your working heart rate zone. Your heart rate must stay in your WHR zone until the Cooldown for your workout to be of aerobic benefit that is, have a “training effect” on your cardiovascular system.

At the end of every aerobic dance, the instructor says, “Circle up for heart rates” and the students move immediately to walk quickly in an anti-clockwise circle and locate their pulse.

The instructor walks inside the circle but in the opposite direction – clockwise – as she counts six seconds. As soon as she says “Stop”, she continues walking quickly, listening for heart rates as she looks each student in the face.

If you have to slow your pace while counting, you should quicken it again as soon as the instructor says “Stop”. If you cannot walk and count at the same time, you should step outside the moving circle while counting and rejoin it as soon as the instructor says “Stop”.

You should continue to walk quickly anti-clockwise and only leave the circle after you have given the instructor your heart rate. The dance is finished now not when the music stops!

Now is the time to pick up your water bottle (not before, please), have a drink, and keep your legs moving until the next dance begins.

The recovery heart rate (15 seconds)

The recovery heart rate is taken during calf stretches following the Cooldown dance, approximately five minutes after the end of the last aerobic dance. It is taken for 15 seconds, and this time you do not add a zero.  If your count is over 30 (120 beats per minute) you may be asked to remain after class for a second counting to ensure that your heart rate has returned to its normal level.

Some frequently asked questions:

Q. What is a “‘good” heart rate? This is unique to every student and depends on one’s age, resting heart rate and level of activity at the time of measurement. As you become more aerobically fit and your cardiovascular system becomes more efficient, your resting heart rate may lower, though this is not always the case.

Q. Why do we take heart rates after every aerobic dance? The answer to this is in the first paragraph of this article.

Q. Why do we have to walk in a circle? Because, with the instructor moving in the opposite direction, this is the quickest and most efficient way to accomplish the task, minimizing the “down” time between dances. Our goal is sustained movement in our working heart rate zone for the duration of the aerobic segment, that is, from the Booster to the Cooldown.

Q. Why do we have to walk quickly and immediately the music stops? So your heart rate will still be the same as when you were dancing (working) that’s what we want to measure. It drops off quickly when you slow your pace or stop moving. And again, because we want to minimize the time between dances.

Q. Why do we have to keep our legs moving between dances? As above to keep in our working heart rate zone and also to keep our blood circulating and not “pooling” in our feet.

Jacki Sorensen describes Aerobic Dancing as Serious fun. We’re serious about having fun, but also serious about the safety and effectiveness of everything we do. Monitoring heart rates is an important part of caring for our students, and showing them how to care for themselves.

One thought on “Heart Rates—how and why”

  1. Thank you for all the HR information. I am an ‘older’ student and have been enjoying Jacki’s aerobic dancing for 30 years or more. I keep fit and healthy and my HR after cool-down is always around the same number of 26.

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