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Heart rate monitors & R.P.E. (sounds exciting! oh golly gee!).

Posted Jan 14 2009 6:01pm
Hi MizFit, I saw somewhere you dont use a heart rate monitor. what do you do instead? thanks!!!

I am a complete child as this email triggered a vivid and muchtimekilling daydream sequence in my head.

One where the emailer heard I didnt use a heart rate monitor when Jillian discussed it on an episode of The Biggest Loser as a form of encouragement for a team member who struggled with the apparatus.

Then I was jolted back to reality when I realized I had work to do. questions to answer. so here goes:

You heard correctly. I dont wear a heart rate monitor.


And I didnt when I was working to lose weight either (oooh how was THAT for heading off additional questions?) as even then I fretted not about staying in my target zone.

Ive always been a body listener (whisperer?).

For example: I typically do lateral raises with 15 pounds. If today were shoulder day, however, and that 15 pound dumbbell felt frickin heavy beyond belief and I knew I’d be SWINGING the weight not lifting I’d listen to my body, back off to 12 pound weights & merely increase my repetitions.

The same goes for my cardiovascular workouts and, for that reason, I always go by Rate of Perceived Exertion.

A numerical scale which is used to measure the intensity of exercise and (the one I use) runs from 0-10.

There are myriad ways to define each number. For me zero (nothing at all) is how I feel when plopped in a chair watching Real Housewives of Orange County and 10 (very, very difficult) is how I’d *imagine*I’d feel were I ever to run a marathon.

You can envision the entire scale looking somewhat like this (with my personal target for cardiovascular exercise falling into a number 4 or 5 depending on the day & whether I’m interval training):

0 - Couch plop

0.5 - Just noticeable

1 - Very light

2 - Light

3 - Moderate

4 - Somewhat hard, sweating, breathy, I CAN TALK but dont want to.

5 - Hard, very breathy but can still talk or sing.


7 - Very challenging but doable.

8 - MizFit is working hard, can talk but verging on angryexerciser (dont pretend you dont know what I mean).


10 - Very, very difficult (read: I dont think, in all honesty) I have pushed myself to this point….yet.

The scales may vary (some range from 1-20 instead of ten) but the concept remains the same: perceived exertion is how hard you feel your body is working.

It focuses upon the physical sensations you experience during an exercise period (increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue).

For me this method of assessing my workout works far better (more personal than a heart rate number) & after years of using the RPE scale I find I know, intuitively, when to up my intensity level.

Now you, Oh Bumbling Band.

Do you swear by your monitor? Never embark on ANY cardio without it?

Are you a sister/brother in the RPE scale? how well does it work for you? how long have you been using it?

Or, and you rebel peeps may be my fave group, are you firmly in the I dont need no stinkin heart rate exertion calculator camp?

Please to hit us all up in the comments.

So this Zone thing really has me interested. I’ve been reading on the site and I took the “zone in a week” book out of the library. For what I know to be my diet issues (insulin resistance being a big one) this diet makes SO MUCH sense to me.

Here’s my stumbling block… I work full time and spend my mornings trying to get myself and two seven year olds out the door. Breakfast is a challenge (to say the least) so cooking is O-U-T. Any handy breakfast tips that fall in line with staying in the Zone?
And let me just say that I find your blog really inspiring. It’s great to see someone my own age (I’m 43) showing that you don’t have to be 22 to be fit and healthy. I wanna be you when I gro
w up. :)

I almost edited out the compliment at the end but decided, even though we’ve rambled a bunch lately about age, that the point about not needing to be 22 to be fit (not that there’s anything wrong with being 22 & fabulous) was worth leaving in.

Before I address the breakfast question I wanna back up clarify something. I am a fan of the Zone, but Im not enough of a fan (of any way of eating) to measure or obsess about counting.

No (fingerquote) diet (unFQ) is worth my having to become a slave to the food scale, measuring cups, or constantly count grams of things as I know I simply wont do it.

As our emailer points out with work, kids and LIFE there’s just too much else going on.

As a result, all my tips & suggestions are from this perspective: I keep in mind 40% good complex carbs, 30% lean protein, 30% good fats, estimate & just do the best I can. (as another reason I love Dr. Sears’ approach is his constant reminder we are only as far away from the Zone as our next meal.)

First? Refer to the glycemic index when you have a moment & be certain none of your breakfast options fall in the highhigh end of the spectrum. (for the most part this is easy to remember/figure out as super processed means super high on the index).

Next? Plan ahead. While I wont dare admonish you and say there is always time though I do think that we, women, need to put ourselves FIRST more often and MAKE the time there are foods you can prepare the night before which are easy to grab & go.

(*here* is where I give my thoughts as you, Oh Bumbling Band, think to yourself how much BETTER your ideas are and quickfastskip to the commentversation and chime in.)

  • Breakfast doesnt have to mean breakfast foods! Ill often have grilled chicken and brown rice for my morning meal (prepared the night before and eaten cold at my desk after morning mayhem settles).
  • In that same vein: whole wheat pita pockets, deli meat and cheese.
  • Im also a fan of protein pancakes made ahead of time and eaten cold on the go in the car (if by FAN you mean Id probably steal the time to heat & eat–which I do).
  • You could do a Zone bar. While I find these MORE satiating than other bars Im still not a fan of bar-as-meal-replacement.
  • I adore Morningstar Farms sausage patties. These would take (literally) a minute to heat up but when shoved into a pita pocket and crammed in your piehole with a fruit chaser you’re pretty close to Zone perfect.
  • Laughing Cow cheese or string cheese (protein/fat) & some whole wheat toast?
  • Peanut butter (protein & fat) & some fruit?
  • plain yogurt (Fage?) & some fruit cut & tossed in?
  • nuts (almonds, for example, give you your protein and fat) & fruit?

My struggle here, as I try and generate a list for you, is that I find I do keep returning to the notion of asking you to cook (or reheat).

To, if need be, get up 10 minutes earlier so that you can at least eat a bowl of oatmeal (with some flax seeds sprinkled on top) for your morning meal.


I know that it can feel like a Herculean task (believe me) but I also firmly believe that not only is role modeling the importance of breakfast crucial but you will feel FAR BETTER, more energized and set yourself up for a more productive day (with fewer energy crashes) as a result.

So that’s me, People.

I start off strong and vow not to nag—–and then veer wildly off track into chastising territory. Into the breakfast nag & the importance of deciding (whatever the ‘issue’ is) that we are WORTH IT and MAKING the time.

You with me?

Disagree and think that, for many people, my suggestion is unrealistic?

Have some better no-cook-eat-on-go tips for our reader?

Please to hit us all up in the comments.

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