Your body needs more oxygen when you exercise. The heart has to pump harder and faster to deliver oxygen throughout the body when you work out, so your heart rate also increases. Your pulse during exercise will vary depending on age, sex, gender, exercise intensity and fitness. During high-intensity workouts, you may want to reduce your heart rate to stay within a target range or keep from stressing your heart, and a few techniques can help.
The more intense an exercise and the longer you do it, the more your heart rate will increase. If your heart rate gets too high, you can bring it down by temporarily reducing intensity to allow for a short recovery. An effective method for doing this is high intensity interval training (HIIT). During HIIT, you perform intervals that consist of a working portion and a short recovery. This allows you to temporarily elevate your heart rate to a predetermined threshold and then bring it back down during the recovery phase to keep it from getting too high. During a HIIT workout, each subsequent working interval will progressively increase the heart rate, but the recoveries help to bring it down between work phases.
Mastering your breathing patterns is a very effective way of controlling your heart rate during exercise. If you are anxious during intense exercise, your breathing patterns can become erratic. Hyperventilation will cause dramatic increases in pulse and will trigger a stress response. Focus on keeping steady, rhythmic breathing patterns during exercise to reduce your pulse. For example, you could inhale on the left, right, left foot strikes and exhale on the right, left foot strikes while running. When lifting weights, draw in slow, steady breaths during the eccentric portion, and exhale on the concentric contraction.
Visualization can help lower your pulse by helping reduce psychological stress. Guided imagery can tame anxiety and tension that can raise your pulse during exercise. Visualization should only be used during exercises that don't require sight for safety, such as performing cardio on an indoor exercise bike or elliptical machine. Close your eyes and focus on images that are calming and pleasing. As you focus on these calming images, your body will begin to relax and your heart rate will fall.
Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you have cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, ask your doctor if it is safe to perform cardio exercises. If you feel faint or short of breath during exercise, stop immediately. A heart rate monitor can help you make sure you're staying within your targeted heart rate zones.
- The Relaxation Response; Herbert Benson and Miriam Z. Klipper
- Cardiovascular Physiology Concepts; Richard E. Klabunde
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.