Positive Perception & Karvonen Formula Combined…

Hi there! If you are still with me, this might put you to sleep! 


Wow! This is was so much more work, writing is not my expertise… Hope you are not left more confused! 

 On a positive note, I have tried to take the time to explain this for years, now it’s done. 

  As a personal trainer, I use the formula with my clients, working to help them understand their own cardiovascular goals by knowing their heart rate goals during the exercise. Specific goals will offer the client a way to focus and target something achievable. As far as I am concerned if you workout to build a healthier heart, and lungs, your body will follow.  While training with clients, it is just as important to include their perception of the exercise at a specific moment by attaching a value system to perception. 1-10, (1) feeling just fine, as (10) is a pure struggle, difficult to continue.

When we are close to the high level of 10, this is  when the negative feelings most often take over. These feelings will  dominate the clinical number, arrived from the Karvonen Formula.  If the charts dictate this client can work at a 140 bpm based on their age, it means nothing if. the persons perception feels it’s too difficult. It works just like the placebo effect for drug trials. If you believe you feel a certain way, your brain will make your body feel this way, even if it’s not true.   

   It’s a  difficult concept to explain, especially while someone is working out, which is what happens in the gym, when people are asking me about this measurement. Once you get your mind around the concept it is easy to put into action.  While I’m running, I find these details keep me from focusing on the difficulty of what I am doing.  Just another way to drive my attention somewhere else, helping to reduce the voices of negative perception! 

I will try to share my own management of  the formula & my perception. 

A quick outline of KF percentages  

When using the Karvonen Formula, there are different factors which dictate what percentage to use for the mathematics of the formula. The percentages chosen are designed to provide the proper measurement for the clients’ current fitness level.  This is a safe way to begin to work on the cardiovascular system. Choosing the wrong percentage based on activity can put a client at risk, overloading the heart and lungs when they are not physically ready for the extra work, will be dangerous.    

  • low end, if I was lazy 132bpm, using 60% as my factor
  • middle of the road, maybe working out 2 times a week, using 75% as my factor, 137bpm
  • working out more, trying harder, running or working out with much more effort, maybe 3-4 times a week, using 80% as my factor, 163bpm
  • preparing for a 5K, or just pushing myself, so I can enjoy the huge benefit of weight loss, which drives my positive perception, 85% as my factor, 147bpm

For my age, my heart rate goals using the Karvonen Formula are between 132 & 160. This is a large range for the sake of people who are cardiovascular fit. The charts were redesigned a few years ago, to allow the higher ranges as many more people are more cardio fit, working above the average ranges, which were not presented on the older charts properly.  Of course, not everyone will be able to exercise close to the high range in their age category. It is, however, a goal everyone should be focused on achieving if they want to continue to improve their cardiovascular ability’s or maintain these abilities,  if they are already in the above range. In the medical community, it is proven to be the best heart and lung conditioning.

Note: Keep in mind the best investment for your fitness health is a heart rate monitor, giving you the ability to easily look at your heart rate at any moment of the exercise.  Another options is to download the heart rate measure tool on your phone. Lot’s of free apps for this. Please practice measuring your heart rate with the tool, it’s a bit tricky at first.  



My skills for this technique if you are interested

Let’s start with my comparison of peak conditioning, which takes me back to 2013 through 2015.  ( like everyone, I have good years, when I am on target and others when I fall off track. Life gets in the way,and I struggle to stay focused on my fitness goals.)  During these couple of years, I made a decision to participate in fundraising 5K’s to help me get back to the level of cardio condition I was in before 2010.  I also wanted to provide a way to teach my students there are other ways to become more fit and have fun, like participating in  organized 5K’s.  My normal race times were between  28 to 35 mins.  I practiced every other day,  running, or brisk walking, for 1 or 2 miles, and sometimes a combination up to 5 miles. All of which depended on my time and my energy.
Spring really helps after a long winter, all you want is to be outside, the energy naturally increases during this time, which is the best to begin your new cardiovascular goals.  I was happier with my weight at this time, which was 125lbs. At 5’3″ some would consider this to be heavy, however, I am muscular and that does make a difference. My clothes fit well and I had lots of energy. My good cholesterol is always around (76) which is fantastic! (Good HDL’s come from good cardio conditioning) My blood pressure is always around 110/60, (i think, need to check) Either way, it’s always low.  I had lot’s of energy, and I felt really good. I could easily maintain a comfortable 148-150 bpm, and that also increased to 152-154 for longer periods of time during my 2-3 mile runs. I would work on intervals for short periods of time increasing my HR to 162  bpm, for short sprints, lasting around  1 minute to a minute and a half.  This is how you can really get in good cardio condition. 

Fast forward to now, 2019, I am struggling to maintain 142 bpm for more than 20 minutes, while I can only reach 150-152 and hold for 1 or 2 minutes. My weight is around 145, and I am dealing with some recent injuries. This is way off my feel good days, between 2013 & 2015. My new focus for stretching is to help my current injuries heal, while I look to reduce the chance for more injuries to my body in the future, which is usually caused by the lack of flexibility.

After a lifetime of physical fitness and less focus on flexibility, I can tell this has caused my body pain. The same has happened for many of my students,  whose ages range from 40 to 89 years.  Flexibility is a huge focus in my classes now and will continue to be going forward. It is the only way we will be able to continue our exercise goals and our commitment to overall wellbeing. Which means not being plagued by injuries every time we turn around. 

Adding a 5K to my calendar helps me to focus on my goals for cardio improvement. Now I need to work on increasing my cardio abilities, while I work on my distance.  My perception right now is challenged when I am around 145bpm, negative thoughts start happening. This is when I start my positive motivators, along with the music that motivates me. Music is a big part of the motivation for me. I have not talked much about this, as the focus here is to teach my formula &  perception combination.  While I am jogging on the treadmill, which is good in the beginning, as the numbers are in front of me, and they keep me thinking about my goals. For now, I am focused on distance and heart rates. When I am on top of my goals, I would rather cover the dashboard up with a towel, so I do not obsess over when I am going to be done.  If I was outside, I would have more distractions,  which is helpful.  You don’t spend so much time focused on the struggle as there are more things to look at.  The treadmill will help you learn how to manage your perception while you are combining it with the formula, learning when and how to use the motivators. Getting to know your heart understanding your perception at each given moment, will help you to know exactly what you are capable of, this way the  negative voices don’t win. 🙂  

Since I am in fairly good cardio condition, the low side of the scale for me is my warm-up mode.  It’s just a couple of minutes for me, as it feels normal, I have zero resistance to this heart rate area (132),  and could continue exercising at this rate for a long time. This would defeat my purpose to keep my body, joints, bones, and tendons healthy. Over time, joints and tendons will wear out if over used, or used improperly.  This, of course, is another subject for another day.  At this rate, I would never achieve my goals to increase or maintain my cardiovascular system.  

I can get a good sweat on when I am working around 140 bpm for my cardio focus.  However, staying at this rate, won’t provide the type of benefits I am looking for. I want shorter workouts, with big benefits, defined as weight loss for me. I want to see this weight loss happening within 2 weeks of my following my cardio calendar.   I don’t want to risk injury to my feet and knees, by overusing them, which is continued movement in the same direction for too long.

I was running often in (2014-2015) with my students, participating in local 5K walk/run/jog events, my heart rates on the high end were soaring to 162! This is when I lost weight, 20-25 pounds of body fat. This is when I felt the best I have ever felt and most likely was in my best shape ever. 

On the opposite side looking  at 160 bpm, you might think I was going to have a heart attack. However, from the charts, it’s actually a cardiovascular performance operating at 80-90%, which is fine, as I was working out regularly and I was in the proper condition for pushing myself.  Obviously, you would not go out and try this at the beginning of your workouts, as your perception will tell you no way I quit! 

I will admit, it isn’t easy, however, I don’t hang out at the level. When I achieve this level, and I feel breathless, I slow it down, in order to catch my breath. For myself, I can feel recovery/catch my breath at a 140 HR. I would push myself the last 2 blocks or the last tenth of a mile while participating in a 5K.  This just means once I hit that number, I know I can only be there for a short time, as it pushes me into a “negative perception”. Ah….there is that term!  My mind starts playing games, telling me I can’t go one more inch, I have to stop, I have to walk, blah blah blah… Yes, it is a mind game, however, it is true, I feel pretty stressed at 160bpm, so it’s only normal for those head games to begin. The simple fix is to get back to where there are no head games. For me, this is a heart rate around 142. The head games simply disappear, I actually feel really good, and my positive perceptions take over again, helping me to continue pushing forward until I finish the race or the distance I am looking to achieve.  This is when you get to experience the awesome runners high! Not that I have ever walked on the moon, this is what I think it feels like!  It’s an indescribable feeling of pure strength, endurance, and a mood upper! No drugs here! 

Does this explanation help? Can you find your happy number, where wonderful thoughts are still in control? Can you push yourself to the next level recognizing bad thoughts will go away as soon as you go back to the happy place? If you learn how to master this, your happy place will increase. Therefore, your resting heart rates will decrease, helping you to become completely cardio fit.

Let me explain another way, using the treadmill. 

I am 5’3, a good pace walk for me is around 3.8. If I go to 4.0 or above this is when I fall in between my walk and my jog. This in-between is not good for our knees.  If you are totally opposed to jogging/running increase your incline in order to make your legs go to work, or grab weights and carry them. It’s the quads and the hamstrings that are going to get you to your heart rate goals. One very important detail is my music. Music motivates me, and this is a big help. My playlist is built to motivate me when needed and when I don’t need the speed or motivation, the songs are chosen to just keep me on pace. Lot’s to discuss on that subject… 

I am fighting to find my stride, right now. It’s ok, however, you don’t want to find a place and hang, this will defeat the purpose of reducing the amount of time you really need to do cardio work to be cardio fit. Only if you are training and preparing do you focus on other details, which will lead you to another level of fitness? In this case, it is a 5K goal, to finish somewhere around 30 mins. I focus on heart rate and set small goals for what number to hit and how long can I hold it there. Just a game, to pass the time. Beginning to rely on my music more during this time.

Salt Shaker visual is a technique that works for me. What is yours?

I will look at my HR often, so I can use the numbers to predict my perception. When I get cranky and negative, I know I need to get back to around 140 bpm these days. Once I am there the thoughts disappear within just a minute or two. I do lot’s of deep breathing during this time, feeding my body oxygen, in order to recover faster. This is really good to help you build the cardio endurance you want to achieve.

Hopefully, this hasn’t left you brain dead! If you followed the explanation before the table great, otherwise I hope the table helped you to understand how I train, and how I handle positive perspective and negative perspective.  Now let’s fast forward to 2021 post pandemic! It’s time to get back on track!!

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