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Rock Out To The Beat (of your heart)

Rock Out To The Beat (of your heart)

Whether your goal is to lose 100+ pounds of body fat, improve as a professional/elite athlete or somewhere in between, working out & training by heart rate is the key to unlock the door to success (and this is what makes 9Round such a great workout because you will be working out in the proper HR zones). The heart is the tachometer of the human body. Just like the tachometer in a car, it allows us to monitor the engine and its performance. If we redline the tachometer and just ignore it and keep it redlined, there is a very good chance we are going to blow the engine. The same holds true with the human body. Ignore your human tachometer (your heart rate) and there is a good chance the body will ‘blow up.’


Why is heart rate training not used more often? Why do so many fitness enthusiasts, athletes and coaches try to downplay the benefits heart rate training? Why does every fitness enthusiast, coach & athlete not embrace HR Training? It's simple; it's due to a lack of knowledge in the area of human physiology and how to apply and implement it. In addition, for a coach to properly apply the precision of heart rate training, not only does it take an in-depth knowledge base and understanding, but it takes a tone of time, effort, energy and patience. It's a lot easier for a coach to simply tell a fitness enthusiast and athlete, "Just go easy/moderate/hard" as compared to providing exact parameters in terms of heart rate for the fitness enthusiast and athlete to follow.


For similar reasons, fitness enthusiasts and athletes tend to reject heart rate training as well. Fitness enthusiasts and athletes would rather work out more/harder as opposed to working out smarter. (It is easy to workout hard, but it takes time, effort, energy, focus, patience and discipline to workout smart). What’s the one quality that successful individuals possess? It’s the ability to delay gratification.


Factors That Affect Heart Rate

It's very common for individuals to want to follow parameters such as speed, intensity, power, pace and perceived effort. While there is value of course in all of these, according to Cardiologist/Electrophysiologist, Dr. Vest, "only following pace, power and perceived effort is very shortsighted because we are ignoring the most important factors that affect heart rate.” Much like an airplane pilot needing to know factors such as heat, humidity, altitude, etc.; because these factors will affect the engine, take off, etc., the same holds true for the human body. As Dr. Vest mentions, heat, humidity, altitude, sleep, stress, etc., all affect heart rate even at the exact same pace/speed. Even though pace/power may be the same, VO2 max will change. Pace/power does not determine exertion because oxygen consumption is different in different conditions. Bottom line is this, there is only number that tells us, physiologically, what the body is doing and that is heart rate.


Improve Recovery

In addition to proper heart rate training helping to improve performance, it can also help significantly assist in improving one's recovery. According to Dr. Richard Vest, working out more/harder and not smarter (proper heart rate training) can put a big oxidative stress on the body and this can inhibit recovery. Just like pace & speed does not determine exertion level, the same holds true for recovery. How we feel does not determine our recovery, rather, heart rate will tell us exactly how we are recovering. Too much working out/training combined with too much intensity (too high of a HR) will impede recovery. Therefore, when we commit to recovery by working out smarter by following the proper heart rate zones, recovery will be enhanced which will lead to improved performance.


Cardiology & Physiology 101

Dr. Vest mentions that oxidative stress can occur in both aerobic and anaerobic states. (1) During anaerobic metabolism, lactic acid and hydrogen ions will damage the muscles and physiologically, this is not what we were designed to do. From a fitness and athletic performance perspective, this can result in an athlete stopping completely, acidosis, acid in the blood, lactic acid in the muscles and the inability to metabolize oxygen. Working out in the proper heart rate zones (Green & Yellow HR Zones for 9Round members) of course can prevent this from occurring. Dr. Vest says that heart rate drift can and will occur and if we cross the anaerobic threshold too early in a workout (or race/competitive event), the body cannot perform and we are going to get crushed. Properly following heart rate will enable a fitness enthusiast and athlete to cross these barriers at the appropriate time and maximize their performance no matter what the conditions.


Body Composition

Nutrition and body composition cannot be ignored because these are two additional factors that greatly affect heart rate. There are many marathon runners and Ironman triathletes that are overweight and obese. Despite this, you will hear these athletes say things such as, "I'm healthy because I can finish a marathon/Ironman." Dr. Vest says, "just because an overweight/obese individual finishes a marathon/Ironman, this does not mean they're healthy; it just means, well, they finished a marathon/Ironman.” Cardiologist/Electrophysiologist, Dr. Vest mentions that it is great to be active course, but body composition must be addressed in order to avoid potential health issues directly associated with being overweight and obese. Oxidative stress can increase with obesity along with the production of free radicals, which can increase inflammation. (2) And again, even more confirmation as to why working out in the proper heart rate zones is key. In addition, a higher body fat percentage can lead to increased levels of cortisol, higher blood glucose, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, etc., all that can adversely affect heart rate, which in turn affects performance, recovery and overall health.


Cardiologist Professional Perspective

Dr. Vest treats conditions such as Atrial Fibrillation, Ventricular Tachycardia, Supraventricular Tachycardia, etc., and more and more research is showing the potential negative effects of endurance workouts. (3) Are these negative effects due to anaerobic metabolism? Working out at too-high of a heart rate for too long a duration is a set up for the creation of oxidative stress and free radicals which will then bring about negative physiological effects. Does the avoidance of higher heart rates have a benefit? We do not know for sure because all we have is associations. For example, if you take 10,000 individuals and have them perform regular exercise and 10,000 individuals train for marathons, the result is that the marathon group is at a higher risk for Atrial Fibrillation. And again, this is not proven causation, just association. Research also shows that long distance training can increase the risk of left ventricular hypertrophy, atrial dilation, and right ventricular fibrosis (development of scar tissue). We don't know if heart rate monitoring and management during training will decrease these risks, but it does raise a question that could be addressed with further research.


Cardiologist Personal Story

Prior to implementing Heart Rate Training under Dr. Rick's tutelage, Dr. Vest ran 2 marathons. He ran these on feel and perceived effort and ran between 3:29-3:33. He found he was not able to push much beyond mile 20 and in his 2nd marathon, Dr. Vest was at risk of not finishing. He experienced tunnel vision and almost passed out. In 2012, Dr. Vest started strict HR Training as instructed by Coach Kattouf. The first 6 months were tough as Dr. Vest found himself having to run much slower than he was accustomed to in order to hit the Rx’d heart rates. It took a good 8-10 months (this goes back to the time, effort, energy, focus, discipline, dedication, patience and the willingness to delay gratification) for him to really start seeing results. In his words, “I started to notice that I was running a lot faster at the same or lower heart rate and in addition, I lost 5-7 pounds of body fat." 90% of Richard’s training was done in heart rate zones 1 & 2 (9Round members, this is the Green & Yellow HR Zones). His next 3 marathons resulted in a 3:11, 3:05 and 3:00:35. At the 2015 Boston Marathon, in driving rains and blowing headwinds, Dr. Vest only kept 1 number on his watch, Heart Rate. That is the only number he looked at for 26.2 miles; he never looked at his time or pace. And he crossed the finish line in a personal best of, 3:00:24. As you can imagine, sub-3:00 was the next goal. In October 2015, this goal came to fruition and once again, only following heart rate, and not even paying attention to the time/pace, Dr. Vest crossed the finish line in 2:58:13. Proper heart rate training for Dr. Vest not only allowed him to improve greatly on his overall marathon times, but it led a leaner, lighter and stronger physique, a strong closing final 10k of each marathon, reduced injuries and not feeling crushed, exhausted and over-trained.


Are you ready to take your fitness, health, performance, recovery and body composition to an entirely new level? If so, heart rate training is your key success. By using the 9Round heart rate training system, you will be sure to maximize each 9Round workout by working out in the proper HR zones. Proper heart rate training works each and every time. The only time HR Training does not work is when it’s not applied and not implemented. If you are ready to put in the necessary time, effort, energy, focus, discipline, dedication and patience, look out; because you are going to discover levels of fitness that you could have only dreamed of; let’s make greatness happen!


Workout Smart, Eat Right, Get Results™!


Richard N. Vest III, MD, FHRS, graduated from University of Alabama School of Medicine in 2003. He completed Internal Medicine Residency at Duke University, Cardiology Fellowship at Emory University, and Electrophysiology Fellowship at Medical Univ. of SC.  He has an active clinical practice and works with Birmingham Heart Clinic in Birmingham, AL. Dr. Vest is board certified in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine and is a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society.  Dr. Vest remains active with his weekly workout schedule that includes strength training and running. Dr. Vest continues to train for running events from 5k-Ultra Marathon. Dr. Vest has a 2:58:13 marathon PR (Oct. 2015) and has run the Boston Marathon twice.



  1. Oxidative Stress and Physical Activity
  2. The Framingham Heart Study
  3. Atrial Fibrilation and Athletes


Dr. Rick Kattouf II

2x Best-Selling Author

9Round Nutrition Coach

Named One of America’s PremierExperts® in Nutrition & Fitness

Named One Of The World Fitness Elite® Trainers Of The Year