Heart Rate Tracking Helps Fitness Pro Deliver Effective Workout

Heart Rate Tracking Helps Fitness Pro Deliver Effective Workout

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You may have read posts by our blogger, Jeanne Simpson, about the various zany fitness classes that she loves to try, but it turns out she’s also a dance fitness instructor herself. Read on to learn more about her signature Choreo-bics class, and how Steel HR helps her ensure her students get an effective cardiovascular workout.

A few months ago, I created a dance-based fitness class called Choreo-bics. The best way to describe this new class is that it’s a musical theater exercise class featuring cardiovascularly challenging dance numbers in a variety of Broadway styles. Although my goal is to provide a high-intensity cardio workout, I could never actually be sure that I was delivering on that promise until I got my Steel HR.

Excited, yet nervous about the results, I activated the workout mode on my new Steel HR just before my class began. As always, this Withings watch would automatically track the steps taken during my dance class, but now I would also get extensive heart rate information.

The Steel HR graph pictured here tells the whole story of my class. Choreo-bics starts with a traditional dance warmup and stretch section, and then we learn a piece of choreography. Every four to six weeks, we learn a new dance from a different Broadway show. Once a class has mastered a dance number, we run it again as part of our cardio each week, so folks who have been in class from the beginning will eventually know several numbers.

In fact, the class often feels more like rehearsal for a show than a fitness class, because we review and run through the previously learned numbers before learning a brand new one. You can see in the graph where my heart rate increased from moderate to intense as we started to dance through the numbers, and then goes up and down as we start and stop to learn new steps. I was relieved to see that I achieved and sustained intense and even maximal heart rate levels during the class.

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What do we actually learn in the classes?

An uplifting moment from Jeanne Simpson's Choreo-bics class

So far, we’ve been learning numbers from Hairspray, Singing in the Rain, Fosse, and West Side Story, in the style of choreographers Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Gene Kelly, and Jerry Mitchell. Once we get the dance steps down, we progress to dancing the steps as a specific character from the show. For example, during one class my students transform into chorus girls from the 1920s, and in another, gang members from the 1950s.

I have students who have danced in multiple Broadway shows, and others who have never been to a dance class before, so I take the Broadway numbers and choreograph my own versions, incorporating a few steps from the original dances plus my own steps that teach the essence of each choreographer’s style. Some of my students have said that learning each dance is like learning a new language, because each choreographer’s style of movement is so unique and specific.

Since the class began, we’ve shared lots of laughter and sweat. And now, thanks to my Steel HR, I can make sure our goal of getting fit while we have all this fun is also being met. The LED display makes it so easy to take a quick heart rate check in the middle of a jazz square, and the workout mode serves as a great planning tool for a fitness instructor of any kind. From now on, I can use the Steel HR to track the cardiovascular intensity of each of my dance numbers, which is a lot more scientific than just monitoring my students’ sweating and panting.

Oh and if you were wondering, my graph also shows that the only other big activity of my day was pumping the gas pedal of my car. LA folks are crazy for exercise because we spend most of our time just sitting in our cars. Until someone invents a car you can drive standing up on a treadmill, we’ll have to keep finding pockets during our day for classes like Choreo-bics!

If you love Broadway but find yourself far away in LA, come dance with us! Now I can promise you a solid cardio workout — with a side of jazz hands.

Jeanne Simpson

Jeanne is an actress, choreographer, and dance teacher in Los Angeles. Some of her favorite acting credits include roles on the PBS kids series Wishbone, AMC’s Mad Men and NBC’s Parks and Recreation. She has also choreographed a wide variety of projects for television and theater. When she’s not running around on a set or stage, Jeanne is at home in LA enjoying time with family.
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