Heart rate!

If you are dealing with a thyroid issue or adrenal fatigue – and are stressed out to the MAX because you can’t lose weight even though you’re working out everyday, continue reading because I’m about to drop some knowledge!  I’m pumped to share with you how I manipulate my heart rate to get the most out of my workouts without damaging my thyroid. 

When you’re dealing with a thyroid or adrenal issue, the symptoms that come along with it are weight gain, extreme fatigue, bloating, confusion, brain fog, and irritability. All of those, as you may know, are incredibly gnarly symptoms. 

Learning to adapt and manipulate your workout will give you the power and knowledge you need to feel more energized after a workout rather than totally worn out and feeling like you just got hit with a tranq gun. Manipulating your heart rate can be a HUGE component in being able to lose fat or gain muscle while you are dealing with hypothyroidism, however before we get started I need you to know that MORE IS NOT BETTER.  When you have the afore mentioned health issues, over exercise is the LAST thing you need to be doing.. furthermore, doing the wrong kinds of exercise will only make you GAIN weight.  So don’t just glance over what I’m about to lay out for you.


Use a Heart Rate Monitor

I use the Polar Bluetooth monitor.  I love it — it’s been incredibly accurate and easy to use.

Know Your Baseline

Knowing your max heart rate zone is super important in finding out what type of workout you should be (or shouldn’t be) doing that day. For example, if my heart rate is lower than it should be, I’m either doing a very easy yoga class or not working out that day at all.  That low heart rate my body’s way of saying, “Hey, we need a break.”  and so I give it a break.  Typically I will take two rest days a week, three rest days if I need to and some weeks I do. 

I always put on my heart rate monitor a couple minutes before my workout while I’m just standing still because it allows me to see what my baseline heart rate is for that day. If my heart rate is elevated while I’m just standing there, I know that I’m feeling good to go. If my heart rate is lower than what it is when I’m sitting on the couch, then I know I need to just go for a walk or do some very light yoga. 

Heart Rate Zones

  • Warm-up: This is 50 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.
  • Fat-burning: This zone is about 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate. It’s harder than the warm-up zone, but you can still carry on a conversation.
  • Aerobic: This zone is 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. You could carry on a conversation, but you’d be very winded and not want to talk. 
  • Anaerobic: This is a much harder zone and is 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. When you’re in this zone and someone tries to talk to you, you should not be able to speak to them.  You should be sucking wind. 
  • Max: This is the hardest zone — You should not be able to maintain this for longer than 20-30 seconds.   (The usual equation for MAX heart rate is 220 – age = maximum heart rate)

Strength Intervals

One way that I manipulate my heart rate for a good workout is to do strength intervals. I’ll first do a challenging exercise that’s going to elevate my heart rate and then I follow that up with an easier exercise to allow my heart rate to come back down into a fat burning zone.

For example:  I might do reverse lunges (12 on my right and 12 on my left)  with two 35-pound dumbbells. This will raise my heart rate into my aerobic zone, possibly teetering on the edge of going anaerobic. Then I’ll drop my weights and do an ab exercise or some tricep dips to allow my heart rate to come back down into the bottom of the fat burning zone. Then you pick up those bad boys (heavy weights) again and do another set reps to bring your heart rate back up to the top of the aerobic zone followed by an easier exercise which will keep your heart rate between the aerobic and fat burn levels.

Allowing your heart rate to come down so it can rest will help your body to build muscle and burn fat. When you keep your heart rate in an anaerobic zone for too long, that’s an added stressor which will enable your body to have no choice but to put you in metabolic slowdown to conserve energy.


The next way that you can target fat loss with heart rate is with a true HIIT workout. A true HIIT workout means tracking your heart rate, NOT TIME.  A true HIIT has nothing to do with 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.  You will want to alternate between 85 percent of your max heart rate, which is in the anaerobic zone, and then bring it back down to 70 percent.  A TRUE HIIT should not last more than 15-20 minutes. 

Sometimes I do sprints for my true HIIT workout. I’ll put the treadmill at an incline — or if I’m outside, run a hill at an incline — and I would run as fast as I can until my heart rate reaches 85 percent of my max heart rate. As soon as that happens, I stop and jump to the side of the treadmill or just starting walking on the side next to the treadmill until my heart rate comes back down to 70 percent. As soon as it’s back at 70 percent, I hop back on and do it all again. When you’re doing a true HIIT, you’re going between 85 percent of your max heart rate back down to 70 percent of your max heart rate.  Also, steer clear of the true HIIT workouts more than once a week if your symptoms are really bad.

That, my friends, is the only way that you are going to allow your body to tap into fat storage if you have hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue or Hashimoto’s. I am here to tell you, I have used myself as a human guinea pig for the last two years as well as friends who test out my theories with me. This way works.

15 Minute Workouts

When your symptoms are seriously through the roof, I recommend that you keep your workouts short and sweet — call it good after 15 minutes. You can do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes later in the afternoon if you want.  Just DO NOT overdo it!  Listen to your body.  I believe that a large portion of why I developed hypothyroidism so quickly is because in addition to being super stressed emotionally, I was over-exercising without really knowing it.

Here’s the bottom line, homies:

If I could scream one thing from the rooftops, it would be that working out for an hour at the gym doesn’t make you any more fit or more dedicated or more healthy than somebody who spends 30 minutes training their body. My workouts, including the warm-up, are never longer than 30 minutes. I warm-up, workout, and am done at 30 minutes. That’s it.  I go hard, I get an amazing after burn effect from the workouts I choose to do, I do workouts that build muscle and my focus is always on RECOVERY.  

Whatever workout that you do has to be right for you. I spent a lot of time during my recovery wondering why this happened to me and why everyone else can do one of those spin cycle classes and I can’t. I just can’t. The truth of the matter is, I just believe what once looked like a burden for me is now what I’m choosing to see as a gift. This happened to me and I decided to do something about it. I decided to learn about it, fix it for myself, and pass it on to people like you.  My hope is to help others navigate their way through a safe, healthy fitness journey by sharing what I’ve learned and what has worked for me!