First Posted: 10/9/2008 4:00:34 PM | Last Updated: 10/9/2008 4:00:34 PM
In the world of fitness professionals, monitoring heart rate through the various intensity zones is an often debated topic.
Some trainers preach the fat-burning zone, while others say it doesn’t matter. Some trainers tell their clients to “get some cardio in” on their own, while others stand next to their client as they perform cardio.
Here’s my take: Knowing your target heart-rate zones and having some method of measuring your intensity is critical to your success. I’ve watched way too many workouts where participants were going way too easy, as well as those going way too hard.
The one extreme might be the walker who’s been walking for years, yet frustrated with the results from their time investment. Typically, someone starts a walking program after being inspired by a magazine article or news report touting the benefits of walking. I think walking is great, especially for a first-time exercisers, sedentary people and possibly older adults. Walking may be a great starting point; the challenge however, becomes after a few weeks of walking, your heart and lungs have adapted and there is no additional progressive improvement.
The other extreme is the Type A exerciser who’s pounding away on the treadmill (or any other form of cardio) with such force that he or she cannot share in a legible conversation. Although intensity brings about tremendous results, it’s critical that we prepare the body for higher level workouts…and that we are not exclusively training in the anaerobic top intensity zone.
Determine Your Target Heart Zone (THZ):
Each of us has a unique target heart zone, based on our age and existing fitness level, predicted by our resting heart rate.
Using the Karvonen THZ calculator, you can find your optimal ranges (available at www.briancalkins.com/HeartRate.htm).
Once you have your THZ, here’s my formula for optimal cardio success:
Spend 70 percent of your cardio time in your aerobic target heart rate (65-80 percent on your max heart rate and adjusted for your current fitness level), spend 30 percent performing more intense anaerobic intervals (80 percent plus), then cool down. So if you’re doing a 20-minute session, it would consist of 10 minutes in your aerobic THZ, then the balance of 10 minutes would include three bouts of one-minute sprints, followed by two minutes back into your aerobic THZ. Repeat for three intervals total.
Exercising within your aerobic zone provides oxygen to all the cells of your body, which substantially enhances both your health and energy. This zone also allows you to burn primarily fat as the energy source to fuel your exercise.
The anaerobic zone (which you reach during the high intensity intervals), enhances your fitness significantly. And although you’ll use primarily blood glucose during anaerobic training, studies show you’ll elevate metabolism longer after the workout is complete, as compared to training exclusively aerobic.
Here’s the bottom line with cardiovascular exercise in terms of losing body fat: make sure you spend the majority of your time in the aerobic zone, but don’t neglect some time working in the anaerobic zone.
OK, with this new insight, let’s get that positive fitness momentum going!
Brian Calkins, personal trainer, is the owner of HealthStyle Fitness, a private fitness studio in Cincinnati. Awarded as one of America’s Top 50 Personal Trainers, Calkins and his staff specialize in individual, small-group and boot camp programs, helping Cincinnatians lose weight and get fit. More information is available at www.briancalkins.com. You can reach Brian via e-mail at fitness@CinciPulse.com.
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