When exercising, many of us tend to do the same routine in the same way over and over again. Once the body adapts to the program, the program becomes easy and loses its effectiveness. Below you will find a cardio program that has something for everyone. It includes enough variety to challenge and advance you.
Heart rate training zones
- Zone 1 — Healthy Heart Zone
- Zone 2 — The Temperate Zone
- Zone 3 — The Aerobic Zone
- Zone 4 — The Anaerobic Threshold
- Zone 5 — The Redline Zone
- Stage 1 — Slow and easy workouts
- Stage 2 — Lengthening of workout periods
- Stage 3 — Adding resistance training
- Stage 4 — Interval training
Heart Rate Training Zones
Zone 1 — Healthy Heart Zone
50-60% of your individual max heart rate.
This is the safest, most comfortable zone, reached by walking briskly, for example. Here you strengthen your heart and improve muscle mass while reducing body fat, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and lowering your risk for degenerative disease. You get healthier in this zone, but not more fit — that is, it will not increase your endurance or strength but it will increase your health. If you are out of shape, have heart problems, or simply want to safeguard your heart without working too hard, spend most of your training time here. It is also the zone for warming up and cooling down before and after more vigorous zones.
60-70% of your individual max heart rate.
It is easily reached by jogging slowly, for example. While still a relatively low-level of effort, this zone starts training your body to increase the rate of fat release from the cells to the muscles for fuel. Some people call this the “fat burning zone” because up to 85% of the total calories burned in this zone are fat calories which is equally as important. Fit and unfit people burn fat differently. The more fit you are, the more effectively you use fat to maintain a healthy weight. On the other hand, perhaps you have been exercising vigorously, but not losing the weight you expected to. Could be you have been working too hard and need to drop back to this zone and exercise longer. To burn more total calories you will need to exercise for more time in this zone.
70-80% of your individual max heart rate.
In this zone — reached by running easily as an example — you improve your functional capacity. The number and size of your blood vessels actually increase, you step up your lung capacity and respiratory rate, and your heart increases in size and strength so you can exercise longer before becoming fatigued. You are still metabolizing fats and carbohydrates at about a 50-50 rate which means both are burning at the same ratio.
80-90% of your individual max heart rate.
This zone is reached by going hard — running faster as an example. Here you get faster and fitter, increasing your heart rate as you cross from aerobic to anaerobic training. At this point, your heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to supply the exercising muscles fully so they respond by continuing to contract anaerobically. This is where you “feel the burn.” You can stay in this zone for a limited amount of time, usually not more than an hour. That is because the muscle just cannot sustain working anaerobically (this means without sufficient oxygen) without fatiguing. The working muscles protect themselves from overwork by not being able to maintain the intensity level.
90-99% of your individual max heart rate.
This is the equivalent of running all out and is used mostly as an “interval” training regiment — exertion done only in short to intermediate length bursts. Even world-class athletes can stay in this zone only for a few minutes at a time. It is not a zone most people will select for exercise since working out here hurts and there is an increased potential for injury.
Stage 1 — Slow and easy workouts
Lasts 4-7 weeks.
Workouts should be slow and easy and can include walking, biking, swimming, elliptical, skating, and circuit training. Aim for three 30-minute workouts a week with about 10 minutes in Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3. You are training to develop a base level of strength and endurance which will sustain a workout without a great deal of fatigue and muscle soreness. When the routine feels too easy move on to the next stage.
Lasts 3-7 weeks.
You expand on your system’s ability to sustain longer training periods, and improved endurance. Your body can now carry more oxygen to your muscles and break into your fat storage cells to burn fat calories as it adapts to its new workload. You will find yourself going the same distance at a lower heart rate — proof in fact of increasing fitness. Activities might include brisk walking, biking, elliptical, swimming, easy jogging, low impact aerobics. Aim for five 30-minute sessions a week. For each workout, spend 5 minutes in Zone 1, 10 minutes in Zone 2 and 15 minutes in Zone 3.
Resistance training will make you stronger by increasing the work. For example, add hills as you walk, start some running, stair climbing or weight training. Perform four or five training sessions of 30-40 minutes each week divided as follows: Zone 1, 5 minutes; Zone 2, 10 minutes; Zone 3, 20 minutes; Zone 4, 5 minutes. Many people stay at this stage for maintenance of a healthy, all-around fit lifestyle.
This stage gets you faster by doing “interval training” which simply means mixing hard training in Zones 4 and 5 with easy training in Zones 1 and 2. Perform four or five training sessions of 30-40 minutes each week divided as follows: Zone 1, 5 minutes; Zone 2, 10 minutes; Zone 3, 20 minutes; Zone 4, 5 minutes.
As you reach stage 4 you rest and exercise simultaneously. By staying in low heart zones for short workouts, you can recuperate from too much exercise, an illness or injury.
Cross training is suggested as you move through the stages. This means varying the demands on your body. You could power walk on Monday, bike on Tuesday, and go for a swim on Wednesday.
- Subtract your age from 220 ( 220 – 39 yrs. of age = 181)
- Multiply the result by 0.50 to determine 50% of your estimated maximum heart rate. ( 181 x 0.50 = 90 or approximately 90 beats per minute ) This is the low-end of your training range, or the slowest your heart should beat when you exercise.
- Multiply the result from step 1 by 0.99 to calculate 99 % of your estimated maximum heart rate. ( 181 x 0.99 =179 or approximately 179 beats per minute.) This is the high-end of your training range, or the fastest that your heart should beat when you exercise.
This person’s training range would be 108-173 beats per minute.
Heart rate can be checked by using your index and middle fingers together to count the number of beats at your wrist or carotid at the neck for 15 seconds. (Your thumb has a light pulse, which might confuse the count if you use it instead of your fingers.) Multiply this number by 4. This is your beats per minute. Compare your beats per minute to the low and high ends of your training heart range and adjust your intensity accordingly.
* This equation is not accurate for everyone, it is a general tool. In fact, this method has a variability of up to plus or minus 10 to 20 beats per minute and she be used in conjunction with the Ratings of Perceived Exertion scale.