This time of year, it’s hard to find someone who isn’t trying to at least lose a little bit of body fat. Simply understanding a few basics can be a huge help in ensuring you’re getting the most out of what you’re doing in the gym. Whether
e a seasoned runner or a complete rookie, establishing a basic structure to your program is one of the first things I like to recommend to a client. This allows you to do a few simple things, work at the right intensity and then evolve and change that workout over time to help consistently improve your fitness level and help prevent plateaus.
Structured cardio sessions for most beginners are normally 3-5x per week and I typically like to see them go for a consistent heart rate somewhere between 55-75% of their projected max heart rate (depending on health concerns and current fitness level). If you, like many other Americans have any medical conditions or are unaccustomed to regular physical exercise, be sure to check with your doctor to make sure these recommendations apply to you. While 55-75% can be a good starting point, that number can go as high as 90% for athletes and those with performance goals but for most of us in the beginning, the “talk test” (not quite being able to hold a full conversation but you can still talk) is a good indicator you’re working hard enough to get a result but not overdoing it.
This leads us to a good time to talk about the “fat burning zone” and it’s important to understand what exactly is meant by this phrase. For low intensity, long duration activities, your body is burns stored fat for energy more effectively than when you work at higher intensities. The problem with this is, if you work harder, while you may burn a lower percentage of calories from body fat, you still end up burning more calories overall and in most cases, still burn a higher number of calories from fat. Example:
| 30 minutes of low intensity cardio:
250 calories, 70% from fat= 175 fat calories
| 30 minutes of higher intensity cardio
350 calories, 60% from fat = 210 fat calories
(Please note, these numbers are simply being used to illustrate the point and are not exact)
Another benefit of higher intensity cardio is that you increase the number of calories you burn immediately after your workout. Bottom line, if you’re looking to get the most out of what you’re doing, ramping up to higher intensity intervals is a great way to pump up that calorie burn once you’ve established a solid base level of fitness. If you have questions about your cardio program, ask one of our great personal trainers, we’re here to help!