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The Lunchtime Workout

I’m not sure where the weekend went, but here we are facing another Monday and the last two days of January! As my type A+ personality starts mentally preparing for a pretty intense work week, I thought I’d address a fitness-related question that has a work angle, too.

Aimee recently posed the following question via my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page:  Any advice for those of us fitting in 30 minute lunch workouts? I am typically doing 20-25 minutes of cardio followed by a quick core/weights. If you could recommend treadmill/arc trainer settings to get the most of it plus times – I would appreciate it!!! 

First of all, kudos to Aimee and anyone else who uses a lunch break for the benefit or his or her health! Regardless of what time of day you working out, I recommend getting a heart rate monitor as it takes the guess-work out of determining  just how hard your body is working. (Those silver heart-rate measuring “strips” on the cardio machines aren’t always accurate.)

Now as far as the workout goes, here’s the bottom line: it doesn’t matter what the incline or resistance settings on the machine say. What does matter is whether you’re working at a challenging  yet safe level within the appropriate heart rate zone for your stage of training.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll offer some parameters for anyone working out with a goal of body fat reduction. The Law of Thermodynamics teaches us that to reach this goal, you must burn more calories than you consume. Cardio is usually one of the first things people start doing to make those calories disappear.

If you’re a beginner or returning to the gym after a hiatus, you should be performing cardio within heart rate zone one.   Click here for a refresher on how to calculate your target heart rate for this zone.  (My zone one heart rate is 119-137.) NASM principles indicate a person shouldn’t advance to zone two until he or she can maintain a zone one heart rate for at least 30 minutes two to three times per week.

One you’ve built a good base (which can take more than a month), you’re ready for zone two, which is 80-85% of your maximum heart rate (HR max). Again, I’ll use myself as an example for the parameters:

  1. 220-37 = 183 (HR max)
  2. 183 X 0.80 = 146
  3. 183 X 0.85 = 156
  4. Laura’s Zone Two Heart Rate = 146-156

This level is extra fun because if you’re working in stage two of your overall fitness program, this is where interval training comes in. For those using treadmills, arc trainers or other cardio machines, you can now increase the workload (speed, incline, level) to alter your heart rate between zones one and two. So here’s how my interval training would look on the elliptical:

  • Five-minute warm up zone one (119-137)
  • One minute in zone two (146-156)
  • Five minutes in zone one
  • One minute in zone two
  • Five minutes in zone one
  • One minute in zone two
  • Three – five minute cool down in zone one

If Aimee’s ready for this stage of training, this would be a good approximate 20-minute cardio workout for the treadmill or arc trainer. Again, the key is to find a way to accurately measure her heart rate to make sure she’s working within the designated zones.

A couple of final notes: there is a heart rate zone three as well as a training stage three, but these are designated for advanced athletes. (I’d be happy to address these in a future post if anyone would like the information.) Finally, for Aimee or anyone who’s squeezing in some cardio, core and resistance training in a short period of time, please don’t skimp on the stretching! I know it’s tough to get it all in, but sticking with a well-rounded routine is one of the best ways to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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