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Workout Wednesday: Back to the Basics

I said it on Monday, and I’ll say it again: what a difference a week makes!

I’m excited to tackle this Workout Wednesday with new energy. For me, getting back into my fitness routine has meant focusing on one of my lifelong addictions: cardio.

While I haven’t completely decided how today’s workout will break down, I do know there will be a combo of elliptical, recumbent bike and rowing machine training when I hit the gym after work. After my five-day hiatus, I started with a moderate 30 minutes and should have no problem hitting a full 60 minutes today. Adding a plank and push-up Tabata along with some SMR and stretching and no doubt I’ll sweat any work-related stress right out of my system. All of this will no doubt help me get back up to speed and ready to tackle another crazy Central Park workout.

So, today’s post is a reminder about the importance of cardiovascular exercise. In the simplest of terms, it’s crucial when it comes to reaching your goals of losing weight, reducing body fat or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of cardio activity include its ability to decrease:

  • Daily fatigue
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension
  • Non-insulin dependent diabetes and
  • Obesity

At the same time, cardio helps boost your:

  • Sense of well-being
  • Immune system
  • Blood lipid profile and
  • Overall physical performance at work and at play

While there are several levels to cardio training, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on some guidelines for beginners and anyone who may be getting back into a fitness routine after a hiatus.  (As usual, I base these guidelines using the what I studied through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.) Your cardio activity should focus on maintaining a zone one heart rate which is approximately 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate. Here’s what that means for you:

  1. To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220.
  2. Multiply your max heart rate by .65.
  3. Multiply your max heart rate by .75.

To use myself as an example:

  1. 220-37 = 183
  2. 183 X 0.65 = 119
  3. 183 X 0.75 = 137
  4. Laura’s Zone One Heart Rate = 119 – 137

If you’re working within the parameters of zone one for cardio, it’s likely you are also in stage one of your overall exercise program. (NASM refers to this as the stabilization level.) If you’ve never worked out before, you may want to try to reach your zone one heart rate for a maximum five to ten minutes and then spend another 20 minutes simply walking at a good pace, climbing the stairs in your home or getting really dirty in the yard by cleaning up the garden.  Your goal should be to eventually maintain your zone one heart rate for at least 30 minutes.  This can take some time.  A “newbie” may need two months or longer to meet this demand, but remember: there’s no finish line here. You’ve made a commitment to exercise and start taking better care of yourself, so while you don’t want to just dial it in, make the journey work for you.

I hope this brief session of cardio 101 will help get your heart pumping safely and effectively so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Speedy Workout Wednesday

As you read this post, I’m either prepping for, in the midst of or winding down after a full-day shoot in Beverly Hills, California. I look forward to writing about my first visit to the area and how I hopefully find a way to squeeze some fitness time into a hectic schedule. For now, I didn’t want to let a Workout Wednesday go by without letting you in on my current go-to routine for when I have only an hour and very little brain power to get “creative” at the gym.

  • Nothing Like a Solid Plank Tabata! Photo by Lauren Bachner

    5 minutes of self-myofascial release (SMR) with the foam roller and stretching for my three chronic problem areas: calves, TFL and lats.

  • 20-minute full-body weight circuit: As a member of New York Sports Clubs, I’m a big fan of their “Xpress Line.” The machines take you through each major muscle group. I do two to three sets of 12-20 reps with minimal rest in between. If you don’t belong to NYSC, you can still do a quick full-body circuit. Click here for a reminder of the machines to look for in your own gym.
  • 30 minutes elliptical training with a mix of moderate / high intensity.
  • Tabata time: I have become a Tabata addict! As a refresher, a Tabata interval involves four minutes of work with 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for a total of eight sets. As the full-body weight circuit at NYSC doesn’t include any kind of ab work, I tend to do planks or crunches if I only have time for one Tabata interval.
  • 5 minutes of same SMR and stretches I performed at the start of the workout. (So, this pushes my workout to about 65 minutes, but the SMR in particular has helped me find some serious relief for my overactive muscles since I started making the foam roller a part of my regular routine six months ago.)

Some mix-and-match ideas: if you want to focus solely on cardio, skip the weight circuit and add 20 minutes on the treadmill, stationary bike or rowing machine to the elliptical training. Or simply add more Tabatas to the mix! One of the toughest workouts Roberto had us perform in our UFX class was a 20-minute “Tabata Derby.” He set up five stations of different exercises and we would spend four minutes (or one Tabata interval) at each one. Click here for a refresher on what that class looked like for my small group training class.

Remember, no matter how pressed you are for time, make a conscious effort NOT to skimp on the flexibility portion of the workout. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: to keep your body in balance, stretching the muscles that are tight is just as important as strengthening the ones that are weak as part of your overall plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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