Integrated Training Breaks Up Treadmill Monotony

From the Nov. 7, 2007 edition of The Lancaster News

Your breathing gets heavier and beads of sweat pour down your forehead as you attempt to walk faster on the constant moving treadmill.

You have the misconception you will lose more weight if you can keep up with the roaring sounds of the treadmill’s rotating belt as you pound on it step after step for what always seems like forever.

You look down to realize you’ve only been at it for five minutes, with miles to walk before you sleep, as some would say.

That’s usually the mindset of someone who thinks about using a treadmill for weight loss or cardiovascular exercise. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several ways to implement cardio exercise without all of the repetitive motion and treading the same daily torture.

Integrated cardio-respiratory training is simply defined as any form of activity or training that involves or places a stress on the cardio-respiratory system. These activities can include walking on a treadmill, hiking, playing basketball, weight training, martial arts and even kayaking.

The benefits of choosing a proper cardiovascular exercise program include: lowering your risk and chance of heart disease; helping the body to effectively lose weight and burn fat; strengthening the heart and lungs; building muscle tone; raising your metabolism; promoting the release of natural endorphins to reduce stress; and promoting the blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels and improving overall circulation.

But to understand what will work best, you should first understand this crash course on just how the body’s energy system plays a role in cardio training.

The alactic, or ATP-PC energy system, is primarily used by track and field sprinters. It lasts from one to 10 seconds and is one in which muscles use no oxygen.

The blood lactate system is an energy system that allows you to perform at the next level of intensity but at a slower pace and lasts from 10 seconds to about three minutes. Usually during this time, you will get a burning sensation in the muscle that is being exercised. If too much lactic acid builds up, the muscle will fail to perform because of muscle fatigue. The glycogen energy system lasts from two to three minutes to two hours. With this energy system, your body switches to an even slower pace. You are now running off the glycogen or aerobic system where muscles are using oxygen.

The fat system then takes over and you begin to burn fat as your primary source of energy.

Determine your heart rate before exercising

When undergoing a cardiovascular training regimen, you need to determine your maximum heart rate by using a simple formula.

First, subtract your age from 220. Then multiply the estimated maximum heart rate at a desired intensity level between 65 and 90 percent. For example, if you are 45, the formula works like this: 220-45=175. Take your maximum heart rate (175) and multiply it by 0.65, which equals 113.

This number – 133 – should be close to where your heart rate should be during your cardiovascular exercise.

Starting at 60 to 75 percent is a good starting point. However, it is a given that these numbers should be lowered to between 40 and 55 percent based on the health history and overall physical conditioning of some individuals.

The same formula applies for the more advanced physically fit person to determine their heart rate.

However, keep in mind the dangers of overexertion associated with any form of physical activity and always check with your health-care provider or doctor before starting any exercise or cardiovascular program.

How to track your heart rate

You can buy a good heart monitor watch and straps for about $25 and up at just about any sporting good store. The more gadgets the watch has, the more you pay. I prefer to only use the watch and the heart-rate monitor. You can also just use a heart-rate monitor strap, which is usually compatible with most up-to-date cardiovascular machines.

If your goal is losing body fat, it’s not necessarily the hours spent on a treadmill that matter. You must track the calories you expend, too. The only way to effectively lose weight is to expend more calories than you take in. About 3,500 calories equals one pound of body fat, meaning you must burn about 500 calories per day to achieve a one-pound loss of body fat in seven days.

Speed up your metabolism

Excess post-excercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) simply means that the body will continue to burn more calories after a workout or cardio session than before you began that activity.

In other words, your metabolism is higher on the drive home from the gym than it was on the drive there.

Think of it this way: after a house fire is extinguished by firefighters, the flames are gone. But there is still very hot ash and debris, which is known as hot spots.

After exercise, your body uses energy (oxygen) to bring itself back to its normal resting state. That’s why high quality nutrition is so important as part of your fitness regimen. When you eat, your body is literally refueling its muscles and internal organs with the vital energy supplies it needs.

Develop a fitness program

To stay focused on cardiovascular program, try to do exercise first thing in the morning, if your schedule permits. If not, the evenings are OK. When combining your cardio training with your weight training, it is better to hit the treadmill directly after your weight training instead of before. After weight training, your muscles have expended most of their glycogen. So if your goal is to lose weight and decrease body fat, now is the time to jump on the treadmill or elliptical machine.

I strongly encourage you to buy a heart-rate monitor so you will know where you are during your cardio training.

Every session doesn’t have to be at maximum intensity level for you to benefit.

Keep it exciting by choosing various methods of exercise from hiking, walking and biking to treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, jumping rope, sprints, hill sprints and swimming.

– Fitness expert and bodybuilder Kennett Washington is president of Healing Strength Personal Training.