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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2011 issue 10



Heart Rate Training

I'm a big proponent of heart rate monitors and typically try to use one at the beginning of my outdoor cardio season... mostly to understand how my body feels in the appropriate training zones.  The following article is one that I found that was very informative on the topic of heart rate training from an elite athlete that really knows his stuff...


Working Your Heart - The secret of training smart

by Mark Allen - 6 Time Ironman World Champion


During my 15 years of racing in the sport of triathlons I searched for those few golden tools that would allow me to maximize my training time and come up with the race results I envisioned. At the top of that list was heart rate training. It was and still is the single most potent tool an endurance athlete can use to set the intensity levels of workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance. Yes, there are other options like lactate testing, power output and pace, but all of these have certain shortcomings that make them less universally applicable than heart rate.

Endurance is THE most important piece of a triathleteís fitness. Why is it tough to develop? Simply put, it is challenging because it usually means an athlete will have to slow things down from their normal group training pace to effectively develop their aerobic engine and being guided by what is going on with your heart rate rather than your will to the champion of the daily training sessions with your training partners! It means swimming, cycling and running with the ego checked at the door. But for those patient enough to do just that, once the aerobic engine is built the speedwork will have a profound positive effect their fitness and allow for a longer-lasting improvement in performance than for those who blast away from the first day of training each year.

What is the solution to maximizing your endurance engine? Itís called a heart rate monitor.

Whether your goal is to win a race or just live a long healthy life, using a heart rate monitor is the single most valuable tool you can have in your training equipment arsenal. And using one in the way I am going to describe will not only help you shed those last few pounds, but will enable you to do it without either killing yourself in training or starving yourself at the dinner table.

When I entered the sport of triathlon in the early 1980ís, my mentality was to go as hard as I could at some point in every single workout I did. And to gauge how fast that might have to be, I looked at how fast the best triathletes were running at the end of the short distance races. Guys like Dave Scott, Scott Tinley and Scott Molina were able to hold close to 5 minute miles for their 10ks after swimming and biking!

So thatís what I did. Every run, even the slow ones, for at least one mile, I would try to get close to 5 minute pace. And it workedÖsort of. I had some good races the first year or two, but I also suffered from minor injuries and was always feeling one run away from being too burned out to want to continue with my training.

Then came the heart rate monitor. A man named Phil Maffetone, who had done a lot of research with the monitors, contacted me. He had me try one out according to a very specific protocol. Phil said that I was doing too much anaerobic training, too much speed work, too many high end/high heart rate sessions. I was forcing my body into a chemistry that only burns carbohydrates for fuel by elevating my heart rate so high each time I went out and ran.

So he told me to go to the track, strap on the heart rate monitor, and keep my heart rate below 155 beats per minute. Maffetone told me that below this number that my body would be able to take in enough oxygen to burn fat as the main source of fuel for my muscle to move. I was going to develop my aerobic/fat burning system. What I discovered was a shock.

To keep my heart rate below 155 beats/minute, I had to slow my pace down to an 8:15 mile. Thatís three minutes/mile SLOWER than I had been trying to hit in every single workout I did! My body just couldnít utilize fat for fuel.

So, for the next four months, I did exclusively aerobic training keeping my heart rate at or below my maximum aerobic heart rate, using the monitor every single workout. And at the end of that period, my pace at the same heart rate of 155 beats/minute had improved by over a minute. And after nearly a year of doing mostly aerobic training, which by the way was much more comfortable and less taxing than the anaerobic style that I was used to, my pace at 155 beats/minute had improved to a blistering 5:20 mile.

That means that I was now able to burn fat for fuel efficiently enough to hold a pace that a year before was redlining my effort at a maximum heart rate of about 190. I had become an aerobic machine! On top of the speed benefit at lower heart rates, I was no longer feeling like I was ready for an injury the next run I went on, and I was feeling fresh after my workouts instead of being totally wasted from them.

So letís figure out what heart rate will give you this kind of benefit and improvement. There is a formula that will determine your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate, which is the maximum heart rate you can go and still burn fat as the main source of energy in your muscles. It is the heart rate that will enable you to recover day to day from your training. Itís the maximum heart rate that will help you burn those last few pounds of fat. It is the heart that will build the size of your internal engine so that you have more power to give when you do want to maximize your heart rate in a race situation.

Here is the formula:

  1. Take 180

  2. Subtract your age

  3. Take this number and correct it by the following:

  • If you do not workout, subtract another 5 beats.

  • If you workout only 1-2 days a week, only subtract 2 or 3 beats.

  • If you workout 3-4 times a week keep the number where it is.

  • If you workout 5-6 times a week keep the number where it is.

  • If you workout 7 or more times a week and have done so for over a year, add 5 beats to the number.

  • If you are over about 55 years old or younger than about 25 years old, add another 5 beats to whatever number you now have.

  • If you are about 60 years old or older OR if you are about 20 years old or younger, add an additional 5 beats to the corrected number you now have.

You now have your maximum aerobic heart rate, which again is the maximum heart rate that you can workout at and still burn mostly fat for fuel. Now go out and do ALL of your cardiovascular training at or below this heart rate and see how your pace improves. After just a few weeks you should start to see a dramatic improvement in the speed you can go at these lower heart rates.

Over time, however, you will get the maximum benefit possible from doing just aerobic training. At that point, after several months of seeing your pace get faster at your maximum aerobic heart rate, you will begin to slow down. This is the sign that if you want to continue to improve on your speed, it is time to go back to the high end interval anaerobic training one or two days/week. So, you will have to go back to the ďNO Pain, NO GainĒ credo once again. But this time your body will be able to handle it. Keep at the intervals and you will see your pace improve once again for a period. But just like the aerobic training, there is a limit to the benefit you will receive from anaerobic/carbohydrate training. At that point, you will see your speed start to slow down again. And that is the signal that it is time to switch back to a strict diet of aerobic/fat burning training.

At the point of the year you are in right now, probably most of you are ready for this phase of speed work. Keep your interval sessions to around 15-30 minutes of hard high heart rate effort total. This means that if you are going to the track to do intervals do about 5k worth of speed during the entire workout. Less than that and the physiological effect is not as great. More than that and you just canít maintain a high enough effort during the workout to maximize our benefit. You want to push your intervals, making each one a higher level of intensity and effort than the previous one. If you reach a point where you cannot maintain your form any longer, back off the effort or even call it a day. That is all your body has to give.


Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Piked Press


The piked press is a typical example of a bodyweight shoulder exercise that mimics a military (overhead) press.  Handstand pushups are an extremely difficult exercise to start with and master.  The more you bend at the waist from the handstand, the more weight that you take away from the pressing movement.  The piked press is a very good exercise to start with for the pressing motions and is actually a lot tougher than it looks.  The use of pushup bars allow for your head to drop further than your hands providing a better range of motion.


Target:  shoulders and arms (deltoids, triceps brachii)

Count:  2 count

Description:  From a standing position, bend at the waist until you can place your hands on the floor shoulder width apart, roughly 2-3 feet in front of your feet.  Keeping your head between your hands, come up on your toes so that you can place most of your weight on your hands.  While you are pressing, you will want to touch the "top" of your head to the ground rather than your forehead (allowing for nuetral neck/spine alignment).  Repeat for maximum repetitions.

Muddy Running

I am admittedly not a runner.  Even before I blew out my knee wrestling, I just never really got into the whole running thing.  However, I LOVE these mud runs!  I did one 5K mud run last year and will finish up with four this year.  They are a combination of exercise, mixed in with fun, and a bit of crazy J

Mud runs are springing up all over the place.  They have been getting a lot of attention and are becoming a favorite event for charity fundraisers.  What's a mud run you ask?  Think of your standard 5K/10K run... take it off road onto dirt paths... throw in a dozen or so obstacles along the way... and end it with a nice long belly crawl through a murky, messy, mud pit!

Personally, I find these to be easier than road running.  It's definately got an interval training feel to it.  You run for a little while down a path... jump over a wall... run a little more... crawl through a tunnel... run some more... climb some cargo nets... etc...

Some mud runs are local like the Delaware Mud Run that we did last weekend (which raised $350,000 for cancer research).  Others are a nationwide series that travel from town to town throughout the season.  Among these are the Merrill Down and Dirty Mud Run Series, The Warrior Dash, The Spartan Race, and the big daddy of them all The Tough Mudder.  New races are popping up all the time.

Depending on the mud run, there are often options for the kids to join in the fun.  My daughter Rachel did the Philly Mud Run (Merrill) with me the past 2 years since they have a 1 mile kids version for her age that ends through the same mud pit.  These are memories that she'll hopefully remember for quite some time J  They also had a 100 yard dash for the very little kids that ended through the pit... too cute! 

The obstacles are the fun part to me.  The mud pit is pretty standard, but they often throw some interesting ones in there.  You typically see various low walls, tunnels, high rope walls, balance beams, cargo nets, etc... but I've also had monkey bars, stream running, wading through a waist high lake, jumping over a fire and a face first slide into a pit of muddy  water and ice.  Some of the Facebook groups for various runs even take ideas from the member community... you should see some of the contraptions that they come up with for the Tough Mudder!

From my experience, there are a few things that make for a good mud run.  Logistics are key.  Parking, shuttles, registration, and overall event entertainment are all things outside of the run that are important.  I've spent an hour or so just getting to the parking and starting line in the past.  Some events have bands, DJs, radio stations.  Some end with a barbeque... others have concession stands complete with beer for the after mud run festivities. 

One of the biggest challenges is how they run the "waves" of people that they let onto the course at a time.  If not run properly, you could be waiting anywhere from 10-30 minutes just to jump over a wall or something.  Between the spacing of the waves, and the size of the obstacle, this is something that is typically the focus of "improvement for next year" by the run coordinators.  Figured I'd give you the heads up ahead of time so that you don't get upset about not breaking any land speed records ; )

I have my last mud run of the season tomorrow with my brother Mike.  It's a Merrill Down and Dirty 5K at Pelham Bay Park, New York (Bronx).  Supposed to be good weather, but if it rains, that just means more mud! J

It's Go Time!

Scary!  It's October already!  Now you can take a break, stop working out, and eat what you want for a few months, right?  I DON'T THINK SO!  Now's the time to turn it up and make some impact on your body before next summer!  If you think about it, there are way too many vacations, barbeques, and related gatherings to be good all summer... so now is the time to buckle down and make some impact before the time of little clothing comes around again!  Whether it be toning and trimming, or muscle building and strength, set some realistic, measurable goals... write them down... and GO GET IT!

The winter is when I switch things up a little, at least for my cardio workouts.  My bike gets put up on the wall in the garage and I break out my Plyo X and INSANITY DVDs...sometimes even saying hello to my elliptical.  Throughout the cold and gloomy winter, I know that I for one have to keep it interesting for motivation.  By switching things up between DVD workouts, elliptical training, maybe a sandbag interval complex, it keeps things fresh and gives me a little kick here and there.  Everybody's different, so find out what works for you and go after it!  Let's make a change for the better during these cold months!

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


"Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself
when you beat down the door."
-Kyle Chandler

youtube of the month --> Box Jump Progressions
Very good tips about the popular "box jump" exercise by Speed Guru Lee Taft. | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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