--- You must begin to
think of yourself as
becoming the person
you want to be

               David Viscott


Along with proper nutrition, the prescription for getting fit, feeling good and losing fat is regular exercise. You should aim to include at least 2 strength-training (aka as "training with weights") sessions per week, along with a minimum of 3 cardiovascular workouts (aka "cardio") per week and some kind of flexibility training. In October, I discussed nutrition and in November I went over strength training. This month I want to focus on your Cardio workout.

What's the best type of cardio?
My answer is always the same - To me, the best cardio is the one you will do… and stick with long term! If I tell you it's the exercise bike and you hate biking, chances are you won't stick with it. So choose an activity that you enjoy. Whether it's walking, running, biking, the elliptical, it doesn't matter as long as you do it.

How can you maximize your cardio training?
Use a heart rate monitor. Many people have never heard of training with a heart rate monitor, but the fact is, using a heart rate monitor whenever you do any cardio training produces far superior results in all areas, especially with respect to getting fit faster and losing fat.

So what exactly is it? A heart rate monitor consists of a strap that you wear around your chest and a “watch” that you wear on your wrist. (If your cardio equipment has a heart monitor function, you don't need to wear the watch.) The watch (or the exercise equipment's monitor) picks up your heartbeat from the strap around your chest. A heart rate monitor costs as little as $50 and it will be the best fitness equipment investment you will ever make.

Why a heart rate monitor?
Do you know people who religiously go to aerobics classes or walk for miles every day but still don't seem to change their bodies very much or get any fitter? That's because they are not maximizing their training by monitoring their exercise with a heart rate monitor. When you go out for a run or a walk, or get on a treadmill, or whatever cardio equipment you use, you need a plan - a plan that gives you immediate biofeedback. A heart rate monitor gives you the immediate feedback to keep you going or slow you down. Most people begin their workout by turning on the TV or iPod and starting to move. You walk or run for a period of time. You may do intervals to break up the monotony and you may just stay the course and move at the same pace through the whole workout. How do you know if you are training hard enough to burn fat or benefit your heart? Or are you overtraining, getting injured, tired, and bored? In reality, you don't know how effective your workouts really are, UNLESS, you are using a heart rate monitor.

How do I train with a heart rate monitor?
Perhaps you are familiar with the old adage, 220 minus your age is your Maximum Heart Rate and you should exercise in your target zone of 70 – 80% of that Maximum Heart Rate. First of all - 220 minus your age is NOT your Maximum Heart Rate! If any fitness professional is telling you this – run the other way as fast as you can because it's NOT TRUE! Second – how do you know if you are exercising consistently in your target zone(s) if you aren't using a heart rate monitor? Most importantly, if you used the 220 minus your age formula, you could be off by as many as 30 beats and literally be spinning your wheels.

One way of training with a heart rate monitor is called Heart Zones™ Training . Heart Zones™ Training takes the guesswork out of your workout. It is scientifically based and when you use a heart rate monitor, all your workouts are regulated.

Here's how it works. Every heart has a maximum number of times per minute that it can beat, called Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). MHR varies from person to person. Some people have a very high MHR and some have a very low MHR. A higher MHR does not indicate greater fitness, nor does a lower MHR represent less fitness.

If you know your MHR, you can set five heart zones. When you work out, you will know exactly what zones you should work in. If you want to get healthier, fitter, less fat, faster, or go farther, Heart Zones and a certified Heart Zones trainer can help you do just that! Plus, using Heart Zones, keep you from spending endless hours exercising. You learn that quality of your workout is more important than quantity. If you already incorporate cardio into your exercise schedule, try using a heart rate monitor and Heart Zones for the next few months. I guarantee you will become hooked. You won't be bored. Meet with a certified Heart Zones personal trainer. He/ she can design the workout that is perfect for your body and physiological needs. If you are not currently doing any cardio workouts, you should be. Even if you do not need to lose fat, regular cardio workouts will put you on the road to a healthier mind and body. Your heart rate monitor and Heart Zones workouts keep you focused. Start taking better care of yourself today.

To estimate your MHR, take the tests on this site. To get started with your first Heart Zones™ workout go to Workout Routines. To learn more about Heart Zones Training and using a heart rate monitor, go to www.heartzones.com.

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