t seems ironic that in a day and age when fitness enthusiasts debate which high-tech exercise equipment provides them with the best workout, I'm still training effectively on an old stationary bike I saved from the trash collectors. A good workout does not depend on bells and whistles from the gym, and below I will provide my easy recipe for obtaining the training results we all strive to achieve.
Typical training goals of aerobic exercise programs
Why do you choose to perform aerobic exercise? If your answer is to increase caloric expenditure to achieve weight loss, aerobic exercise is an excellent choice. Aerobic exercise burns more calories over a longer period of time. Other responses might be to improve overall health, fitness, and cardiopulmonary function. During aerobic energy expenditure, your heart and lungs work harder and the systemic effects of increased blood circulation are significant. Regular aerobic exercise may aid in the prevention of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Some of you may also want to perform regular aerobic exercise to increase performance in activities that require endurance. The training effects of an aerobic exercise program are many. However, in order to achieve your desired goals, you must understand the importance of the components or determinants of any aerobic exercise program.
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Determinants of your aerobic exercise program
Your aerobic exercise program must be tailored to meet your specific training goals in consideration of your baseline fitness level. Aerobic exercise is achieved by performing an activity with enough intensity and duration to increase energy demand in your muscles to the level that requires energy production by using oxygen. Frequency, duration, and intensity determine how much energy your muscles will use during aerobic exercise. How many times per week are you working out? For what period of time? At what level of intensity? These determinants will establish the overall effectiveness of your exercise program. By your assessment of exercise intensity, duration, and frequency, you can determine your approximate caloric expenditure and your performance level or work capacity.
Let me give you a few examples. If you are a sedentary individual and you want to initiate an aerobic exercise program, you should start with a low-intensity program. Starting out slowly allows your heart and lungs to become conditioned. Then, you can gradually increase the frequency and length of exercise sessions. If you are exercising frequently (five to seven days a week), but you are having trouble achieving your training goals, you may want to increase your training intensity while maintaining the duration, and decrease the frequency to avoid the effects of over-training. If you are a fit individual who is having difficulty finding five days a week to exercise, cut your program back to three days and increase intensity and duration. You may be surprised how quickly you will achieve your training goals.
The Importance of heart-rate monitoring
Performing exercise without monitoring your heart rate is like lifting weights without knowing how much weight you're lifting. In order to determine your baseline exercise tolerance and create a program that is based on progressive, weekly, short-term goals that will lead you toward your ultimate training goal, you must monitor your heart rate. Guessing how much energy you're using is very inaccurate, since many factors can increase your perception of exhaustion without your having reached true physiological fatigue. When you first start heart rate monitoring, you will be surprised at the workload and intensity you thought you were achieving during exercise versus what the heart rate monitor actually tells you.
Baseline aerobic exercise capacity
In order to determine your baseline aerobic exercise capacity, subtract your age from 220. If you have never monitored your heart rate you should start at 55 to 65 percent of that number during your prolonged exercise session. For example, if you are 20 years old, your maximum heart rate is 200 (220 - 20), so you would exercise for 20 to 30 minutes with your heart rate between 110 and 120 beats per minute. You would then establish your progressive, short-term training goals based on how you felt exercising at this level.
Proper nutritional support
The duration of your exercise session is influenced by your work intensity and the amount of fuel that is available in your aerobic engine's tank. If you have not replenished your fuel stores from workout to workout, or if you used up your fuel stores during exercise, your training intensity will be limited, and your body may start breaking down muscle tissue for energy. This will lead to decreased performance and difficulty in achieving exercise goals. It also may lead to injury in your joints, connective tissue, or muscles due to fatigue.
You may be dieting while participating in an aerobic exercise routine to achieve your weight-loss goals faster. But you need to be careful to gradually and slowly decrease caloric intake while increasing your frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise. I recommend eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet that includes food sources containing carbohydrates, fats, and protein, as well as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. If you eat well, you will be able to increase your training frequency, intensity, and duration while reducing the risk of over-training or injury. If you are able to exercise with greater frequency, duration, and intensity, you will achieve your training goals more easily. Undernourishment will limit what you're able to achieve in training.
The importance of fluid intake during your workout cannot be overemphasized, either. Your body uses fluids to cool and maintain core temperature during exercise. If you run out of fluids you can become dehydrated, overheat, and limit the duration and intensity of your workout.
Rest and recuperation
More is not always better. Listen to your body. I believe you can achieve excellent results from the three-day-a-week aerobic and two-day-a-week resistance-training routine. I also believe that occasionally your body will tell you to cut your routine back to two-day-a-week aerobic and one-day-a-week resistance training-especially if you consistently increase your aerobic and resistance-training intensity levels without increasing your nutritional support. Over-training can limit your ability to work out with increased intensity, thereby limiting your potential to achieve your goals. You can't train very well if you're injured or burned out.
Train smart, train hard, eat well and sleep well, and you will reach your goals sooner than you think.
Good luck, and may the treadmill rise to meet you, and may the breeze of your wind trainer be always at your back.