Train For Change
by Sally Edwards -
You may think that training is just
for athletes. I absolutely believe that with few exceptions everyone can train
to create change which leads to a good healthy life.
is as different for everyone as change is different.
Whether you want to change by shedding
a few pounds or you just want to feel good about yourself, then here's a way
that, if you follow it, you may end up on the wellness road to a new
What's I'm talking about is Heart Zone
Training, the best approach to all-around fitness I've found. This isn't a
one-size-fits-all concept. It works for a 50-year-old athlete like me, a
60-year old with a family history of heart problems, a 70-year old wanting to
improve strength, or an 80-year old who wants to climb to the third floor of a
building without puffing. It works for a 20-year-old who wants to get fitter, a
30-year-old who has become more sedentary from too much time in front of a
computer, and a 40-year-old who is preparing for a second wedding ceremony and
wants to be their best.
Let's take it one part at a time and
first look at those three words: Heart Zone Training. HEART That's easy. Your
heart's a muscle; you can strengthen it. It's a use-it-or-lose-it muscle so if
you don't do cardiovascular exercise, you'll lose the hearts functional
zone is simply a rang of heart beats. Recent research has shown powerful
benefits from exercising in several different zones to get maximum
Training is the regime of exercising to achieve a goal. It's
different than exercising. When you exercise you are doing it for the joy and
benefit of the exercise. When you train, you want to accomplish a
Take my 58-year-old friend Sara whose
young grandchildren are really paying attention to her workouts. Today, I see
her reaping the benefits of paying attention to her body. She looks good, she
feels good, and her annual physical give her straight "A"s for low blood
pressure, low body fat and low cholesterol. She's running her grand dads around
You can have similar results. It all
starts with the beating of your heart.
Heart rates are measured in beats per minute (bpm).
Our ambient heart rate is that measurement when you are sitting, relaxed,
sedentary and it should be around 70 bpm for most people. In general, the lower
your ambient rate, the better. World-class athletes have ambient heart rates in
the 40's and 50 bpm range.
Your resting heart rate is measured
when you first wake up in the morning before you get out of bed. The lower the
number the better. Common resting heart rate numbers are in the 50-60s but
again, those really fit athletes commonly display resting heart rates in the
30's and 40's.
Your Maximum Heart Rate (Max HR) is
the fastest your heart can beat for one minute. A generalized rule anchors your
Max HR using a mathematical formula but it has a lot of error in it because it
allows it to drop as you get older.
In fact, Max HR doesn't decrease if
you maintain your fitness (it does if you become deconditioned). So using a
formula based on age just doesn't work well enough. If you have to have one
then use the one that we have found to be more accurate:
New Mathematical Formula Age/Weight Predicted Maximum Heart
minus 1/2 your age minus 1% of your body weight + 4 (males)
Let me give you an example. I am 50
years old and weight 130 pounds. My arithmetic formula then would be as
210 - 25 (50% x 50 years) minus 1.3 +
0 (female) = Max HR of 183 bpm
That's fairly close (within 10 beats)
of my actually tested maximum heart rate which is 193 bpm.
If you ever go to an athletic club or
gym and see the Max HR charts you have to be cautious. They aren't very
accurate. Maximum heart rate is genetically determined, it simply isn't going
to decrease according to those charts.
A few tips about Max HR which you may
be curious about. It's altitude sensitive and increases as you go higher and it
also is affected by drugs such as beta blocks and even antihistamines. It
cannot be increased by training and a high Max HR does not predict better
Your Max HR
Important note! Before you self-test, please read
the "Before Your Start" section at the end of this article.
You won't reach your Max HR with these
tests, but they give you a range within which your Max HR probably lies. First
step is to rate your fitness level as follows:
Poor shape. You have not
exercised regularly during the last two months.
Fair shape. You walk a mile or
more or pursue any aerobic activity for twenty minutes at least three times per
Good shape. You exercise
regularly more than an hour a week or walk or run at least five miles a
The second step is take either or both
of these tests.
ONE. One Mile Walk Test
Find a track, perhaps at a local
school, and walk four continuous, evenly paced laps as fast as you can in your
current condition. The first three laps put you on a heart-rate plateau where
you hold steady for the fourth lap.
Determine your average heart rate for
this final lap. Then to predict your Max HR, add 40 bpm if you are in poor
shape; for fair shape, add 50; and for good shape, add 60.
TWO: The Step Test
Use an eight-inch step. Warm up
appropriately. Then, use this four count step sequence: right foot up, left up,
right down, left down. Counting "up, up, down, down" as one set and keep a
steady pace of 20 sets per minute.
Measure your average heart rate during
the third minute, then predict your Max HR by adding 55 bpm if you are in poor
shape, 65 for fair shape and 75 for good shape. That number is your predicted
maximum heart rate.
Heart zones, expressed as a percentage
of your Max HR, reflect exercise intensity and the result benefit. Once you
have established your Max heart rate, we provide a chart to show you your
specific zones. There are five heart zones and they are each 10-% of your Max
HR so just fill in these numbers below:
Percentages Heart Rate
100% Max HR x your number =
90% Max HR x your number =
80% Max HR x your number =
70% Max HR x your number =
60% Max HR x your number = _ 50% Max
HR x your number =
To determine your zone just join
together the percentages and put them in the chart below. It's easy and takes
just seconds to know your heart zones.
Zone Number Percentage Range Heart
Zone Range 5 90%-100% - bpm
4 80%-90% - bpm
3 70%-80% - bpm
2 60%-70% - bpm
1 50%-60% - bpm
Inside each zone, there are different
exercise changes which occur as the result of spending training time "in the
zone". Let's go through each one briefly so you know why you want to train in
the different zones.
THE HEALTHY HEART ZONE: 50%-60% of your individual Max HR
This is the safest, most comfortable
zone, reached by walking briskly. Here you strengthen your heart and improve
muscle mass while you reduce body fat, cholesterol, blood pressure, and your
risk for degenerative disease. You get healthier in this zone, but not more fit
-- that is, it won't increase your endurance or strength but it will increase
If you're out of shape, have heart
problems, or simply want to safeguard your heart without working too hard,
spend most of your training time here. It's also the zone for warming up and
cooling down before and after more vigorous zones.
THE TEMPERATE ZONE: 60% to 70% of your individual Max HR.
It's easily reached by jogging slowly.
While still a relatively low level of effort, this zone starts training your
body to increase the rate of fat release from the cells to the muscles for
Some people call this the "fat burning
zone" because up to 85 % of the total calories burned in this zone are fat
calories which is equally as important.
Fit and unfit people burn fat
differently. The more fit you are, the more effectively you use fat to maintain
a healthy weight. On the other hand, perhaps you've been exercising vigorously,
but not losing the weight you expected to. Could be you've been working too
hard and need to drop back to this zone and exercise longer. To burn more total
calories you'll need to exercise for more time in this zone.
THE AEROBIC ZONE:
70%-80% or your individual Max HR
In this zone -- reached by running
easily as an example -- you improve your functional capacity. The number and
size of your blood vessels actually increase, you step up your lung capacity
and respiratory rate, and your heart increases in size and strength so you can
exercise longer before becoming fatigued. You're still metabolizing fats and
carbohydrates at about a 50-50 rate which means both are burning at the same
THE ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD ZONE:
80%-90% of your individual Max HR
This zone is reached by going hard --
running faster. Here you get faster and fitter, increasing your heart rate as
you cross from aerobic to anaerobic training. At this point, your heart cannot
pump enough blood and oxygen to supply the exercising muscles fully so they
respond by continuing to contract anaerobically.
This is where you "feel the burn." You
can stay in this zone for a limited amount of time, usually not more than an
hour. That's because the muscle just cannot sustain working anaerobically (this
means without sufficient oxygen) without fatiguing. The working muscles protect
themselves from overwork by not being able to maintain the intensity
THE REDLINE ZONE:
90% to 100% of your individual Max HR.
This is the equivalent of running all
out and is used mostly as an "interval" training regiment -- exertion done only
in short to intermediate length bursts. Even world-class athletes can stay n
this zone for only a few minutes at a time. It's not a zone most people will
select for exercise since working out here hurts and there is an increased
potential for injury.
Now I want to put
these zones together for you in what I call the Training Tree. You go up and
down the limbs of your new exercise tree depending on your goals, at your own
speed. As you climb the branches, you'll increase your all-around fitness and
your body will experience wonderful, truly incredible changes. Here in brief
are the different limbs:
As you exercise here, your workouts will feel easy.
Your ambient and your resting heart rate and blood pressure will drop and
you'll see your body change as you develop your ability to do continuous
exercise time. Stay on this limb for 4-6 weeks of training time before you move
up to the next branch.
Workouts should be slow and easy and
can include walking, biking, swimming, skating, and circuit training. Aim for
three 30-minute workouts a week with about 10 minutes in Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone
You're training to develop a base
level of strength and endurance which will sustain a workout without a great
deal of fatigue and muscle soreness. When the routine feels too easy, reach up
and grab that next branch.
Here you expand on your systems ability to sustain
longer training periods, what we can improved endurance. Your body can now
carry more oxygen to your muscles and break into your fat storage cells to burn
fat calories as it adapts to it's new workload. You'll find yourself going the
same distance at a lower heart rate -- proof in fact of increasing
Train her for four to six weeks.
Activities might include brisk walking, biking, swimming, easy jogging,
low-impact aerobics. Aim for five 30-minute sessions a week. For each workout,
spend 5 minutes in Zone 1, 10 minutes in Zone 2 and 15 minutes in Zone
This adds resistance training which will make you
stronger by increasing the work. For example, add hills as you walk, start some
running, stair climbing or weight training.
Perform four or five training sessions
of 30-40 minutes each week divided as follows: Zone 1, 5 minutes; Zone 2, 10
minutes; Zone 3, 20 minutes; Zone 4, 5 minutes.
Many people stay on this branch for
maintenance of a healthy, all-around fit lifestyle. The next three branches are
for those who seek to become high performance athletes, so I'll just touch on
This limb gets you faster by doing "interval training"
which simply means mixing hard training in Zones 4 and 5 with easy training in
Zones 1 and 2.
This branch is for serious athletes who want to race
at their best. Please refer to Edwards' latest book SMART HEART (206 pages,
1997) for more information on high performance heart zone training.
I saved this for last because it serves a vital
function, especially for those who climb to the higher branches where the
oxygen grows ever so thin. Here you rest and exercise simultaneously. By
staying in low heart zones for short workouts, you can recuperate from too much
exercise, an illness or injury that forced you down from higher
I urge you to cross-train while in
each of these zones. This means varying the demands on your body by walking one
day, for example, biking the next, and swimming another.
My book Heart Zone Training gives a
number of sample training programs for each branch. It also describes how to
maintain a personal heart Zone Training log where you record your training in
various zones to evaluate your total effort over a period of time.
MOVE OUT SLOWLY
Exercise must fit you as an
individual. I'm convinced it's the integration of the mind, the body, and the
spirit that works in the log in run.
If you've been working out regularly,
you may find yourself reaching for another level of fitness. If you're a
beginner or haven't worked out for more than two months, commit yourself to the
Base Branch of the Training Tree for just one month.
Remember, the whole point is to get
going. You'll begin to see positive benefits as you feel more energy and sleep
better. I predict you'll also feel a real boost to your self-esteem that will
make it fun to keep going.
And you might keep in mind the mantra
that my friend Sara recites on those days when training takes some extra
efforts and there is an addition to the grand kid number. "It's not that I have
to do this," she says. "It's that I can."
SIDEBAR: BEFORE YOU START
If you have not been training
regularly, answer these questions first:
Are you a man over 40 or a
woman over 50?
Have you ever been told you
have heart problems, high blood pressure, or a bone or joint problem, such as
arthritis, that has been or could be aggravated by certain types of
Do you frequently suffer from
chest pains, feel faint or have dizzy spells?
Are you taking prescription
medication, such as those for high blood pressure?
Is there another medical reason
why you think perhaps you should not exercise?
If you answered "yes" to any of these
questions, consult your healthcare provider before you being
WATCHING YOUR HEART RATE
As you train, it's important to be
able to quickly measure your heart rate. You can get a rough estimate by
finding your pulse in your wrist or a precise measurement by using a heart
For the manual method, take a watch
and count for 6 seconds then multiply your county by ten to find your heart
rate. You only need a watch which has seconds but you can easily be off by
10-20 bpm because of the short time counting interval.
You may like I do prefer a heart
monitor which I believe is the most powerful and motivational piece of exercise
equipment you can have. It consists of a chest transmitter that you wear and a
wireless receiver worn like a wristwatch.
Ten years ago, monitors cost in the
$500 price range. Today, they cost as low as $80 -- about the price of a good
pair of workout shoes --. Monitors are readily available in sporting goods
stores, on websites, and through direct mail.
SALLY EDWARDS BIOGRAPHY
Sally Edwards is passionate about
exercise and she practices what she preaches. She's a ranked "ultra" athlete
who's finished fourteen Ironman triathlons and numerous other "extreme"
In 1994, she set the woman's record
for the Iditashoe, a 100 mile snowshoe event in Alaska. In 1995 and again in
1996 she participated in the 370-mile Eco Challenge adventure race.
This past August her women's team
finished first in the 3,200 mile cross country bicycle race, Race Across
America in 7 days and 22 hours. To celebrate her 50th birthday the next month
she captained a four-person team racing in China in seven sports including
kayaking, off-road inline skating, mountain climbing and more. In October, she
finished her fourteenth Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii which includes a 2.4 mile
swim, 112 miles by bike, then a full 26.2 mile marathon.
Edwards holds a graduate degree in
exercise physiology from Berkeley and a master's degree in business. She has
authored eleven books and is noted for her inspirational public speaking and
support of charitable concerns , especially The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer
Foundation. A Sacramento, California resident, she served in Viet Nam with the