Valentine’s Day Exercise: The Red Zone! Part 2 of a 4 Part Series on Cardiovascular Exercise


Fullscreen capture 4272012 114806 AMFebruary is Heart Healthy Month!

And for good reason: Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the US;  Stoke the 3rd leading cause.

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that 67M Americans currently have Heart Disease.  Another 47M Americans show 3 or more symptoms of Heart Disease, according to Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Together, that’s 40% of all Americans, and the likeliest way all of us will check out of here.  

If you are female, your odds are slightly worse.

If you don’t smoke, the most effective way to reduce your risk of Heart Disease, is to exercise!   If you do smoke, simply quitting cut’s your risk in half.

Welcome to Part 2 of a 4 part series on Cardiovascular Exercise!  Last week we spent some time working on the base and basics of cardiovascular exercise: Long Duration, Low Intensity Cardiovascular Exercise.  

A step up from that would be Moderate Intensity,  Moderate Duration Cardiovascular exercise, but since it’s Valentine’s Day this week, we decided to steam things up a bit and jump into the Hot Zone! 

Cardiovascular exercise specifically trains that stubborn heart muscle.  Fullscreen capture 4272012 124401 PM

Cardiovascular exercise programming can be as simple as walking regularly, or considerably more sophisticated.    One of the more sophisticated cardiovascular exercise programming techniques used by fitness professionals and serious athletes alike is …


Heart Rate Zone Training … our topic today!

Heart rate zones (HRZ) are quite simply ranges of heart beat rates where the heart, lungs, and circulatory system work together to convert energy sources to energy (metabolismuniquely within each range.

Your Maximum Heart Rate (MaxHR) is almost entirely defined by hereditary factors,  but is also slightly effected by your age.    Training doesn’t effect it all, but aging does (though how you age is related to how you exercise, so it’s indirectly effected in that way).  Your Resting Heart Rate (RestHR) is the rate at which your heart beats when you are completely rested and resting (like in bed at the top of the morning before you do anything else).

Between these two values (MaxHR & RestHR) are five (or seven, depending on who you ask) heart rate zones, all based on a percentage of your Maximum Heart Rate.

In building an HRZ program, we first start with the MaxHR, and then define zones based on MaxHR percentage (eg, the fat burning zone is less than 60% MaxHR).

More Math

Determining your MaxHR can be either very straightforward, or somewhat difficult.  A common formula used to find your MaxHR is:  220 minus your age.While a reasonable place to start for most people, this method of determining MaxHR also can be highly inaccurate.  Check with your fitness expert to determine a more accurate number for  yourself.
While beyond the scope of this note to provide a complete tutorial of heart rate zones and heart rate zone training, just register here (it’s free!) to get a full copy of my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic Report which goes into a LOT more detail on all the zones and when and how to use them best.

For today though, we’ll limit discussion to the heated and uncomfortable Zone 5.

 Zone 5 sometimes also called  The Hot Zone where heart rates exceed 90%  of MaxHR.   In this HRZ, fuel comes completely and exclusively from the purest form of energy … a broken down glycogen molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.

Zone 5 ATP stores are depleted at this pace within just 5 to 35 seconds (depending on fitness level).

At that point your body will tell you in no uncertain terms that you must slow down or stop!
Even world class aerobic anomalies like Lance Armstrong can only hold the red zone for a few minutes before exhausted athleteneeding to back off and replenish the ATP debt. Of course, with a 200 BPM MaxHR and an anaerobic threshold near 95% of that, Lance is burning fat (check back next week for Part III!) while most of us are burning up and depleting ATP!

Caloric consumption within Zone 5, however, can be as much as a hundred times what is during a resting state. 

Much like anaerobic exercise in zone 4, zone 5 metabolism also generates a lot of lactic acid waste product. As you can imaging, time in this zone must be very carefully managed.  Indeed, for the most part only 0.5% to 1% of your total weekly training time should be spent in this zone.  Most athletes train this zone with regular interval training.

While most exercisers will train in this zone only sparingly, it is still an effective, beneficial, and necessary part of healthy heart training when properly managed!

So …  what is an interval?

intervalIntervals are quite simply: carefully designed patterns of  short cardiovascular exercise followed by a lengthier ‘recovery’ periods.
Interval Training can also be effective in training zones specific to performance needs (eg, those two 13 minute climbs in your favorite bike race).  Intensity and duration within the zone and within the recovery period can be independently throttled to replicate specific performance needs.

But to keep things as simple as possible, intervals are generally just a repetitive pattern of hot/warm exercises.

Again, for a more complete discussion on interval training, just  just register here (it’s free!) to get a full copy of my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic Repoort which goes into a LOT more detail on all the zones and when and how to use them best.

Ready to try one!?


Fullscreen capture 4272012 124156 PMOK then,  in the spirit of Valentine’s Day Intensity, here’s a Great, Easy Hot Zone Interval program for you our your loved one:

  1. Pick Your favorite Cardiovascular exercise: run, bike, swim, cross country ski, snow shoe, whatever … it really doesn’t matter for this exercise!
  2. Complete a thorough 10 minute warm-up
  3. Increase intensity for 2 minutes to a point where you feel ‘winded’
  4. Actively rest at an easy pace for about a minute
  5. Increase intensity for 2 minutes until you feel some pain, but not agony
  6. Actively rest at an easy pace for about a minute
  7. Go hard for 15 seconds; then sprint for 15 seconds
  8. Actively rest at an easy pace for about 90 seconds
  9. Go hard for 30 seconds, then sprint for 15 seconds
  10. Actively rest at an easy pace for about two minutes
  11. Go hard for 30 seconds, go harder yet for 15 seconds, then sprint for 15 seconds
  12. Complete a thorough 10-20 minute warm-down
And that’s it!   If you’re lucky, and really working hard, you will have spent between 10 and 20 seconds in Zone 5 with this workout (the finishing parts of steps 7, 9, & 11).
Exercise smarter.  Have a specific plan for each workout to make sure you’re program is balanced.  Check with a health and fitness pro if in doubt.  

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