Sunday, December 12, 2010

Get in Your Zone! Staying in the Proper Heart Rate Range Can Maximize Your Weight Loss

Did you know that the key to burning calories lies in your heart rate? By keeping your heart rate at around 60 to 70% of it's maximum rate, you will burn the most fat calories.  Get your heart pumping much faster than that and you are basically burning oxygen.

Studies have shown that keeping your heart rate in this zone is the best for burning away fat.  Even during warm up when you are at 50 to 60%, you are burning more fat calories.  It is when you exceed 70% and stay below 80% of your maximum heart rate that you start burning less fat calories and rely more on your heart and lungs to keep you going.  Although, you will still burn about 50% as fat calories while exercising at this level such as running.

 Performance trainers take it to the next level and exercise at 80 to 90% of their maximum heart rate.  At this level you are burning on 15% fat calories.  Exceeding this level is red lining your heart and only the healthiest of people can maintain exercise at this level.

There is a basic way to calculate what your ideal exercise range is.  Using a simple formula by taking a base rate of 220 for men and 226 for women.  Subtract your age to get your maximum heart rate or MHR.  For instance a 45 year old man would take 220 - 45 and get a MHR of 176.  This would be your maximum red line.  So the warm up zone would be 50% to 60% of the MHR or 88 to 105 beats per minute.  The ideal fat burning zone, 60% to 70% would be 105 to 123 beats per minute.

A more complex formula for calculating your health heart zone for exercise is by taking your resting heart rate into account by using the Karvonen formula.  Which is basically the same as the simple formula, however you take your resting heart rate  RHR and subtract it from the MHR to get your Heart Rate Reserve or HRR.  You then calculate your target range, warm up would be 50% to 60% of your HHR, then add the RHR back into the number or in the example above using a 45 year old man, 118 to 129 beats per minute.

Here is a simple summary:

Simple method

Base 220  for men, 226 for women

- Age  44

MHR = 176

Training Range

60% =

70% =

80% =

90% =


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jumping into an Intense Exercise Routine? Think again! How to Prepare for Intense Workout Programs

Thinking of starting a intense exercise regiment or running after a long absence or having never done it at all?  Think again.  It is probably a better idea to ramp up some before diving right into an intense work out program.

Doing a low impact aerobic based work out or even walking for several weeks will ease you into an intense workout and help prevent you from getting seriously injured or failing out of your exercise program because of fatigue.  A simple way of preparing yourself for an exercise program without spending a great deal of money can be as simple as walking.


If you are new to exercise, begin by taking short walks daily.  You may want to start out at fifteen minutes or so for a week, giving yourself a day of rest.  Then gradually, add five or ten minutes to your walk as you feel you are capable of.  Once you get to the point of walking for forty-five to sixty minutes, you can try increasing your speed.  Gradually adding more speed until you are speed walking at a pretty good clip.  On rainy days, you can try walking on a treadmill if you have access.  However, watch out!  If you don't use good form and mainly keep your head up, you could sustain neck injuries.  This is why most public facilities provide televisions hanging from the ceiling to watch to keep your head pointing up and not down at the console.

Once you have gotten to the point where you are proficient at speed walking, you may want to try an aerobics program to add a little more movement and challenge your muscles more.  You can burn more calories in a shorter amount of time that walking.

Aerobic Work Outs

If you are already active or have graduated from walking, you can try doing a simple at home aerobics program.  There are many of these available on the market.  Personally, I favor those on the BeachBody web site.  I have used their Slim In 6 program to ramp up for many work outs.  It is versatile because there are different levels of difficulty depending on what kind of shape you are in and how much time you have to work out. 
Slim in 6 is from fitness expert Debbie Siebers and Power Half Hour is from celebrity fitness trainer Tony Horton.  I have used both Slim in 6 and Power Half Hour in the past with success.  I did Slim in 6 in order to get ready to take the P90X fit test and I passed it.  Slim in 6 is more non-weight oriented and uses resistance bands.  In Power Half Hour you use dumbbells as well as free standing aerobic moves for some workouts.

Once you have made it through and mastered one of these programs, you may be ready to take it to the next level of intensity by doing that advanced workout that you wanted to do.  Many of these are available on BeachBody as well such as P90X or Insanity.

Good luck and be safe!  And as always, you should consult with a physician before attempting any exercise program.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Water is Your Body's Best Friend

You can never get enough water.  Drinking at least six to eight glasses of water a day (about 96 ounces) can lead to a healthier, happier life.  Staying hydrated can help you lose weight.  Consuming large quantities of water will increase your metabolism, helping speed up that fat burning process.  Along with exercise and diet, this can be a powerful tool when trying to stay fit and healthy.  

Water, nature's health drink helps raise the body's metabolism

Studies have shown also shown that consuming large quantities of water helps the electrical connections in the heart.  Many people who suffer from heart arrhythmias are dehydrated.  Hydrating the heart helps it beat more regularly.

Drinking six to eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day can keep you healthier and help you burn fat

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Personal tips on using P90X

Before you buy P90X

Take the fit test

If you don’t pass the fit test and are not quite ready, check out P90, the predecessor to P90X or Slim In 6 from fitness expert Debbie Siebers or Power Half Hour with Tony Horton on the BeachBody site.  I have used both Slim in 6 and Power Half Hour in the past with success.  I did Slim in 6 for three weeks before in order to "ramp up".   I took the P90X fit test and I passed it.  Slim in 6 is more non-weight oriented and uses resistance bands.  In Power Half Hour you use dumbbells as well as free standing aerobic moves for some workouts.

What else you need to buy

On the BeachBody  P90X site they say you need an entire set of dumbbells.  Not totally true.  If  you are on a budget and cannot afford the quick change dumbbells or an entire dumbbell set that you can purchase from the BeachBody website, you can go to a sporting goods store and buy a set of standard free weight dumbbell handles for about $22.  You can also buy various standard weight plates at your local store for about a $1 a pound on average.  For starters, I would get 8 - 5lb plates and 8 - 2.5 lb plates.  I also use 4 - 1 ¼ lb plates.  This allows a smaller increment in weights. An investment of less than $100 should get you the dumbbell set that you need to start with.  Much cheaper than a set of fixed dumbbells or the dial-a-weight type!  You can then add other dumbbell handles and more weights as you think you need them.  More handle sets are better for switching weights faster.  You’ll understand once you go through some of the exercises.

It is well known that you get the best strength training results from using free weights, but I would also invest in a set of resistance bands.  You can use these in lieu of a pull up bar.  Or if you have a pull up bar, you can use them after you fail out on your maximum pull ups to push your muscles harder and maximize your results.  Personally, I have the Extreme set (green, blue, black) and the next level down (pink, orange, red).  They work well.  Resistance bands are also available on the BeachBody web site.

If you don’t own a watch with a heart rate monitor, you will most likely want to invest in one.  I didn’t buy the one from their web site, way too expensive.  I searched on line though and found a wireless one at a health discount site for about half the price.  It cost me about $40.  You’ll want to keep an eye on your heart rate while working out.  If you get out of your ideal heart rate zone, you will not be burning as much fat calories.  As of writing this, I’m 44 years old.  So my work out heart rate zone is appx. 130 to 165.  If I go over my rate, I pause the workout for a minute and let my rate go down.  I had to pause quite a bit in the first couple of weeks.


I don’t follow the P90X menu exactly, but I do stick closely to the food groups and calorie limit for my weight group.  I started at 144 pounds, making my daily target calorie count of 1800.  As long as you stick close to the plan and eat a healthy diet, you'll lose weight along with doing the exercises.  I averaged a pound a week!


I do use a protein supplement, but not use the one on the Beachbody web site.  I buy Matrix 2.0.  It is $20 for a 32 serving tub with 23gms of protein per serving.  A good buy!  They also recommend you use a recovery drink for after workouts.  I didn’t at first, but during the first couple of weeks I started feeling run down about ¾ of the way through the week.  I started to use Power Paks which I found a local vitamin store which have basically the same ingredients of the P90X Results and Recovery drink except without the protein.  You can get that from the Matrix 2.0.  After every workout I immediately drink a Power Pak drink followed by a Matrix 2.0 protein shake.  Even if you don't use a recovery drink of some sort, you should drink plenty of water!

Every morning I take a Centrum Multi-Vitamin plus a Super B-Complex.  This gets you fairly close to the P90X Power Pack vitamins and they are a heck of a lot cheaper.  I personally also used the Beachbody Slimming formula in the first month.  Supposedly, it increases your metabolism and helps lose up to 33% more weight.

I also add 1 protein bar to my diet, at least one a day.  The  Myoplex Lite bar which only has 190 calories, but it has about 17grams of protein is the one I use.

The Workouts

Also in the Excel workbook is the P90X workout schedule on the first tab.  I didn't include specific exercises because that would not quite be fair to  :)  I'll describe each of them though.

There are 12 different workouts in all.  A plus about the program is they show you variants on the exercises to make them easier or harder if you can't handle them.  I use a mix of them.

1. Chest and Back (about 60 min)- Mostly a mix of a variety of push ups and LOTS of pull ups.  If you don't have a pull up bar, get the resistance bands on their web site.  They work just as well if you have a place to hang them.  You can also buy an attachment to hang them from a door.

2. Plyometrics (about 60 min) - this is by far the hardest of the workouts.  If you survive this the first time, you know you can survive the program. It is basically a lot of jumping, mostly cardio work.  They do offer low impact alternatives on some moves.  If you’re not used to it, you cannot walk very well for the next two days!

3. Shoulders and Arms (about 60 min) - Lots of work with the dumbbells here, shoulder presses, curls, dips, etc.

4.  Yoga X (90 min) - HAH!  don't let the name fool you.  I've done some yoga on previous Beachbody programs and thought this was going to be a breeze.  Some intense yoga movements for the first 45 minutes then they make you do balance moves.  At the end of the workout, every inch of my clothes is soaking wet with sweat!

5.  Legs and Back (about 60 min) - Lots of pull ups again and some plyometric movements.  Not quite as intense as some of the workouts though, but it is still difficult especially if you choose to use weights on the lunge moves.

6.  Kenpo X (about 60min) - Mainly a cardio workout using Kenpo Karate moves and jumping jacks, etc.  This is the most fun work out in my opinion yet it still gets your heart pumping for sure.

7.  X Stretch (about 60 min) - Yes, 60 min of stretching.  But you feel so darn good when it is over after stressing your body for 6 straight days.

8.  Core Synergistics (about 60 min) - very intense.  It is a mix of plyometrics, ab work, kenpo, cardio, etc. using lunges, pushups, squats, etc  Basically working your whole core body muscles.

9.  Chest , triceps, shoulders (about 60 min) - a mix of dumbbell work, pushups, etc.

10.  Back and Biceps (about 60 min) - lots of weight work doing curls and presses.

11.  Cardio X - (about 45 min) - mix of various types of cardio using kempo, core synergistics, plyometrics, etc.

12.  Ab Ripper X (15 min)- a nasty all ab workout that lasts for about 15 minutes.  I cannot make it through all of the exercises yet!  Most intense ab workout I have ever done.  This comes at the end of many of the workouts, usually every other day unless it is a recovery week in which you focus more on cardio.

Maximizing the workouts

There are 3 different ways you can follow the program.  The “Regular” way, “Doubles”, or the Lean program.   The Doubles program is the Regular except in months 2 and 3, you do an extra cardio workout in the mornings every other day to burn more calories.  The Lean program focuses more on losing weight than gaining muscle.  The doubles is kind of mix of the Regular and Lean.

I personally am following the “Doubles” program to burn some extra calories and build muscle.  The more muscle you build, the faster you will burn fat.  When using weights I go for 8-10 reps which builds more muscle.  The 8th rep should start to get hard, while straining on the 9th, and struggling on the 10th.  If you can do over 10, then the next time you MUST add weight.  If you don’t, you are not pushing your muscles hard enough.  That is why it is important to write this stuff down.  You can download the worksheets from the P90X web site for tracking your progress.  12 to 15 reps is more for burning calories and building lean muscle.

You may feel like you’ve been run over by a truck on some days especially the first couple of weeks.  But on light days, you can feel that you are stronger and more energetic than you were before.  Give it a try.  It "hurts so good" :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How to get fit fast with Beachbody's P90X

Want to get fit and feel better fast? Try P90X. It is not all hype. You watch the videos on Youtube and everyone says how "they are in the best shape of their life" and think yeah right. Well, if you follow the exercises and stick pretty close to the diet, it works!

After battling asthma for a couple of years, I finally felt normal enough to exercise a little after trying a new medicine, but the medicine I was on raised my BP to well over normal. I didn't want to go on even more medicine, so I decided I need to get fit relatively quickly with a goal of losing 10 lbs and lowering my BP. 10 lbs was about all I thought I could lose. I always bottomed out at 134 lbs over years of running, biking, hiking, etc.

I decided to try P90X which claims to get you in top shape in 90 days. Tony Horton, the instructor for the program, also did Power Half Hour which I had done years before to tone up a bit.  He trains movie actor to get in shape quickly for films and such. I gave P90X a try.  Three weeks into the program I started feeling better than I had in years. I had more energy and I was stronger. I didn't realize how weak I had gotten over the past couple of years.

I reached my goals before the halfway mark at around 40 days. After 90 days I had lost 17 lbs, and can honestly say I am in the best overall shape I've been in my entire life! No joke. I am posting a couple of 90 day before and after photos below just to prove it is really me and no joke.

I finished the P90X program and I am now starting month 2 of the second round of it. I lost 2 more lbs and now weigh as much as I did in high school and I am wearing the same size jeans that I wore in high school!
   And I'm 44 years old!

Looking to get in shape quickly? Give it a try. You can download a "fit" test from after clicking on the P90X link. If you don't pass the test, they don't recommend you do the program... if you can't find it, let me know and I will post a copy. ..and of course you should check with your doctor first.

I was not paid to post this blog in any way, this is my true account of how P90X changed my life and I am sharing it with you.  It works!  P90X is available from the BeachBody web site.

You can read more about my P90X experience in this blog: