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Getting Started With a Cardio Exercise Plan

Hello to all you exercise beginners, enthusiasts, experts, and “haven’t quite decided to get off the couch yet” people! It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to explain some very basic foundation principles about exercise. Today’s topic: basic truths about Cardiovascular, or really, Cardiorespiratory exercise.

There is plenty of great information out there about weight loss, interval training and the latest cardio craze, but what you need is information about THE ORDER in which to execute a plan that is best for you. The heart, as strong of an organ as it may be, is also a very complicated muscle that is easily affected by factors such as stress, emotion, and signals from other systems in the body. DO NOT jump into a routine just because you have finally decided to start an exercise program. I have been monitoring people’s hearts in my fitness coaching practice for 10 years now, and I have EVERYONE start with a baseline program for general conditioning. A pro athlete will get the same treatment. They may not stay at the same level as long as most people, but everyone needs to start with what I call a base zone. Don’t forget, you are dealing with complex systems here, not just a physical, aesthetic goal!!

First, you must gather some information about yourself and knowing your resting heart rate is key. Below, I will explain how to calculate your resting heart rate and incorporate that number into a very trusted formula to determine your base training zone. From here, you will work within a certain zone to get your heart into good working order. That is the priority. All other goals will fall into place when you follow a consistent plan that has focus and direction.

After finding your resting heart rate and your base zone (see below), get a heart rate monitor (the type that has a chest strap is best), and choose a mode of exercise you enjoy (walking, biking, cardio equipment at the gym, etc..) While monitoring your heart rate, be aware of the correlating breathing effort you are making at a certain heart rate. No one ever talks about this and it is so very important. If you are barely feeling any breathing effort in your base target zone, take the intensity up a bit. By the same token, if you are struggling to catch your breath, take it down.

A heart rate of 135 beats per min. (bpm) while walking may elicit minimal breathing effort, but on a stationary bike, 135 bpm may elicit a very labored breath What that really means is, if someone is used to walking but not biking, the oxygen needed to get those muscles to perform that task of biking is so much greater. People mistake that for “being out of shape”. Yes, they are “out of shape” for that mode of exercise, BUT with practice, that biking effort will soon get easier as the body adapts to that new challenge.

So, now you can get started with a cardio program with a little more knowledge, not a gimmick. Stay tuned for the next cardio lesson which will address the frequency and duration of your exercise sessions.

Method One: (evening) Put on your heart rate monitor. Lie down and close your eyes. Get yourself to where you are just about to fall asleep. Open your eyes and look at the heart rate monitor reading. Do this 3 nights in a row and take the average.

Method Two: Take your pulse at the radial artery (wrist area) for 10 seconds and multiply by six. I would suggest you do this in the evening as well and get yourself into a very relaxed state. Have a clock nearby to help count 10 seconds. Do this 3 nights in a row and take the average.

Numbers you need:
Resting Heart Rate: (RHR) (see above)
Maximum Heart Rate: (MHR) 220-age
Heart Rate Reserve: (HRR) MHR- RHR
BASE ZONE Calculation for 55% - 65% of Maximum Heart Rate:
(HRR x .55) + RHR – this is your low end
(HHR x .65) + RHR – this is your high end

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