fitBy: Miraval’s Andrew Wolf, M.S. ED Exercise Physiologist
This time of year inevitably brings with it a barrage of requests for quick advice on how to tone up and get a beach body. To this I usually respond with a litany of multipurpose, multi joint core exercises that work as many muscles as possible while lifting the butt. Do not get me wrong, these exercises do tone up muscles and strengthen the core but until your body fat is low enough you will not see the fruits of your labor. What do I mean? Until the padding that is covering your abs is thin enough you will not be able to see how awesome all those crunches have made your abs. Bottom line, tone is nothing more than the lack of fat over the muscles you have. With this in mind I have an easy homework assignment that will give you a taste of what I do here at Miraval and allow you to write an exercise prescription for yourself just like I do.
- Step one: Get yourself a heart rate monitor. Do not feel the need to spend tons of money, just get one that is easy to use and will give you an average heart rate at the end of the workout. You can get a watch version or even the new Bluetooth versions that turn your smartphone into a heart rate monitor.
- Step two: Do cardiovascular exercise at YOUR pace for 30 to 45 minutes. Remember to do this the way you would if I was not standing there with a clipboard and a white coat.
- Step three: Stop. Push stop on the heart rate monitor. Then find the average heart rate for the workout.
- Step four: Divide the average heart rate by .75. This is a good approximation of your maximal heart rate.
Example: Andrew worked out for 45 minutes with an average heart rate of 145 beats per minute. When I divide that by .75 I end up with a maximal heart rate of 193 beats per minute. Viola!
The big question is why do you care and why would you do this. Well, your maximal heart rate is not something you get from a formula like 220-age. In my practice I find that this assumption is wrong about 65% of the time. For example, a 43 year old’s maximal heart rate is supposed to be 177 beats per minute yet one can routinely see 186 beats per minute when they are doing a hard interval. The big reason is this. If you can exercise at the right heart rates you can become much better at burning more calories in a 30-60 minute workout than you are now. This makes losing weight easier because you don’t have to rely solely on diet to get what you want. Plus it makes it more likely that when you lose the weight you may actually be able to stay there. Imagine your beach body being your all year body!
Now that you have your maximal heart rate what can you do with it? Exercise for maximal effect and waste far less of your precious time.
1-2 times per week you want to work hard so you become that better calorie burner. This means getting out of “sustainable” land and doing some efforts that feel harder than normal.
- Take 5-10 minutes and get to 74% of your maximal heart rate
- Take the next 2-4 minutes and slowly work your way up to 88-92% of your maximal heart rate
This will go up as the workout goes on because you are getting more physically “excited”
- Then take the next 3-5 minutes and get all the way down to 60-65% of max
- Repeat the last two steps 4-6 times in a workout
1-3 times per week simply put in the time and burn the calories. As you do the intervals this “putting in the time” workout will burn more and more calories which is what we want!
- Take 5 minutes to get to 72% of max
- Take 5 minutes to get to 80-84% of max
- Take 5 minutes to get to 65-70% of max
- Repeat the last two steps between 0-6 times
If time permits and you are not trapped in a polar vortex try a little “long slow distance”. This is an easy walk/bike ride/hike/etc. that does not feel difficult but takes 90+ minutes. The key is to slow down and go LOOOOOOONG! What you lose in intensity you will more than make up for in duration.
Keep up the lifting and toning but use these tips and this prescription to turn yourself into someone who will be able to see all those beautiful muscles.