Basic Training: Cardio workout

By Richard Magda
March 21, 2002

Spring is here and the Dixon Center gym is being flooded by the masses of seasonal supermodel hopefuls. Rushing to burn mysterious calories and cut fat acquired over winter hibernation, perennial beach muscle fanatics are searching for the quickest and easiest ways to slim down in time for a rawhide tan to complement minimalist attire.

To burn calories and snap into shape quickly, treadmills, stationary bikes and Stairmasters are the most popular and, if used correctly, the most effective. Before jumping on these cardio-kickers, however, it is important to know how hard the average body can be pushed.

For starters, it is crucial to choose a program appropriate for desired results. For endurance, it is crucial to work at a steady pace for an extended period of time. To enhance speed and quickness, however, work in intervals of fast pace exercise with downtime in between bursts. Other programs exist for more modified training types.

“It’s important to find out what’s right for you,” certified athletic trainer Andra Riccio said. “Talk to someone who can give you specifics for your goal. Whether it’s speed, fat burning, endurance or any other, find out what machine to use at what intensity and for how long.”

Once a program has been established, limitations of the average body should be calculated based on age and resting heart rate (see Target Heart Rate Formula.)

“The target heart rate formula is a very general guideline to be used as a reference point,” Riccio said. “The numbers for each individual vary, and depend on resting heart rate. If you exercise regularly, your resting heart rate will be lower (fewer beats per minute) and you will be able to exercise for longer periods of time.”

With a designated program and a general target heart rate established, it is time to loosen the limbs and break a sweat.

“Before each workout, make sure you warm-up by doing a light cardiovascular workout until you begin to sweat,” Riccio said.

To warm-up, try a light jog or a fast pace walk to loosen muscles and adjust body temperature. Properly executing a warm-up will enhance performance during the actual exercise period, which will lead to better physical results, according to Riccio.

Now it is time to watch the calories burn as the fat flies off. The Dixon Center offers a variety of cardiovascular equipment to accommodate the comfort of all ranges of exercisers. Stationary bicycles, treadmills, elliptical trainers and stair climbers (Stairmaster) are the most functional. Each machine includes set programs (endurance, fat burning, intervals, random, etc.) and a manual option for personal preference. To monitor time and distance, the machines also present statistics such as calories burned, speed, miles and some even watts, which would be the amount of electricity one could generate during a work out.

The stationary bicycles, stair climbers and treadmills are traditional machines that allow users to incorporate the same range of motion as riding a bicycle, running or walking. Stationary bicycles offer back support and are low impact, meaning that the range of motion is mildly stressful on joints and ligaments. Adjusting the tension on the stationary bicycle will increase or decrease the intensity of the work out. The treadmill allows a greater variety of motion, but is weight bearing and therefore involves higher impact on joints. The greatest advantage of the treadmill is the incline function that allows users to simulate running or walking up a hill, according to Riccio. The stair climber provides a low impact work out but “with existing problems of the back and knees, the stepper could worsen injuries,” Riccio said.

With newer technology and research has come a new age of cardiovascular equipment, the elliptical trainer. Part stair climber, part treadmill and part stationary cycle, elliptical trainers are the hottest new aerobic machines and are available at the Dixon Center. Working the upper and lower body together, elliptical trainers allow more of the body’s natural movement of legs and hips making it the lowest impact cardiovascular machine, according to Riccio. Elliptical trainers are ideal for injured exercisers who still want to maintain a toned physique.

Although each machine comes with its own set of benefits and potential problems, all are effective if used correctly. Riccio stressed the importance of proper posture when doing any type of exercise. For the previously uninjured, Riccio recommends the stationary bicycle for starters.

“If it’s just to start out, start on the bike. It involves low impact and less stress on joints, plus it’s easy to adjust the resistance,” she said. “I really think they’re all very good for getting in shape though,” she added.

With the weather soon to be as hot as the Dixon Center gym on a busy day, summer wardrobes will be replacing jeans and sweaters, and that means more skin. The Dixon Center offers everything needed to get slim and trim just in time to catch the rays, and maybe even some summer love.

TO FIND TARGET HEART RATE: Subtract your age from 220. The number you get represents your theoretical maximum heart rate. Multiply that figure by .60 and .85 (60 percent to 85 percent) to determine your training heart-rate zone. For a 35-year-old person, for instance, the training range is 111 beats per minute (bpm) to 157 bpm. [220-35=185; 185x.60 =111; 185x.85 =157]

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Richard Magda

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