Steamy Valentine’s Day Workout: Cardio Zone 5!


February 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.

Cardiovascular exercise specifically trains that stubborn heart muscle.  Cardiovascular exercise programming can be as simple as walking regularly, or considerably more sophisticated.   And 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 (metabolism)uniquely 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).  YourResting 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 apercentage 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 determiningMaxHR also can be highly inaccurate. Check with your fitness expert to determine a more accurate number for  your self.
While beyond the scope of this note to provide a complete tutorial of heart rate zones and heart rate zone training, just send me an email to request 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, also 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 needing 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 (very slow metabolism) 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.  And 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.


And 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?


Intervals are quite simply: carefully patterns of  short, but high intensity cardiovascular exercise followed by a lengthier ‘recovery’ periods.

Interval Training can also be effective in training other 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 send me an email to request 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.

Ready to try one!?

OK 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 warmup
  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 warmdown

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).

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4 Responses

  1. […] week, as it was Valentine’s Day, I touched on the hottest heart rate training zone …  Zone […]

  2. […] Two weeks ago, being Valentines Day, we hit on the hottest of training zones with Zone 5 Interval Training. […]

  3. […] have a bike race on Saturday.  On Tuesday I needed a short, hot spiky interval workout to prepare and condition my body for clearing the flood of lactic acid soon to be heading my […]

  4. […] have a bike race on Saturday.  On Tuesday I needed a short, hot spiky interval workout to prepare and condition my body for clearing the flood of lactic acid soon to be heading my […]

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