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updated: 5/16/2011 10:14 AM

Maximize your workout with proper intensity level

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  • Your AT value is the same as your heartbeats/minute, which can easily be measured with a heart-rate monitor.

    Your AT value is the same as your heartbeats/minute, which can easily be measured with a heart-rate monitor.
    Courtesy of Push Fitness


For long-term weight-loss success, we believe in a proper balance of strength training, cardiovascular activity and healthful nutrition.

Our previous exercise articles have focused mostly on strength training, and even though this should make up most of your workout routine, there is also a place for cardiovascular training or cardio, if done correctly.

Cardio has many health benefits including improved cardiovascular efficiency, increased calorie and fat burn, and most importantly -- our bodies are designed to move.

Too much cardio, such as running for hours and hours per week, can have a negative impact on the body rather than a positive one. Although you will create a calorie deficit by cutting calories and increasing your cardio activity, the body's response is to release certain stress hormones, which can end up having a negative impact on body composition and overall wellness. Increased stress hormones will break down valuable muscle tissue, which worsens your body composition and ends up doing more harm than good.

Our cardio recommendation is to work at the proper intensity based on your personal fitness level so you don't end up increasing your stress hormones more than necessary.

The first step is to calculate your anaerobic threshold. Your anaerobic threshold is the intensity or heart rate where your body goes from performing aerobic exercise to performing anaerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise would be similar to walking or jogging, where anaerobic exercise would be more like sprinting or strength training. Your body is more efficient at burning fat when your heart rate is below your AT, but you burn more total calories when you exercise above your AT.

For this particular cardio workout, we want to keep your heart rate below your anaerobic threshold so you utilize fat burn while maximizing calorie burn, all while minimizing a spike in stress hormones.

To estimate your AT, subtract your age from 180. If you are moderately active, this is your score. If you have not been active over the past year, subtract 10, and if you have been highly active over the past year, add 10.

• Sedentary 180 -- Age -- 10 = AT

• Moderately Active 180 -- Age = AT

• Highly Active 180 -- Age + 10 = AT

Now that you have your AT, plug it into the routine in the accompanying chart.

As you can see, you're only doing about 25 minutes of actual working cardio, with the entire workout only taking 35 minutes. This way you aren't beating your body up with too much cardio, but you're still getting all the positive effects from the workout. Add two to three cardio sessions into your weekly workout routine spaced in between your two to three strength training days for a proper balance of exercise. If you must do strength training and cardio on the same day, begin with your strength training routine and follow it up with the cardio.

So get moving and get results.

For a video of this workout, visit

• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at