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Part II How Do You Know If You’re In Really Good Shape? 9 Take Aways For Athletes And Adults

We have a wide variety of readers that see our posts.  Many parent’s of our athletes as well as our adult clients visit our site for information, motivation and clarity when it comes to exercise and performance. Sometimes it can be a challenge to promote a message and have it be applicable to each audience.  If at any time you need clarification on something please don’t hesitate to contact us.

In part 1 of How Do You Know If You Are In Good Shape we addressed the importance in using the Karvonen formula as a more accurate way to determine your training HR range and get a better idea on the body’s ability to recovery. We show you a quick reference point of where you might fit in regarding you training HR zone and current fitness level. We suggested finding your true heart rate reserve using the Karvonen formula:

(MAX HR – RESTING HR) X % + RESTING HR = TARGET HR

We used the example from a (40 yr. old male) adding in a resting HR of 68 bpm.

180 – 68 = 112 (x 80%) = 90 + 68 = 158 bpm.

In the example above we used 80% as a intensity marker.  You might not be ready for 80% to be your training zone.  Here are a few ways to gage where you need to be or where to start:

Recovery Zone (or beginner) – 60% to 70%

If you are either new to training and conditioning or need active recovery training after higher intensity sessions, you should fall into this zone (ideally to the lower end).

Aerobic Zone – 70% to 80%

Exercising in this zone will help to develop your aerobic system and in particular your ability to transport and utilize oxygen. As we mentioned in the previous post, it was once thought that continuous or long, slow distance endurance training would be the best method to improve the body’s ability to utilize oxygen.  We know know that there is a more efficient way with shorter interval training methods.  More on this in part.

Anaerobic Zone 80% to 90%

Training in this zone will help to improve your body’s ability to deal with the chemical build up that comes with higher intensity exercise.  Contrary to popular belief, Lactic Acid is NOT the reason your legs burn. Exercise physiologists don’t exactly know what’s happening.  Yes, there are chemical changes which makes it hard to continue at a high intensity, but it’s not just lactic acid.  

Several years ago this term was called the lactate threshold.  Now this training zone is known more as the ventilatory threshold.  The point at which you have a hard time talking and exercising.

Be Cautious:

It’s obvious that the heart rate reserve method of prescribing exercise intensity is by no means flawless. Estimating a person’s maximal heart is just that, a best estimate.  Hooking yourself up to a ECG machine will yield the most accurate measures, however the Karvonen formula is the best we have to go on right now. 

The heart rate reserve doesn’t give a persons ventilatory or anaerobic threshold. By keeping notes at where heart rate data along side the point at which you either can’t talk or continue at a high intensity  a far more effective training plan can be devised.

Here are 9 take aways I took from Mike Boyle’s Conditioning Course that can improve your overall performance.  Whether your an Adult or athlete looking for better conditioning, these points will serve as a foundation to build on.

1. Mentally Tough??

Coaches & trainers who try and use extra “conditioning” to “build mental toughness” and “motivate” need to re-think their methodology.  De-conditioned clients don’t need much to stimulate a positive response.  Only the most experienced adults and athletes can handle the extra work capacity, however, when pushing the limits with extra conditioning the injury rates are sure to rise as well.  When in doubt, doing more is not a wise choice.

2. Yes, Cardio in Your Warm Up

A proper extended warm-up can yield a nice aerobic response.  Using movement and mobility circuits can offer many cardiovascular and muscular-skeletal benefits. We use a resting heart rate of 60 BPM or below as a good indicator of aerobic fitness. Most clients can elicit a heart rate response of 120 beats per minute or better in a well-rounded dynamic warm up. 

3. Understand What And Why Before You Put In The Effort

Make sure to understand the implications of each conditioning element before you dive in.

A. With motorized treadmills, the individual isn’t creating hip extension. Rather, the belt moving is creating hip extension.  Non-motorized treadmills are a better alternative to mimic the natural ground reaction forces of sprinting.

B. Slide-boards and change-of-direction work such as shuttle runs are a must for every athlete. Sports and life don’t move in a straight line (unless you strictly stick to track) so addressing both the biomechanics for linear and lateral movement are important.

C. Put the breaks on excessive rowing.  Here’s why.  It can be a great way to crank up the HR, however, from a bio-mechanical standpoint, it puts a good deal of stress on the lower back and hips.  As a society we spend so much time in a seated flexed position so being able to come out of that is an important way to cross check your posture.

D. Shuttle runs allow for deceleration/acceleration components involved with changing direction.  This accelerates the HR by the increased muscular demand and allows the ability to prevent injuries by emphasizing body control at all times. 

E. The Bike is the biggest bang for your buck.  Airdynes or assault bikes produce higher HR since you have to use arms and legs. It’s probably the best safest tool and requires limited skill.  There’s also a reduced chance for an overuse injury given the fact that you don’t have to spend much total time on the bike for a benefit.  You can get  a maximum metabolic disturbance with minimal muscular or joint disruption.  

F.  Stop trying to put extra conditioning on the following populations who play sports year round.

Playing team sports such as hockey, soccer, basketball, or lacrosse there’s a ton of stress in many of the same movement patterns and energy systems.  If you think adding extra conditioning to one of these team sports athletes who are playing 5 days a week is beneficial, you’re missing the boat.   These are the kids that usually end up getting hurt. What they often need more strength and power in their program. 

4. We know that using Heart rate based training is superior to time-based interval training.

Having a group perform a time-based interval training program such as a 15s: 60s work: rest ratio might be easy one, but very difficult for another one. Adults and athletes will have a lot of variability in how quickly their heart rates recover. That’s why we utilize a HR monitoring system such as MYZONE. 

6. Your Maximum Heart Rate Is Highly Variable To The General Consensus.

We have a 51-year-old client who’s max heart rate is 180 beats per minute, which if we used  “220 minus age” model for predicting max heart rate, there would be a considerable difference.

On the flip side, there are others who can’t approach their age-predicted max heart rate. I’m 43 years old, and I have a tough time reaching 180bpm,

The take home message is that you can’t just guess.  You need to measure the relationship between YOUR resting and max heart rate to plan a more effective training session.

7.  Here’s the biggest difference between kids and adults  As Mike Boyle puts it

”If I have young kids, the last thing I am going to be worried about is fitness, and the first thing I’m going to be worried about is FASTNESS.”

In sports THE FASTER ATHLETES MORE OFTEN WIN.  Remember what comes before speed development, getting stronger and training for power.

8.  You need to move well before you move a lot. 

Forget conditioning until you can move more efficiently.  Going through the Functional Movement Screen will give you an idea where you need to become more efficient before cranking up the volume.

9.  Don’t make your kids JOG for more conditioning.   From their early years until about 12 free play and multiple sports where their time should be spent.  The teenage years (13-15yrs old)  is where there’s a an ideal window of adaptation for strength and power.  Running laps and cross-country is not the away to go to maximize the speed endurance component that’s critical in team sports and overall athletic development.

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