Fitness Goals

How Hard Should I Be Working During My Cardio Sessions?

Target Heart Rate/ Fat Burning Zone

Cardiorespiratory exercise (running, jumping, stepping, spinning aerobic class) is a good way to improve our aerobic capacity. As our aerobic strength increases, the efficiency at which we’re using oxygen increases, and we’re able to sustain longer activity. People often work out on cardio equipment but fail to make progress either in their weight loss or in their endurance or strength. There are many possible reasons for this. Most often, I find that it is because they are not working hard enough. Sometimes this is because they were led to believe that there’s some sort of fat burning zone which is way lower than their perceived maximum exertion—which is somewhat of a misconception…So how hard should you be working?

Some fitness professionals used to believe that if you worked out at a lower intensity you would be burning more fat. The idea was that your body requires less energy when you are working out at a lower intensity so the body would dip into fat stores rather than glucose (sugar)/blood sugar/sugar stored in your muscles for fuel. You may even still see target heart rate on some workout machines at gyms and find that this is targeting you to work out at 60-65% of your maximum heart rate…as if this is some sort of unique fat burning zone. Yes, it’s true that this is the aerobic training zone whose main source of fuel is carbs, fat and protein and where the anaerobic system mainly uses glucose for fuel. However, when you work out harder, and reach into the anaerobic zone, you burn more calories overall and therefore burn more fat calories and more sugar calories.

Take for instance, if you are working out at the gym for 30 minutes at your “target heart rate of 60%” and you burn 200 calories. For the point of illustration lets say 70% of those are from fat and 30% are from sugar. However if you spend the same30 minutes working at a higher intensity and burn like 300 calories, with 50% from fat and 50% is glucose..You are burning more calories from fat and more calories overall!

To further press the point, look at it this way: glucose that doesn’t get burned off can turn into fat anyway.

Another benefit of working in the anaerobic zone is the after-burn. What that means is that the body’s metabolism remains elevated longer after the workout. (Also known as excess post oxygen consumption).

Recovery of the metabolic rate after a cardio workout can be several minutes post-workout if you stay only in the aerobic zone, but after anaerobic training, it can be several hours and even up to 12 hours or longer for exhaustive interval training or circuit weight training. This post-exercise energy expenditure during the recovery can really speed weight loss.

OK, before you foolishly exert yourself into oblivion…just wait..and keep reading. I like to give clients a Target Heart Rate Range for establishing a safe and effective cardio training parameter. There are a few methods in which to do this but for today, I’m going to give you the simplest formula I know to get a good estimate.

(The drawback to this formula is that is underestimates Heart Rate Max for men and women under age 40 and overestimates it for men and women over 40..but knowing this, you can always fine-tune for your self). Here goes:

Target Heart Rate Formula:

Take 220 and subtract your age to get your age predicted maximal hart rate.

For instance:

220-40 years old= 180 This is the theoretical maximal heart rate of a 40 year old.

Then, multiply the result (in this case 180) by the percentage of maximum you would work at

I recommend keeping your heart rate between 64% and 94% of max. So the target heart rate range for this client would be between 115 and 169 beats per minute for safety sake.

Furthermore, I like to break it down for clients who are just starting out so they can progress safely or so that we can work in a class setting so as to monitor intensity for the warm-up, body of the workout and cool down. (Some folks push too hard in the warm up and cannot sustain that level during the bulk of the workout) this gives them a guideline.

The first zone for beginners would be 65-75% of maximum, the second zone 80-85%, and the third zone 86-90% of maximum

In the case of the 40 year old:

.65x 180= 117
So the first level is 117-135 Beats per minute

And so on….

.80x 180=
.85x 180=
For level 2

For level 3

Realistically, you cannot sustain 94% too long, and at 60% you’re not making too much impact on your cardio strength unless you are a beginner. For those unaccustomed to exercise, we may start out in zone 1 for 2 or even 3 weeks and adjust as necessary. Seasoned exercisers may want to strive for the 80%+ for the bulk of their workout. Those using High Intensity Interval Training (a topic for another post) may want to spike their workout with intervals in the 80-90% range occasionally. These guidelines are for healthy individuals. (The recent recommendations for pregnant women is not to exceed 140 beats per minute but please check with your healthcare provider for your individual situation…Those with CVD risk factors, or on blood pressure medication will have unusually low heart rate readings so the method discussed here may not apply. Again, please check with your healthcare provider.)

One great way to monitor how hard you are working that I highly recommend, is to wear a heart rate monitor. These are relatively inexpensive, easy to get (most sporting good stores have them) and allow you to know your heart rate at a glance.

You can also measure the number of beats in 10 second pulse check at the radial (wrist) artery or the carotid (neck) artery and then multiply by 6 to give you the approximate number of beats per minute..(10×6=60 seconds in a minute) (Please don’t stop moving while you are checking as this can cause blood to pool in your extremities and cause you to be keep moving or at least lifting your knees)

Another methods for monitoring intensity include the talk test and the rate of perceived exertion.

Now you know how hard you should be working during your cardio workouts. 220 – age x % of max (60-90% of max) you want to work in.


Fitness Theory and Practice : A Comprehensive Resource for Group Fitness Instructors.Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. Fifth Edition 2010. p. 254 -256

NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training Third Edition Ed. Miceal A. Clark, Scott C. Lucett, Rodney J. Corn 2008. p. 110


Superbowl & A Sprained Ankle

(Originally posted February 9, 2012)

Congratulations to the NY Giants on their victory in the Super Bowl this past weekend. What a thrilling and historic game for both Giants and Patriots . As a result of Gronkowski’s injury in the AFC Championship Game, high ankle sprains have been a primary topic of conversation in the sports world for the past couple of weeks. So what exactly is an ankle sprain…and for those exercise enthusiasts among us who have unfortunately had a sprain before, how does one continue to maintain their fitness with such an injury?

A sprained ankle is a common injury. It is an injury to the ligaments (fibrous tissue that connect bone to bone) of the ankle joint. The ligaments prevent excess turning and twisting of the joint. In normal movement, the ligaments can stretch slightly and then retract back to their normal shape and size. A sprain results when the ligaments of the ankle have been stretched beyond their limits. In severe sprains, the ligaments may be partially or completely torn. Most ankle sprains are due to the foot turning inward, although eversion sprains can occur – when the foot is turned outward.Ankle sprains can occur at any time, to anyone easily. For instnce, landing wrong or having someone step on your foot inadvertently while you are mid-stride could cause such an injury. Although there are different grades of severity to this injury, the treatment is generally the same—RICE—Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

In terms of exercise this means that running and other impact activities aren’t a great idea! Even if you thought you could tolerate it, which you most likely don’t, you can make things much worse by doing such activities as running and jumping. I would recommend a non-impact cardio activity such as swimming instead. If it’s a low grade sprain you could try stationary biking in the saddle and see how that feels. You definitely want to curtail any activity that increases swelling and discomfort in the area.  If you can’t tolerate any weight on it, you can still work your tush and outer thigh by lying on your side and moving your leg away from the centerline of your body.  You can also do seated upper body exercises.  I also recommend stretching by getting to the point where you feel the stretch and just holding it there (no bouncing) and trying to relax into the stretch. Do not hold your breath. Hold for about 20-30 seconds. You could also use a foam roller. Let your body be your guide. Check with your physician or a physical therapist for more specific recommendations or guidelines. A good trainer should be able to help you maintain your fitness while working around this injury.


The Mighty Avocado/ Fat Myth Busting

(Originally posted February 6, 2012)

Fat Myth-busting:

Have you heard that February is national avocado month? Nope. Me neither. I read it on someone’s email list and fact checking disproved it. Maybe it was a possibility in 2008 though.

Anyhow, avocados have gotten abad rap due to their high fat content. When we hear fat, many of us think simply eating fat makesyou fat….but that’s so 1980’s. While it is true that too much of the wrong kind of fat can be unhealthy, avocado doesn’t have those kinds of fats.

What? Wrong and right kinds of fats? Yes. You should minimize saturated fats (often found in animal meats, some fish) and trans-fats. We have all heard how bad factory produced trans-fats (they’re implicated in cancer) but most people don’t know how to figure out how to avoid them.  I tell my clients to make it simple- if the package ingredients list any of the following words: “hydrogenated, partially-hydrogenated, or a fractionated” put that box back on the shelf!  To vastly simplify…These types of fats aren’t processed by the body well and they may lead to accumulation of plaque in arteries which can lead to cardiovascular disease (hello heart attack).

On the flip side, unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats are fats your body needs in order to function properly. Fats promote satiety (feeling full/like you have eaten enough). So if you pick the right kinds, you can boost your weight loss because you’ll be less likely to eat low nutrient high caloric foods (ie. cookies and chips) which sabotage your weight loss plans because you won’t be looking for more food since you’re full. Avocados contain omega-3, 6, 9 essential fatty acids (EFAs) like oleic acid.  EFAs have been proven to boost your metabolism. A faster metabolism healps you lean out faster. Also, the fats found in avocados help your body create a fat burning hormone called adiponectin. They are also rich in fiber- which helps regulate bowlels. They are cholesterol-free and nutrient dense (contain vitamins A, K, C, E, B, folic acid, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and iodine. They have thick skins and aren’t one of the highest pesticide laden foods. So stretch your dollars-no need to buy these organic.

Now, you might be thinking that with all these vitamins and healthy fats, avocados can probably fight and prevent problems like high blood pressure, heard disease and stuff so I should load up on them. Not so fast! They are still high in calories…and weightloss is still a numbers game- calories in vs. calories out (ok a little more sophisticated than that but not too much). So I recommend eating them but in moderation.  Figure out how much is right for your daily caloric  allowance or use your thumb nail as a guide- really. When in doubt, when it comes to fats, a tablespoon or two is fine.

On the other hand, I often see at the market, people buying cakes every weekend for family entertaining, packaged cookies for luncboxes with margarine (has hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oil).  Every weekend is far from moderate! Add it up. That’s a lot of garbage in your body each year and it is not healthy.



(Originally posted January 27, 2012)

Some of these recipes are good for anyone-not just diabetics-because keeping your insulin levels in check keeps your body humming at a nice steady pace and can help you burn fat. However, I’d have you skip the cheese in the chicken parmesan and use whole grain pasta in the pasta with veggies. Check out the yummy french toast though!


How to Prevent and Treat Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

(Originally posted January 19, 2012)

OK, the ugly truth is if you do not ever want to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), the surefire way to do that is keep being a fat, sedentary blob. You could also exercise, but never to the point at which your muscles are actually challenged to grow though. This, of course, means you won’t experience the health benefits of exercise such as improved cardio vascular fitness (increased HDL for instance), decreased blood pressure, or any of its protective effects against breast, colon, endometrial, lung and prostate cancer.(1,2) You also won’t be experiencing any of its protective effects against osteoporosis and other ill effects of aging. Assuming you’re willing to put up with some temporary discomfort for long-term gain of increased health and vitality, let’s talk about what to do to prevent and treat DOMS.

Kayla’s Top 4 Tips for Preventing DOMS:

  1. Warm up before working out in order to increase body temperature, get the blood and oxygen flowing and prepare your muscles for the workout itself. Movement rehearsal and light cardio are good ways to do this.
  2. Stretch gently after the warm up/cardio to prepare the muscles for work.  (Do not stretch cold muscles)
  3. Progress slowly when you begin a new exercise activity. If it’s a new kickboxing class for instance, do a little less than you think you’re capable of while still getting a good workout. You can judge how sore you were after the first class to know how hard to push yourself the next time when you’re not too sore to have a next time.  Use a lower percentage of your 1 rep maximum on weights…so if you have been working at 80% maybe try 70-75% or less and work up slowly (listen to your body).
  4. Consume some protein within the hour after you finish your workout paired with a little carbohydrate. Examples include peanut butter on Ezekiel bread, or a whey protein shake, slices of turkey and an apple, eggs etc.

Kayla’s Tips for Treating DOMS:

  1. Have a bath with Epsom salts. I like to put in a cup of Epsom salts into the hot/warm bath water and soak for at least 20 minutes if I’m sore. The heat from the water relaxes the muscle and its thought that the Magnesium (the key ingredient in Epsom salts ) gets into the skin to reduce the inflammation in the muscle.  It also delivers sulfates, which can ease joints. For more information on Epsom salts and its many uses go to
  2. Ibuprofen won’t make you heal any faster but can take the edge off.
  3. Take a day or more off from training that particular muscle. If it’s the bicep that’s sore, focus on the quadriceps or hamstrings or rhomboids for instance and move back to the biceps or upper body when it’s not so sore.
  4. Do light cardio. As the blood circulates, it can help ease the muscle. We’re talking a walk or light jog.
  5. Stretch the muscle. Use a foam roller.
  6. Get a massage.
  7. If its very severe and the Epsom salt bath didn’t do it, you might try drinking a small amount of aloe juice (we’re talking a teaspoon or two) mixed in apple juice to disguise the taste.

If you are sore more than two days, you may have a slight injury or muscle strain. is the case, rest and give that muscle time to heal before training it again.


(1) Courneya,K.S. & Friedenreich, C.M.(1997)Relationship between exercise pattern across the cancer experience and current quality of life in colorectal cancer survivors. Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 3, 15-216

(2)  Friedenreich, C. M. (2001) .  Physical activity and cancer prevention from observational to interventional research. Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers Prevention, 10, 287-301


So Delicious

(Originally posted January 16, 2012)

Just picked up some So Delicious brand Vanilla flavored Coconut Milk in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods. 90 calories per serving. Reliably Kosher certified. Non GMO. Very yummy and none of the hormone issues of standard cow milk (antibiotics and genetically modified feed for the cows and unsuitable for lactose intolerant folks) or soy milk(estrogen & often genetically modified ) & more nutritional benefits than rice milk. A very nice milk alternative.


Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

(Originally posted January 14, 2012)

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is what you feel 24-48 hours after a workout. What causes this condition is still the subject of controversy but in general, its thought that there’s tearing and inflammation that occurs in the muscle during a workout. It can also be a sign of lactic acid building in the muscle. One opinion is that the micro-trauma caused in the muscle causes the body to repair it in a way that’s stronger and denser than it previously was.

The good news is that once you get past this period of soreness-(which can last up to 72 hours as your body works to repair the muscle), that same activity shouldn’t make you that sore or sore at all because they should have adapted to that level of overload—You have gotten stronger.

Keep reading to find out how to prevent and treat DOMS.


Yoga Injuries

(Originally posted January 14, 2012)

As much as I do enjoy Yoga, this article shows Yoga-like any sport–is not without risks. Most Yoga -related back injuries come from twists and inversions (ie. wheel) executed without proper form. I especially caution participants in “hot”/ Bikram Yoga against over-extension which can easily occur due the increased range of motion the added heat in the room can permit. …Another reason to choose a good teacher and build up your strength and flexibility gradually.


Muscle Soreness / Muscle Pain

(Originally posted January 9, 2012)

So you started your workout plan and you’re feeling proud but your muscles are telling you they want to quit even though you just started. Yesterday it was a bicep curl and today it hurts to lift your toothbrush and you’re losing motivation right out of the gate…First of all, mild sore muscles or mild muscle discomfort is simply a symptom of using your muscles and placing stresses on them that are leading to adaptations to make them stronger and better able to perform the task the next time. As your body adapts, there should be less muscle soreness until you challenge your body in ways its unaccustomed to being challenged. Anyone and everyone from weekend warriors to elite athletes get muscle soreness. On the other hand, a very uncomfortable sharp or intense pain in muscle, joint or bone is different. That’s an unhealthy pain, and not just muscle soreness. If you experience sudden pain, severe pain, swelling, extreme tenderness, extreme weakness in a limb, inability to place weight on a leg or foot, inability to move a joint through its full range of motion, visible dislocation or broken bone, numbness or tingling you should see a healthcare professional right away.

Keep reading the blog this week to learn about the different types of muscle soreness, what to do about it after it happens, and how to best prevent it.


Q&A: Is It OK To Exercise When I Have A Cold

(Originally posted January 4, 2012)

Before the ink dried on my own new year’s fitness resolutions, the universe conspired to give me a one-two punch right back into bed with a cold. That got me thinking about the time back in college when I saw others “push through” a cold with exercise. My try at the same routine, back then, landed me in the infirmary with a case of Mono. So, is it a good idea to work out when you’re sick or not?

The answer: It depends on the kind of cold and what your body is telling you.

Don’t exercise if you have: a fever, widespread muscle aches or fatigue; if your symptoms are “below the neck”—like diarrhea, upset stomach, chest congestion, or hacking cough.

However, it may be ok to exercise if your signs and symptoms are all “above the neck” — symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, minor sore throat. If you choose to exercise when you have a mild cold, I recommend that you reduce the intensity and length of your workout so as not to risk more serious injury or illness.. Be aware that when you train hard, your body needs to repair the muscles that have been worked and this can further weaken your immune system. Take it easy. Go for a walk, not a run, for instance. Also, be considerate, and don’t contaminate others at the gym.

Listen to what your body is telling you! If you feel miserable, take the day off or even a week off. The few days won’t really affect performance. Be sure to resume your normal routine gradually as you start to feel better. Check with your Doctor if you’re still unsure if it’s OK to work out.

If you have other fitness questions, feel free to send a message and I’ll try and answer them here.


Laskowski, Edward R. M.D. Exercise and illness: Work out with a cold?

(June 18, 2011) Retrieved from: