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Ready for More Energy and More Fun Now?

posted by sallyedwards, a Women Talk Sports blogger
today, May 20, 2011 at 2:42pm EDT

About sallyedwards:

I am the National Spokeswoman for the Trek Women's Triathlon Series and have completed over 130 all-women's triathlons during the past 20 years, volunteering to finish most races as the "final finishe...more

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Ever wonder why you haven’t been able to lose or keep off those extra pounds or to achieve and maintain the aerobic fitness that allows you to climb three flights of stairs without panting? Perhaps you haven’t changed what your body, your metabolism and your emotions need you to change. Instead of choosing a fitness-based approach to living, maybe you’ve just stuck a few out-of-date ideas on your refrigerator door, hoping they’d remind you to take a walk before treating yourself to your favorite foods?

Think about your fit friends. Everybody knows people who’ve reached middle age or beyond in peak health with excellent cardio fitness. They’re toned and healthy; they play tennis, swim, walk, or bike throughout the week, and they look really good doing it. The passing years don’t seem to have affected them. Why not? At some point in their lives—maybe even as children if they were lucky enough to have been born into a fit family—they chose a fitness-based lifestyle.

Once you choose fitness as the key for living a healthy life, with time and patience, staying fit is a snap. However, the initial commitment of time and energy may seem daunting. We all know the excuses: lack of time or energy, the “I don’t know how to do it” syndrome, boredom with an exercise routine, inconvenience, the “haven’t found anything I love to do,” or that popular, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” There are others, but whatever the excuse, I want you to write yours down and post it on your refrigerator door. This excuse is what is derailing you from a fitter, healthier, and happier life. Now: stop making that excuse everyday.

Replace the excuse “I’m too busy” with “I am setting aside fifteen minutes, three days a week, for Zoning (moving). It all begins with your personal commitment, your conviction. By simply completing your first Zoning workout, you are well on your way.  The bottom line: If you seriously wish to achieve a life of health and fitness, Zoning empowers you to gently and easily achieve that transformation.

“So,” you say, “What is Zoning and how can it change my life?” Simply put, Zoning is a cardio-fitness program. It’s an easy and sensible way to make the most of your workouts.  Zoning energizes your body and your mind through personalized cardio-movement. Zoning follows three simple steps: timing, effort, and variety, three steps you can remember or post on your refrigerator door—your new place for posting motivational information.

Step #1. Timing: 5-20-5. 5 minutes of warm up, 20 minutes of ZONING, 5 minutes of cool down only four times a week.

Step #2. Effort: Blue-Yellow-Red. Blue is easy effort; Yellow is moderate effort; Red is hard effort.

Step #3. Variety: Change-It-Up. Every time the music or instructions change, you change your effort between blue-yellow-or red efforts.

First you need to keep track of your workout time, because Zoning's first step in the 5-20-5 plan is Timing. This means you time your Blue zone warm-up for five minutes, your Zoning in all three colors for 20 minutes, and your Blue zone cool down for the final 5 minutes. A proper warm-up is important for getting your body prepared for more intense activities, and a proper cool-down allows your body to return to a non-exercise state without the fast drop in blood pressure that can lead to dizziness.

Next, to exercise efficiently, you need to keep track of your effort intensity. Zoning organizes effort levels into the Blue-Yellow-Red zones, and easy approach for tracking and describing your efforts. Numerous technology exists, like heart rate monitors, pedometers, power meters, and more, for tracking your effort, but even if you don’t have any of those devices you can start today.

Variety is the spice of life, and the important third step to Zoning is variety to ensure your workouts remain interesting, engaging, and motivational. Change-it-up in Zoning means using music, verbal or other programmed sound cues to indicate it’s time to change intensity. Working the same effort, in the same color zone, day after day, workout after workout, leads to monotony and staleness. Changing zones and your music or timed-interval changes frequently throughout your 5-20-5 Zoning workout keeps you motivated. You’ll have periods of very, very low intensity for recovery and rest, and then you'll jump into the more intense Yellow or high-hot-hard Red efforts that stimulate the calorie burning, which is when you get the  biggest bang for your fitness bucks.

A zone simply represents a range of intensity. In Zoning, workout time in the blue zone means exercise in an effort range that is easy, light, and comfortable. We call this “training in the blue.” As mentioned earlier, Zoning makes use of three zones: easy blue, moderate yellow, and hard red. The color of each zone reflects the temperature or color spectrum for intensity. Blue is cool and easy, yellow is moderately warmer, and red zone is sizzling hot.

In Zoning, what happens inside each of the three zones is different; you only obtain the full benefit of cardio activity by spending time in each of the blue-yellow-red zones. Why and when you train in each zone is an important factor in your fitness efforts. In the mellow blue zone there’s no pain yet there’s still significant gain because working out in the Blue zone is fun and easy. In the yellow zone you burn more fat, so time in Yellow is best for losing weight and improving your endurance.  In the high-hot-hard red zone, you burn gobs of calories, mostly carbohydrates, and you get really fit and fast. But when you are just getting started with Zoning, time in the Blue zone builds your endurance and stamina, preparing you for more intense work in the yellow and red zones later.

That's one of the many keys to Zoning: You choose which benefit you want from exercise, then you do a lot of Zoning in that zone.

There are free Zoning training materials on both the Danskin Triathlon and Trek Women Triathlon Series websites that can take you on an eight-week training program to be ready for a sprint triathlon. That's right, just eight weeks. Even if you don't want to do a triathlon, these materials will give you a plan for activity.

Zoning is what you make of it. Once you figure out your needs, choosing your training intensity—your zone(s)—comes naturally. Remember, once you've committed yourself to a fitness-based lifestyle, you can adapt the principles of Zoning to your specific needs now and for the rest of your life.

Sally Edwards has completed more than 130 all-women's triathlons during the past 20 years, volunteering to finish most races as the "final finisher" so that no other woman has to finish last. She is the founder and CEO of Heart Zones and just released her first iPhone app, “Upbeat Workouts."

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