What is Target Heart Rate and why is it so important anyways?

In today’s fitness world, the term “target heart rate” is becoming more and more popular. Some gyms even center on heart rate training. So what is your “target heart rate?”

Target Heart Rate (THR) is defined as a specific age-related heart rate to be maintained during aerobic exercise for optimal cardiovascular function. Essentially, is it an exercise intensity you should maintain to get the most out of your cardiovascular workouts; For most people, this range is between 60-80% of their maximal heart rate. What is your maximal heart rate? This is a heart rate where you are working so hard your heart cannot beat any faster and you either need to stop or slow down, because you cannot maintain this level of intensity. For most people, they won’t ever reach their maximal heart rate because it is not a sustainable activity level.

For someone looking to find their target heart rate, there is an easy formula to follow:

220 – age = your estimated max heart rate

To find your target heart rate, you then take that number and multiply by 60% and 80%. That is your range to stay in when doing your cardio training. For example, a 60 year old’s estimated max heart rate would be 160 bpm. Their target heart rate would be 96pm

Keep in mind this is only an estimation. These numbers can be off by 5 beats in either direction, which is why the range is so large for target heart rate. Do your best to stay in that zone to get the most out of your cardio training!

The three principles of strength training

The world of strength training and program design can be a complicated and sometimes daunting task. Luckily, there are a few basic principles to follow that will ensure you are getting the most effective routine in the safest manner possible.  

There are 3 basic principles to follow:

Overload Principle

The overload principle states that in order for a muscle or body part to grow and adapt, you must make it work harder than it is accustomed to. Essentially, you must continue to make your exercise program harder in order to create more change. For example, if you are doing a bicep curl, and only ever use 15 lbs., your body will only adapt to be able to lift 15lbs. There must be an overload of the muscle, doing more than it is used to in order to elicit change. This principle can be applied to cardio training as well, if you want to improve, you must do something you are not used to. Whether that means going faster, going uphill, incorporating intervals; these will all help to overload your body and force it to change and adapt.

Progressive Overload Principle

This is very similar to the overload principle, but is aimed at keeping you safe and injury free. The progressive overload principle states that exercises should build in intensity based on experience in an exercise routine. A beginner weight lifter should not be doing the same exercises as an expert and vice versa. This is especially important for beginners to an exercise routine to keep in mind in order to remain injury free. There is no need to rush into harder exercises; build you base strength and endurance first, then the harder exercises can follow. This is also important for more advanced lifters. If they are doing exercises that are too easy, change and progress will not come. If the exercise selection does not match the experience and capabilities of the lifter, there will not be any overload and muscles will not adapt.

The Principle of Specificity

This principle seems like it should be common sense, but it is not always followed in the weight room. The principle of specificity states that in order to make progress, your exercise selection needs to be specific to your goals. For example, if someone wants to improve their pushups, they need to do more pushups or exercises that work the chest and shoulders. Performing leg press and squats will not improve your pushups. Another example, if someone wants to run faster, the main focus of their exercise routine should be leg strength and speed training. The exercise selection of your training program is going to dictate where your developments and progress happen. So if you are not seeing the results you want, in the areas you want them, take a look at your exercises.

When creating and tailoring an exercise and strength training routine, it is important to keep these principles in mind. This will ensure you reap the most benefits in the shortest amount of time, in the safest way possible.


Patrick Scott, MS, CSCS

Summer Superfoods to eat this season

Now that summer is finally here, it’s time to load up on the fresh fruits and veggies that it brings. While all fruits and veggies are good for you, there are some that are cut above the rest, which is why these are referred to as “superfoods.” These nutrient packed treats are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants to help you have the healthiest summer yet.

Kiwi: With more potassium than a banana, and 3 times less sugar than an apple, kiwis are the perfect summer treat for when you need something sweet. With only 7 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fiber per medium fruit, kiwi is one fruit to add to the table all summer long.

Spinach: Loaded with calcium, vitamin D, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, spinach should be a staple throughout the summer months. Throw a handful into your salad bowl, or sauté some in the morning with your eggs to create a nutrient packed breakfast.

Blueberries: Summer is one of the best times to get fresh blueberries, and here’s why you should take advantage of it. They are a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese and resveratrol, a potent anti-oxidant. And with only 41 calories per half cup, they are a low calorie sweet treat to enjoy all summer long.

Watermelon: With high levels of Vitamin A and C, watermelon makes the perfect low calorie, low sugar snack. Watermelon has also been shown to possibly help reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cauliflower: Many people avoid this white veggie, but with so many great benefits, it’s time to stop avoiding. Cauliflower is packed with glucosinolates, which have been proven to lower the risk of cancer and protect the body from carcinogens. For people who are gluten free, cauliflower is a great substitute for making breads and pizza crusts.

Now that summer is here, the fresh fruits and veggies will be available by the truckload. Take this time to try something new, add some extra vegetables to your diet, or try a new recipe. It’s time to start reaping the benefits of these health packed foods!


Patrick Scott, M.S., C.S.C.S.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Summer Fitness

With summer fast approaching, and the heat that comes along with it, exercising can start to become a challenge. No one wants to be outside when it’s 85 degrees and humid, but no one wants to be inside while the sun is shining. So what to do? Here are some do’s and don’ts of summer fitness to stay safe and successful this season.

DO hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate

When it comes to summer exercise, water and hydration are going to be essential to your performance. Studies have shown that just a 2% dehydration can cause a 20% decrease in performance. Experts recommend taking the “lemonade test” to see if you are hydrated. While using the bathroom, your urine should have the color of pale lemonade. If it is a strong yellow color, or has a strong odor, chances are you are dehydrated. Try drinking 15-20oz of water 2-3 hours before exercise, and an additional 8oz of water every 10-20 minutes during exercise in warm weather.

DON’T protein load before exercise

Studies have shown that a meal high in protein before an exercise session can actually raise the bodies basal temperature, making it harder to stay cool in warm weather. This is because protein is harder for the body to digest. Experts recommend instead drinking an iced sports drink or slushie. Cooling the body’s internal temp prior to an exercise session in warm weather can help improve performance and keep the body cooler for longer. Try an iced or frozen Gatorade 30 minutes prior to exercise.

DO dress properly

When it comes to warm weather workouts, the tightest fitting clothes you have are probably not the best choice. Your body needs all the help it can get in staying cool, and extra airflow helps. Tight and form fitting clothes restrict airflow around the body. Instead opt for loose fitting, dri-fit clothes. These help to wick the sweat away from your body, keeping it cool.  Also avoid cotton, it will soak up moisture and hold it like a sponge; avoid at all costs.

DO be flexible with workout times

If you look at the forecast, and it is scheduled to be 100 degrees right when you were planning on going for that run, your best option is to reschedule for another time of the day. Plan ahead for the week; if you see it is going to be a hot week, plan on getting up early or working out late when the sun is not at its peak intensity.  Keep a flexible exercise schedule, even if it means missing out on something else.

DO listen to your body

Heat stroke and heat related illnesses are a serious concern when it comes to summer exercise. Don’t be afraid to cut a workout short, or go at a slower pace. Some warning signs include flushed skin, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and cessation of sweating. If any of these things start happening to you, jump into a COOL, not ice, bath to gradually lower body temperature to a safe point. Heat stroke is very serious and potentially deadly, don’t ignore the warning signs.   



Three Rules for Rapid Weight Loss This Summer

Have an event coming up soon that you need to slim down for? Is wedding season right around the corner and you need to shed a quick 5 pounds? Here’s 3 rules to follow for quick weight loss.

Rule #1: Eliminate all starchy carbs.

Things like breads, pastas, potatoes, and rice. These types of foods can cause your body to retain water, making the scale rise. Also, when you eat starchy carbs, the body starts to release insulin to remove the glucose from your bloodstream. If the glucose isn’t being burned through exercise, it is getting stored as fat instead. Eliminating starchy carbs for fast weight loss.

Rule #2: Limit fruit to 1-2 servings per day.

As healthy as fruit can be, the naturally high sugar content can really slow weight loss. Instead, stick to veggies, which are much lower in calories and just as nutrient dense.

Rule #3: Eliminate all added and artificial sugar.

This is similar to the starchy carbs rule. The more sugar we eat, the more insulin is released, the more gets stored as fat. Try eliminating all added and artificial sugars and sweeteners for a fast weight drop.

Keep in mind this is not a diet plan that can be sustained for an extended period. These rules are meant for a short 2-3 week period. When you are ready to return to normal eating, stick to as whole grain as possible with your breads and pastas!

Screaming for Ice Cream? Here’s an alternative:

As good as that big bowl of ice cream tastes, it is best enjoyed in moderation. But if you can’t resist the sweet tooth, here’s a healthier alternative for you: Frozen bananas!

Take about 3 very ripe bananas. “Very ripe” is key here; the more ripe the banana the sweeter it will taste. Slice the bananas into 1/4″ slices and freeze them until they are solid.

Once the bananas are frozen, you are ready to go. Take the bananas from the freezer and dump them into a blender. Add 1/2 cup of almond milk (adjust based on how thick you want your banana ice cream; less milk will be a little thicker). Blend until well mixed and there are no more banana chunks left. Scoop out of blender and enjoy!

This is a gluten free, lactose free alternative to ice cream, and tastes fantastic. If the bananas aren’t enough for you, try topping it with some dark chocolate chips or strawberries. Enjoy!

Spring is here; let’s get back to nutrition basics.

With the craze of the New Year resolutions over, are you starting to see the results you wanted? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to get back to basics.

With so many diet trends and eating routines out there, it is hard to know which will work the best for you. No matter what program or diet you choose, there are a few basic rules that are common among them. These are recommendations that can be followed as part of a lifestyle change, not just a New Year fad.

First rule: Limit starchy carbs. Most every diet trend will tell you breads and pastas are the enemy of any successful weight loss routine. They can still be enjoyed on occasion, just try and limit them to only on occasion.

Second rule: Eat Breakfast: Every nutritionist you talk to will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Countless studies have been done showing the benefits of starting your day with some food, from lower body weight, improved weight loss, and better energy throughout the day.

Third Rule: Vegetables; eat them: Veggies are your friends, and they should be eaten with nearly every meal. They are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber all while being low calorie. They help you feel fuller for longer and avoid the vending machine temptations.

Fourth Rule: It’s okay to cheat! Many people go crazy when it comes to their diets. Don’t let that birthday cake ruin everything. Acknowledge it and get back on track the next day. You can do it.

Stick to these basics and you’ll be back on track in no time!

Should I wait to check my weight?

For many people, they have a dream weight they would like to get to; prewedding weight, pre-baby weight, high school weight, or even their current weight. Whatever that number may be, pretty much everyone has one. And for many fitness programs these days, how much you weigh and how much weight lost has become the “gold standard” for progress. As important as a number on a scale can be, it is certainly not the only measure for success. And with so many factors influencing your scale weight, it can often be misleading.

Pretty much everything you do and put into your body will affect your body weight on a day to day basis. How much water you drink, how much you slept, how many times you go to the bathroom all play a role in day to day weight change. Even something as simple as having more salt in your diet one day compared to another can change the scale. Salty and carbohydrate filled foods can cause the body to hold a little extra water, causing the scale to go up. For all of these reasons, it is best to weigh yourself on a week to week basis instead of a day to day basis. For more accurate results, weigh first thing in the morning before you have had a chance to eat and drink. The comparison of week to week weigh-ins will be a far better measure of progress compared to day to day weigh-ins.

Another thing to keep in mind; for people just starting a workout routine, the scale will tend to increase not decrease at the end of their first or even second week. This happens because your body starts to hold onto extra water to help your muscles heal. The muscles become inflamed and swollen due to the breakdown of tissue during exercise, which leads to weight gain. Have no fear, this will go away after a few weeks.

Don’t forget about all of the other, sometimes even better, measures of success. Numbers such as inches, body fat percentage, weight increases on your strength exercises, even number of push-ups you can do are all valuable pieces of information and great measures of progress and success.  These numbers are less susceptible to fluctuations and can be a more consistent measure of success of body weight.

Fitness the Family can Enjoy

With the hectic schedule for kids in today’s world, physical activity and exercise is slowly disappearing. Physical Education classes in schools are cutting cut, video games and computers are becoming more and more popular, and the increasing school work load is causing kids to sit more and move less. And with more and more research surfacing about the benefits of physical activity and brain function, this trend to the couch is troubling. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to get kids moving.

  1. Enroll in a class or activity: This can be anything from soccer and basketball teams, to dance, karate, or gymnastics. Anything to get kids moving. By enrolling in activities like these, it forces your kids to be active at least once or twice a week. Sometimes a schedule can be your best friend.
  2. Limit the screen time and schedule outdoor time: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old have no screen time, and children 2 and older limit screen time to 2 hours a day of quality programming. With the advancement of parental controls on nearly all devices, controlling your child’s screen time has become easier than ever. In addition, try to schedule one hour a day to be active as a family. Going to the park, playing catch, or taking bike rides are all great family activities.
  3. Reward active behavior, but not with food: Positive reinforcement for children can help to build a lifelong passion for fitness. However, be cautious when rewarding activity with sweets and junk food. Instead, try rewarding with an extra 30 minutes of play time, an extra trip to the basketball courts, or even an extra 20 minutes of screen time.
  4. Set a good example: Your kids want to be like you, walk like you, and talk like you. Why not get them to exercise like you too? As the role model for your kids, show them that fitness and exercise can be fun and enjoyable, rather than painful and miserable. And who knows, you may even find yourself enjoying exercise a little more when the family is involved.

Remember,   the cognitive benefits of exercise are not just limited to kids and young adults. Adults and seniors can benefit just as much! Whatever your motivation or method is, just remember to keep moving and have fun doing it as a family.


Wearable Fitness Trackers: Wave of the Future or Fad about to Fizzle Out?

One of the hottest trends in the fitness industry today is the introduction of wearable fitness trackers. Sure the information is cool, but is it really necessary? Companies like FitBit, Garmin, and Apple are flooding the market with different models, features, functions and looks. And with the wealth of information they can provide, personalized fitness and health care are right around the corner.

Depending on the brand, fitness trackers can record steps, calories, distance traveled, sleep, heart rate, and total activity level. Some more expensive trackers even have a GPS connection to more accurately track distance, steps, and pace. These numbers may not seem like a lot, but they can be very motivating and beneficial to much of the population. Here are other benefits of fitness trackers, giving them the boost they need to be around for the long haul.

  1. Accountability: One thing trackers can offer is a sense of accountability. Most fitness trackers will give you a daily step goal or calorie goal to meet. And with blue tooth capability in most, you can get real time updates on your phone or other device. This gives you the knowledge and accountability you need to ensure you move enough every day. You can even track day to day progress, ensuring you move more today than you did yesterday. It can be a great psychological boost to see your numbers on paper and push yourself to go further and further.
  2. Motivation: Sometimes the best motivation is a reality check right in your face. With real time tracking, fitness trackers can do just that. They give you a very real picture of your movement, or lack there of, during the day. Set a goal using the fitness trackers features and aim to meet or exceed it every day. As those goals get easier and easier, set a more challenging goal for yourself. Data can be very motivating, and there is nothing like seeing your activity level written down in front of you.
  3. Sleep Tracking: As is often the case with diet and exercise routines, people tend to think they are moving more and eating less than they actually are. Same goes for sleep patterns. People think they sleep a lot better and a lot longer than they actually do. Some fitness trackers will give you a picture of what your sleep actually looks like. Using motion sensors in the device, it can sense when you have fallen asleep and when you wake up and begin moving again. It can even give you a breakdown of how restful your sleep was. Consistent and restful sleep is one of the more important aspects of a well balanced exercise routine. So don’t forget the Z’s.
  4. Group Motivation: Some fitness tracker companies even have online groups and forums you can join to share success stories, what’s working for you, and what’s not. If seeing others’ success motivates you to go further and push harder, don’t wait to join these groups. There’s no better feeling than getting compliments from others on your progress!
  5. Personalized approach: Ever see those calorie counters on the treadmill and wonder how accurate they are for you? Chances are they aren’t because they don’t take into consideration heart rate, weight, height, and age. Fitness trackers do just that. They take your body and your fitness levels and turn it into a personalized program just for you. It’s like having a personal trainer on your wrist! In the coming years you may even see doctors and insurance companies using these to track patient’s progress, activity levels, heart rate, and calorie consumption. The years of a more personalized health care approach are coming.

With the growing choices of wearable fitness trackers, take time to do your research and find one with the right range of features and price to fit your needs. These truly are the wave of the future, and with so many potential benefits, it is hard to see this fad fizzling out anytime soon.