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The Journey Begins!

You've decided you WANT to get in shape, not that you SHOULD get in shape. Now that you've decided to make the journey, wouldn't a map be a nice thing to have? Here it is!

Let's define "beginner" - you've never done strength training (weight lifting) before, you've been training for less than six months, or perhaps you trained years ago, and you're just finding your way back. Okay, with that said, read on...

Now Follow Through

You've decided you WANT to get in shape, not that you SHOULD get in shape. (There's too much guilt associated with saying you "should" do something, rather than "wanting" to do something) So, you may find yourself sailing along by yourself, perhaps others don't share the enthusiasm you have for the new adventure you're embarking upon.

Now that you've decided to make the journey, wouldn't a map be a nice thing to have? Your map should show you a way to cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and nutrition. Before plotting your course, you need to know where you want to end up.


The first most basic step would be to evaluate what's the motivation for starting a healthier lifestyle, then, consider what you want to achieve with your new fitness program: become healthier, increase strength, tone muscle, gain weight, lose weight, reduce stress, lose body fat, etc. How many days a week do you feel you could HONESTLY give to a fitness program? Keep it realistic, set yourself up to succeed, perhaps you can be committed to yourself to workout 3 days a week, anything more than that, well, it's bonus!

Let's talk about cardio. First of all, do something you enjoy! Is it running, walking the treadmill, an aerobics class, or spinning? Remember to stay hydrated throughout, and work within 65% to 75% of your target heart rate zone. Ah...what's your "target heart rate" zone or THR? That's the perfect zone, the perfect place for you to be working in order to most efficiently burn fat. Start out by finding your resting heart rate.

Taking Your Pulse

This is best done first thing in the morning, before you even sit up in bed. If you can do this 3-5 mornings in a row, then take an average that's best. Otherwise, find a quiet place to sit, relax, and just breathe comfortably. Take your pulse for one full minute. Now, let's calculate your age adjusted maximum heart rate (MHR). Men, you want to subtract your age from 220, women subtract your age from the number 226.

Where do trainers come up with these numbers you might wonder. Well, when we're born, kicking crying and screaming, the heart rate is somewhere between 220-226. Women's hearts are anatomically smaller, therefore they beat faster, thus, the number 226.

Here's your formula for calculating your personal target heart rate once you've determined what your maximum heart rate is. Just plug in the numbers.

Target Heart Rate Formula:
220 or 226

There are two different ways to calculate your maximum heart rate and your target heart rates. The method I just explained is the simple method. Read the full article here.

Simple Target Heart Rate Calculator
Using the 220 - Age formula.

Enter Your Age - Then press Calculate.
Heart Rate
Heart Rate per minute
(75% - 85% of Max)
Heart Rate
15 sec count

The Karvonnen formula is more advanced since it also takes into account your resting heart rate. This is your heart rate at complete rest. To determine this, take your pulse for 60 seconds just before you get out of bed... or take it for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.

Advanced Target Heart Rate Calculator
Using the Karvonen Formula.

  • For your age, use a whole year. (Between 0 and 100)
  • Put your Resting Heart Rate in the next box. (Between 30 and 100)
  • In the % box, use a number between 50 and 85. Do not include the %.
  • Click on the Calculate button, and it will calculate your target heart rate or that percentage.
Your Age in Years
Resting Heart Rate
% of Maximum Effort
Your Target Heart Rate

You want to work within that zone for at least 10 minutes (beginners) to 60 minutes (more advanced trainers) you'll get the most from your cardio training by exercising within your target heart rate for 30-45 minutes. Working within your target heart rate zone will make better use of oxygen and fat as fuel for the workout.

You may find yourself occasionally hitting that anaerobic threshold, where your working at 80-85% of your max heart rate, hey, if you're there for a minute or two, no biggee, that can actually be beneficial if doing interval training. HOWEVER, when you start staying in that 80-85% zone for long periods of time, 30-45 minutes or more, then you begin to use your lean body mass as the fuel source, not fat. This is when the old adage "train smarter, not harder" definitely rings true.

So, begin creating that a goal assessment for yourself, start your cardio training, and in the next segment we'll look at starting a strength training program. In the mean time, be careful of "copying" an exercise you may see someone else doing in the gym. First of all you may not know WHY they're doing a certain exercise.

Perhaps they're doing sport specific training. I have had to be careful myself when training specifically for competition in the National Aerobic Championships. Some of the strength training techniques I used personally would not be something I would encourage my clients or others in the gym to do, especially without someone having explained the reasoning for performing such an exercise, and the results you're looking for.

Keep your goal insight, and train smart!

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