Unlike weight loss where you can see the numbers decrease on the scale, improvements in cardiovascular fitness are more difficult to track. You will soon be exercising longer and harder, but as you continue to push yourself, it’s easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come. Take note of these things before you start your exercise program, and evaluate again every 3 to 6 months for a better perspective on your fitness gains.
Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate (RHR) is an indicator of cardiovascular fitness. A normal RHR can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Trained athletes often have an RHR under 60, sometimes as low as 40. Take your pulse first thing in the morning for 10 seconds. Multiply the number of beats you count by 6 to get your RHR in beats per minute. Measure your heart rate a few days in a row so that you can determine an average. As your fitness improves, you will find that your resting heart rate lowers.
How quickly you recover from vigorous cardiovascular activity can be a marker of improved fitness. As your cardiovascular system grows stronger, you will need less time to rest between segments of activity. For example, when you first start running, you may need to take regular walking breaks to complete your distance. As your fitness improves, these breaks will become shorter until you may not need to take them at all. Another way to measure this progress is to include interval workouts in your cardio routine. Run sprints, jog up stairs, or walk quickly up a hill. Measure how long you need to rest before you are ready to do it again. Your resting segments will decrease over time.
Timed Distance Test
You will become faster and exercise more efficiently as you get fit. A good way to measure this is with a distance test. When you first start out, pick a distance you can walk or run. It can be anywhere from a quarter mile to a mile, depending on your current fitness level. Measure how long it takes you to complete the distance working at a somewhat challenging pace. Repeat the same distance in a few months. Completing it in less time and feeling less fatigued afterward is a good indication that your cardiovascular fitness is improving.
Athletic shoes protect your knees and other joints by providing support and cushioning during high-impact activities. While athletic shoes should be replaced approximately every 350-500 miles or every 3-6 months, your shoe quality is also influenced by factors like body weight, intensity, and exercise surface. When you lose track of the exercise distance or time you’ve spent in your current pair, pay attention to these signs that you need new athletic shoes.
Your knees start hurting.
If you start to develop knee pain, it could be because your shoes are past their prime. The loss of support can lead to iliotibial band syndrome, which is inflammation of the iliotibial band that runs from your hip to below your knee. The inflammation can cause pain on the outside of your knee joint.
You have pain in your shins.
Shin splints result from an imbalance in the muscles controlling the movement of the foot. Old shoes that lack support can contribute to shin splints.
There is a noticeable difference when you try a different pair.
It’s a good idea to buy new shoes before your current shoes are completely worn out. This allows you to transition into the new shoes by alternating between the current and new pair every few workouts. If the lack of support and cushioning is noticeable when returning to the old pair, it’s time to retire those shoes and move on to the new pair for good.
The tread is visibly worn.
Check the bottoms of your shoes. While a little wearing is normal, if you notice spots where the tread is worn a lot more than other areas, or where it is smooth and no longer grips the exercise surface, it’s time for a new pair of shoes.
The shoes have changed shape.
Over time, your shoes will conform to the shape of your foot and reflect your walking pattern. If you notice that the heels are unevenly worn causing your foot to turn, or if there is little stability on the sides of the shoe causing your ankle to shift towards the center, move on to a new pair.
You can increase your heart rate and burn calories without a trip to the gym. These 3 cardio workouts last for 5 minutes each. When you repeat the segments four times, you will complete a fast-paced 20-minute cardio workout. Perform each movement for 50 seconds and allow 10 seconds to transition between exercises.
Jog in place while lifting your knees high towards your chest.
Basic jumping jacks. Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent, and arms to your sides. Jump while raising your arms and separating legs. Land with your legs apart and your arms overhead. Jump again while lowering your arms and returning your legs to the starting position. For a lower impact version, alternate stepping each foot out to the side instead of jumping.
Alternating front kicks
Lift the right knee and kick your right foot out in front of you so that the your leg is parallel to the floor. Repeat with your left leg. To increase the intensity, pick up the pace and add a hop as you kick.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Sit back into a squat and then jump into the air. As you land, drop back down into a squat and repeat.
Jump and quickly cross your ankles while in the air. Land with your feet uncrossed. Repeat, and alternate which foot is in the front.
Start in plank position. Pull your right knee in towards your chest as you tap your right toe on the ground about 18 inches below your right hand. Return your right foot to the starting position while raising your left foot. Repeat.
From the standard plank position, hop your feet out to the sides and hop back into the center. To reduce the intensity, tap your right and left feet out to the side one leg at a time.
From the standard push-up position, hop your feet forward so they land between your hands. As you stand, jump into the air. Return your hands to the ground and jump your feet back to standard plank position.
One leg hop
Stand on your right foot and hop. Hop side-to-side and front-to-back to challenge your balance. Switch feet and hop on your left leg.
Jump to the right and land on your right foot with your left knee bent and left foot lifted off the floor. Jump to the left and land on your left foot. Increase your speed and distance of each jump to increase the intensity.
With feet together, hop in place while keeping your elbows close to your torso and rotating your forearms clockwise. The exercise can be done with or without a jump rope.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Alternate jabs with the right and left arms. Twist the torso towards the direction of the punch to work the core.
With the feet together envision a vertical line to your right. Hop back and forth over the line with both feet.
Cross country ski
Stand with your right foot out in front and your left foot back. Jump and scissor the legs so that when you land the left foot is forward and the right foot back. Make big movements with your arms, raising your left arm overhead as your right foot moves forward and then switch.
Lift your right leg out to the side and kick your foot so that your leg is almost parallel to the floor. With each kick, step to the right. Repeat four times. Switch to the left leg, and repeat four times.
As always, please consult your physician prior to starting any new exercise routine.
Whether you are on the road, a sidewalk, or a trail, it’s important to take responsibility for your own safety when exercising outdoors. Put these tips into practice every time you hit the pavement for a workout.
Research your route.
Pedestrian and bike routes can change drastically within a short distance. Sidewalks end, trails have long stretches with no cooling shade, and residential neighborhoods can lead to industrial areas that are not ideal for pedestrian traffic. Take some time to research your route before you head out the door. Have a distance or time goal in mind, and make sure your route will allow you to reach this goal without putting you in danger.
Be visible at dusk and dawn.
You may feel that you are highly visible on the road, but that is not always the case from the perspective of a driver. The rising or setting sun can obstruct vision and cell phones can cause distractions. Stay alert of your surroundings and always ensure that a driver sees you and stops completely before crossing an intersection. This is especially important at dusk or dawn when visibility is reduced. Use appropriate lighting on bikes, dress in bright colors, and add some reflective or lighting gear like a reflective vest or a headlamp.
Follow the rules of the road.
It’s important to follow bike and pedestrian rules for the road. If you are new to outdoor exercise, take an instructional course in your area. When walking or jogging on sidewalks, moving in either direction is acceptable. When biking on the road, travel in the same direction as traffic. When walking or running on the road, move against the flow of traffic so that you are facing oncoming vehicles. These directional rules may seem unimportant if you are going a short distance or exercising in a quiet area, but stick to them. When you travel in the wrong direction you disrupt the flow of both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, putting your safety and the safety of others at risk.
Listening to music can be motivating and a phone conversation can pass the time, but these activities distract you from your surroundings. A quick reaction is often all that is needed to avoid a serious accident. When you are distracted, you reduce your ability to react quickly. When music is loud, you can’t hear a honking horn, and deep conversation can prevent you from taking a good look around before you cross a street. Stay focused on your activity and your surroundings to increase safety on the road.
If there is one thing to invest in before starting your exercise program, make it your shoes. Quality athletic shoes that fit your feet well and that are designed for your activity can help reduce the risk of pain and injury. In addition to shoes, also consider your socks. Athletic socks that wick moisture are affordable, and they can help you ward off common issues such as blisters.
The number one priority of your exercise clothing is that it should be comfortable, but don’t confuse comfortable with loose and baggy. Big tee shirts and sweatpants may seem like a good choice, but they can get in the way of your workout. Most are also made of cotton, which traps heat and moisture causing you to overheat. Spandex is not a requirement, but more form fitting clothing that wicks moisture and allows you to move easily is ideal.
Fitness involves more than just your weight, so determine how you will measure your progress before you start your program. Waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure , and body fat are all components of fitness that you can track. Gather your initial data, and enter it into your MyFoodDiary account. Track your progress at regular intervals such as every month or every three months to make sure you are getting the results to meet your goals.
Your interval training, circuit workouts, and front planks will be simple to track with an inexpensive stopwatch.
Floor exercises like push-ups, crunches, and yoga poses are effective exercises. While they don’t require equipment, a mat will make them much more comfortable. Mats provide some cushioning for your back on hard floors, but you can also double up the layers to protect your knees during modified push-ups or use it as a bolster to sit on during yoga.
Hydration helps you perform better during exercise, so keep a water bottle handy throughout your workout. Select one that is easy to use while in motion, and consider an insulated version to keep your drink cool.