Calculate your heart rate zones (use the chart in Fueling the Firefighter, December 1995, page 60). Stay within this zone for the first four to six weeks of exercise. The more frequent sessions and longer time spent in the zone, the more efficient a fat burner you will become. After the initial month to month-and-a-half, you will start to see some of the results that were addressed previously. If you do not change the program, the body will get bored and it will take longer and longer in the zone to reach the same calorie output.

Before we discuss how to create challenge, let`s look at a few terms.

Long Slow Distance (LSD). This is what the fat-burning zone is all about. It is important to keep one to two workouts in this zone each week, even after the efficiency has been identified. You do not want to lose this efficiency, as it will pay off on your job. In addition, it will continue to improve over time and help lean the body of excess fat.

Interval. This is a short, quick burst of high intensity that can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Often the rest between intervals is long in the beginning–to allow for a full recovery–and then shortened to help build endurance and speed.

You do not necessarily need to be training for a specific event to benefit from these types of workouts. They give you variety and can be implemented into a weight-training circuit program to obtain endurance and power in one workout.

Once you can perform for a period of time at a little higher intensity, you can create a tempo type of workout. This is where you choose a percentage of output–i.e., 80 to 82 percent for the first portion of time, raise the intensity just a little (83 to 85 percent), and try to go for a length of time comparable to that of the first portion. This type of workout will help you raise your anaerobic threshold.

Your anaerobic threshold should be viewed as the level to which you can push your body and maintain that output for a period of time. This can be very beneficial when fighting a fire. It is important to train the different systems to establish the leanest, strongest, and most efficient body possible. The more you lay the foundation before introducing challenge, the better you will be at blending fat and glycogen fuels. The longer you can make the glycogen last, the better you will perform on the job and the quicker you will recover.

The first thing to do is lay out your week. Build in at least one to two days off in which you will rest, rehydrate, and refuel. It is best to have your harder workouts after a day off. A hard workout may be a low-intensity, long-duration or a short-duration, high-intensity session. Usually, a good calorie burn results from these workouts.

The hard workouts will use some of the glycogen storage, leaving you a bit depleted the next day. It is best to eat the next day and do a light workout session so the body is not stripped of more glycogen. Once you`ve eaten and done only a light workout, your body is able to restore fuel. This leaves you with a full tank the next day and the ability to do a hard workout again.

The body works in three-day cycles. It is best to go up and down in your exercise and eating patterns to get the best results. What you eat today fuels you for tomorrow and replenishes yesterday`s workout. It is not uncommon to be less hungry on days on which you work out hard and more hungry on the low-intensity days.


Since all workouts are based on a percentage of output, using the heart rate monitor allows you to create a wide variety of program options. For example, to create a running program, you begin in the fat-burning zone and cover the initial four to six weeks in that zone. You do whatever it takes to stay in that zone; you may even have to walk. Once change has occurred, you are ready to add intervals.

You can go to a track and do repeats of a set distance, using the heart rate to know when to go again. Push the pace on the interval and then recover to the fat-burning zone. This will teach you pace. Or, if you want to teach your body how to buffer the lactate (dead leg feeling), do the distance all out and then go again within five to 30 seconds. You will not get your heart rate all the way back to the fat-burning zone; and, over time, fatigue will set in. You will find that each repeat will take longer and longer and the heart rate will be higher.

It is best to alternate these two types of track workouts: Do the heart rate to recovery one week and the timed interval the next week. It is necessary to do only one interval workout a week.

To determine your timed interval, take the time it took to do the repeat the week before and add 30 seconds–for example, if you ran one-quarter mile in two minutes, your timed interval would be every 212 minutes.

For the heart rate workout, log the heart rate you reached on the repeat, the time it took to do the workout, the heart rate at recovery, and the time it took to get there. For the timed-interval workout, log the heart rate for the performance, the time it took to do the repeat, and the heart rate just prior to the next repeat. Be sure to compare heart rate with heart rate workouts and timed with timed workouts. You will see a pretty good change within the first seven weeks.


For the tempo workout, pick a course you can go out and back on. Go out at 80 to 82 percent heart rate and then come back at 83 to 85 percent. Your time to cover the distance coming back should be just a little bit quicker. It is also possible to do a tempo workout that combines a little interval.

This would be done by warming up for three to five minutes, then going at 85-plus percent for a distance or specific time (i.e., one mile or five minutes), slowing to a jog that takes you back toward the fat-burning zone, and going again once you`ve reached recovery. Repeat this pattern to cover the total distance of your workout or for a set period of time. Be sure to include a good easy cool down in your workout. These workouts are fun because they are off and on but pushed for a bit longer.


If you want to do a heart rate workout on weights, warm up for 15 to 20 minutes in zone, lift weights as you normally do, observe the heart rate during the different exercises, and cool down 15 to 20 minutes easy. This combination gives you a good oxygen base to start with so your lifts are much more beneficial and helps you flush the muscles afterward. This reduces the lactate buildup and leaves you more recovered the next day. These workouts can be a little long, so sipping a glucose polymer/ fructose-type drink, alternating with water, would be helpful.

The other way to create a weight-lifting/heart rate workout is to do a circuit. The goal is to try to keep the heart rate within the high and low limits of the zones. Warm up well, and then begin your sets. Jog, walk, or bicycle in between weight sets to get the heart rate up to the higher side of the zone; then do the weights again.

Initially, you will be high with the lifting, but you may not get very high with the weights over time. Either increase the weights or go at a higher intensity on the aerobic portion to get the rate up higher so it just recovers during the lifting portion. If you do light weights with a lot of repetitions, you will develop lean, strong, aerobically fit muscles. The options are endless. Be creative, and let your heart be your guide. Just incorporate some aerobic and anaerobic activities for the best fitness level. Now that the exercise program is in place, it`s important to eat the proper amount of food to stay fueled for each day`s activity. My next column will address this topic. n

CAROLINE SMITH, M.S., is president of SportSense Co., a Dallas-based consulting firm that works with individuals and groups on exercise and nutrition. She has a master of science degree in exercise physiology and bachelor`s degrees in psychology and nutrition. Smith also is wellness coordinator for the City of Richardson, Texas, where she created and implemented a physical fitness assessment and exercise prescription program for firefighters.

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