As part of documenting my Lose the Gut project, I thought I'd write briefly about the aerobic exercises that I'm doing.
First, I'm doing my workouts in a gym; I work long hours, the gym is attached to my office building, and the convenience makes me more likely to stick with the program. Because I had back surgery for a herniated disc, I've begun by using the elliptical machine for a minimum of 45 minutes (often an hour), and I'll do that three to four days a week. During very busy weeks, I've noticed that I still get good results if I do anything 30 minutes or longer, and I can almost always afford to spend a half hour on exercise (not including locker room time).
I also do core exercises from the book The AbSmart Fitness Plan by Adam Weiss. I've been very pleased with how these exercises feel do-able without straining my back. However I've been startled by how long it's taken me to be able to do the Intermediate level of three sets of five exercises. I'll chalk that up to being 53. I'm seeing results, so I will stick with this abs program even though it's taking me months to get it up and running.
To protect my back I won't do rowing. I've postponed any running on the treadmill until I'm stronger and in better shape. I will do 15 to 30 minutes on a stationary bike after I'm finished on the elliptical machine, but only in those rare instances when I have extra time. As for the elliptical machine, I'll alternate between one that has those ski-pole arms and one that does not (but allows you to alter the incline).
I find that intervals work very well for me; the elliptical machine that I use has an automatic interval setting, which runs for two minutes on a Difficult setting and alternates with two minutes on an Easier/Rest setting. I recommend playing with the resistance and incline settings until the Difficult setting makes you breathe heavily by the end of that two minute cycle but does not exhaust you! Put another way, I recommend that the Difficult setting put your heart rate well into the Cardio range (not the lower Weight Loss range!).
I recommend pushing the pace during the Difficult setting, energy permitting; if the energy isn't there, especially late into the exercise, just complete the Difficult cycle without pushing it. Using this method, when I measure my heart rate, it always lands between 140 and 155 heart beats per minute at the completion of the Difficult interval.
In addition to being humane about alternating between a challenging pace and a more restful pace, intervals help to address the problem of plateauing and getting the after-burn effect. By "mixing it up" and getting your heart rate into the Cardio range, you're likely to create an effect in which your shaken up metabolism will continue to burn some extra calories after you've finished the exercise. Obviously this is goodness.
If you're working with a personal trainer then I have no issue with you pushing harder under her or his supervision. However I work out alone. Also, after my workout and during the next day, I need to be clear headed for clients, and I struggle to do that if I push my workouts harder than I've described. I've been able to drop twelve pounds in four months using this method, and I'm happy with that slower pace, given the other positives that I get from it.
important to be aware that there are multiple ways to get your heart
rate pumping. For example I worked with a client who struggled with foot
and joint issues, so the elliptical machines and treadmills were
difficult for her to use for long without feeling pain. Her personal
trainer introduced a boxing workout that got her heart rate up with much
less foot and leg movement, and she loved this exercise! Because you're more likely to stick with something you enjoy, it can be worth your while
to experiment with different aerobic activities. Also, swimming is a
great way to get your heart rate up without putting extra stress on your
joints. The goal is to do any activity for 30 minutes or longer that
gets your heart rate into the Cardio range for your age.
Here's a posting and chart that can help you to figure out the Cardio range for your age. I recommend starting out in the Beginning range and working your way into Intermediate within a month or two.