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Now I want to put these zones together for you in what I call the Training Tree. You go up and down the limbs of your new exercise tree depending on your goals, at your own speed. As you climb the branches, you'll increase your all-around fitness and your body will experience wonderful, truly incredible changes. Here in brief are the different limbs:

Base Branch:
As you exercise here, your workouts will feel easy. Your ambient and your resting heart rate and blood pressure will drop and you'll see your body change as you develop your ability to do continuous exercise time. Stay on this limb for 4-6 weeks of training time before you move up to the next branch.

Workouts should be slow and easy and can include walking, biking, swimming, skating, and circuit training. Aim for three 30-minute workouts a week with about 10 minutes in Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3.

You're training to develop a base level of strength and endurance which will sustain a workout without a great deal of fatigue and muscle soreness. When the routine feels too easy, reach up and grab that next branch.

Here you expand on your systems ability to sustain longer training periods, what we can improved endurance. Your body can now carry more oxygen to your muscles and break into your fat storage cells to burn fat calories as it adapts to it's new workload. You'll find yourself going the same distance at a lower heart rate -- proof in fact of increasing fitness.

Train her for four to six weeks. Activities might include brisk walking, biking, swimming, easy jogging, low-impact aerobics. Aim for five 30-minute sessions a week. For each workout, spend 5 minutes in Zone 1, 10 minutes in Zone 2 and 15 minutes in Zone 3.

This adds resistance training which will make you stronger by increasing the work. For example, add hills as you walk, start some running, stair climbing or weight training.

Perform four or five training sessions of 30-40 minutes each week divided as follows: Zone 1, 5 minutes; Zone 2, 10 minutes; Zone 3, 20 minutes; Zone 4, 5 minutes.

Many people stay on this branch for maintenance of a healthy, all-around fit lifestyle. The next three branches are for those who seek to become high performance athletes, so I'll just touch on them briefly.

This limb gets you faster by doing "interval training" which simply means mixing hard training in Zones 4 and 5 with easy training in Zones 1 and 2.

Perform four or five training sessions of 30-40 minutes each week divided as follows: Zone 1, 5 minutes; Zone 2, 10 minutes; Zone 3, 20 minutes; Zone 4, 5 minutes.

This branch is for serious athletes who want to race at their best. Please refer to Edwards' latest book SMART HEART (206 pages, 1997) for more information on high performance heart zone training.

I saved this for last because it serves a vital function, especially for those who climb to the higher branches where the oxygen grows ever so thin. Here you rest and exercise simultaneously. By staying in low heart zones for short workouts, you can recuperate from too much exercise, an illness or injury that forced you down from higher branches.

I urge you to cross-train while in each of these zones. This means varying the demands on your body by walking one day, for example, biking the next, and swimming another.

My book Heart Zone Training gives a number of sample training programs for each branch. It also describes how to maintain a personal heart Zone Training log where you record your training in various zones to evaluate your total effort over a period of time.


Exercise must fit you as an individual. I'm convinced it's the integration of the mind, the body, and the spirit that works in the log in run.

If you've been working out regularly, you may find yourself reaching for another level of fitness. If you're a beginner or haven't worked out for more than two months, commit yourself to the Base Branch of the Training Tree for just one month.

Remember, the whole point is to get going. You'll begin to see positive benefits as you feel more energy and sleep better. I predict you'll also feel a real boost to your self-esteem that will make it fun to keep going.

And you might keep in mind the mantra that my friend Sara recites on those days when training takes some extra efforts and there is an addition to the grand kid number. "It's not that I have to do this," she says. "It's that I can."


If you have not been training regularly, answer these questions first:

  • Are you a man over 40 or a woman over 50?
  • Have you ever been told you have heart problems, high blood pressure, or a bone or joint problem, such as arthritis, that has been or could be aggravated by certain types of exercise?
  • Do you frequently suffer from chest pains, feel faint or have dizzy spells?
  • Are you taking prescription medication, such as those for high blood pressure?
  • Is there another medical reason why you think perhaps you should not exercise?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, consult your healthcare provider before you being training.

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This article is reprinted with permission by the author Sally Edwards (founder of Heart Zones)