Commander's Fit Tip: Fight's on!

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- It's the call that get's every fighter crew members' heart racing... "FIGHT'S ON!" It's the formal declaration in a training engagement that all the players are ready and the game is about to begin.

No more excuses, no alibis. It's time to put all the training and experience to the test. Heard it a thousand times in my career, and it never lost significance. Now it's my turn!

My "excuses" are a knee injury, knee surgery, knee re-hab, a PCS, and a new job. But the docs have taken three of those off the table last week, and I can only use the PCS excuse for so long (even if I haven't yet unpacked all the boxes!). So it's time to rebuild the machine, and since I live in the ultimate "glass house" around here, you are all invited to the show.

First the numbers...weight:188; BMI: 24; ab circumference: 35; recent PT test: pushups 43, crunches 51, 1.5-mile run: exempt; resting blood pressure 130/85, resting pulse 65.

While most of that looks OK, it's a far cry from "top form." It's going to be a LONG campaign! Getting back there is a tall order. Before the knee injury, things were a bit better...weight: 175; ab circumference 33; BMI 21; PT test: pushups 45, crunches 55, 1.5-mile run 9:05; resting blood pressure 118/75, resting pulse 45.

The biggest challenges will be dropping almost 15 pounds and getting my cardio capacity back. Months of limited activity will be tough to undo, but I have a "secret weapon." It's called "heart rate load training" and it might just be the ticket you need to take your program to the next level.

I've heard it a thousand times..."No matter how hard I try, I just can't get my run time down." For some, it's not about trying harder, it's about understanding how your body reacts to training. For so many, "harder" has just been too hard, they just don't know it.

If you really want to change what's going on inside, you have to remember the "holy trilogy" of training: Train HARD, Race HARDER, Rest HARDEST. Why "Rest HARDEST?"

All the physiological (hey, does that sound sophisticated?) changes you are after happen while you are RESTING, not while you are working out. Get that out of balance, and you'll never build up, instead you'll wreck all the new engines before they're ready. Most see that as a "training plateau" but never understand how a little variation is all it takes to make the next breakthrough.

Heart rate load training works on the fact that you need to recover after a hard workout, and a series of hard days/light days is much more effective than a run of hard days that eventually decrease in intensity due to fatigue, or worse, injury.

The model works like this...for a fitness improvement plan, it takes five days a week. So, every other day is a "light day," defined as less than 70% max heart rate. What's your max heart rate? Quick rule of thumb...220 minus your age. So mine's about 175, and a light day keeps me under 130 beats a minute. I know! It sounds agonizingly easy..."I'm wasting my time!" But here's what happens...over time, the load it takes to get there will increase, and soon even "light days" will feel like a workout.

The trick is to find an activity that you can closely monitor and control your heart rate. Even better if you can find one that amplifies whatever you are focused on fixing (for me, the run.) So my "weapon of choice" will be the elliptical trainer, with only one caveat... "light day" doesn't mean sloppy, chatty, walk in the park. It's still a focused part of the plan.

To dovetail with my running workouts, the trick is to mimic the running stride/cadence and adjust the load to maintain 130 BPM. The cadence for me is about 170 (or 85 on some machines) RPM. That will seem exceedingly fast for most, but it's the ticket.

Here's the heart rate load plan...Monday: "Long and Hard" 160 sustained 30 minutes. Tuesday: Light day (45 mins). Wednesday: Sprints (up to 95% of max, 4 x 90 secs,4 x 60 secs, 4x 45 secs, 4 x 30 secs). Thursday: Light Day (45 mins). Friday: Longer and Not So Hard (45 minutes, 150 MAX). Sat/Sun: Recover.

That's just the aerobics part, there's some strength training in there too, but that's a topic for another day.

This is a combo "weight control/cardio rebuild" plan, and I'll keep you all posted on the results. The target...fighting weight by February, under 10:30 on the run. Stay tuned...