When discussing cardiovascular programs, we're talking about blood flowing through the heart and the rate at which oxygen gets into the bloodstream and goes through the body. We're talking about exercise. We're talking about sweat. And not the sweat that comes from 110-degree weather in a hooch in Vietnam, Korea, or Iraq. I'm talking about the sweat that comes from a 2-5 mile endurance run. I'm talking about the sweat that comes from a 25 mile MMRES hump. I'm talking about the sweat that comes from the First Sergeant or Sergeant Major's death run. Hopefully, everyone's on the same sheet of music. Let's get started with the real deal.

When you set up a cardio program, you have to understand the level you are at. If you're going from a completely sedentary lifestyle, meaning that you've just been sitting on the couch playing video games or watching videos for your exercise, you might want to start off light.

There are many types of cardio exercises. You have to understand that cardio exercises are exercises that get the heart pumping blood vigorously throughout the body. You may hear the term aerobic. This means with oxygen. Whenever you do cardio exercises, i.e. running, walking, or swimming, you start breathing heavy. This gets oxygen to your lungs at the cyclic rate. This provides oxygen to the bloodstream quicker as the heart pumps more blood throughout the body.

It's a beautiful thing to be able to keep things simple and with so many exercises as an option, the variety helps keep it simple. You can walk, bike, skate, rollerblade, skip rope, swim, row, ride an exercise bike, use a tread mill, cardio kick box or take aerobics to get your cardio exercises. The key is time. You want to build up to doing some sort of aerobic type exercise for at least twenty (20) minutes per session. If you can't do 20 minutes, then start with whatever you can do - 5, 10, or 15 minutes. The key is to increase whatever exercise you do by one minute every time you conduct it. Then build up to the 20 minutes if you weren't able to start there.

After you get to the 20-minute point, you want to continue to increase how long you do the exercises. If you can make it to the 30 or 45-minute mark, you are right where you need to be.

The reason you'll hear trainers put the benchmark at 20 minutes is because that's the point at which the body starts to switch from using glycogen (stored sugar) for energy and starts using stored fat. That's where we all want to be. Once we start using stored body fat to supplement our energy use, we'll start to lose body fat. That's putting it simply. Remember, the key is to burn more calories than we consume, without consuming less than we need to survive (See Semper Fitness archive: Darth Metabolism). Once we've gotten to a point where we can burn more than our basic metabolic rate, we'll start to lose body fat.

Now, that's the second pillar of physical fitness "starting from the beginning". Next issue, we're going to discuss the third pillar, and that is anaerobic exercises or resistance training. This pillar is going to top things off to firm up the gut, buns, thighs, chest and whatever body part you wish to improve on. Until then, stay pumped, stay motivated and oo-rah!