This may seem strange coming from someone that makes people exercise for a living BUT, exercising as a weight loss strategy is a losing battle, and this has never been more apparent to me than now that I have started running.
I have always liked the idea of running but always hated the practice so I decided to sign up to the Spartan Race as this would force me to run. So far I have completed two Spartan Races and much to my surprise, I am currently 6th in Spain in my age group category. I am pretty good at the obstacles but not a very good runner so I have been training hard to improve my running capacity.
Recently I have started a new training phase focusing on aerobic capacity. To monitor my training I have been using a heart rate monitor which allows me to run in a very specific “heart rate zone”. By running in this zone I make sure that I am using oxygen and my stored body fat as my main sources of energy. This source of energy is optimal for endurance training as we have almost “limitless” stores. Even someone that is very lean has up to 100000 calories worth of energy stored as fat. Training higher than this heart rate, we go “anaerobic” (meaning without oxygen) and here our body relies exclusively on the sugar stored in our muscles and liver of which we only have about 4000 calories worth.
The Spartan Beast!
My next race is the Spartan Beast. This is the longest of the three Spartan Races and is 20+ kms + obstacles. Where as with the shorter races (8km and 15km) I have been pushing hard and just suffering through the races with a very high heart rate (anaerobic), with the Spartan Beast I can´t do that. If I did, I would burn through my energy stores. To run the Beast and finish I need to run it aerobic, but there’s a problem: my aerobic base is terrible because I have never trained it. I have always avoided aerobic training like the plague.
Improving Your Aerobic Base
To improve your aerobic base you have to spend long periods of time running at an aerobic pace.
First, we need to find what our aerobic pace is. The best way to do this (short of a clinical stress test) is the Maffetone equation:
180 – your age= Limit of aerobic base
For me that is 180-37= 143
143 is my cut off and to be on the safe side it’s better to be a little lower, training between 133 and 143. Lower you are still aerobic, higher you may go anaerobic and you will not get the benefits you are looking for.
I’m starting my fourth week of aerobic base training and it’s here where I really see how exercising for weight loss is a losing battle. When I started doing my aerobic base training I could hardly run any distance without my heart rate monitor starting to beep at me furiously telling me to slow down. This was extremely frustrating as I would have to walk slowly to let my heart rate calm down and then start jogging again, slowly…
On my first run I did 5.72km in 45minutes at an average heart rate of 140BPM and burnt 609 calories.
On my last run I did 7km in 45minutes at an average heart rate of 139BPM and burnt 601 calories.
That’s an increase in pace from 7:54 min/km to 6:25 min/km and 1.3km more in the same time, at a lower average heart rate for the same energy expended…
Do you see now why exercising for weight loss is a losing battle?
Humans are efficiency machines. Our bodies adapt and get more efficient at doing work, meaning that every time we train we actually burn less and less calories for the same effort.
Now don’t get me wrong, exercise is very important, but it’s mostly important and beneficial for improving our health through the effects on our cardiovascular system, muscle mass and bone density, not for weight loss.
Here is another example: It takes me 45 minutes of exercise to burn 600 calories. How fast can I eat double that amount of calories? I could probably polish off that amount of calories in 5 minutes or less. 600 calories is less than an average meal and most people eat 3 to 5 times a day so do the math…. You can consume calories a lot faster than you can burn them and we consume a lot more often than we exercise.
But don’t feel disheartened, it’s not as grim as I’m making it out to be. A combination of Optimal Nutrition, effective exercise, mind set and a few cool little hacks (like cold adaptation and breathing techniques) can take you to your goals, be they weight loss, sports performance or just living life to the fullest!
Built from 7 years experience in the most effective techniques in training, breathing and nutrition “The Optimal Health Method” is a truly unique personal training program that will give you the results you are looking for!
For more information send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Luke Wills
About the author
Luke Wills has over 7 years experience in the Fitness Industry and is a pioneer in Spain in disciplines such as Kettlebell Training, the Wim Hof Method and The Oxygen Advantage.
The Optimal Health Method is the combination of environmental conditioning, breathing techniques, optimal nutrition coaching and personalized exercise routines, forming a truly unique and effective method that gives real results, because health is so much more than just exercise.
Luke lives in a self built, off grid house in the country side of Mallorca with his wife, baby, dogs and chickens.