Too Fat to HIIT

I admit it.

When the subject of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) was first brought up to me my instant reaction was exactly the blog title above … basically that I was too fat to be able to participate in HIIT programs. I would not be able to do most of what was being expected and therefore would neither finish the workouts nor continue with it after getting through one or two.

And I see this feeling echoed all of the time on social media. As soon as someone states that they are having a hard time losing weight and a suggestion comes across about HIIT intervals, the immediate reaction is “I am too fat (old, slow, etc.) to do that”.

I am here to tell you that you are being misled, or are trying to convince yourself of this because you don’t really want to do it.

The problem is that this belief is often echoed in the media. Look up HIIT on Wikipedia and you get the following definition:

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning. Compared with other regimens, HIIT may not be as effective for treating hyperlipidemia and obesity, or improving muscle and bone mass. Researchers also note that HIIT requires “an extremely high level of subject motivation,” and question whether the general population could safely or practically tolerate the extreme nature of the exercise regimen.

So, what this means to a person trying to find an answer is that (1) you need to be highly motivated and (2) if you’re obese it probably won’t work. I am not sure how this result is arrived at since the consistent way I have been able to lose weight was when I was participating in HIIT on a regular basis. There are all kinds of research studies out there that show long course training (i.e. Zone 2) does not help you lose weight either, and in fact, can make you gain weight.

So basically, if you train long and slow you’re screwed, and if you train short and fast you’re screwed.

No wonder people give up right?

The bottom line is this … there is no medical reason that an overweight person cannot or should not do HIIT (OnFitness, September/October 2015).

There is a disconnect in understanding what HIIT actually is and how it is performed. This disconnect, unfortunately, is far too often parroted by the very coaches teaching it in the programs. HIIT is often linked to speed work, sprinting, but this belief is not true for everyone, and especially not true for the overweight population.

HIIT is about effort … not speed.

Someone who is overweight can get the same benefit by simply walking as fast as they can up a hill, then walking back down to recover, then walking as fast as they can back up the hill. Have a hard time walking? Then get on a bike, pedal as hard as you can for 30 seconds to a minute, then go easy for a minute or two, then repeat.

The trick is that the all-out effort needs to be to the point you are breathless, and that is different for everyone.

I can go out and try this workout and be breathless running in 15 seconds, while a more fit person might be able to run a good 5 minutes before reaching that state. The result is going to be the same for each person because the effort is the same regardless of the speed or the distance.

I feel like at times people don’t want to have heavy people get thinner or healthier (not the same thing). It seems at times they design programs that make you give up (P90X anyone?) or defeat you in their explanations before you even try it. As a coach, I try not to do that. Even when I sign up for races I know I am not ready for I have never been told me to not do it, and I usually would not tell a client not to do it (unless I really felt they were going to get hurt). I don’t understand a coach or mentor, be it in fitness or in business, that seems to thrive on holding people down rather than raise them up.

And you have seen it.

I know you have.

I see it a lot with age too. People not telling me outright that I am too old to do something but acting surprised when they hear I have entered a race “at my age”.

I have races and events I want to do that I know I am not able to do right now. A Spartan Race maybe, An ultra run eventually. Maybe even an Ironman distance event at some point (the goal is in my 60th year).

Has no bearing on “why” I want to, or “if” I can do it. I want to.

And telling me I’m too fat is not going to stop me.

Endurance Hydration

I have been talking on the show a lot lately about a couple of things; one (of course) is the never-ending saga of my inability to shed the weight I carry, and the next has been my issue with the second half of my racing, notably the way I feel after the bike portion of a triathlon or duathlon. Running off the bike is always a tough thing to get used to, but my issues go way beyond tough. It has been difficult to explain it to people how it feels but suffice it to say that there is just no energy in my legs. At all. I have tried to “power through it”, thinking that if I force myself to RUN it will clear out and the body will kick in. It doesn’t work. I try very hard to get my legs moving and they Just … Won’t … Go.

In prepping for the podcast I have been reading up on hydration (1), the effects of dehydration, and training and may be hitting on some things. The first being that I am nowhere near drinking the amount of fluid they are prescribing in the material I am reading. Not even in the ballpark.

I have done in the past the normal testing to check my sweat loss, and it normally comes out to about 41.3 ounces in half an hour (actually 35 minutes). This is come to by this formula (done about two weeks ago on a 2.2-mile run):

  • Starting weight of 277.0 – End weight of 275.4 = loss of 1.6 pounds
  • 1.6 pounds x 15 ounces (per pound) = 24 ounces of fluid loss + 0 fluid intake = 24 total ounces
  • 24 ounces / 35 minutes total time (or .58) = 41 ounces

Let me be crystal here … I took in NOTHING

And this was a short training run … so I went back and looked at my last duathlon in 2016

I drank 24 ounces of water mixed with 2 scoops of UCAN on my 90-minute drive … and nothing more before the race started. I drank … NOTHING … during the 1-mile first leg. In T1 I took one sip of water and got on the bike. During the bike I drank 2 times from a 24-ounce bottle, so let’s call that 4 ounces (Gatorade Endurance). In T2 I took one more sip, grabbed a handheld water bottle (20 ounces) and started the second run (3.1 miles). During this run, I drank at each water station (about 2 ounces each time for a total of 4 ounces) and about half of the bottle.

So, for a race that took me 2:09:32, I took in a total of ~44 ounces …

I did not weigh before and after, and was probably, according to my HR, working at a much higher level than the training run. So that means, using the training as a guide, I was under hydrated by about 148 ounces (192 ounces required [48 ounces x 4] – 44 ounces taken in).

Maybe this is the reason the run is bonking? It would make some sense since the person I trained with did much better at these races and drinks all the time.

I can also used a recent Saturday run as an example. I was carrying the same bottle with me and drank maybe three times in 4.5 miles. Granted I was staying in Z2 the whole way, but I have a tendency to NOT drink enough, and this may be the underlying cause.

The other issue is daily, ongoing hydration. I always thought I was drinking enough water, but according to the reading, I am well under the requirement. It states that daily fluid requirements are 2.5 to 3 L a day, and to average 8 ounces each hour. Now, 8 ounces is nothing really is it? One or two gulps and it is gone, so would/should be pretty easy to handle. I do carry around water each day, or have access to it, but I am bad at actually drinking it.

(1) Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan

11 Questions

In Episode 98 we were discussing the importance of learning to say no to things and to people and the concept of “busy” being a decision and why seeking a “work-life balance” might be telling you something about your choice in career (as posted by Debbie Millman in her book and on the Timothy Ferriss podcast). A lot of this was spawned from a book I am currently reading called “Tribe of Mentors” (by Timothy Ferriss). I am a big fan of Tim Ferriss dating back to the “4-Hour Workweek” and pre-order the majority of his stuff when it appears. He is insightful, logical, and clear, but mostly it is because he seeks help and guidance from others and reports them back.

As part of his method, he developed 11 questions that he asks his podcast guests and those he interviews for his book, and I was intrigued by them. I started wondering how I would personally answer them.

So I am going to:

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The book I have purchased the most is “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. I loved it the first time I read it and keep giving away my copies so I have to keep buying my own again. I must have read the book 20 times and even have listened to the audiobook (and saw the movie but we will not discuss it here). By far the best by Bryson, it tells the story of his decision to walk the Appalachian Trail and everything that entails, but also includes a detailed history of the trail itself, the region, and the issues facing it. Great book.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

This is hard because the majority of my purchases are under $100 but if I had to choose one I would say it is the Moleskin Notebooks. I have one everywhere I go. They sit on my desk at work, on my desk at home, on my coffee table, and in my car. I even had one with me when I attempted the Infinitus in 2017. Thoughts and ideas pop into my head all the time and I am still just enough old school to like writing them down. The problem comes when I try to recall them at home when I wrote it at work. When I pool the books together I often find the same thing written in numerous places.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

I have had a lot of failures in my life, but I am not sure I’d call any of them a favorite. The danger in this question is the first thing that pops into my head are relationships. I have been married three times, which gives the impression that I am a “marriage hopper”, an impression I take considerable offense with. With each “failure” I have learned something, which is not to say I have learned what I WANT, but rather I have learned what I DON’T want. My first I was young (19) and really wasn’t ready for marriage. It was more of a connection to home when I was in the Navy, and when I went to shore duty it became very clear that we had grown distant. The second was a huge mistake, basically taking a friendship to a place it should never have been taken to. The third lasted 24 years. I am still learning what the take away from that one is, but I am figuring it out. I am not sure if it will lead to later success. Maybe the “success” is that I need to wait for the right person. Some say it is seeking perfection, which is fruitless, but like my favorite saying goes; I don’t know how much time I have left. I might as well be happy.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

My favorite saying of all time is “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are“. A simple saying in the mirror of all cars right? It means to me that the things in your past may feel like they are right there on top of you, but in reality, they are far behind you and you need to let them go and move forward. Some are harder to let go of than others; hurt, anger, betrayal (see the previous answer for that one) and stick with your psyche for a long time. But you cannot be happy, be at peace, until those past transgressions, those against you AND caused by you, are truly put behind you and released.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

My first instinct was to say “my bike” but that is cheating because I had help obtaining that item, so I have to think of something I personally have invested in. This was a hard question for me because when I hear the term “invest” I immediately go to money, and this doesn’t have to be about money. So I think of time, effort, etc. I’d have to say that the time invested in myself since 2010 has been the most worthwhile. Yes, it put a strain on an already strained relationship and caused as much heartache and heartbreak as it has caused good, but the end result is that I am healthier, wiser, and opened up a new door for me (blog, podcast, coaching) that I have never envisioned for myself.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

OK. Deep confession time. I played in bands from a young age and I still miss it. I am not comfortable in most public situations and more apt to be in the corner by myself than to be mingling (unless I am brought into the conversation by someone), but when I was playing in a band I was very at ease. I miss that feeling. So my strange habit is that when I listen to music I still envision myself on stage playing. I have done this my whole life, and it always seemed weird to me, but what I have found later in life is that it calms me, especially if feeling anxious or depressed or angry. So I am going to keep doing it.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Easy one. The newfound running, cycling, swimming, hiking habits have improved my life, my mental state, and my demeanor. I am still heavy, and I still struggle with some mental issues, but I am 100% better than I was 5 years ago.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

The easy answer is to forget about the money focus and find something you love to do. Seth Godin said it best that instead of planning for a vacation, seek a life that you do not need to escape from. Stay single, do everything you want to do while you can before settling down. You have your whole life ahead of you. People you love or say they love you will be there in the end if they really do. Find your own place in the world. Not your parent’s place, or your grandparent’s place. It drives me crazy when I hear someone say they joined the <<insert military branch here>> because their father and grandfather did. That’s nonsense. I believe the military is a great place to “grow up” and learn responsibility and perseverance, but you can learn that elsewhere too. Do what YOU want to do. Live YOUR life, not theirs

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

So many to count, but if I had to choose just one it’s when someone says “well, at least you have a job”. I cannot tell you how much I hate that saying. It made sense when jobs were scarce, and I was out of work most of 2011, but to settle for something you don’t like, or just because the “benefits” are good is soul-sucking. Believe me, I know. I am knee deep in it right now. As I said in the previous portion, find something you love when you’re young and before you have life responsibilities.

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

I am not sure I am really good at saying “no” when I need to say it. At work, you are hand tied because you cannot just say no to things. I have been saddled with jobs that others should be doing because I happen to be faster and more accurate, so it adds to my daily workload. I should say no to it but I cannot. I still worry too much about hurting feelings, even at the risk of my own mental state and being. I like things comfortable and I am done apologizing for wanting that. So this is my goal. Learn to say no to things that do not make you happy and the things that do not move you toward your goal. Saying no cuts out the static in your life.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

I don’t have a lot of friends, so talking to people is not an option most of the time. Even those that I count as my friends are not always available, and even when they are they are not there all the time. Not through any fault of theirs. They have their lives to deal with also. I tend to retreat into myself. I listen to music. I binge on stupid TV shows or movies. I go for a run or a bike. Basically, anything to get my mind off the issue is what I do.

What would YOUR answers be?

Health and the 300-Pound Man

A large portion of a new lifestyle is getting your crap together. By that, I mean deciding that enough is enough and making the effort to change your way of thinking and living. Although hard, it is not as difficult as you may think, once the initial “lethargy” ends after your body readjusts. The hard part is facing the shaking heads, the tuts and clicks of tongues, from people who at first ask you how your losing so much weight, and then when you tell them how, proceed to tell you how that is not going to work, despite having proof right in front of them to the contrary.

It is amazing to me the reaction you get from people, especially those closest to you when you try to share with them what you have been doing to lose weight. It’s as if they take offense to the fact that you are improving yourself like they are being personally attacked. They tell you all sorts of things:

You’re neglecting your family!

You’re obsessed and that is not healthy!

You’ve become a zealot!

They don’t see the full picture.

I do not feel 55. It is shocking to me to think I am in my mid-50’s. I look in the mirror and do not see an old man. I have very little gray, and the gray I have is in my beard. I have a full head of hair. I have no wrinkling. The man looking back at me cannot be 55!

But, alas, he is …

And this is where my concern for friends and family come in …

When you go through life you expect certain things to happen. You expect at some point to bury your grandparents. You expect to bury your parents. But as the oldest in my generation, I do not expect to bury sisters, brothers, cousins, children, etc. I should be the first to go. Now, I know life doesn’t work that way. I am not naive. The older you get, though, no matter how you look or feel, the more you are faced with the reality of your own mortality.

At the age of 46, I was 313 pounds. Something clicked one day, and I decided that I was not going to be 300 pounds anymore. My younger brother, Michael, who has always been active, said it best to me once.

“If I am going to die young it will not be because of something I could have prevented.”

As I stood looking at myself in the mirror that day I understood what he meant. At this point, we had both had our cancer scares (mine was thyroid, his testicular). The only difference being that mine did cause weight gain. The wrong part was that I used that fact to explain my laziness and slothfulness and to dismiss it as an effect of cancer.

Don’t get me wrong. Anyone that has had thyroid cancer, or even hypothyroidism, will attest to the fact that it really screws you up. You feel tired all the time. You can’t focus. The last thing you want to do after working all day is to get on a bike or go out for a run. The “will” may be there, but not strong enough to get over the lethargy that sets in. But the result in my doing nothing was a weight gain of 120 pounds.

Shortly after this decision to end this spiral I was driving home and heard a radio show with a local doctor talking about the thyroid issue and its effect on testosterone production. Even though he was not in my insurance plan, I made an appointment and paid out of pocket for the test and consultation. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Not only was my thyroid meds out of whack, but my T level was also 97. So after adjusting the Thyroid and adding T Therapy, the weight started dropping. He was also the one that initially suggested that I sign up for a triathlon that was a year away (Escape from Fort DeSoto 2011).

I did.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

My weight leveled off for a year, and that’s where I discovered, though my Triathlon Coach, the Vinnie Tortorich podcast and Jon Smith and Debbie Potts on Fit Fat Fast (Debbie is now solo at The Whole Athlete podcast), and through that the books “Wheat Belly”, “Good Calorie Bad Calorie”, “Fat Chance” and a few more. After changing my eating lifestyle to No Sugar and No Grains (#NSNG) the weight started falling off again. In addition, my energy levels shot through the roof, and I was finding that my body was recovering from workouts, even long strenuous ones, much faster.

So, a breakthrough, and one I should share right?

That did not sit well with a few people. They try to poke holes in the eating method. They say it won’t work. “Calorie in calorie out” is the only true method, they posture.

The problem is that, even though I am standing right in front of them as proof that “calorie in-calorie out”, while indeed based on sound science, is not the only factor, it doesn’t phase them in the least. They stick to their food pyramid. You can show them the science, point them in the direction of numerous studies and academic papers explaining how wheat and sugar increases fat storage in the body, and they still stick to the old thinking.

“Go to a long distance Triathlon or Marathon, and after all the svelte and elite runners come through, wait and see the runners crossing the finish line at hour 7, 8, 10. They’ve all put in the work. They have finished their race. And the majority are still overweight.” ~ Vinnie Tortorich, Fitness Confidential

That was paraphrased, by the way.

The proof, as grandma would say, is in the pudding.

But you still read Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds, about people “carb loading” before a race (which has been proven NOT to work), or indulging in bad eating because “they burned it off during their workout”.

It’s all BS.

A wise woman told me once that I cannot take it personally when people listen to you and still go the other direction. All you can do is offer advice, and hope they listen, but if they don’t, then that’s their choice.

It’s a good way to think, and easy to do when it’s the odd man on the street or casual acquaintance. Not so easy when it is someone you care about. I want these people around me for a long time still. I don’t want to see them in a box. I’d prefer, as is the course of life, for them to see me in the box. I don’t think they understand that this is the place I am coming from … maybe selfish on my part because I don’t want them to leave me that way … but it comes from a true place.

You Are What You Eat

As I have progressed through the last 7+ years from a 300 pounds couch potato (mmm potato) to a more active athlete the biggest change I have made has not been in the amount of activity I have on a weekly and daily basis (though that has been significant), but more about the way and what I put into my mouth every day.

It has not been easy.

There are days that a pizza calls to me like a siren calling a sailor to his death. When I walked out of the gym where I used to swim, directly across the parking lot is a 5 Guys Burger.

Damn, I really wanted that burger.

But, for the most part, I have been able to push these cravings aside and eat sensibly. I have made some missteps here and there. I am only human. But the trick I have found is not to fall off the wagon and stay off. You need to get right back on that wagon, not the next day, but immediately after you do it.

As most know my weight issues started with my cancer diagnosis in 1994. I went from 180 pounds and peaked at 313. At 313 pounds I decided that enough was enough. I could blame it on cancer, and continue to not try to stop the progress, totally give in and stay on the couch, eating my potato chips that were balanced on my ample gut, and watch The Biggest Loser. I actively sought out a doctor that specialized in weight management. I was tired of hearing the same old story about how my body would never be what it was and that I needed to take the Synthroid and learn to cope with what I was dealt.

No. Not any more.

I was given a full panel of blood work and they found that not only were my TSH levels all out of whack, but my Testosterone levels were at 165 (they are currently at 212). I addition, what little T I had was being overly converted to estrogen, which basically put me in starvation mode and made me hoard fat.

Not good at all.

So I was switched to natural thyroid, put on a weekly regimen of T injections, and given medication to block the estrogen production. Immediately I dropped 25 pounds, and I mean within two weeks. I felt better even at a heavyweight of 270. I completed my first triathlon at that weight, but all it really did was give me the boost I needed to not only maintain my new activities but to strive for that goal weight of 200 pounds I thought was out of reach.

The weight continued to drop until I reached a low point of 236 in the Winter of 2011. By January 2012 I was again 255 pounds, and I am currently at 275. The frustrating thing is that I am doing nothing different than I was initially; I am actually eating even better than I was, I work out 4-5 days a week, and have completed a marathon, a number of half marathons, and 5 half Ironman and 70.3’s. My calorie deficit each day averages 750, which means I should be losing 2 pounds a week. But I am not. I am gaining weight.

I think my body is just very temperamental. I tried juicing and was told by some that juicing is not as good as I thought. I tried Fitlife Foods, which are actually very good meals but can’t afford to keep doing that. Am I doomed to just battle this every day until I can no longer compete, then just gain all the weight back and end up at the end no better off than I was when I started?

It is very discouraging, to say the least, more so because I feel I am doing everything right at least 90% of the time but not getting the results. I have still yet to find someone who can explain to me how a small slice of cake weighing less than 3 ounces turns into 1.5-pound weight gain the next morning.

I mean, how is that even mathematically possible??

Another issue with nutrition is finding what works for you. Those of you currently competing in triathlons, or other endurance races, know that the supplements are not cheap, and if you dole out $50 for a vat of protein powder that you don’t like, or worse that doesn’t like you, well … that’s a lot of money to just throw down the toilet (pun intended).

So, as far as nutrition goes, I keep trying to learn as much as possible. Reading books. Watching documentaries. Talking to fellow athletes. Anything I can to pick up on a tip or two. Everyone has an opinion, and so many contradict each other (Carbs bad! No! Carbs GOOD!) but what it comes down to is eating well and finding out what works for YOU.

  • Eat natural foods that are full of color.
  • If Man had a hand in it, leave it alone.
  • No fast food.

Pretty simple rules …

Now if only the weight would follow …

The Best Way to Lose Weight

Disclaimer: This is one of those posts that people reading either scream “YES!!!!” or scream “What an Idiot!!!”. Let me start off right away by stating this … if you disagree with anything I am about to talk about, or if it doesn’t jive with what you have seen or experienced, let’s take it at that and move on. Everything … and I mean everything … I write about on this site or on my various social outlets are an n=1 issue. 

I will start by saying this … I have been having a hard time with my weight again … and it has gotten to the point where I have had to take a hard look at what I have been doing vs. what I was doing when my weight was dropping in 2012-2013. After reading through my past logs and postings, and comparing them to what my current practice is, I have found some large differences, and the bottom line is that it all comes down to self-sabotage. I knew what worked in the past, and I have actively gone against what worked, for whatever idiotic reasoning has been in my head. It is time to halt this train and get my head straight again, and this posting is part of that, so bear with me as I share what I have found works and doesn’t work, for me.

The Best Cardio for Losing Fat

Here it is in a nutshell. If you are training for a long course event, say a marathon or long course triathlon (70.3 and up), you are going to have a hard time losing weight. These events and burning fat do not go together. Long form cardio is not effective as a foundation for a weight loss program. Many people and sources have told me this over the past 8 years, from Vinnie Tortorich personally, to books by various authors, but I have fought this concept. I have fought it at my own risk. When my training went from sprint triathlons and half marathons to marathons and 70.3 triathlons I started gaining weight again. Not only did I start gaining weight, I also started getting injured, and the heavier I got the closer I was to getting hurt at some point. A vicious circle.

So what is?

The exact opposite.

The first two years all I was doing was the sprint and Olympic triathlons, and my weight was dropping. My weight was dropping because my training program consisted of 20-mile bike rides vs. 40-50 mile rides. It consisted of swim workouts of 100 meter splits to “long sets” of 400 meters. Runs were 3 miles, not 6-10 miles.

And you know what else I was doing?

I was lifting weights.

But more on that in a little bit.

So when doing shorter, higher intensity, work I went from 303 pounds down to 235 pounds. Then I started adding distance events, marathons, 70.3’s, even attempting to train for a 140.6, and my weight started creeping up again. The most frustrating thing? I KNEW better.

So, What Should I DO to Lose Weight?

So if long course training should not be the foundation, what should be?

The exact opposite. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This means a short burst of energy with short breaks in between.

This means an hour bike ride that is broken up into bursts of 10 minute, out of the seat, sprinting followed by a 1-minute spin, and then hitting it again. This means 1:00 running as hard as you can and followed by a 30-second walk, and then going again. It means sets of 100-meter pool sprints with a 15-30 second rest in between while maintaining race pace as best you can throughout each set.

It also means WEIGHT training.

When I was going to Powerhouse with a co-worker at lunch a couple of years ago, my weight was dropping fast. AND I was getting stronger very quickly. When my psoriatic arthritis flared up for the first time I stopped going, and my weight has been a struggle ever since. I am starting to think that the foundation of a weight loss program should be strength training, even before HIIT. But it has to be done correctly.

I have a history of lifting. It started back in my days playing football and as a member of the weightlifting team, but continued well into my naval service as a way to escape the monotony of being at sea for 6-7 months at a time, and the funny thing is, the lessons that were taught to me back then are proving to still be the most effective.

Muscle hypertrophy is when the metabolic effect happens, and subsequently, weight loss occurs, so the idea is to get into that state and stay there. Hypertrophy happens when the muscle is under tension, so “time under tension” (TUT) is the key. What this normally means, for most people, is the following:

0 – 20 seconds – strength is being built
20 – 40 seconds – strength is being built with the beginning of muscle hypertrophy
40 – 70+ seconds – no strength is being built and the muscle hypertrophy is constant

So, if you load up a bar with 200 pounds and bench press it three times, you are building strength and strength only. If you load the same bar with 100 pounds and bench it to failure, say 30 times, you are into hypertrophy and are starting to burn fat. It’s the old “High Weight Low Rep” to get strong method. Still seems to work.

The additional point is TIBS, or “time in-between sets”. Most people in gyms take forever in-between a set. They lift the weight for 30 seconds, then talk, or text, for 4 minutes before doing the next set.

This accomplishes nothing.

In order to “keep the burn” on, your TIBS should be under 45 seconds.

OK, So I Need to Lift Weights … What Weights??

This is easy …

When you walk into a gym and see all the fancy equipment lining the walls … ignore them… and head straight back to the free weights.

I know that is scary because that’s where the monsters live, but trust me … you only need 5 exercises to gain strength and lose weight.

  • Bench Press
  • Dead Lift
  • Squat
  • Barbell Row
  • Overhead Press

Yes, there are machines where you can do these exercises, and in a pinch, they will work, but free weights not only give you the weight to lift, they also cause you to balance the weight, which makes it a better exercise all around. Machines take the “feel” from you.

When I was going to Powerhouse we split these 5 exercises into two workouts. They were:

  • Workout A: Squat, Bench Press, Barbell Row
  • Workout B: Squat, Overhead Press, Dead Lift

The key, as is true with most thing, is FORM. Make sure you have the form down before adding more and more weight to the bars (and one more reason to use free weights over machines). This might mean lifting only the bar itself, but in the long run, it will save you from injury. If you feel unsure about asking for help, YouTube (and Endurance for Everyone has our own channel HERE) has plenty of video’s showing form and function. Kelly Slater is a valuable tool on there.

So .. That’s ALL There Is?

Of course not. As I stated in the beginning, everyone is different, so feel free to play with this a bit. The core is sound, however. Long Course Training should not be your base for losing weight. You will end up frustrated and injured. I know this for a fact, even if I don’t practice what I preach.

You also MUST watch what you eat. Just like a computer, if you put crap in you will get crap results. Eat no processed food, including sugar and grains (I know I will get comments on that one). Naturally occurring sugar, like in fruits and vegetables, are fine but cut out the artificial sweeteners, the Dixie Crystals, etc. If you need carbs, then fine, but it doesn’t mean eating pasta unless you can lead me to a pasta tree.

I hope this helps some of you.