Before my first Ironman, I was directed by my coach, DeeAnn Smith of Gorilla Multisport, to have a VO2 Max test to establish my training zones. I was new to the sport and had been wearing a heart rate monitor religiously. However, the the only information I would gather from it was time, distance, and speed. And instead of watching my own heart rate, I'd look at others wearing theirs and think to myself "Man, my heart rate is sure HIGH!" Or, "It's higher than yours?" Or, "Why am I chugging along at 168 and he's at 142?"
Things changed as DeeAnn gave me training zones from my test results that were dialed specifically to me. Each zone was established for workouts geared for endurance or speed and the ability to finish my ultimate goal of an Ironman.
It work. Over and over, time and time again, for all the Ironman races I have completed, it worked. I never fizzled out, or lost significant energy or speed as I raced. I always finished strong. So to this day, I preach the religion of getting a heart rate test to my own athletes at Sigma Human Performance. A metabolic test is my first order of business with every new client.
But questions have arisen from the doubters and skeptics. Plenty of people finish an iron distance race without ever getting a test or knowing their zones or knowing much about carb/fat consumption. Marathoners finish endurance races everyday and what's the percentage of them who have had a test? And what about high intensity training that burns fat over several hours post workout?
So I turned to Ben Stone, founder of Sigma Human Performance and also, my boss. Ben studied at Oxford for his graduate studies and has advanced degrees in Science and Medicine of Athletic Performance. He knows his stuff.
He agreed that the truth is, fat burning intensity occurs at a much lower intensity than many of us realize. That brisk walk after dinner or working in the garden or recovery bike rides are supremely beneficial to our well being. We don't need to go hard and red-faced for every workout if our goal is ultimately lose body fat (and whose isn't?). We need to mix up our workouts with easy days and hard days, tapping into those fat burning zones that keep us lean and utilize our fat stores (endless) and allow our bodies to work efficiently.
But what about calories? Like in spin class where if you pedal faster the calorie count jumps up to 600 on your heart rate monitor. Isn't it easy to assume the higher the intensity the more weight you can lose? Sadly, not all calories are equal and if you're jumping into the anaerobic zones during your workout, you're actually burning sugars and carbs, not fats. This in turn makes you want more carbs and sugars -- explaining why you are FAMISHED after a workout. And never losing any weight.
And lastly, what about high intensity training, quick bursts of intervals and short hard workouts? "High intensity exercise does actually burn fat post exercise by increasing what's know as EPOC or Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. This additional burst of O2 for as much as five hours after exercise can burn lots of fast at rest, " says Ben. "However, the exercise intensities at which this is conducted, will, over time, create a scenario for significant carb dependency, which makes it much more difficult to burn fat over time. In short HIIT will work very well....for awhile. Then the plateau sets in which is a product of the constant exposure to HIIT which changes internal metabolics (creates carb dependency) this making weight loss much more difficult.
To all those marathoners who are actually gaining weight during their training, or cyclists who want their body to work for them and not the other way around, or any struggling athletes who are looking to unravel the mysteries behind what makes their body tick, I say, get a heart rate test today. Soccer players, in-line skaters, firemen and beginner triathletes have all been tested at the Sigma Human Performance Laboratories. Sigma has testing facilities in Scottsdale and Vail, Colorado and are scheduling appointments daily. If you'd like to take guesswork out of training and achieve the maximum results you can from your body make-up, give me a call today. I can help make all your dreams come true ;)!