Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Girl's Gotta Do What A Girl's Gotta Do

And what this girl's gotta do to lose fat is cardio--lots of it.

That would be cardio in the pejorative sense, meaning something other than HIIT, Viking Warrior Conditioning with a kettlebell, bodyweight circuits, tabatas, barbell complexes and what have you. You know, the stuff that's trendy in fitness circles right now. All of which I am doing, by the way, but it's not enough to get me as lean as I want to be right now.

Here's the deal: to lose weight you have to create a calorie deficit. Duh, right? But here's the thing: I am small, and I am 47. For me to create a calorie deficit without dropping my calories below starvation level I need to be extremely active. But I also have to balance my need for activity with my need for recovery, and for me the strategy that seems to work best is to exercise almost daily, but at varying levels of intensity. At this point in my life it is a physical impossibility for me to do more than two or at most three true HIIT sessions per week. If I try to do more (and believe me, I've tried!) it becomes impossible for me to elevate my heart rate to anaerobic levels. It simply won't happen. And that means instead of doing three HIIT sessions a week I'm doing zero HIIT sessions and getting darned frustrated and grumpy in the process.

So for me the best option is to keep my HIIT sessions at three per week, and then on my non-HIIT days add in some longer, less intense cardio that won't interfere with my recovery from the HIIT. Depending on what my body seems to need I might make it a very light cardio day, meaning that I would be aiming to work mostly at 65-75% MHR (the infamous "fat burning zone." or as I prefer to think of it the aerobic base building zone), or I might make it a more moderate-intensity day where I would be staying mostly at 75-85% MHR. Which, by the way, is no walk in the park, especially if you sustain it for 45-60 minutes. I happen to believe that this kind of training (alternating light, medium, and high-intensity days) is optimal for improved cardiorespiratory fitness and performance ... and of course the concept will be quite familiar to those of you who've done Enter the Kettlebell!

I'm definitely doing something right, as my weight has dropped back down to 115 with no loss of strength--which I attribute to the fact that I haven't dropped my calories too low. In fact, even though I'm in calorie-deficit mode I achieved a personal best of 190 lbs last week on my conventional deadlift. (Yeah, I know, I mentioned it a couple of posts down. But you know what? I'm still disgustingly pleased with myself and plan to keep right on mentioning it until someone tells me to get over myself already :))

In case you are wondering, my fat loss goal at the moment is to drop another three pounds and reassess. I suspect that's the most I can lose without compromising my health, but we'll see. At 112 lbs I will not be physique-competitor lean, but since I have no plans to compete it doesn't make sense for me to shed fat that I would immediately have to regain to stay healthy. That's what competitors do, by the way--the smart ones, anyway. They diet down for their shows, then allow themselves to gain back as much fat as they need for health. Some even gain a little more than that :)