How I Intend to Become a Fat-Burning Beast

“As your body moves, your brain grooves.”
(Jim Kwik[1])

Symptoms of fatigue are “utterly and completely illusory.” So say authors Mark Sisson and Brad Kerns. They explain that such symptoms are generated by your brain and “have nothing to do with the state of your body.” Well, after mile twenty of my hike in the wilderness for the Wish Kids, my energy reserves were depleted, my muscles were exhausted, and my body began aching from the inside out. It didn’t feel illusory to me!

As I read their book, Primal Endurance: Escape chronic cardio and carbohydrate dependency and become a fat burning beast!, I learned what happened to me. Mark and Brad call it “bonking”. I wasn’t suffering because my muscles suddenly ran out of energy per se, rather it was that my brain ran out of the precious glucose it relies on to function and direct my muscles to work properly. Reading on, I discovered that I could train my body to use fat rather than carbs as my primary energy source, and therefore perform much better on endurance hikes as well as reducing inflammation caused by excessive endurance training. What a great trifecta that would be!

1. Maximum Training Heart Rate

It seems that excessive exercise in the anaerobic heart rate zone causes inflammation, just like other forms of chronic stress[2]. So I need to slow way down during the vast majority of my training workouts. The book says exercising at the aerobic zone of 180 minus my age or below will hone my fat-burning skills and train my body to become bonk-proof. For me, that’s 180 minus 55, or 125 beats per minute maximum. That’s not working very hard. In fact, I need a heart rate monitor to keep me from exercising too hard and thereby exceeding my maximum training rate.

Here are the other five steps to my plan to become a fat burning beast:

2. Everyday Walking

Walking has long been the centerpiece of My Philosophy for Lifelong Exercise. The book redoubled my commitment to everyday walking when I learned that it contributes to “aerobic fitness by stimulating the complete range of aerobic muscle fibers and energy-producing enzymes.”

I use short breaks from my work desk, leisurely walks up our long driveway with my dog, and training hikes on the treadmill or out on beautiful mountain trails to get at least 10,000 steps in each day. In addition to building my aerobic capacity, everyday walking provides immune system, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular benefits to my overall health and wellbeing. Taking frequent walking breaks during the day also encourages fat burning.

3. Other Everyday Movements

Mark and Brad taught me that my genes thrive on frequent and varied movement over the course of the day. In addition to walking, they recommend adding four other Primal Essential Movements to my everyday fitness practice. Push-ups, pull-ups, squats and planks represent a safe, simple, and effective workout to improve functional, full-body strength and mobility.

Here are the baseline standards for mastery:

Primal Essential Movement

Male Female
Pushups 50 20
Pullups 12 5
Squats 50 50
2-Minute Hold of forearm/feet plank 2 minutes 2 minutes

They tell me I can become exceptionally strong using only my own bodyweight for resistance. I’ve set a personal goal to achieve their mastery standards by Friday, May 19 (Opening Day for Paleo f(x) 2017). Last week I tested my current best efforts. I did 28 pushups, 6 pullups, 50 squats, and held a plank for 2-minutes and 30 seconds. I’ll let you know how I’m progressing after 90 days.

4. Run Fast

It’s been probably fifteen years since I have run fast, and to be honest, I didn’t think I’d ever do it again. But reading this book convinced me to add intermittent sprinting sessions to my training schedule. Apparently, short, intense bursts of exercise like sprinting zap fat from the body. “Nothing cuts you up like sprinting,” the authors explain. “Sprinting delivers a potent anti-aging effect by flooding the bloodstream with adaptive hormones.” I need these to keep my man-card certified!

So in 2017, I’ll begin adding four quarterly “anaerobic training periods” lasting two to three weeks. During these periods, I’ll plan weekly sprint sessions, with four to six reps of full speed sprints between ten and thirty seconds long. On the advice of the authors, I’ll only run fast on days when I’m feeling one-hundred percent rested and motivated.

5. Lift Heavy Things

The book taught me that lifting heavy things regularly optimizes gene expression, delivers anti-aging, adaptive hormones like testosterone and growth hormone, and also sets me up for success with my endurance hikes. I’ll be changing my weight-lifting strategy from light weights with high reps to heavy weights with low reps. Recommended exercises are full-body, functional movements like deadlifts, squats, presses and vertical jumps.

My heavy lifting workouts need only last about twenty minutes, and occur only once or twice a week. That’s considerably less time than I have been spending. I’ll take the next 90 days to slowly and safely establish my five-rep max in squats and power cleans. Then I’ll begin the Maximum Sustained Power training workouts lifting my five-rep max three or four times followed by ten to twenty seconds of rest… then three more reps at the same weight and rest a bit… and continue the pattern… Something like 4 reps… 3 reps… 3 reps… 2 reps… 1 rep… and done!

6. Yoga, Again

Happily, Mark and Brad have finally persuaded me to add yoga back into my exercise strategy after a fifteen-year absence. They had me when I read this: “Experts familiar with both yoga and endurance sports assert that your yoga or Pilates efforts will counterbalance the constant compression and contractions of endurance training.” That was enough for me. Yoga is back in. I’ll try to add two to four yoga classes a month to my program.

I am very excited about making these changes to my 2017 fitness practice. I have been struggling to eliminate the final few pounds of fat that have stubbornly stuck around my midsection. I hope these fat-burning steps will help eliminate that. But even more importantly, I am encouraged that my six-step plan will help me become stronger, and maybe even bonk-proof on my next 26.3-mile hike for the Wish Kids later this year.

Stay tuned for regular progress updates!

Follow Mark and Brad…

@Mark_Sisson | @bradleykearns

[1] Follow Jim @jimkwik

[2] “… chronic stress, that is stress persisting for a long time or constantly recurring, is largely responsible for what Dr. Leona Allen calls the new millennium diseases: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis…”

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