Doing Less and Getting More Fat Burning Results

“Sometimes, less is more.”
(William Shakespeare)

On January 19, I began a new exercise program with the intention of training my body to use fat rather than carbs as my primary energy source. I did so because in the book, Primal Endurance: Escape chronic cardio and carbohydrate dependency and become a fat burning beast!, authors Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns convinced me that by following this new workout plan, I could:

  • Perform better on endurance hikes
  • Reduce health damaging inflammation inside my body caused by over training, and
  • Become a fat burning beast

What’s more, they convinced me I could do all this while working out with less intensity! They say doing less intense exercise will produce more fitness.

What I’ve Done, So far

As instructed in the book, I have been doing nearly all my cardio training in the aerobic zone of 180 minus my age, which in my case means exercising at a heart rate of 180 – 55 = 125 beats per minute (bpm) or less. For me, that’s not working hard at all. In fact, it’s been so difficult to keep my intensity level lower than normal that I have to use a heart rate monitor to keep me under the limit.

I have also been walking every day, as suggested. In the four months since beginning this regimen, I have recorded 1,277,678 steps on my Fitbit. That’s an average of 14,040 steps (or about 7 miles) per day. I get about 60% of my steps on hikes through the woods with my dog or walking on a treadmill. The rest come from taking frequent breaks from my workday to walk around my home and neighborhood.

I have also incorporated what Mark and Brad call “Primal Essential Movements” to my nearly every day fitness practice. I aim for a couple sets each of push-ups, pull-ups, squats and planks, either during my walking breaks, at the gym, or both.

As recommended in the book I decided to take in a yoga class once or twice a month. To be honest, I was a bit afraid to return to the mat after a fifteen-year absence, but it feels great.

What I Haven’t Done, Yet

I haven’t started the practices of running fast or lifting heavy things as suggested to amp up the fat burning. I don’t think my body is ready for these. My current plan is to add them to my program in the fall.

How I Feel

I must say that on this routine I feel better than I can remember for a long time. I no longer have that daily exercise soreness. I find I have more energy than before. And, most of the time, I feel invigorated after working out. It felt a bit strange and was a little difficult to get used to exercising less intensely. After all, I have more than four decades of No Pain, No Gain in me and releasing that belief has been quite a challenge, in and of itself.

Results I Can Measure

Now for the big reveal. Does it work? Have I successfully trained my body to use fat rather than carbs as my main energy source? It’s difficult to know for sure after such a short trial, but here are some results I was able to measure so far.


January 19, 2017 April 20, 2017 Difference
Pull-ups 6 8 +2
Push-ups 28 32 +4
Squats 50 70 +20
Planks 2 mins, 30 secs 3 mins +30 seconds
Weight 183.7 181.1 -2.6
Waist 35” 34.5”


My upper body strength has increased with maximum pull-ups increasing by two and push-ups by four. I feel more stable with my leg strength improving by twenty squats. My core feels strong as holding a plank position has increased by thirty seconds. And my body size has decreased, 2.6 pounds less in weight, and 0.5 inches less in my waist measurement.

That’s enough for me to keep it going. The big test is going to be my 28-mile hike in the wilderness for the Wish Kids this fall. Last year, it wrecked me. I’m excited to see if I can make good on this training’s promise becoming bonk-proof[1] on endurance events.

What’s Next?

It’s summer time on the lake, and that means paddle boarding, hiking, and I intend to maintain my primal essential movements. My big Make-A-Wish hike is about four months away, so I’ll begin adding mileage on the trails, while taking care to stay below my maximum training heart rate 125 bpm, of course.

I’ll report again at the end of summer to share how I’m doing.

[1] “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. 

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