Losing Weight and Getting Fit Like a Geek.
Why I started exercising like a geek
At one point in my life I was overweight, slept poorly, got tired doing simple choires and was just generally in bad shape. I had tried many times to get myself into better shape but it just never seemed to work. I tried weight lifting, exercising, long walks and so on. Sometimes I got a little lighter and fitter but it never lasted for long. I was also getting a little grumpy from all this.
Being a geek I like looking at numbers and statistics and studying stuff but for some reason I never though about applying those strengths to my exercise routine before. This time however I decided to spend some time studying stuff like heart rate and nutrition. I started off by buying a heart rate monitor to see where my heart rate was during exercise and read about the effects of heart rate during exercise.
Before I decided to study this I had seen at the gym something called the fat burning zone and assumed like most people that it was best to train in that area. As I studied the effect of heart rate on peoples health, figured out how to calculate it correctly and looked at the heart rate chart after my first exercise I saw that I had been doing a lot of things wrong in my previous exercise attempts. I had simply been training in the wrong heart rate zones.
At this point I should mention that I am not a health professional (if there was any doubt). This is merely my own account on how I understand all this and how it worked for me.
The heart rate zones.
There are roughly speaking five heart rate zones of which each has it's own benefits to your health as you can see from the image below. I mentioned that I had been training in the wrong zones, as it turned out I had been training mostly in the bottom two zones. You might think that since those zones are called the fat buring zones they would be best for losing weight. That however is a misunderstanding. In those zones the majority of calories burned do come from fat ( thus the name ) but the total calories burned are much lower and you do not get any extra benefits from the training after it is over, such as the afterburn effect.
Heart rate zones
How I calculate my BPM for each zone
To find my BPM's for each heart rate zone I use the following formula
BPM = (MAXhr - RESThr * % Intensity) + RESThr
Where MAXhr is the maxiumum heart rate and RESThr is my heart rate at rest.
I read about a few ways to measure your maximum heart rate, an although they seemed hard I was mostly put off by warnings about them being dangerous to perform. It turned out however to be really easy to estimate my maximum heart rate as I found a formula that was accurate enough to start with:
MAXhr = 206 - 0,711*age
After I got my maximum heart rate I needed to measure my rest heart rate. I simply strapped on my heart rate monitor and lay down for a few minutes and measured until my heart rate did not drop any further. With these numbers it was easy to calculate my heart rate zone BPM.
My heart rate monitor
The heart rate monitor I use is the . I can't say if this is the best heart rate monitor out there, but for me it does a great job. With it comes access to the Polar Flow website that tracks and stores my training data. Polar H7 heart rate sensor
My H7 is synced to my smartphone giving me real time data on what my pulse is during exercise. This means a lot for me as I am now able to see what my pulse is during various exercise routines and adjust them to suit my training goals. I can also see how long I have trained in each heart rate zone and how many calories I have burned.
After the exercise the data gets sent to the polar flow website where I can look at it afterwards and compare it to previous exercises to see if I am getting fitter.
How I started exercising.
Now that I knew how to measure which heart rate zones I was training in it was time to look at how I had been working out. What I had been doing wasn't really all that bad, I had been mixing together weight lifting with light cardio, I only needed a lot more intensity on the cardio side.
So at the gym I started running on a treadmill at a pace which lifted my BPM into the anaerobic zone. And it was really hard to begin with. I often took breaks to catch my breath and then did another short run. In time I was able to push myself a little further until suddenly I was able to maintain that pace for 10 minutes without a break.
I then changed my routine a bit. Started to run on a treadmill at around 75% intensity for 10-20 minutes, followed with a 5-10 minute session on an elliptical at 80-85% intensity. Over time this started to get easier and I was able to stay a full 20 minutes running and 10 minutes on the elliptical at those intensities. And after each cardio session I always did some weight lifting.
Measuring my maximum heart rate
As I started getting fitter I noticed that I was able to get my BPM over my MAXhr, which is physically impossible. I therefore assumed that the formula was wrong and decided to try to find out my own maximum heart rate. So I got a local trainer at my gym to keep an eye on me and proceeded to measure my MAXhr. I would stress that this can be dangerous if you are unfit, elderly or have an underlying medical condition so at least have a professional with you if you try it out.
I did the following to measure my MAXhr.
- A good heatup, a few minutes on the treadmill at an easy running pace.
- A fast sprint on the treadmill for one minute
- Easy running pace again for a minute
- A fast sprint again for one minute
- Easy running for a minute.
- And finally a fast pace until I was out of breath.
The highest heart rate from this method was 198 BPM so I added a bit and estimated my MAXhr at 200 BPM.
After a few weeks I noticed a change to my overall heart rate during training sessions, this reflected my maximum heart rate getting lower as I got fitter which makes sense as both my MAXhr and my RESThr started to get lower. I repeated the MAXhr measurement above and saw that it had dropped to 186 BPM. In the table below you can see a comparison of my training zone BPM's now and when I started.
A comparison of my BPM for each training zone now and when I started
When I started
How I exercise today.
Today a typical exercise consists of 15-20 minutes running at a pace that keeps my BPM in the aerobic zone, 10-20 minutes running/elliptical which keeps my pace in the anaerobic zone, a short burst on a rowing machine that pushes my BPM up into the maximum zone and then weight lifting and stretching. I then try to break up this routine by cycling, doing steps or longer rowing at lower intensity. In addition to this I do HIIT (High-Intesity-Interval-Training) about once a week.
I am however planing to start doing more HIIT training at this point. I believe that I am fit enough to handle the strain without injury and it does seem to be the best workout routine for losing weight and getting fit.
Do you exercise regulary?
There are a couple of food supplements that I use and I think they can be really useful if used correctly. I started out using Amino energy which I drank 20-30 minutes before each training session. I feel that this gave me the extra boost I needed when I was starting out, although I cannot say that this is the best pre-workout drink, it just worked for me.
Later I started having problems getting rid of the belly fat. To combat that I decided to try CLA Extreme which I understand can really help in that regard.
If you want to try these products just be careful to follow the instructions on the labels. Using more won't help you more and in fact might damage your health. And remember that supplements do nothing on their own.The main purpose of supplements is to help your body to get fitter in a shorter time, but you still need to put in the work.
Changes in eating habits.
As I started training I noticed that I began eating differently without any conscious effort. I began eating less bread and processed foods and more protein rich whole foods, probably because my body was calling for a different type of nutrition. Later I learned that eating whole foods was probably the best dietary choice I could make.
The only conscious choice I made concerning my diet was to cut out all soda (also diet versions), sweets and snacks and start eating/drinking smoothies like these once a day.
The reason for cutting out diet sodas as well is based on an idea that artificial sweeteners will mess with the regulatory systems of the body. Just consider this though experiment: You drink a sweet tasting drink, the tongue sends a message to the brain that the belly is getting some sweet loving, the brain activates the sugar digesting mechanism of the stomach, but there is no sugar there and the stomach goes "Hey brain! We need some sugar down here" which confuses the brain ending in you craving for carbohydrates. And there is solid research that confirms this in a much more complex language.
My mentality was also highly important. All the previous times I started changing my diet and training only to lose weight. This time I started training to improve my overall health, start to feel better mentally, get fit and I tried not to think about my weight, although the weight loss is a great side effect.
I believe this is important as when I was concentrating on my weight I got bummed out if I ate something unhealthy or my weight wasn't moving down fast enough. Concentrating on getting fitter makes it easier to shrug off an occasional lapse as it really does not matter all that much for me at this point.
So far I have been able to improve my heart rate significantly in the last few months, I have lost 30 pounds, I sleep much better and am able to do all sort of fun stuff that was just to hard before.
If you are planning to start exercising I would recommend a site called Builtlean. I got a lot of my information from that site and it worked wonders for me on my journey of losing weight and getting fit like a geek.
© 2015 Levictus Marcus Saarith