Fat Camp week 12, a final lesson

I have very few constants in my life.  You know, if you don’t include the piles of laundry, dishes and Barbie shoes. 

Let’s add to the list: Fat Camp. 

The last 12 weeks have done more for my physical fitness than the year before.  And why is that?  Is it the self-confidence that only a year can bring?  Is it an understanding that I will not, indeed, die doing anything I am asked to do?  Is it my complete trust in the system and, by extension, Molly? 

Is it my position as Mayor McCheese?  sidenote: I asked one of the punks tonight (at our last nutrition class) if she ate paint chips as a kid.  The sentiment was, sadly, lost on her.  Point taken.

Is it because the scale is steadily moving in the right direction and I’ve had to purge clothing from the closet that is TOO BIG? 

Separately, this list isn’t very impressive or even new.  Self-confidence is an issue I have explored in some depth as is trust.  But add it all together and we might just have an epiphany.

To add something new to the discussion, I have learned more about heart rate training. 

Friday was my birthday.  I am now officially pushing forty.  And I’m okay with it.  Today.  Just today.  I decided to treat myself to an assessment that I have been, until now, entirely too cheap to spring for.  

Lifetime calls it CardioPoint.  This is where your neighborhood friendly trainer puts a Hannibal Lector style mask (albeit made of neoprene) on your face.  The mask has a series of thin tubes going to a machine that is hooked to a computer.  I forgot to bring my camera.  I was going to have Molly take a picture for posterity.  Maybe next time.  It’s actually kind of claustrophobic if you’re into that.  Small spaces usually don’t bother me but I am not a fan of the mask. 

The tubes measure your oxygen intake and, I suppose, output but the output was never discussed so I don’t know.  You also wear a heart rate monitor so the computer can track where you are.

The science of this, as I understand it, is that your body needs oxygen to burn fat.  And the more efficient it is at obtaining oxygen, the faster you burn fat.  The catch to this is that you only burn fat calories (as opposed to carb calories) at lower intensities.  You don’t burn as many TOTAL calories (that’s the Catch-22 I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around) but you are burning the calories you want out of your body: FAT! 

Once you reach your Anabolic Threshold (your AT), your body quits using fat calories all together and switches to pure glycogen (carbs).  And, as you get more fit, your body uses a greater percentage of fat calories below your AT.  So the goal here is to raise your AT enough that you can work fairly hard (but not too hard!) and still burn fat.

Confused?  Maybe this screen shot of my personal results will help.

The grey area below the colored areas represents percentage of calories from fat.  So, if I keep my heart rate in the different zones, I get a better or worse fat percentage used.  What I learned from this is that I am training near and above my AT too often.  A person whose goal is weight loss/fat loss should spend time in the lower zones (I was skipping zone 1 all the time). 

Kind of like cooking a brisket:  low and slow.  The fat dissolves and makes it yummy.  Wait.  We are still talking heart rate training right?

Basically my problem (other than the cookie problem that we’ve also discussed at length) is that I bust my ass too often.  I mean, the value of a good workout in my mind is how many net calories were burned.  But then we’re back to “all calories are created equal” which we know from our discussions of “HFCS and why a person cannot live on Oreos alone” that this is not true. 

By working too close to my AT I am improving my overall fitness and, yes, my oxygen efficiency (all good things) but I am still burning far more carbs than fat.  I have been working against myself all this time.  Well, not ALL this time.  But it’s a new way of thinking for sure.


That’s the ratio of time under AT to time over AT.  You do need a little over AT to help stretch that out and so that your body learns to use oxygen better.  Remember: oxygen burns fat.  More oxygen = more fat burn.

While this is a whole heap of useful information, I am saddened by a few things.  One, my oxygen intake is piss poor.  Okay, it’s not poor.  It’s “low”.  Like 20th percentile (factored for age and gender) low.  Much like the dreaded BMI, I knew it wasn’t great but it still hurts to see it in print.  On the upside, my AT is much higher than it was a year ago so my zones are bigger.  It will be easier to keep my heart rate where it needs to be.

I’m not doing Fat Camp this next session.  I know me.   I’ve met me.  And I don’t enjoy being committed in the summer.  So, I will take my heart rate training knowledge and try to apply it in the air conditioning in my own time.  We found, last summer, that going to the pool is a good excuse to do a little workout before.  I mean, I’m there already right?

I’ll probably go back in the fall.  Who knows.  Maybe by then I won’t need it.  Or, the more likely scenario, is that six weeks from now I will be begging for my spot back in the class.


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