June is going to be the most challenging months of the year for me. I turned 43 today and to celebrate, I’m turning up the cardio like never before.
Like many of my fitness freak peers, I read a lot online and I see a lot of different strategies. One of the most common arguments is burning fat using low impact cardio vs. high impact cardio. Even the leaders in the diet field argue this one. Some swear that low impact cardio is the way to go and some swear that short duration, all-out, high impact cardio is far better for burning fat. Maintaining muscle mass plays into the argument of both sides (as well it should).
I’m on board with the latter theory. In fact, 2012 has seen me go from 25% body fat to about 12-13% currently. I have rarely cheated on my diet and I have been fortunate enough to have an injury free, sick free year thus far. From March through May, I did low impact cardio 45 minutes a day, four days a week. I did lose 2% body fat during that time, but only during the first two months. The month of May, I lost two pounds and my body fat measured the same. I even ate 300 less calories every day (1500).
So I went back to a close fitness friend and I asked him if he had ever hit this plateau on his way to hitting 5% body fat. He did indeed and it was right about the same point of 12%. In asking what he did to break the plateau, he said hill sprints achieved nearly instant results. For his cardio, he went out in the morning and would jog up a hill for a minute, sprint for 30 seconds, slow back down for another minute, then sprint again. He did this 4X a week and he said he never actually clocked the overall time but he estimated they were 15 minute sessions.
With that, I took to looking online again and found a lot more evidence for short duration, high impact cardio. Most people have heard the comparisons of having a sprinter’s body (high impact, quick cardio sessions) vs. a marathon runner’s body (lean and not usually muscular). It occurred to me that I’m probably over-thinking this whole cardio mess as this really does provide all the empirical data I need. On the advice of Paul’s experience, and the evidence of proven research, I’m doing a 30 day experiment in June to get to the bottom of the “high impact vs. low impact cardio debate” once and for all. I realize the rest of the fitness world will likely endlessly argue both sides of this debate, but the experiment will definitely prove conclusive to me.
Here’s what I am doing..
Diet: No cheat days/meals. I’ll be tracking my diet very carefully and logging along the way. I’m basically eating the same that I have all year, as far as calories go, but I’ll be going from eating in an 8-hour window (intermittent fasting protocol) to eating six meals a day and spacing them out every three hours. Check my daily posts to see exactly what I’ve eaten every day.
Cardio: 7 days a week for a full 30 days in June. I will be doing not just one, but two 15 minute cardio sessions every day and barring injury/sickness, I’ll not miss one of these. One every morning and one every evening. My “15 Minute Plan” is simple. I am alternating between 1 minute of easy “catch my breath” walking and 2 minutes of high intensity, hard as I can go cardio. So minute 1 is a warmup, minutes 2 and 3, I’ll go hard, minute 4, I slow it back down to a fast walk and catch my breath, minutes 5 and 6, I go all out again, and repeat for the full 15 minutes. Now I can’t do two full minutes of all out cardio, so I intend on “building up” for each two-minute phase. This means that I’ll probably go about 70 – 80% for the first of the two minutes (just hard enough that I’m not sure I can go all out for the next minute) and then the second minute, I’ll go about 90% for 30 seconds and 100% for the last 30 seconds. The goal is to make sure the entire two minutes feels like a tough workout and on finishing each two-minute session, I want to feel like I couldn’t have gone another 10 seconds without that 1 minute break.
Free weights: Maintaining free weight workouts is key to this experiment (the goal is to lose fat and not any muscle) so I won’t be missing these either. I will be hitting the workout/resistance routines 4-5X every week (based on how my workouts are going and how sore my muscles are).
That’s it.. easy peasy, eh?
I posted some before pics and at the end of 30 days, I’ll post some all new pics, showing my updated results, measuring body fat percentage and using strength as an indicator of muscle mass. I’m very interested in seeing if I can achieve dramatic results in only 30 days. Let’s see how it goes.