Of course, intensities are very important. The "fat burning" settings on treadmills and bikes at gyms are essentially gimmicks. The general notion is that the body burns a greater percentage of fat at a slower pace. True, but you still burn a percentage of fat at higher intensities. Paul Rogers, registered personal trainer with Fitness Australia, member of the Nutrition Society of Australia, an accredited Heart Foundation Heartmoves instructor, an accredited diabetes trainer and qualified workplace trainer explains it this way:
"It all boils down to how much energy you expend in totality. For example, if you compare exercising at a slow rate that burns 60 percent fat and 40 percent glucose and a higher intensity or duration that burns only 30 percent fat and 70 percent glucose, you may still burn more fat at the higher intensity."
A typical example. Exercise (1) is the slower 60/40 mix and exercise (2) is the faster, 30/70 mix of fat and glucose fuel.
1) Walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes -- 180 calories used -- 108 calories of fat burned
2) Running on a treadmill for 30 minutes -- 400 calories used -- 120 calories of fat burned
Fat and glucose are the body’s two main energy sources. Fat you know well, glucose comes mainly from carbohydrate foods like rice and bread, pasta (which I quite possibly eat an inordinate amount of,) and potatoes and protein is supplied mainly by meat and beans and dairy products. The amino acid building blocks of protein foods can be converted to glucose in emergencies. Your body always burns a mix of fat and glucose except at very high intensities, and the ratio of the fat and glucose in 'the burn' varies with intensity and time of exercise. Of course, it is difficult for people who are coming from a completely sedentary lifestyle to jump right into a 30 minute run workout on a treadmill, but they are still expending calories while walking. And walking is a great start. Excuses are not.
I have witnessed a couple of amazing transformations of so-called "genetically less fortunate" human beings—my cousin included—go from living completely sedentary lifestyles to an active and healthy way of living in a very short time. Just watch one season of The Biggest Loser. The transformations some of these people make is nothing short of miraculous. The people on that show are amazed that after generations of poor eating habits, and sedentary lifestyles, that a leaner, healthier version of themselves was hiding underneath all their fat. Maybe we can not change our genes, but we can sure do everything we can to make the most of what God has given us. For me, that is ALL that matters. If you are doing the most with what you have, excellent, BUT, don't let your understanding of hereditary traits limit what you can do. If that were the case, I never would have became a composer. My parents have about as much musical aptitude as a four year at his first violin lesson. Screeech!
I think our perception is that if we have a larger frame, we can not be a particularly lean athlete. I do not subscribe to this point of view. To help me prove it, my cousin M. is coming up for part of his summer again to reach his goal weight of 185 pounds. I will post his pre and post-weight loss pictures. If you could have seen him before he took off the weight, you would have thought he was a future candidate for type-II diabetes and heart disease. Now, he has dropped his body fat by more than half, can run 8 miles over an extremely difficult course, and has increased his strength by more than double from where he started two years ago. Can you tell I am proud of him?
Okay, if you've only learned one thing from this post it is that I am big fan of increasing strength because of its many rewards: more muscle and a more athletic body shape, better balance and bone density and improved functionality across all facets of human movement. In my opinion, strength training should always be incorporated into endurance training—especially those of us above the age of thirty-five.