Master Bombardier

I happen to be very fortunate to know some really smart people.  One of these really smart people is someone you’re about to meet.  His name is Evann and he is an active member of the Canadian military.  Additionally he runs a fitness program in Kitsilano (unfortunately too far away for me to actually attend).  You can go and see his website at http://www.corporalpunishment.ca (that’s actually him on the front page) and if you happen to live or work near there, GO SIGN UP for the workout of your life.  He’s probably the fittest person that I have ever met and so I thought I would pick his brain a little.  I asked him whether or not he happened to have any suggestions for me for training to run the 10k in July without stopping.  The incredible wealth of information that I received back from him was so impressive that I had to repost it here (with his permission, of course).  The repost here of the emails are as they were received but I’ve removed some of the irrelevant chatter (all on my part) so that you can get right to the useful information (all on his part!).  The first part is more about run training and then it moves on to talking about caloric needs as it relates to weight loss.  The whole thing is pretty long but I think it’s well worth the read if you’re trying to lose weight while getting or increasing physical fitness.

Shanny Says:  Anyway, I’ve started doing Fartlek training and hill repeats as well as increasing my running distance.  Since 6 months ago I weighed 70 pounds more and only last month I was still a pack a day smoker, I think I’m doing pretty well.  I know that most people would probably go further or run faster or do it for longer but I figure that I’ll just gradually build up my endurance and stamina.  Since this is supposed to be a lifelong commitment there is really no time limit on how long it takes….except that I really would like to run the 10k on July 20th without stopping.  Any suggestions?

Evann Says:  I think its amazing the way you have been able to motivate yourself to stay fit – if everyone was like you though, we wouldn’t need people like me!  But it’s that kind of determination I like to see in people.  Plus you have someone to encourage you and that’s a prime motivating factor for all of us.

Okay, here are several suggestions:

1.  You mention running 10k “without stopping”   Do you stop now?  How far can you make it before you feel you need to stop?  If you’re always stopping, then you are always going to need to stop. Erase that need by slowing down near the end of your workout but keep moving forward even at a snail’s pace.

2. Run intervals along telephone poles.  Similar to fartlek, this will help you learn a tempo and force your body to deal with increased HR and energy output.  Run along the roads and alternate sprinting and running between telephone poles.

3.  Long Slow distance runs or LSD will increase your endurance. Run really slow and do your best to meet the 10k or more mark.  Do this twice a week at a casual pace, something you can still talk/sing during. Everyone always runs this too fast – its REALLY slow so always asses yourself as you go along.  Make your footfalls very ‘light’ and soundless.

4. No more than once a week, do a speed run.  You should be running hard and fast for a good long distance.  It’s okay to run hard for 1k, walk 500m and then run hard for 1k again.

If 10k is your goal, you need to be running 12k or more during your training so that race day seems easy.  IF you know the route of the run you want to do, go run it now and get used to the area so there are no surprises on race day.  Lastly, make sure you are eating enough.  Now that you are outputting more energy, you need to increase your caloric intake.  If you are running and working out 3 or more times a week or a total of 4-5hrs a week, you should be eating upwards of 2600calories a day.  You will need the energy to keep up with the expenditure and allow your body to build muscle.  You also have to eat after your workout to balance out the calorie-deficit you just created. So eat more than you did before you started running, not less.  

Shanny Says:  As far as the calories…I have issues with this…ask Kathleen, she knows!  I still have around 15 pounds to lose so I’m still on a bit of a restricted calorie intake and there is no WAY that I would increase by more than double.  I so wish that there was some way of knowing exactly how many calories a person burns.  I know that there are websites that estimate the totals but those are a little vague.  I would love to know the exact number that I burn.  I don’t do well with approximating because as a formerly fat (quite!) person I am now always erring on the side of caution.

Evann Says:  I understand about the calorie thing – all women have this issue, but trust me when I say that you WILL burn more by taking in more.  If you’ve gone from a sedentary lifestyle to one of activity, your  Mean-Caloric-Need has changed to reflect your activities.    Basically, our bodies like to stay in a certain range so before when you ate and did nothing your body responded by stating “this is the norm for me” and it remained in a certain state.  When you add more activity and don’t add more calories it states ” I need to hang on to my calories to keep in the norm” and the body therefore will not burn calories because it is unsure when the next intake will arrive.  If you are to eat a little more the body states ” I can expel fat/calories and use it as energy because I know more will be coming to replace it” 

It’s an odd thing but its how the body works.  Getting women and even some men to understand this relationship is the hardest part of fitness.

I eat a fairly high-fat diet – and I cant KEEP the weight on.  Nothing gets stored, it’s used as fuel and burns up before the day is even over. I’m actually anorexic by definition! When you start working out you can eat more, eat fattier, eat more carb-loaded meals, ingest more sugar all because of the increased activity you are doing.  But it seems so contradictory doesn’t it?

One more contradiction, or oddity:  You burn zero calories when working out.  ZERO.  NONE.  Contrary to what we think we know, what cardio machines tell us, not a single calorie is burnt while doing an exercise.  Our body burns only while at rest. So you may run 4km but you aren’t loosing any fat until later that night when you sit down to watch tv – that’s when the body says “okay time to let go of this stuff..”  and that is why its so important to consume calories because if you do not, then the body won’t release anything. The machine that tells you “you’ve burned 400calories”  should actually say “you’ve expended the equivalent energy that is found in 400calories of nutrition, please insert 400calories of food to loose weight now”      lol…  Because what you’ve done is create a calorie deficit which needs to be immediately replaced (creating that norm we talked about) so that the body doesn’t frighten and allows itself to convert its fat stores into energy.

It’s very hard to explain over email.. drawings are actually better. I hope it makes some sense to you.

Number 3:  Muscle weighs more than fat but if we increase our muscle mass, we reduce our fat even though we may gain a pound or two(of muscle) in the process.  Don’t think about your goals as being weight/fat indicated.  True muscle weighs twice as much but it also burns twice as much just by nature of its existence.  Since we know our body only burns at rest, would you rather have 12lbs of muscle to do the work for you or 2lbs of muscle and 10lbs of fat?  Sitting around breathing burns fat! So why not help out the body by increasing its ability to do so?   

Serious runners need to put on muscle to assist with their locomotion and to burn fat stores.  If you were to ask a tri-athlete to take off his shirt you would see more muscle on a skinny dude than you could imagine. ALL RUNNERS should do some form of weight training to gain muscle mass as this will assist with burning your fat stores.  Have you hit a wall with your weight loss?  Get in the gym or train at home… you’ll now burn more fat and lose more weight.

Shanny Says:  I do understand the idea behind eating to burn…I like to think about it like a car (do tell me if this is totally off base since I use this example on my website a lot!) where if you drive the exact number of km every day then you could probably figure out exactly how much fuel to put in to get you there and back.  But then if you decide to drive an extra 50k you are going to need to put in more fuel to get there.  I get that.  My problem is with determining exactly how much to add back because I have a really hard time determining how much I actually burned off.  There’s a bit of paranoia about eating more too.  My nature, once I become committed to something, is to become somewhat militant about it and I do not waver from my plan.  Since a person cannot live like that forever (I completely agree with that) you can get yourself to the point of burnout and then the whole thing goes for a shit.  Same with exercise, I think.  Even when I really don’t want to do it or I’m exhausted, if it’s not one of my preplanned rest days (Tuesday or Saturday) I go do it.  It’s not pretty but it gets done.  So it’s hard to then train yourself that it’s OK to add more calories or take an extra day off…because where does it end?

I’m still losing about 2 pounds a week which is not too bad.  Pretty soon I’m going to be done losing though and I’m going to have to figure out exactly what I need to eat to maintain.  I think that will actually be easier for adding back calories for exercise because you can keep increasing until the scale starts rising and then cut back a bit.  That’s the hope, anyway.

Evann Says:  While you are out there running around, there is nothing stopping you from throwing in a few pushups, sit-ups along the way.  Every bench you see should be an opportunity to do an exercise.

I suppose the car analogy works..  especially if you use it to eat breakfast, which no one ever seems to do.  Imagine the car being empty every morning but you have to go 4km – where are you getting the fuel from?  Would you rather burn fumes or actual fuel?  Put in some breakfast before your morning workout people!

It’s not that important to determine how much you burned off.  That’s a tactic on the part of the fitness industry to get you to think in that manner, become obsessed and then fail so that you need to buy another product or diet scheme. It’s really ok to ingest more than you burned – it won’t turn into fat, I promise.  Lets use some arbitrary numbers to illustrate this:

You ran 5km, creating a  500calorie deficit

You ate 650 calories worth of food, replacing the deficit and then some.

Your body now has 150 cal worth of energy left bouncing around in the tank so where does it go first for life functions such as breathing, digesting, and resting?  It goes for the available 150 in the tank.

-OR-

You ran 5 km, creating a 500 cal deficit

then you only ate 450cal worth of food meaning you never replaced the deficit, nor do you have any energy left in the tank.

Does the body look to it’s fat stores?  Nope, its too afraid to dip into these because you never replaced the deficit.

It holds onto fat in this case and it reduces the function of it’s breathing, resting, digestion and muscle growth because you left it with no fuel.

The second example leaves you with less energy in the day, reduced brain function, reduced muscle growth/repair, reduced digestion, no fuel for fighting illness, and on and on and on.

In the first example, lets say you ingested an extra 400cal – what happens?  Your functioning improves, more muscle growth occurs, more energy is left for brain function, etc.  In other words, the body WILL find a way to use that energy.   Oh, and it takes energy to burn fat so where do you think that energy is supposed to come from?

2 lbs a week is pretty good, more fuel means faster weight loss  😉  

Think of a coal-fired stove that burns hotter the more you add to it – that’s your metabolism and fat burning ability.

So that’s the end of the emails at this point.  Evann certainly knows his stuff and instead of me espousing what I THINK is probably happening this is some great and accurate information about what actually DOES happen.

What do you guys think?  I’ll make sure that any comments get to him.

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4 Comments

  1. p4pretention said,

    March 16, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing, this is ultra helpful to the max. Can you ask him how the deuce to go about making…

    >>your footfalls very ‘light’ and soundless.

  2. Krystle said,

    March 16, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    …Wow, he really knows his stuff… geez! That’s so helpful!

  3. Evann said,

    March 16, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    In response to the footfalls..

    first, take out the ipod so you can listen. Second, stamp around like a little child and then prance like a ballerina. Now that you know the difference, go for a run and listen to your feet on the pavement: Do you stamp or prance? Stop and prance again, notice what your body is doing differently and then run in that manner. It may be that you need to lengthen or shorten your stride, or maybe you bounce upwards too much with each step forward. Try slowing down also, run slo-mo even until you notice a difference.

  4. ladybeams said,

    March 17, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for sharing LadyShanny. This is great advice. I’ve heard the basic premise before, but this explains it so well. The only thing I have a problem with is when people say “muscle weighs more than fat”. A pound, is a pound, is a pound, whether muscle or fat.(Just picture a pound of muscle on a scale and a pound of fat on a scale). One is just more dense and compact, the other takes up a lot of room in our clothes.LOL.


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