First published on 6 Aug 2009.
Just like my personality, my body fat is of a stubborn nature. How else do you explain four months of regular workouts and zero difference on the weighing scale? Before resigning myself to a life of Spanx, I decided to enlist the help of Racers’ Toolbox (7D Mohamed Sultan Road; Tel: 6836 5132, website) and its FatMELT test ($150) to figure out what was going on.
Director Jonathan Fong was quick to point out that I was probably working out harder than necessary. Big mistake, according to the former national swimmer/triathlete, who also mentioned that one’s fitness and fat-burning abilities do not increase or decrease proportionately. Why? Because I’d not worked out the heart rate at which I would burn an optimal amount of fat. Breaking it down into even simpler terms, Fong threw forth the swimming-versus-running scenario. If I spend the same amount of time doing both, I’ll emerge from the pool hungrier than if I’d been pounding the pavement. Why? Oxygen intake. The body needs oxygen to process fat, and when there is a lack of it, carbohydrates – instead of fat – are burnt off, hence the famished feeling.
Time to put the theory to the test: 15 minutes on the treadmill, progressing from a fast walk to a slow jog to a full-on run as an attached computer took note of the data. So how did I do? Apparently, I’m quite lucky. At a relatively low heartrate zone of 115-136 bpm (beats per minute), I convert a substantial amount of fat into fuel (32-33g/h). Attempt to go faster than 136 bpm and my fat burn drops drastically. In other words, forget about racing to the front of the pack; it’s a slow and steady pace that will do it for me. My ultimate goal? Running slowly for up to 90 minutes, three to four times a week.
Granted, the conclusion is hardly earth-shattering news, but knowing what I know now, I’m inspired to keep going. A month on from my test, while I’m only running for 45 minutes at a stretch, I’m seeing results. Also, it’s comforting to know that being the tortoise rather than the hare will eventually get me where I need to go.