Long Slow Distance versus HIIT for MidLife Fat Loss

You know you have experienced it, one trainer telling you this, another trainer telling you that. You’re confused, you thought you had it all worked out, now that you’re much older and wiser.

You’ve been training all your life at a particular sport, and all of a sudden, this belly-spread starts to appear, and you haven't changed anything, it's just popped up over the last few months, without invitation.

There are many factors to consider before even embarking on deciding what is the best exercise recipe to follow.

· What is your training age? i.e what is your exercise history? This will determine where you need to start.

· What exercise activities do you enjoy? There is no point on embarking on something that you know you are not going to get any fulfillment from.

· How much time do you REALISTICALLY have? If you are a normal 40 something year old, you have everyday demands on your time. Work, family, family, family………..Let alone time to exercise.

· How much can you invest financially on your commitment, over the long term? The outfit, the training aids, the membership, the entry fees, let alone the travel and accommodation costs involved with your commitment.

· Your reasons for doing it in the first place, a whole other discussion…..

I have often wondered how some people can train for a full triathlon, or a full marathon. The event itself is long enough, let alone the training that goes along with it. How much time away from family does that take? (or maybe that’s a relevant reason for doing it, I’m not going into that space).

But the purpose of this discussion is to explore the differences between these two forms (of what is to believed to be), the best way to move body fat through exercise. With hormones running wild, and your nutrition in balance, remember exercise is only on facet of the equation.

Understanding the Lingo. (Australian term for language).

Long slow distance means exactly that, your chosen activity (running, at least jogging or brisk walking, cycling, swimming) done over a long period of time, (some sources quote 20 minutes or more) at a consistent pace, and doing this repeatedly 2-3 times per week.

Other terms you’ll read about include a ‘Steady State’ training, or working to 50 – 60% of your maximal capacity. It’s all the same. Some find it challenging others find it boring.

The length of time is also arbitory. For a newbie, 30 minutes might be YOUR long slow time-frame, for others its 2-3 or more hours. That’s where your ‘training age’ comes into it.

Training age is how long you have been doing that activity, ie years. For an experienced runner to take up swimming, for example, their training age would be greater for running, and zero for swimming.

HIIT is the new term that is being labelled in many current exercise programs currently. It stands for high intensity interval training. This is where for relatively short periods you are performing at a high level (90%), with rest periods in between (2-3 minutes), repeatedly, (4-10 intervals) to tap into that ‘fat burning zone’ that will continue long after you have finished performing the exercise.

The Science and the Reality.

LSD is an aerobic activity, it requires oxygen and is fuelled primarily from stored fat. HIIT (by comparison) relies on your anaerobic system, and utilizes stored carbohydrates, but relies on your aerobic system to restore you back to a neutral state after each interval.

LSD also causes adaptation in your heart, by allowing your heart to empty and fill completely. By contrast HIIT causes your heart to beat so fast that it may not completely refill between contractions.

Science has shown, (and they are still pondering how) however, that HIIT workouts have been shown to lower overall body fat quicker than LSD. I question, though, the sustainability of this over time, especially as you age. And would suggest that the method of HIIT that you choose change with your changing body. For example, where once you were a runner, perhaps look at the other options available to you that offer the social/relaxation aspects as well.

Currently, more than ever, people are working longer hours, more stressed and find it harder to relax. Put that on top of the expectation of going to the gym to ‘work out their frustrations’ participating in HIIT session’ and I question whether they are doing the best for their bodies. Sure, the time efficiency is there.

Modified HIIT could be an option, however you’ll need to fight your ego. Joining a class designed for 20 somethings that can jump like gazelles, where you are staying on ‘terra firma’ and look like ‘slow mo’, does not do much for self-confidence and ‘fitting in’. It depends on why you are doing it in the first place. Again another discussion.

Think about other methods of doing HIIT that doesn't involve a class, a subscription, a membership or relying on expectations of others. Dancing is a prime example, bashing out that old tune in your loungeroom, imagining you are Tom Cruize for 30 seconds at a time “Take that old record off the shelf” for yourself. This is HIIT. Meeting up with your besties for a game of netball, or touch, perfect examples of team sport HIIT.

To sum it up.

So, which is the best exercise to help remove that mid belly storage of fat?

My opinion, a bit of both, in a balanced program designed especially for you, with sensible, achievable progressions to suit your goal/s, your time commitments and your resources.

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