The closest thing I've got to Weight Loss Magic

Let's start with a pictorial then and now shall we?

My birthday: February 6, 2007 I was not in good shape physically or mentally. Neither was the decor in my dining room.

(I officially started my "Plan" on the 15th of February 2007.)

March 2007

April 8th 2007 Easter

May 13, 2007 Mothers Day. At goal weight or close to it (that skirt is size 0 and I had been wearing a size 12/14 on my birthday in February.) This was taken just under 3 months after I started. (My mother thought I looked horrifying but I was fairly thrilled.)

Feb 6, 2008 My birthday again. A little below goal weight.

And Feb 15, 2008 Exactly one year later. 40lbs lighter but still bad at the limbo.

About a year and a half ago I lost quite a bit of weight in a short time. About 40lbs in 3 months. I wasn't in the obese category to start with (although I certainly was overweight), so this endeavour took a very concerted effort.

Everyone asked me what I did. And here is the simple, disappointing truth. I ate very little and exercised very much. I do not recommend this approach because it is certainly not the healthiest method and it is all but impossible to maintain long term, thus the results are hard to maintain. It also requires that you become completely obsessed and obsessing about your body that much is not a good thing for anyone. However, having an all or nothing type personality, I knew that it would have to be this way or not at all. So I lost the weight quickly but as we all know, this is just the beginning of the struggle. There is the matter of keeping the fat at bay.

Surprisingly enough though (mostly to me), I have kept the weight off for more then a year. I have fluctuated very little from my goal weight (sometimes weighing a few lbs less). And let me tell you after that first 3 months, I began eating like a normal person. Actually probably more then a normal person. Lots of eating. Oh how I have been eating. However, I have also been keeping up regular exercise, (although not nearly as aggro as I was when I was losing the weight), and therein lies What Works For Me.

There is one type of exercise in particular that I attribute my magical maintenance metabolism to (and also in a large part to my initial weight loss). And so when people want a quick and magical fix (and most people do), this is the closest thing I have to offer. It is called Interval Training. Also known as High Intensity Interval Training and a few other impressive and dynamic sounding titles.

For a long time, personal trainers and fitness experts have been maintaining that keeping your heart rate in a steady aerobic (rather then anaerobic state) would help you to burn more fat then raising your heart rate to anaerobic levels.

I have always believed in my heart that this was not the best way to burn fat fast, it made no sense to me that working out harder would burn less fat, and so, when I began my Fanatical Fat Flinging process, I set out to prove this. I proved it fairly convincingly for myself, and lately I have noticed with some smugness, that the rest of science has caught up with my genius and has begun to validate me. (Google "Interval training for Fat Loss" sometime). I am still waiting for the Nobel Prize people to contact me. Hellooooooo?

So here, in a nutshell is how the "magic" works. The trick is to put yourself into an anaerobic state ( in other words you exercise at near maximum exertion) for short intense timed periods, and then to go back into aerobic breathing for recovery. This method of exercise, interval training, employs and develops both slow and fast twitch muscle. Slow twitch muscle (used for endurance) burns fat and fast twitch muscle (used for "sprint" type activities ) has an "endothermic effect" basically it heats things up in there, creating an "afterburn" which means it kicks your metabolism into high gear for long after you have stopped exercising. Way more so then when you keep your heart rate steady. Muscle takes fat and calories to maintain. And you know what that means? Yes! Right at this moment as I sit on my duff my muscles are merrily burning calories and munching on fat. I so love those twitchy little guys.

The other beauty of interval training is that it increases your cardiovascular endurance quite dramatically in a short amount of time which of course enhances your fitness and performance. Being able to exercise faster or for longer periods of time means even more calorie burn and muscle building. Not to mention increased fitness makes exercise and life in general more fun. See what a beautiful, beautiful thing this is?

My cardio of choice is running, but interval training can be incorporated into whatever exercise you prefer to do and at virtually any level of fitness you are currently at, if you are healthy and medically cleared to exercise. (Check the website I post below for more guidelines)

Here is my typical personal HiIT program where I range from 10 min miles on the treadmill as warm-up ( for 5 minutes) and for recovery (for 1 min) between sprints, and work by 1 minute increments up to running 7 minute miles (which for me is pretty close to all out exertion).

So this is how it would look (picture me all sweaty and red and unattractive on a treadmill):

When I start would run 5mins at 6.0mph, then 1 minute at 6.4, 1 minute at 6.7, 1 minute at 7.0 and....

back to 6.0 mph for 1 minute to rest and get my heart-rate down.

(Don't be afraid to go down to whatever speed it takes to get your breath back so that you can be strong for the next cycle). Getting your heart rate down again is crucial to the success of this method! The secret lies in the peaks and valleys.

So after 1 min at 6.0 or whatever it takes to recover, I'm back up to to 6.4.,6.7, 7.0 and for this cycle I add on another minute of running at 7.5 then I go back down to 6.0 for recovery for 1 minute...

Back to 6.4, 6.7. 7.0. 7.5 and add 8.0 for one minute

Back to 6.0 for recovery

Then right up to 7.0. 7.5. 8.0 and 8.5mph each for one minute

Rest at 5.7

I could do the last sequence one more time if I am not feeling kaput, but generally I am. Which is how it should be. You are going ALL OUT during these sprints and should feel pretty spent at the end of an interval training session (but not so spent that you don't recover within a few minutes of stopping). It's not as hard as it sounds though because it's for a short time and you have those regular breaks.

When I am very fit I will do another cycle and push it up to a 6.30 min mile (9.0mph) for a minute at the end.

Surprisingly you will find that getting to 7.0mph (or your equivalent exertion) during the first cycle is much harder then getting to 7.5mph in the second. Your body really adapts quickly.

Yet another benefit of this type of training is that it makes your workouts go very, very quickly and does not leave room for boredom (as you are too firmly focused on survival). Kidding (kind of). Including intervals in your training program is an awesome way to mix things up, particularly on a treadmill. It also takes less time then my other workouts.

I try to do interval training about 2x a week. I also very much believe in weight/resistance training (I try for 3x a week), you will thank yourself in your old age for resistance training, so please do! I also do long slow runs, moderate length and speed runs and always have at least one rest day. I aim to exercise 5-6 times a week although I have to say that it is probably more of the exception of the rule that I accomplish that. But even when I have had longer periods off due to sickness or other circumstances, my fast/slow twitch muscle buddies have picked up the slack. Oh the punniness!

Here is a great site for building your own interval training routine.

As for the eating? When I was trying to lose I ate a lot of protein and fiber, stayed away from anything in the white flour/sugar family as much as possible and drank a lot of water. Kashi Go Lean rolls were my friends and Kashi High Fiber/High Protein continues to be my breakfast of choice. (I try to be very full after breakfast, but with the kind of food that lets me exercise about 30 mins later. ) I was super strict about the sugar, didn't eat late, all the usual suspects of weight loss, nothing new here folks. I chewed a lot of gum and thought about every single thing I put into my mouth because of that.

So basically there is no magic, it takes hard work, but you knew that. This method simply makes the likelihood of your hard work being successful very high.

*Here's my disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and you embark upon anything based on any of these suggestions at your own risk. It's what works for me so don't try to sue me if you don't lose 40lbs in 3 months or if you drop dead trying to (please be careful, it would be so sad if you dropped dead). Actually you could try to sue me, because Ha, that would be so funny! The only thing I have to lose is debt.

Good luck! For more great tips or to share your own, click on the WFMW link above.

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Lady Why said...

Thanks for the great tips!! I'm on my second week of an interval training/work out 'thing' and I'm excited to see your good results!! I need to lose about forty pounds and thinking that could happen in three months makes my heart sing... not my aching muscles, however. :-)

Cindy said...

I like it! I had a cross country coach who did this kind of training on us (20 years ago, yikes!) and you're right...I was in super shape. I'd love to do this again, but don't have a treadmill...we have an exercise bike. I'm going to try to adapt your program to the bike. Thanks!

utahsweeney said...

Found you through WFMW. First off, love your blog design. So cute. Secondly, I have never been an athlete or had a regular exercise program, nor really had a weight problem, but at 33 I started working out 3-5x/week. It's been 2.5 months now and I have built up some endurance and have wanted to add some interval training, but been too lazy to research it. Thanks for all your time on this post. Congratulations on all your hard work paying off!!!

Becoming Me said...

Wow. Excellent advice. I have about 20-25 pounds I want to lose.

Melene@Sing For Joy said...

I can totally vouch for everything you've said here. I started working witha personal trainer on April 24 and I've lost 12 pounds because of interval training and weight training and better eating. Squats and lunges have helped a lot too! Thanks for this very informative post. You go girl!

Heather S. said...

Hey, you have totally motivated me to get off my tush and move. I have been having people poo-poo my efforts for years because they hold to the 1/2 lb. to 1 lb. per week thing.

I don't want to drop to the weight of a twig, and I want muscle, so I honestly don't think I'm wanting to do it the unhealthy way. I love food too much to do that.

I also tend to be all-or-nothing, so here's to getting it done!

Anonymous said...

Wow - love it. I am needing to get my butt in shape and I would love to see some results rather quickly as I am motivated by actual results not just the knowledge that slow and steady wins the race, ya know?

I will be trying this out!

My question is though, did you start off at those speeds? Or did you do a few weeks of walking first or anything else to build up to this?

Julo said...

Always keeping your body guessing worked for me, too, before I got pregnant and fell off the fitness wagon. Congrats on your fantastic success!!!

Fat_Into_The_Fire said...

Great Tips! Interval style training is all the rage these days - even though it actually has been around 'forever'. A little intensity, a healthy properly portioned diet, with a sound and positive state of mind for your goals. You will achieve.

Kirsty said...

*Hi Lady :) Good luck! I agree the hard work is much easier if you are confident it is going to work and I think this type of training gives you a good loss fairly quickly which is a motivator to keep going. :) Let me know how it is going! I love to hear about other peoples' success.

*Hey Cindy, yes, this type of training has traditionally been used to condition athletes to increase their speed and endurance but it has not been in vogue for us mere mortals until recently.;) Good luck getting back into super shape. I recently quit my gym so I have no access to a treadmill. I run on the track at my kids' school which works almost as well. I swear by the Nike+iPod gadget (if you have an iPod it is a really worthwhile 30 bucks to spend) which tells me how fast I am going at any given time. I have been running since I was about 17 but I am in by far my best shape at 32 after 4 kids and 10 years of being overweight. It can be done :)

*Hi Stacey:) I'm glad you asked!

No I did not start at those speeds. I have been long distance running for many years and that is just where I happened to be in my fitness. I am not really built for speed so those speeds are really working hard for me. It really does not matter which speed you go at so long as it is almost maximum exertion for YOU. For some people that would be an elite athlete it would be well under 6 min miles for other people it would be 14 min miles or more. So long as it is a 9-10 on your the perceived exertion scale, it will have the same effect. Today I did some interval training and my maximum speed was probably more like 7:50min/mile. For me it changes all the time (where I in my cycle has a big impact).

Good luck and thanks for stopping by! :)

*Laurie: well done on your success so far! You will love interval training. Come back and tell me how it is going :)

*Becoming me, good luck on your 25lbs, I hope these tips help them to just melt off :)

*Julo, thanks for the congrats. I know how easy it is to fall off the wagon but really the hardest thing is to get back on, after that it gets much easier. And yes, keeping your body guessing is what it is all about :) Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

*Fat-into-the-fire I love your nickname :D I like your mantra too. I think a lot of people have been scared off using a little intensity because of how long keeping your heart rate in the aerobic "fat burning zone" has been touted. Then they get discouraged when the same moderate routine stops working because their body becomes accustomed to it.
I agree that diet is also so key and fitness is a mind game,I believe that your mind-set is 99% of the battle. Thanks for your input!

Anonymous said...

Kirsty - I've been meaning to ask you how you did it - thanks so much for sharing!

As you know, I started running and have done only a little interval training (basically when a fast song comes on the mp3 player I bump it up a bit on the treadmill). I will have to print this out to help. I'm hoping to run a 5k in Sept.

I don't know if I could lose that much weight in that amount of time due to my chocolate addiction, but I have two weeks to go before my family reunion and would love to get down another 5 lbs!


Jendeis said...

Thank you for sharing the story of your success! I'm good at doign the basic cardio routine, but I would like to start some regular interval training as well as getting back into a weights routine. Thanks for the motivation. :)

Dave and Kim said...

Hey Kirsty,
Long time no talk. First off your kids are beautiful. I miss talking to you sooo much! I am so happy for you and your success at getting fit. You look amazing. I have done this exact program/routine for three years now (aside from pregnancy)and I love it. Intervals are the only way to go. Eating right helps too. I love reading your blog and feel like I am up to speed from your posts. I will call soon. Would love to chat:):)
Kim Reich

Daiquiri said...

Great tips! I'm especially with you on the muscle gain thing...gotta gain some muscle to be able to keep fat down long term.

Now just to actually DO it...ugh. I sure wish understanding was enough!

BTW, Beautiful blog too :)

Amz said...

Every time I see a picture of you, I have to do a double-take! You look absolutely amazing! Were you kidding about that size 0 thing? Does anybody really wear that size? I am in the very best shape I have ever been, running 4 days a week, eating really healthy, and I don't think I have too many pounds, if any to lose, and I am FAR from a 0. Must be hips? Anyway, if you truly are a 0, you should be the poster-child for it!

My neighbor told me about this type of training (he has run 10 marathons) and swears by it. I tried it and could not believe how intense it can be! AFter this post, I think I'll add it into my routine again.

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful! I need to loose a LOT of weight (140 lbs to be ideal half my weight!). Surprisingly I'm "healthy" enough to exercise. I have a metabolic problem that makes losing weight hard and gaining it probable. So often I try an exercise program or diet only to have my body adjust to it literally within weeks and nothing else happens. It is SO FRUSTRATING. This sounds like exactly what I need to do both with exercise and a healthy diet. I probably need to find a way to do interval dieting to trick my body into losing weight from diet too. There is one thing I'm unclear about. Would you mind sharing a weekly ideal for how many minutes per day you'd exercise? Are you doing this interval training 2x a week for just 10 minutes total and then doing longer training on the other 3 or 4 days? I could do 10 minutes! ;) Is that really all it takes? At my weight, I could lose some stubborn lbs pretty fast. Please pray this works for me! Thank you! Thank you for being bold and sharing!

Kirsty said...

*HI Stef! I have been thinking about you so much lately. In fact I almost posted that photo Aaron took when I had my first bite of chocolate in 3 months in honour of your pregnancy! :) :) Don't even talk to me, lady who wore her jeans home from the hospital :P I'm sure you look awesome. Are you still enjoying the running? Good luck on the 5K, it's great to have a goal like that! xox Call me sometime. I want to hear your baby "talk"

*Jendeis, thanks for coming by, I hope this takes your cardio to a new level. It is fun :)

*Kimmy!!! Call me! I have about a million years to catch up on and I am sooo curious. You look JUST as fab as ever! Pregnancy? What? Huh?!Call!xo

*Daiquiri, thanks for coming by :) I hear you on knowing vs. doing. Try to do different workouts often in order to build muscle and keep it from seeming tedious. Weight training is really fun once you get going! Good luck, you can do it, come back and tell me about your success :)

*Hey Amz! You are back, I have been obsessively checking your blog for the update :) LOL no I was actually not kidding on the size 0 thing, but that is for a skirt/dress, I have a naturally small waist but I wear size 2 in pants. I was kind of irritated when I first started shopping for new clothes, because I am pretty sure the stores are pandering to us and telling us we are much smaller then we are ;)I have a farily small frame, so when I'm at goal weight I am smaller then someone else who is at goal weight.Sizes are fairly arbitrary.

Seriously, for breaking through performance plateaus, this is awesome. It made a HUGE difference in my running. When is your next 1/2?

*Anon, Hi :) I am actually not surprised that you are healthy enough to exercise. There are plenty of people who are fit and overweight, it just means you are working harder then the rest of us when you do, so you can feel smug about that;) I would say that you really should shoot for at least 30 mins a day for maintenance and 45 for weight loss when you are not doing interval training. The interval training is intense, but I do it for 20-30 mins, 40 when I am being bionic ;), but that is killer. I would think that starting with 10 mins at a time and working your way up would be a smart way to start. Listen to your body, if you are not dizzy or pukey and your legs aren't shaking, even if you are very tired you can probably dig a little deeper and do one more cycle-you should feel like you have your breath back before you do though. Try to add another cycle each week until you are up to 3. If you want to email me for more info you are more then welcome. Make sure you check with your Dr. about your maximum HR and I would wear a HR monitor too, it is an awesome tool and will give you the best idea of how hard you are really working. Good luck!!!

Anonymous said...

Interval training is the way to go. Thanks for the details of your workout. I am at that "I am bored with my workout" stage.

Samantha said...

Popular post! I have half-heartedly tried interval training because I have read so many good things about it, yet so often I feel like I just have to *survive* a run that I don't push myself. BUT, after reading your post, I went straight to and bought myself a watch that I can use to time my intervals (rather than my current "I'll run faster to that tree"). I hope to pick up my running pace as a result! Thanks Kirsty.

nyn said...

Wow, You all are some super motivated people. I shy away because to be honest, I don't want to work that hard. I guess if I had someone right here kicking my butt then maybe I'd get an attitude adjustment:) Seriously though I am very impressed with your hard work and dedication Kirsty. You look wonderful. It was so kind of you to take the time to share your success routine with us all. I will some day get my rear in gear and try this out.

Anonymous said...

Well Girl,I am just huffing and puffing up and down the driveway at and up some gruelling stairs every day at work. We do it x 4Tomorrow been doing it for a month. Calf muscles are getting chunky, but have gained 2.2lbs.!! Think I know why! Yesterday when putting on tackies one lace was all gooey - realised it was from the syrup of the Greek cake (baked for a work colleague's BD) that has been residing in my boot next to the shoes. In spite of being wiped clean, lace had so much body and stiffness! Decided to market sugar water for spikey, punk hair styles. I digress. Did eat my share and some of the cake. Sigh! It was great. I think to a small extent the stairs provide the intervals. Will have to read this much, much more carefully! You are incredible! Did you really spring from my loins??

Maria@Conversations with Moms said...

This really excites me. I will definitely try this. I gained 70 pounds in my last pregnancy. I lost 35 quickly (obviously, since my son was 9 lbs), but have had problems losing the last half. In fact, I've lost 0 lbs in the last month.

This definitely will be my next routine.

Raising Olives said...

Thanks for this post.

I have some extra baby weight to lose. (Maybe more than some, I do have 9 babies to blame though) I have been doing something akin to this, but this is more specific. I too am an all or nothing.

I will be trying this out.


Rhonda said...

Hi, my first time here. I just started Jillian's 30 day Shred. Isn't that interval training too? I'm confused. That is what I thought interval training was, switching it up.

Tracey said...

This gives me some confidence that with hard work I can lose 20 lbs by July! A wedding and a reunion should be motivation enough, but I needed this post as an extra boost.

Why the gum?