Thursday, January 31, 2013

Training for Fat Loss vs. Training for Fitness

The other day I overheard a certified trainer(!!) saying that since she was only working out once a week, she wanted the session to focus on upper body toning and abdominal definition.  Oh, and she only had four weeks to do this.

So, by my math... a total 4 hours out of 476 (assuming she was sleeping 7 hours a night, which in our current society is a generous estimate) were going to be put towards this goal - the mythical "muscle tone" that is the fitness equivalent of a unicorn.  (This post is too short for me to go into dispelling all of the inherent wrongness of the first paragraph, but to understand why the concept of training to "tone up" annoys me so much you can see the actual definition of "muscle tone" here...)

"I'd like better upper body muscle tone and a six pack, please..."

Now, my opinions both of her ability/knowledge as a trainer and, therefore, the certification process that she went through aside (ugh),  I couldn't resist posting onto my Facebook wall a comment that said something to the effect of: "Training for fat loss and training for fitness, although related, are not necessarily the same thing"... which actually generated a number of comments/questions (both on the wall itself and directed to me).  So, as suggested by a friend - I thought I would elaborate.

Firstly - keep in mind that there is a difference between "Training" and "Exercise"... it is important to understand this concept from the beginning.  Not sure what I mean?  Read this first...

Secondly, it's not that you can't achieve fat loss without training for it specifically (and this is why they're related), it's that there are ways of training that are more effective for it than others.  The problem is that we have developed into an impatient, "fix-it-fast" society with a global case of physical-health ADD, and we change our targets on a weekly, or even daily, basis. ("Wow, what a crazy weekend of debauchery.  I know I'm training for an Ironman, but could we do some extra cardio and abs today to make up for my terrible eating and drinking?")

So, essentially what I was trying to say in my terse (and unintentionally cryptic) Facebook post is that you need to look at what your primary goal is, how much time and effort you're willing to put into that goal, and then set your program based on those variables.  Yes, fat-loss can occur with a huge variety of different training modes and methods - but some are simply more efficient/effective than others and you have to decide what is most important to you.

Oh, and just to beat the metaphorical dead horse, in the end it doesn't matter what you're training for.  Barring some sort of medical disorder (which is a smaller percentage than our society of finger-pointing would have you believe) - if you're eating healthy you will lose weight.  So regardless of your goals - set your starting point with nutrition.


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