The Hierarchy Of Weightloss

Andrew Johnston

January 2, 2018

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So you want to lose some weight?

And while you’ve spent the large majority of your life putting on all those extra pounds, you’d rather get rid of them a little more quickly.  Besides, you have a job, a family, and even what you’re fortunate enough to call a life–time is a commodity you can’t afford to waste. 

You’re not looking for a “quick fix” as you’re smart enough to realize that quick typically means temporary.  You were thinking more along the lines of a permanent transformation.  Something that would qualify as a lifestyle rather than a weekstyle…Still, how you spend your limited time and energy needs to give you the most return on your investment. 

I understand. 

So here’s a quick synopsis of this article for those who want to get started right away.  If, however, you have the luxury to read this piece in its entirety, you’ll find a lot more details following the below list:

1. Strength Training

2. Interval Training

3. Tempo Training

4. Endurance Training

5. JPM (Just Plain Move) Training


Strength Training is where I often encourage people to begin. 

Quite simply, you’re making your metabolic fire bigger.  Or maybe I should use the word “hotter” as “bigger” as an adjective that has probably caused many people to avoid strength training in the past.  People are often so afraid that picking up a barbell will make them look like the Terminator, they opt for cardio instead.  But unless you’re shaving your face a few times a day and spending so much time in the gym you get your mail forwarded there, I don’t think you have to worry.  As for the subject of cardio and weight loss, hold that thought a moment–I’ll be back!

By lifting weights (including your own body), you can increase your lean muscle mass.  This results in a higher Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the number of calories necessary simply to keep you alive.  Twiddle your thumbs or blink, and that number goes up even more.  There are a multitude of hormonal and other biochemical benefits that occur, as well, but those are beyond the scope of this article (e.g., my webmaster told me I could only bore you so much). 

Raising BMR is key to body transformation as, even for the most active of weight loss enthusiasts, the majority of time during the day will be spent NOT exercising.  It’s kind of like putting money into stocks and drawing a dividend which gets reinvested.  Only, in this case, muscles are what you’re consistently contributing to, and the metabolic return becomes greater over time.  And like any investment, it’s a great idea to diversify. Work on different body parts with different exercises and in different ways (reps/sets/load/etc).  Choose compound movements over isolation exercises so that more muscle is stimulated, more hormones are impacted, and more calories are burned performing the chosen activity.  Think squats vs. leg extension or rows vs. bicep curls. 

A good resource for my readers is How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy by Paul Chek or (I humbly submit) Holistic Strength Training for Triathlon by yours truly.  A better resource is a CHEK Practitioner or SOMA Certified Trainer–someone who understands biomechanics and can actually prescribe and teach exercises that respect your unique goals and orthopedic considerations. 


Which gets better gas mileage: a car traveling 70mph or a car that alternates every minute between 90mph and 50mph?  Both cover the same distance in the same time.  But the car whose driver didn’t keep his foot steady on the gas pedal will have a fuel tank that’s closer to empty than the other one.  

The most efficient, healthy way to drop weight is to become inefficient.  Burn more calories just living than others who are not so metabolically enhanced.  Strength training does that by raising your BMR.  And interval training can do the same thing. 

Basically, you mix in hard efforts during a cardio session with periods of rest in between each.  “Hard” is specific to the person training, so one person’s intense may be another person’s relaxed. 

Indeed, since we are dynamic organisms with biochemistries which are constantly in flux, “hard” can change from day to day or even moment to moment for the same person.  Thus, listening to your body and how it’s responding is a valuable skill to make the most of this training modality.  But usually these intense efforts are characterized by breathlessness, muscular discomfort, and copious amounts of sweat.  Lasting anywhere between 45s and 3mins with a work to rest ratio of 1:1 or even 1:3, the number of reps is normally inversely proportional to the duration of the “hard” effort. 

For example:

4 x 3mins hard/3mins easy


8 x 1min hard/3mins easy

You’d also want to include a proper warm up and cool down in a session like this to get the most out of it.  While you may be able to push your car into the red right out of the driveway, your body is far more complex than a combustible engine.  So I urge you to treat it appropriately if you plan on keeping your vehicle functioning well your entire life.  Either way, if you truly want to tune your body from a sedan into a sports car, you’re gonna have to get your metabolism off cruise control.      


I define tempo training as a pace that’s hard but uncomfortably sustainable.  A 5k or 10k race is a real-world example.  But, again, everyone is different.  So definitely try to avoid the pitfall of doing what everybody else is doing. 

As much as I want this blog post to be read and shared, one of the reasons you’re reading this is you’re sick of following the herd.  Or, more likely, you’re sick because you’ve followed the herd.  You can’t find health if you’re always following the diseased.  And the sick can’t be blamed either as they’re all just moving in the direction they’ve been convinced is right for them.

See, cardio manufacturers have popularized the idea that working out at a specific level will allow the body to burn more fat.  And in our fat-phobic society, this belief has led to a gym industry which caters to cardio.  Walk into any fitness facility in the U.S. and you’ll see thousands of dollars worth of treadmills, ellipticals, stairmasters, and bikes.  Attached to each will be a sign up list to keep the waiting masses in order until they can enter “the fat burning zone”.

And while it may be true that exercising in this zone utilizes a greater percentage of calories from fat, the numbers can be misleading. Let’s take a 150lb male who, when running at 6mph, is comfortably in the famous fat burning zone.  Burning approximately 600 calories during the course of his workout, his contribution from fat will be around 50% or 300 calories.  Now take this same guy and have him run 8mph. He burns approximately 800 calories, but only 40% came from fat. Yet, 40% of 800 is 320. The total contribution from his fat stores is actually higher despite working above the so-called fat burning zone. And he’s burning more total calories!

Additionally, the calories expended after cessation of exercise, referred to as “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC, will keep his metabolism well above its normal resting rate for minutes or even hours after his run is finished. After all, it requires energy to remove lactate, replenish oxygen stores, resynthesize the ATP-PC system, and to bring all the body’s systems back to pre-exercise levels.

It should be noted that all of the above factors can be affected not only by the duration and intensity of the exercise but also by gender, training status, and even timing of the exercise session.  One truth, however, is without debate: when measured strictly by percentage of contribution, the best fat burning activity is simply going to sleep.  And that’s one thing the cardio manufacturers can’t sell you.  No, the drug companies have exclusive rights to that…


The body doesn’t measure distance–only duration.  While it can tell whether you’re working at a high intensity or not, it doesn’t have a built in odometer.  And if you’re going up a hill at a certain effort level, you’re not going to cover the same amount of ground as you would with the same exertion across flat or downhill terrain.  Thus, my use of long refers to time rather than length (which also allows me to make certain boasts, if you know what I mean…). 

For most people, any session over about 45mins qualifies as endurance.  Here’s where people trade the intensity of Strength or Interval or even Tempo sessions for density–using volume to impact biochemistry.  It may take longer and the results may come more slowly.  But the shear amount of work that can be done is high since the effort is relatively low. 

Ironically, many of you will find this type of training harder to do as it can be mentally stagnating.  It can tax the body physically, too.  When scientists put rats on a treadmill and let the rats run, health markers go up.  When these same rats are forced to run, health markers go down.  So the key is to find something you enjoy.  Put me in a spin class, and I’m gonna pull my hair out.  Or I’m gonna pull your hair out.  Either way, one of us is going to need some Propecia. Put me on my bike outside, however, and I can ride for hours with no problem…and no prescription…or criminal record for assault.  So if you have the time and an activity you love, endurance training is another tool you can implement to shape your body the way you want.  


JPM (Just Plain Move) TRAINING

The title says it all.  Don’t sit when you can stand.  Don’t take the elevator when you can take the stairs.  Don’t drive when you can ride or walk.  Don’t “don’t” when you can do!  And though I said above that strength training is where I encourage people to begin, I realize that just plain moving is how a large majority of us should start. 

Being sedentary is the new smoking.  The seated workplace environment is literally killing us.  And just because you sit on your butt when you work doesn’t mean your butt works when you sit.  But if we can simply get off our A** and get moving, that momentum can build to the other types of bodywork I wrote about earlier.  I use the term “bodywork” purposefully–the body is made to work.  But it gets good at what it does.  So if you do nothing, you get proficient at doing nothing until that’s all you can do. 

Of course, proper nutrition/lifestyle trumps all five of the above strategies.  And, unfortunately, I’ve either run out of space or many of my readers have exhausted their attention.  So that’ll have to be a subject for another blog.  But if this one gets enough feedback to show me there’s sufficient interest among our readers, I’ll start typing that one out for you all.  In the meantime, a resource I’d highly recommend is Spot On: Nutrition

Oh, and one last tip: let’s rephrase your goal as you want to drop weight instead of lose weight.  The subconscious mind is always looking for anything that has been lost.  I assume excess weight is not something you want to find again.  And if you follow the recommendations in this article as well as the advice from future blog posts–if you just focus on health–those lbs will be MIA for good.