an image of 15 fat loss myths

When we fall for fat loss myths dire consequences occur. When we’re promised quick results, but instead fall flat on our face it’s devastating. We’re less likely to try again. Obesity is surging. There are currently 175 million overweight or obese teens and adults in the United States. We need proper guidance. I won’t promise what I can’t deliver. I promise you the truth. Changing your lifestyle won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. You deserve great health. Let’s start with a stand. Let’s make today the day we stop falling for these notorious fat loss myths.

trainer Tony Arreola beating fat loss myths with truths

15 Common Fat Loss Myths

1. “Sweating more makes you lose weight faster.”

2. “Running makes you lose weight instantly.”

3. “Eating bread makes you fat.”

4. “Fasted cardio makes you lose weight fast.”

5. “I have a slow metabolism.”

6. “You can spot train.”

7. “Lifting weights will make me bulky.”

8. “No pain, no gain.”

9. “Crunches target your stomach.”

10. “HITT training is the fastest way to burn fat.”

11. “Hormones are causing me to gain weight.”

12. “Women don’t need to lift weights.”

13. “Cardio speeds up fat loss.”

14. “Lifting weights turns you into a fat burning machine.”

15. “I’m getting older, my metabolism is slowing down.”

 

Download the Cheklist

 

1. “Sweating more makes you lose weight faster.”

We’ve all seen that guy wearing trash bags or a sweat suit. They look hot, silly, and in no better shape. Are they onto something? Let’s take a deeper look. The human body is approximately 60% water. If our human body weighs 180 pounds, 60% of the weight is water, which means 108 pounds of your weight is water weight. On the scale your weight can vary anywhere from 2-5% of your body weight daily. That means the weight can vary from  3-9 pounds for our 180 pound example. If we have 108 pounds of water, and we dehydrate ourselves by sweating as much as possible. We can drop up to 20 pounds of water in extreme cases. We can bring down our weight on a scale to 160 pounds in a very short time.

But, it’s only a water weight loss not fat loss. Great for making weight in a fight, but not for changing your appearance. Unless you’re training for a  big fight, you’re playing with fire. Sweating too much can compromise your health. You will lose water weight, but you run the risk of many severe health problems:

Sweat is mostly water, and sweat is used to cool the body down, so you won’t die. Not dying is good.

Dehydration from vigorous exercise, increased temperature or not enough water can cause:

  • Heat Exhaustion: These can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
  • Swelling of the Brain (Cerebral Edema): This can happen when you drink water after being dehydrated. The brain is desperate for water and pulls water, sometimes too fast causing swelling and sometimes cellular ruptures.
  • Seizures: Electrolytes in water carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are compromised, the normal electrical messages can become distorted. This can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes a loss of consciousness.
  • Low Blood Volume Shock (Hypovolemic Shock): When low blood volume causes a corresponding drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body. This can prove fatal.
  • Kidney Failure: This life-threatening problem occurs when your kidneys can no longer remove excess fluids and waste from your blood.
  • Coma and Death: When not treated promptly and correctly, severe dehydration can be fatal.

People’s bodies average two to four million sweat glands. How much sweat is released by each gland is determined by many factors, including gender, genetics, environmental conditions, age and your fitness level.

Fat Loss Myth versus Fat Loss Facttony the trainer explains fat loss failure

Fat is matter, it’s a substance you can grab, it’s a real thing. For fat loss your body needs to convert the extra fat mass into energy. The human body is sixty percent water, so cutting water out, or sweating it out, will only give you a temporary weight loss. You temporary lose the water in your body, but once you re hydrate your weight will come back. To lose one real pound of fat, you need an energy deficit of 3,500 calories. A realistic fat loss goal is one to two pounds per week.

Fitness Simplified: While wearing a sweat suit, not drinking water and sweating too much can be dangerous in extreme situations, it can be helpful in measuring your own effort.

How To Use: Keep everything equal, meaning proper clothing, proper hydration, and a cool temperature. In this situation, sweat can be a good indicator of effort. Sweat can show you if you are putting on a good effort, compared to yourself. The key to the game is caloric burn, and if it feels harder then it is harder, and harder always burns more calories.

2. “Running makes you lose weight instantly.”

“My friend started running and she lost a ton of weight,” my client Kelly said.

I’ve personally trained over 50 clients in endurance events. Whether you’re training for a marathon, half marathon or 5k, running didn’t make anyone lose weight.

Not one.

In fact, in my estimates people misjudge the amount of calories their body burns. Most people eat more calories “carbing-up” for a race than they do running one. Just because you’re running, doesn’t mean you get a free pass at the buffet line. Don’t let running be another creative excuse to overeat. Fat loss comes from eating less than your body consumes. And your body burns calories far less than it can consume.

Fitness Simplified: Running isn’t a fast track to fat loss, just another sad fat loss myth.

What to Do: Running is a great cardio, strengthens your legs, strengthens your heart, strengthens your mind. Run, but only count it as exercise and incorporate it with a healthy diet for best results.

3. “Eating bread makes you fat.”

“Oh, I don’t eat bread,” said everyone in the last seven years.

Poor bread, I love bread, but it got such a bad rap. But how can cutting bread make you lose weight?

Easy.

Breads are carbohydrates. (Carbo-HYDRATES) Emphasis on HYDRATE, like water.

Carbo-HYDRATES

Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy. Coincidentally, they hold a vast amount of water. Lose the carbs and guess what happens? You lose water weight, again a temporary weight reduction. But you need carbohydrates in your life. Carbs are an essential macro-nutrient, like protein and fat, they provide essential functions in your health. Unless your diabetic, or pre-diabetic then you don’t need to worry about carbohydrates.

Fitness Simplified: Don’t let carbs scare you.

How To Use: If you want to lose weight don’t limit the carbs, limit the calories.

 

4.“Fasted cardio makes you lose weight fast.”

We can probably blame Instagram for this one. We’ve heard our body is supposed to burn more fat when it’s in a fasted state. This is correct, the body burns more calories from fat stores. Which is great if you’re trying to burn less calories and only the ones from fat.

Do you know which ones those are?

When you grab your love handles, what kind of fat are you holding? Do you care or do you want it gone?

Yeah, me too.

Fasted cardio is a fast way to pass out. When you have energy in your system, you push harder and thus burn more calories during the workout. It’s hard to burn calories when you’re light headed and laying down.

Fitness Simplified: Use common sense for your workouts. If you can power through a workout with only coffee or a small banana then go for it. If you feel awful with no fuel in your system, don’t do that. There’s no one since fits all solution, do what works best for you.

How To Use: Don’t complicate calorie burn. When something feels harder, you’re working harder. When you work harder, you burn more calories. Burning more calories, gets you there faster.

 

5. “I have a slow metabolism.”

Metabolism: Converting food into life energy

Our metabolism converts calories from food into energy to live. During this complex process, calories are converted into the energy your body needs to function. Even at rest, your body needs energy for all its regular functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and cellular maintenance. The calories your body uses to perform these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate, “metabolism.”

Fat Loss Factors

While age doesn’t affect metabolism directly, other factors exist between people that account for differences in our individual metabolic rate. (How many calories our bodies burn, with no physical activity.)

  • Your Body: Larger people burn more calories. It takes more energy to power a garbage truck than a shopping cart.
  • Your Sex: Men usually possess more muscle than women. Having slightly more muscle than fat means a slightly higher energy demand. Muscle requires energy, fat doesn’t.

Although we don’t have control over how many calories our bodies use, we can control the demand for calories. This can be increased with physical activity. But not the type your thinking. Not weights, not exercise, but movement. Yes, any and all movement.

Fitness Simplified: Think of your metabolism as a funnel. You can’t change the speed of the funnel. That remains pretty much the same. What you can do is pour more energy into the funnel.

How To Use: You can’t increase your metabolism rate, but  you can use it more. By moving more, your body uses the funnel more. By moving more, your body needs more energy, and when your body needs more energy, it uses the energy from the fat in your body.

Move more, lose fat faster.

6. “You can spot train.”

I’ve met  countless ladies who desperately want to get rid of their bat wings. I get it, I want to help you get rid of that too. Unfortunately, like our height (I wish I was a little bit taller) we aren’t in control of our genetic make-up. Your genes, (so in essence your parents) are the ones to blame for those thick thighs. Genetic factors influence whether people store fat around the trunk or in other parts of your body. Males store fat different from females. Individual fat storage also varies from person to person. And trust me, the place where you store fat, is not where you want it.

Sucks, but true.

But what can we do?

To minimize fat in the areas you hate, you need to minimize fat everywhere in the body. Yes, lower your overall bodyfat and everything will look better. I know the look you want, and to the look you want means the bodyfat needs to come down everywhere. The first place you gain fat is the last place you lose it.

Fitness Simplified: Don’t target specific areas, target the total body.

How To Use: Focus on exercise that burn more calories. Total body workouts burn more calories because bigger muscle groups burn more calories. Burning more calories reaches your goal faster.

 

7. “Lifting weights will make me bulky.”

Females fear lifting weights, because they fear getting bigger and looking manly. While there are similar percentage improvements in strength with resistance training, increases in muscle size are typically less in women than men. While it is true both women and men produce testosterone, which is an anabolic hormone that plays an important role in growth and the repair of tissue, men produce up to 10 times more testosterone than women. This is one of the primary reasons men produce a greater amount of muscle mass over a shorter period of time.

Women only look bigger if they lift weights, but don’t adjust their diet.

If you keep the bodyfat or increase the bodyfat, and add more muscle. You will get bigger, if you keep the muscle and lower the bodyfat you will get smaller, and look more toned.

Fitness Simplified: It’s more important for females to lift weights than men.

How To Use: You don’t have to kill yourself in the gym. You only need to stimulate the muscle and bones in your body. Adding external overload (resistance training) will help your bones and muscles grow stronger. Your bones like your muscles are living tissue. Perform a total body workout 2-3 times/week.

8. “No pain, no gain.”

This fat loss myth alone causes more people to avoid the gym. While there is some discomfort in resistance training, flexibility and cardio training. The discomfort can be minimal. Think of it, this way. You need to go slightly past the breaking point for your body to rebuild. Then we rest, recover, and come back stronger. We repeat this process and you slowly become stronger, more flexible and improve heart strength. Like the three little pigs story, you need to breakdown the house and then rebuild stronger. When you push too hard, it’s painful, dangerous and you will quit. Obviously, it hurts too much. Quitting gives you zero benefit.

Fitness Simplified: The workouts need to be slightly uncomfortable, unnecessary pain will only force you to quit.

How To Use: Don’t think of the exercise as a punishment. Think of it as a reward and push yourself enough to produce natural endorphins. Plan a day of rest in between workouts. Start with about an hour of resistance training and roughly 20-30 minutes of cardio. Start slow and build. It’s more important to be consistent than to go hard.

 

9. “Crunches target your stomach.”

This fat loss myth is closely correlated to spot training. The body essentially has three layers. Muscle, bodyfat and skin, when we measure bodyfat we pinch all three and get bodyfat percentage.

When you target the abs with crunches, you do make the muscle stronger. Which is great for strong abs, but the problem isn’t the muscle. The problem is the fat covering the muscle. I call that layer the marshmallow layer and this layer is the problem. But doing every crunch known to man will not do anything to change the appearance of your tummy. You need to remove the extra fat to have the abs look better.

Fitness Simplified: Crunches make your abs stronger but does nothing for the looks.

How To Use: Crunches, planks, and core work are great exercises. But these exercises do nothing for the appearance of the midsection. To trim the waistline, usually the best exercise is the one where you eat the right amount of calories.

 

10. “HITT training is the fastest way to burn fat.”

High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) is alternating between timed hard cardio, and then a timed rest interval. You then repeat the circuit, hard and rest, hard and rest. Trainers like to tell you that you burn more calories in this matter. But, here’s the problem with this method.

Example:

150 female doing HITT (5 minutes on, 1 minute rest) repeat X 5 = 30 minutes
If during the High Intensity phase you push you burn up to (8 cals/min)
During the Rest you rest (1 cal/min)
Total: (25 X 8) + (5 X 1) = 205 calories

Compare to a lower but manageable intensity for 30 minutes.
(30 X 6) = 180 calories

The Caloric Difference:

The difference is 205 – 180 = 25 calories (or 2 jelly beans)

This doesn’t even consider that towards the end of your interval training, it’s hard to match the same effort. You probably wont have the same energy as the first couple intervals, less effort means less calories.

Interval training does have a role increasing VO2 max, helping your cardio increase, but as far as fat loss goes, it’s just another fat loss myth.

Fitness Simplified: HITT isn’t a shortcut, it’s just another workout.

How To Use: HITT can be fun to mix up your workout. Incorporating a total body circuit with recovery will help you burn slightly more calories(slightly.) But the bulk of your caloric burn with come from constant activity. Steps, activity and eating the correct number of calories.

 

11. “Hormones are causing me to gain weight.”

Hormones are a touchy subject and probably used the most to prey on females. It’s a convenient excuse for weight gain. It’s a hands-off approach and others choose to sell you their product of choice to help these hormones. If you want to see for yourself google “Weight gain and hormones” and immediately it isn’t your fault. The problem is hormones don’t cause weight gain. Eating more calories than your body needs causes weight gain.

Hormones Don’t Cause Weight Gain

While hormones, sleep and stress can cause other issues. The main issue is eating too much, I know it hurts to tell you. But it’s true. I’ve personally helped many clients who had thyroid issues or other hormonal imbalances. And while these issues are real, when it comes to weight gain it just isn’t the case. Menopause is another area where muscle loss occurs lowering the metabolic rate, but again not enough for weight gain. Weight gain only happens when the hormone imbalance causes you too eat too many calories. If you can control the urges, fight the temptations and stick to your plan, you will succeed.

Fitness Simplified: Hormones alone can’t cause weight gain. Eating too many calories, and not moving enough causes weight gain.

How To Use: If you feel hormones are really slowing you down, then perform what I call I a “Deep Caloric Audit.” Figure out exactly how many calories you’re eating (especially weekends) and figure out your activity level. Follow these numbers religiously for 2 weeks and look for either the caloric surplus or the caloric deficit. Energy is energy, and when your body intakes more energy than it needs, it will store the extra energy as fat regardless of hormones.

 

12. “Women don’t need to lift weights.”

This fat loss myth can cause severe harm to females. Females produce estrogen. Estrogen weakens bones, lowering bone density. Resistance training keeps bones strong. Lifting weights is only a form of resistance training. You can also use machines, bands, balls and your body weight to get the same benefits. Any external resistance (weights included) will provide the stimulation needed for bone and muscle growth.

Fitness Simplified: It’s more valuable for females to do resistance training than men.

How To Use: Focus on workouts that you like, but focus on the total body. Ladies tend to avoid the weight room and focus on crunches and booty work. Although this is awesome and I thank you. It will provides minimal results because you’re missing the biggest muscles in your body. And bigger muscles burn more calories, getting you skinny faster.

 

13. “Cardio speeds up fat loss.”

“You need to run to lose weight, you need to push to lose weight faster. I’ve heard this one a lot. And the facts are true. While you burn more calories during a cardio session, you don’t burn nearly enough to offset a poor diet. Cardio is a form of movement, but only lasts a small duration (usually 30 minutes.)

Your day is 24 hours, 1,440 minutes. That means your 2% of your day, your burning more calories. But what about the other 1,410 minutes 98% of your day?

You will burn more calories during that period, but not as many as you would like. Cardio keeps your heart and lungs strong. Cardio focuses on the cardiorespiratory system, it will strengthen your heart, but it will not speed up fat loss.

Fitness Simplified: Cardio helps your heart and lungs. But it won’t speed up fat loss. Focus on total caloric expenditure (total movement matters more.)

How To Use: Don’t count on cardio for fat loss. Count on cardio for heart strength. Count your steps. Steps represent movement. More movement means faster fat loss. Track your resting heart rate, as your cardio increases your resting heart rate (RHR) will decrease.

 

14. “Lifting weights turns you into a fat burning machine.”

We’ve all heard this myth in the gym, especially by trainers (myself included.) I fell for the bait. I thought as long as I lift weights, I can eat whatever I want. Turns out, if I eat whatever I want I gain weight.

Shocker.

But what about this fat burning muscle machine I was promised?

At rest, muscle does burn more calories than fat. But not much more, not enough to give you free pass at the buffet. The data is clear. A pound of muscle burns six calories per day while a pound of fat burns only two. Yes, it’s three times more calories, but how much is that?

Example:

Let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and your bodyfat percentage is 20%, and your muscles burn 20% of the caloric burn.
You work hard to lose 20 pounds, and add 1 pound of muscle (muscle is very hard to add, but that’s a story for a different day.) You drop your bodyfat down to 15%
Your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate: the calories your body uses to keep you alive.) Brain (20%), heart (15-20%), liver (15-20%), kidneys, lungs, fat, tissues(10-15%) and muscle(20-25%).

First example:

Weight 200, Fat = 40 pounds, Lean Body Mass(muscle, bones, etc.) = 160. RMR Would be roughly 2000 calories, with 20% burn with muscle. This will be 400 calories/day.

Second Example:

Weight 180 pounds, Fat = 27 pounds, LBM = 153 pounds.  You add one pound of muscle and increase your caloric burn to 21%.
RMR= 1800 calories, Muscle 378 calories from the increased muscle.

So you added one pound of muscle, lost 20 pounds of fat, and increased caloric expenditure by… (-22 calories?)

Correct, contrary to the popular belief. Adding muscle, getting fitter, makes you an efficient machine, not a calorie burning machine. When you’re lighter, fitter, and stronger, it takes LESS energy to move. It takes LESS energy to run. Become fitter makes movement easier, and easier movement burns LESS calories.

Weight Lifting Research:

  • In 1995, researchers at the University of Limburg in the Netherlands published a study in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise on 21 male subjects and determined that weight-training “has no effect” on RMR
  • In 1994, researchers at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark compared 10 bodybuilders with 10 lean subjects. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the report found that intense weight-lifting did not result in any measurable EPOC. 
  • In 1992, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared intense weightlifting with intense aerobic exercise on 47 males and reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that “RMR did not significantly change after either training regimen.”

Fitness Simplified: Lifting weights is important but doesn’t mean you can eat anything you want.

How To Use: Lifting weights can change how your body looks, but only if you execute on your diet. 90% of how you look depends on what you eat.

 

15. “I’m getting older, my metabolism is slowing down.”

As we discussed earlier, metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. Your body wants to live, so it will always convert food into energy.

Age has no bearing on metabolisms.

Metabolism and Fat Loss Myths

The body will always convert calories into energy in the same way. But as we age, we lose some muscle mass and are far less active. A metabolism is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. The metabolism doesn’t change. When you read articles about “speeding up” your metabolism, they’re referring to total calories burned. And we all know how to burn more calories, move more.

Age and Fat Loss Myths

As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.

Fitness Simplified: Your metabolism doesn’t ever slow down. Don’t slow down your activity, less activity as you age, means less calories burned.

How To Use: Always burn more calories, than you eat to be lean forever.

 

You possess the knowledge to beat the 15 most common fat loss myths. I wish there was an easier way, but with hard work and common sense you can accomplish all your fitness goals. The fitness game can be unnecessarily confusing. Focus on the fundamentals, be patient and you’ll be successful.

 

Free Fat Loss Myth Checklist

I put this valuable list together in a convenient PDF, you can have the checklist for free. This will help your arguments 😉

Download the Cheklist

What are some fat loss myths you’ve heard? Please share in the comments below. Maybe you can help someone avoid falling for fat loss myths.

Tony Arreola
Best Selling Author, Get Me Skinny
NASM Master Trainer (OPT, MT)
Weight Loss Specialist (WLS), Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES),
Sports Fitness Specialist (SFS), Behavior Change Specialist (BCS)

 

PS: Don’t forget to Grab Your Fat Loss Myth Checklist

 

References:

  1. Center for Disease and Control, “Childhood Obesity Facts” https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html 

2. American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007, February). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement [Abstract]. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise39(2), 377–390. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17277604

3. Hansen, Julieann. “The Science of Sweat”. American College of Sports Medicine. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9303999

4. Sparks, Dana. “Dehydration can lead to serious complications”. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from  https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/dehydration-can-lead-to-serious-complications/

5. William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR. “Medical Definition of Carbohydrates”. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15381

6. Center for Disease and Control, “Diabetes.” Retrieved September 19,2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fdiabetes%2Fhome%2Findex.html

7. Merriam-Webster. “Definition of Metabolism.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metabolism

8. Merriam-Webster. “Definition of Calorie.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calorie

9. Cleveland Clinic Center for Consumer Health Information: “How Does Exercise Improve Depression?”

10. American Psychiatric Association, Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression, 2000, and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.

11. National Academy of Sports Medicine. “HIIT, HVIT, or VIIT: Do you know the difference?” Retrieved from https://blog.nasm.org/sports-performance/hiit-hvit-viit-know-differences/

12. UCLA Health. “What is Menopause?” Retrieved from http://obgyn.ucla.edu/menopause

13. US National Library of Medicine. “Hormones” Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/hormones.html

14. Melinda Ratini, DO, MS. Web MD Thyroid Symptons Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/women/ss/slideshow-thyroid-symptoms-and-solutions

15. Clark, M.A., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2012). NASM Essentionals of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.

Updated: 2/3/2019

“New York, New York. Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today.”

Every run begins with this song playing on my Ipod. I envision the start line, see the crowd, and feel the energy. Have you ever wanted something so bad, so bad,  it took over your life? The New York Marathon has been a fixture on my vision board for weeks, months, years. To qualify for the New York Marathon, you need a time, a really fast time. A time my legs have never ran. Like all big dreams, I first write my goal in my journal. I force myself to believe I can succeed. I force myself to believe it IS possible. Most times I write big dreams down, I don’t believe myself. My mind needs convincing. The convincing can only happen through hard, hard work.

“The body can only go, where the mind has been.”

New York Marathon Vision Board

I needed to answer a question, “Can I run that fast?” Only one way to find out… try.  My first qualification attempt took place at the Boston Marathon in 2016. Boston’s euphoric event amazed me. I understood the magnitude of the glorious event. Robert and I worked for years to qualify. After hundreds of hours of training and 3 qualifying attempts. We finally qualified in at the Long Beach Marathon in 2015. We broke the coveted 3 hour mark. Coming in at 2:59:52.

 

 

“I remember that chilly, sweet morning in Boston.”

Robert and I boarded the bus to the start line with the world’s greatest runners. Everybody looked fast. My world anxious, nervous, and a little scared. We wore the coveted red bib reserved for the fastest, Wave #1.

“I set the race target 2:53”

The time needed to punch a ticket to the World’s Fastest Marathon, the New York Marathon. The crowds erupted as the race began. The nervousness was gone. The fastest march to the finish line began.  Robert and I instantly swallowed by the sea of runners. Besides the sheer number of people, I was surprised by the speed of the runners. Surely this will clear out, I thought. Everybody can’t run at this pace.

But they did.

Mile after mile after mile.

6:25, 6:18, 6:20…

No, matter how fast I ran. I couldn’t pass anyone. Everybody was fast, lightning fast. I was supposed to be the fast one.

“I’m not good enough.”

I’ll be honest, I get this ugly feeling, whenever someone runs at my pace. The feeling like I’m drowning, like I can’t maintain the pace, like I’m not good enough. Listen, I’m not a runner, I played basketball and baseball in high school. So running with the world’s elite, I felt like an impostor. Everybody at that level, including Robert, ran track or cross-country. I lifted weights. I wished we we’re lifting weights that day.

Imagine if someone tied you to a car and drove off.  You hang on for dear life, running at speeds your legs weren’t designed to handle. That’s how I felt and I broke down. My legs felt like cement, heavy cement. The pace was unrelenting. Thousands of runners speeding by me, adding salt to my fresh wound. By mile 13, I knew there would be no New York Marathon Qualification. Heck, there might not be a finish. Robert was nowhere to be found. He dropped before I did. I decided to wait for him.

“To either suffer or celebrate together. We did both.”

The Boston Marathon Finish Line
The Boston Marathon Finish Line

We gave painful high-fives to the thousands cheering. Boston became the celebration for years of effort. As we turned in Boylston’s street. At the finish line Robert and I embraced.

“We did it!”

Well almost…

3:37?

Not exactly the 2:52 we aimed for. I set many daunting goals. They can overwhelm me. I set my business, personal and life goals as big as possible. Then I go out there and fail. I fail again and again. Failing never feels good. But failing is a prerequisite for success. There was no NY qualification in Boston, but I vowed to try again. When I returned home the training began, but unfortunately, so did the injuries…

Devastating Calf Injury
Devastating Calf Injury

The unimaginable happened during a comfortable 40-mile bike and six-mile run, I felt my calf pull. I shut down my run and called Uber to the rescue. I was crushed, why me?

Why do these things happen to me?

Why are my goals so hard? How can injuries happen to me? Why? You can drive yourself insane trying to come up with answers, with reasons. After I had my pity party, I picked myself up and realized all the blessings in my life. I would recover. In the meantime, I focused on different workouts, nutrition, and flexibility. Control your controllables.

One year went by.

I rested, healed, and completed my best Ironman Triathlon to date. 2017 was supposed to be my qualification year. But the injury returned after my event.

I ran my last sad mile of 2017. My leg hurt, but my heart hurt more. I live to inspire, to help my clients, friends and family succeed. And when I fail, it hurts me. It’s the reason I try so hard. I’m deathly afraid of failing. Failing at anything. Failure scares the sh#t out of me. I’ve failed more times than anyone will ever know. It always hurts. Always. As many times, as I’ve failed. I’ve always found a way to pick myself up. Never give up on your dreams. In life, in sport, in business. Never give up.

 

Two years went by.

 

But my New York Marathon dream never relinquished. When injuries occur, accidents happen, and life doesn’t go your way. It’s easy to be sad. I’m working my tail off and I get nothing? This freaking sucks, life isn’t fair.

Track Run
Why Me?

But wait…

Life is never fair, it was never meant to be. My life is a choice. Our lives depend only to our response to adversity.

Never Give Up on Your Dreams

I spent the better part of 2018 training, waiting and hoping. The frustration was creeping in, I was nowhere even close to qualification. I hadn’t even raced. At this point, I just wanted a chance to run. I wanted a chance to test myself. To see if I’m good enough. I finally healed enough to have my chance, the Long Beach Half Marathon.

I focused on my  training.

  • Speed work (fastest mile: 5:07.)
  • Distance work
  • Improved cardio through the bike and swim.
  • Losing weight (5 pounds less than my fittest weight ever.)
  • My secret weapon: Breaking Two’s Turbo Pegasus coupled with yellow laces. My generation’s PF Flyers. Guaranteed to make every kid run faster and jump higher.
Nike's Vapor Fly 4%
Nike’s Vapor Fly 4%

New York  Marathon Qualification Attempt #1

The Long Beach Half Marathon

Long Beach, CA October 7, 2018

Goal 13.1 miles 1:24:59  Pace: 6:29/mile

Things didn’t go exactly as planned…

Finish Line Sadness
Finish Line Heartbreak

NYQ Attempt #1: Result: 1:30:42 Pace: 6:52/mile

My saddest finish line ever. I did everything right. The weather was perfect. The course flat. The training complete. I just didn’t have it. The race was going great. No injuries, minor cramping on mile 6, but no big deal. I faced a huge hurdle at mile 7, but I fought and held up. My pace was still there. I told myself if I can only make it to mile 10, my adrenaline, my heart would take over and I could sail to the finish line. But I was in a world of hurt. My heart raced to astronomic heights.  I had a choice. If I pushed, I would be close. But if I pushed I could blow up.
I chose to push…

Boom!

I blew up. That’s runners talk for I sucked. There would be no New York Marathon qualification. In fact, it ended up being my worst half ever. I crossed the finish line, filled with sadness.
After my catastrophic collapse, the time came to reassess…everything.

“What happened? What went wrong?”

I had no idea what happened. I went to the restroom, and then the answer literally came out, bright yellow.

Yellow Pee?

I replayed my water stations, mile two: skipped, mile four: dropped cup, mile six: missed station, mile eight: DONE.

 

Rookie mistake, hydration. A tip so basic, something I always cover with my clients, water?

Nevertheless, I would learn my painful lesson. New training added to my training regime:

  • Low heart rate training (new insight from my NASM Optima Conference)
  • Tempo runs.
  • Sports psychology.
  • Race Hydration Practice

New York  Marathon Qualification Attempt #2

Silver Strand Half Marathon

Coronado, CA Nov 11, 2018

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” – Henry Ford

 

Result #2: 1:28:11 Pace 6:41/mile

Well… turns out, it wasn’t the water.

I hydrated, super hydrated, but I cracked again. The first 7 miles felt great. Then I faded bad. I suffered immensely. And I slowed to a crawl. I fought back hoping to at least match my PR (1:26:47)

No luck.

This race crushed me. After the race, Courtney and I planned to celebrate, but I was so sick. I couldn’t stop throwing up. My stomach felt littered with knives. I pushed my body to its limit and my body rebelled. As I cried, bent over spilling my guts into the toilet I wondered if this was worth it. I tried so hard, worked so hard, and I’m in so much pain. Maybe this isn’t worth it. I am getting older. Am I still the same athlete I once was?

I contemplated quitting. I honestly did. Sometimes when I push my body to it’s edge, the associated pain is absolutely unbearable. It’s the kind of pain, where if I was to die, I would be fine, as long as I didn’t have to hurt anymore.

Tony Arreola's collapse after failing to qualify for the New York Marathon

Courtney gathered my stuff. We somehow made it to the train home. We sat in deafening silence. I was in pain, embarrassed, and ashamed. I was sure of her response.

And a part of me was okay with not racing again. We wasted another weekend at another failed race.

She looked at me and said, “When are you racing again?”

“Huh?”

“You’re not going to quit now?”

I could barely stand, there was no part of me, that wanted to try this again. But, I knew, she knew, we both knew I had to try again. But my training needed to change. Like all problems, I needed to go back to the drawing board. What am I missing? What do I need to do? How can I get faster, stronger and emotionally stronger. I searched, searched and searched. I searched for the latest advancements running technology, training, equipment, and nutrition. I’m not as talented as other athletes, I never was. I was always too small, too little, but I was smart. I needed to use my smarts to help achieve the unattainable.

 

New York  Marathon Qualification Attempt #3

Santa Run to the Sea

Oxnard, CA December 12/9/18

Focused to qualify for the New York Marathon

 

I began the race excited, but I was nervous.

I remember the pain from the last race, would I suffer the same fate. If so, then be it. I’m willing to suffer, I will embrace the pain. I hit my first few miles, but I was suffering. Courtney rode alongside me on her bike. Not letting me slow down. As my legs turned, I tired. A new concerning thought occurred at mile 5,  maybe I had grown soft over the years. Maybe my life has been too easy lately.

Hold the pace. Keep the speed. Stay in the saddle.

And then the miles started piling up.

7 miles done and I’m on track. I’m hydrated, I’m hurting, but I’m on pace.

I slow down to drink water and speed back up.

Mile 10, on pace 6:24.

On pace! I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel awful. If I can hold on I’m going to make it.

Mile 11, on pace 6:26.

I’m almost there, I need to finish! I need to tolerate the pain for two more miles, 13 minutes of pure hell. My legs are scorched, but they’re still moving at the correct rate. Come on, PUSH!

Mile 12 on pace 6:24.

Just one more little mile to New York.

The most important mile in my life. Pain level is at an all time high, this is my limit. The time will be close but I will make it.

I see the finish line. I close my eyes, sprint and dive across the finish line.

1:25:14

14 seconds too slow. I checked my Garmin 1:25:14 Pace 6:28/mile but the distance says 13.2 miles? 13.2? The race is 13.1 miles. Sh#t.

As I laid on the finish line, I couldn’t help but smile. Even though I missed my mark by 14 seconds, it was my fastest Half Marathon ever. I finished 10th overall, 2nd in my age group.

Exactly the validation I needed. I was still an athlete, still improving and the training was working. My New York Qualification was now a matter of time.

Not IF, but WHEN?

Result #3: 1:25:14 Pace 6:28/mile

The time came to take a racing break and focus on the training. The winning formula was finally in my possession. I hold the key for the coveted door to the New York Marathon. When I wrote down my goals for 2019, I looked back at my 2018, 2017, 2016 goals and guess what was there, the New York Qualification. But my time has come, the time is now. The next race will be in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California.

New York  Marathon Qualification Attempt #4

Surf City Half Marathon

February 3rd, 2019

The forecast for the race: cold, rain and windy. Great, just great, I thought. The constant rain during the week didn’t give me the confidence to mentally commit to such a monumental effort. I remained optimistic the whole week. But I wasn’t sure if I would race. Not sure is not good. I didn’t sleep Saturday night. I woke up at 2am and laid patiently until 3am. At 3am I arose to great but terrifying news. No rain from 7am to 10am. Just the window I need to race.

Oh, it’s on. Mental game engaged.

It’s gametime.

The freezing cold replaced by the adrenaline of a race start. The race began and I felt powerful. I floated through the first 5 miles, my legs felt incredible. But the joy wouldn’t last, in these races it never does.

As I ran away from the finish line (the course was an out and back) the wind was blowing over 20 mph. I felt the wind, what’s worse I saw the wind. You never want to see wind, but the palm trees faced the wrong direction. I could see the runners coming the opposite way, straight into the wind, it looked like horrific. The wind was in my back, but the party would end at the mile 8 turn-around.

I decided to take a risk.

My race pace was 6:25 per mile. I decided to take advantage of the wind at my back speeding up to 6:15/mile. I took a calculated risk, praying to be right. As soon as I turned around to come back to the finish line. The race changed for the worse. I fell from the floating clouds and sloshed in the puddles of earth. And not metaphorical puddles, real wet ugly puddles. Rain got in my shoes, the cold shooting through my bones and the wind screaming in my face. The legs slowed.

Miles 8,9, and 10 were slower, but on pace. The most brutal game of running Jenga continued. This race needs 10 fast miles to be stacked, and once these miles are stacked then you have a chance to finish the job. 3 more miles in the storm. I don’t know if I can make it, but I’ll try.

Then my training partner Robert, showed up. I was thrilled for a second. But now the stakes were higher. He wouldn’t let me slow, the treadmill from hell would continue. But how much longer can I suffer?

I somehow managed to get my legs to move fast enough for miles 11 and 12. Only one more mile to go, I decided not to look at my watch. I feared what it was going to tell me. The past races, my Garmin has only broken my heart. Robert pushed me, looked back at me, but I couldn’t hold the pace. I just couldn’t.

I quit.

It felt so good to give up, to make the pain end, to not hurt. Time stopped. I looked at my Garmin, 12.66 miles and my time 1:21:45, I can make it, I thought. Sh#t, I can make it. I convinced my legs to jump back on the treadmill from hell. Half a mile of suffering and the longest 3 minutes of my life.

I let out a primal scream as I ran.

The speed 5:55/mile.

Robert shouted, “There’s the finish line. Go get it!”

I winced as I ran and glanced at the clock 1:24:55. It would be close, not again.

Tony Arreola collapsing at finish line after qualifying for the New York Marathon

I pushed as much as I ever had in anything. I dove across the line and stopped my Garmin.

“Did you make it?” Robert asked.

I looked at my watch.

1:24:55

I jumped and hugged Robert like 2015.

I was going to the New York Marathon! The joy radiated in every inch of my being. My eyes swelled with tears. The pain magically gone from my legs. Strangers cheered me. My energy shined like the sun.

After four years, I FINALLY qualified for the New York Marathon

Result #4: 1:24:48 Pace 6:27/mile

Never give up on your dreams.

Never.

 

Tony Arreola

NYC Marathon Qualifier

Author, “Get Me Medals”

Running? Elliptical? Spinning? Or could it be swimming? The debate rages on. Last week, I was having an argument… I mean, conversation with my girlfriend discussing which cardio burns the most calories.

No matter what I said, I was wrong.

That’s normal for our conversations. But I asked her to give me a chance to explain my point. (After all, I do this for a living.) She teaches spin, and group classes, and insists her workouts burn way more calories than my workouts.

Cool story, bro.

That’s what she actually said. The faster our heart can pump this oxygen-rich blood, the more calories we burn. The way to burn the most calories is to increase the intensity of the cardio you choose.

So, I win.

Not so fast, I told her, any cardio.

Burning more calories requires more effort, little effort burns less calories than more effort. Walking burns calories, walking uphill burns more calories, speed-walking uphill carrying 8 grocery bags while chewing gum and texting burns the most calories.You get the point.The harder it feels, the harder you’re working, thus the more calories your burning, regardless of the type. Everyone wins. Score one for the home team.

But, which cardio burns the most calories?

That’s easy, the cardio you actually do, and do hard.

In my experience, people don’t struggle deciding between cardio burning strategies. They usually struggle between the couch and cardio.

Make it easy, pick what you like and do that.

At NASM and TBP we recommend the FITTE Principle

F: Frequency (Times per week)

I: Intensity (Effort level)

T: Time (Duration)

T: Type (Kind)

E: Enjoyment (Do you like it?)

Start with something you like, and do that consistently. To burn more calories make it harder: up the intensity, do intervals, change the incline, vary the speed, less breaks, more reps. It doesn’t take much thought to make your workout harder.

Keep it simple: Harder Cardio = More Calories Burned

Picture

She scratched her head. Makes sense. I should’ve kept my mouth shut. But no, I added, I’ve ridden my bike from Canada to Mexico, your spin class would probably be pretty chill for me. She gave me the look, you know the look. It’s about to go down. Next thing I know, I was in her spin class with my legs strapped to propeller. My legs spun ridiculously fast, my body drenched in sweat, my heart screamed, and my mouth gasped for air.She smiled and said, I win!


Picture