Fitness Friday – Love Handles

Happy weekeeennnddd!!

Hope everyone’s got a good two days in store! Even when I used to work weekends, they always seemed so much more exciting than the rest of the week :)

This particular Friday is a special one here at The Great Balancing Act. It marks the kick-off of a new series I’m deeming…

Fitness Fridays

Catchy, no? :P

Fridays will now revolve around all things fitness. Whether it be answering your fit questions, sharing workouts, explaining moves, or delving further into the science and mechanics of exercise.

First things first, I must share my workout for today.

You see, I was planning on a hardcore weight lifting workout. Most of the time, I can pump myself up to go to the gym to play around in the weight room. When I can’t, I can at least convince myself to put some good music on my iPod and go for a run or do some stuff on the cardio equipment. But even the thought of that had me groaning.

Then something in the corner of the room caught my eye – my roommie’s bike! Even though my dad brought my road bike from NB, I need to replace the chain on it. However, he also brought my helmet, and my roommate said I was more than welcome to ride her hybrid when she leaves it at home.

Suddenly, I got really excited to exercise :D


I set off on the bike trails, not knowing where I was going to end up. I came across a great location where it felt like I wasn’t even in Toronto anymore!


The beach! There’s a jazz festival happening here this weekend, so they had live Caribbean music playing on the beach. A wonderful area to pedal through.

I’d forgotten how much I love biking, and had a hard time getting myself to turn around back home. Ended up being out for 80 glorious minutes. A fine example that even when exercise is the last thing you want to do, there are always options and different ways to get excited about getting your butt in gear :)


Now! On to this week’s Fitness Friday topic: love handles.


I recently received a reader e-mail asking how one can reduce the presence of love handles – that fleshy bit of fat/skin that sits on your hips.

Unfortunately, I do not have a simple answer for this one. Love handles are simply a store of fat, everyone’s bodies like to store fat in different places. As much as people try to ignore it, fact of the matter is, you cannot spot reduce fat. Not even through diet and exercise. If we could pick and choose where we wanted our bodies to store fat, us women would all have hourglass figures ;)

That means your best chances of getting rid of those pesky love handles is to take on a regime that is targeted at overall fat loss. This is a routine made up of both cardio and strength training, along with a balanced and “clean” diet. Even then, your hips may be the last place your body chooses to shed fat.

But because I don’t want to leave you here with nothing, I’m going to share one of my favourite exercises for fat loss: high intensity interval training.

I’ve written a very in-depth post on this before, but if you’re a newb to HIIT, here is how you can start:

Jump on a cardio machine at the gym. Spin bikes and ellipticals are my favourite for HIIT because they don’t require too much coordination, but you can also do this running outdoors. Start with one minute light intensity followed by two minutes moderate intensity. That is your warm-up. Then sprint for one minute. The sprint should be going as fast and as hard as you possibly can. On cardio machines, I’ll often increase the resistance to make it harder. After your one-minute sprint, recover with two minutes moderate work, and repeat this sequence for a total of 15 minutes.

The above is a very basic HIIT workout. You can make it more difficult by adding minutes (I wouldn’t recommend doing it longer than 30 minutes, it’s an intense workout). You can shorten the recovery time, or lengthen your sprints. Sometimes I play around with the resistance and intensity, either increasing it, decreasing it, or both.

High intensity interval training is not only a great cardio workout, but it stimulates your fast twitch muscle fibres which are great for maintaining muscle mass. Doing a lot of long, moderate-intensity exercise can potentially put you in a catabolic state where you begin to lose muscle. I always draw the picture of a marathon runner compared to an olympic sprinter.


High intensity intervals cause EPOC – Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. This means that even after you finish your workout, your body is trying to get its oxygen levels back to their pre-workout state. This also means you can continue to burn calories for hours after your workout! (although, don’t get too excited, EPOC doesn’t justify a DQ Blizzard :P )

I should also say that you do not need to look like a body builder to get rid of love handles. But putting on muscle, in my opinion, is the best way to blast body fat. If you’re someone who loves their cardio, is scared of strength training, low on time, or just looking for a way to switch it up – high intensity intervals will help you on your quest to be rid of those love handles!!

Honourable mention also goes to your diet. Remember that you can never out-train a bad diet. I’m currently a living example of this people ;)

Posted on July 23, 2010, in Fitness Friday and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. GREAT tips! Those are the things people need to hear.

  2. I totally agree that it’s important to eat a clean diet. I had the lowest body fat when I ate extremely clean.

    I love the comparison of the marathon runner and the olympic runner!! I never even thought of how different they are. It puts things into perspective.

  3. Ok, I LOVE Fitness Friday :) Also, I love the HIIT plan. I am currently training with a group to do a local run, and as part of our training we do tempo runs where we essentially do what you described above (playing around with the time a bit). I knew it was helping me to maintain race-pace for longer periods, but I didn’t know the other, (more techincal) benefits you described above.
    Thanks for the info!
    But one question: when I do my long runs (moderate-intensity), does that mean I lose all the muscle benefits from the tempo runs? I’m guessing yes, since you used the example of a marathon runner above. So what can I do to prevent this?

    • Nah, I wouldn’t worry about losing muscle mass on your long runs unless moderate cardio is the only thing you’re doing. Changing it up with tempo runs and intervals will help strengthen your muscles and improve your running :) I always like to suggest swapping out a cross-training day for a weight lifting day too, so you’re building extra musclea throughout your running program.

  4. Yay for biking!!!!!

    What a fun new series, too. Thanks for taking the time to put these together. :D

  5. love the new series, lookin forward to more

  6. Loved this! I should try and incorporate some HIIT into my outdoor runs because I think I’m at danger of that lots of moderate long exercise sessions thing :(
    Sprints are good – they’re easier to me than a tempo run so I’m giving it a go.
    And by the way, I put my fingers in my ears, covered my eyes and yelled “la la la la la ” when you said that thing about not being able to spot reduce fat. SHHHH!

  7. This is a great post, Susan! Thank you for outlining a sample HIIT workout- very helpful. :)

  8. Great advice I’ve been concentrating on interval training to shift the weight I’ve put on and am finally seeing the results yay! x x

  9. wow, thank you for the tipps! :)
    Just a question: if you do this HIIT for 15min, is that enough or you have to do some more training?
    I would like to lose 6Kg, I changed my diarly diet (my vegetable garden helps me with a lot of fresh vegetable every day) and I stardted to do bike (10km in 30min, not so fast). So the HIIT looks interesting!

    Have a nice saturday

    • I always like to pair the 15-minute HIIT with some other training. You can add it to a strength training workout, or finish off your cardio routine with it. I’d increase the time to 20-30 minutes to make it a full workout in itself. Remember that if you want to burn calories you have to get that heart rate up! :)

  10. Will look forward to these Friday posts now :)

    I’ve had a terrible flu/chest infection, currently battling round 2. I have my gym application sitting, singed and ready to go for when I’m better. So bring on all the trainer tips. I’m also considering buying a road bike here with my tax return, I love my spin classes and would love to get out in the real world.

    My diet however … :(

  11. Thanks for the love handle information – I have them and have been wondering for YEARS that how to get rid of them. Maybe they’ll stay with me until the end and I’ll just accept them as they are ;) It’s so much easier to work on your legs, arms, abs… I just sometimes wish my body would store it’s fat in my breasts for example, so much more convenient :D haha.

  12. You know I love my love handles :) j/k They are the 1 thing I really wish I could keep off at all times. They are the hardest for me to tame.

    I was just going to post an article on EPOC!!

  13. Great advice, I love HIITs. Incorporating them into my training plan really helped me lose my weight, and now helps me maintain it. Your right about the eating, I have to keep reminding myself that even if I’m working out I still can’t go and eat a load of crap! x

  14. I’ve heard the rule of thumb with weight loss is that it is 80% diet, 15% exercise and 5% genetics. In your experience, how do you think that actually holds up?

    • For weight loss, yes. Losing weight, in a nutshell, is “calories in calories out” which is more affected by what (and how much) you eat, not how much you exercise. But in my head, “weight loss” and “fat loss” are two different things. A person with 40 lbs to lose and a person with 10 lbs to lose could still have similar body fat percentages. The person with the more weight to lose would probably benefit more by focusing on diet, but exercise will play a larger part in the person who needs to lose 10 lbs. Mostly just because it’s harder to burn fat when you’re at a lower weight, so the extra muscle helps.

  15. I love the idea for Fitness Friday!

    Great post, I can’t wait for more :)


  16. What a fun idea!

    I love those bursts of energy where nothing can stop you from a good workout! Nothing’s more empowering, I swear!

    HIIT always kicks my azz, but I definitely feel stronger after I do it. I think I need to incorporate it more often!

  17. I wish there was a cure all for love handles! I do tend to lose weight proportionately, but the love handles are the last to go.

  18. I love the marathon v. sprint runner contrast! That’s a *great* comparison.
    Glad you had a great bike ride:)

  19. I LOVE that last analogy with the olympic runner and the marathon runner because my dad used to use that example sooo many times when trying to explain to my naive middle schooler self that cardio is NOT where its at.

    I need a bike. For my own sanity. :)

    p.s. no food in this post?! I can’t believe it!

  20. I first “grew” love handles in college and now, 7 years later, they have decided to stick around. I wasn’t in shape in high school but I was a twig. Now, even after gaining a little muscle, the love handles are still the last thing to go….

    It’s funny, I was actually thinking about it this morning and decided to start doing HIIT on my treadmill again. Good timing!

  1. Pingback: Fitness Friday – Fit Links | The Great Balancing Act

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