Everyone has their “go to” exercise or fitness niche they enjoy best. For some it may be hot yoga, others it’s a nice, long run. Some people may find they are getting exactly the results they want from their chosen activity – whether it may be fat loss, recreation, or general well-being. But often it seems we are exercising and still not getting some of the benefits we want. There are the things you ENJOY doing just because it makes you feel good, and then there’s the exercise that gives you the best result according to your goals. Sometimes you get a nice package rolled up into one, and sometimes you don’t.
If your fitness is getting stale, or you have fat loss and body change goals that just don’t seem to be budging with your current activities, then I’ve got three things you’ve got to try so you can move your progress to the next level. They have the “magical” qualities of forcing you to use maximum effort for short bursts of time, creating quick muscle fatigue and required rest periods. These are the keys to effective fat burning (and after-burn), and maintenance of lean muscle. I can also attest from my own experience that these techniques actually tend to blunt hunger and cravings, instead of causing you to become more hungry – as is what tends to happen with longer, moderate intensity exercise like aerobics or running.
So if you are in need of a change of routine, or you just need a friendly reminder to increase your intensity, then here are my three picks for exercises you should do more often:
1. Sprints / Hill Sprints
You can do this either outside or on a treadmill. I prefer the fresh air, but winters usually mean staying indoors – so at least there’s options!
FEATURES: The goal with sprints is to run at maximum effort for a short burst, then walk or actively rest for a short period. Repeat.
Of course, you must start at your own fitness level and then simply work up to increasing your intensity. (Your speed and effort will greatly depend on your own fitness level, but I would not recommend trying intense sprints if you are new to exercise or do not have a strong cardiovascular system.)
The length of your sprint will be determined by how quickly you fatigue. Obviously, if you can run for a few minutes at your chosen pace then you are not actually sprinting. You must go hard, and then take time to rest and recover! That is the key with sprints: the rest. The rest period allows you to make another go at a sprint. Do it again and then rest. Twenty minutes is all you need 🙂
BENEFITS: Helps to carve out your abs (along with a clean diet), and builds a nice butt and toned legs.
If you are a distance runner, and need some convincing to include sprints to your training – then read this: http://www.runnersworld.com/masters-training/need-speed?page=single
FEATURES: Think: fast, explosive exercises. Remember when you were a kid and jumping, leaping, bouncing, and bounding were just a normal part of your day? Well, I see my kids doing this all day long and these movements are certainly important elements involved in how our bodies were made to move. Kids do this instinctively. As adults, we need to incorporate these types of movements into our fitness program too – think Jump Squats, Vertical & Lateral Jumps, Tuck Jumps, Power Push Ups, Burpees, and Box Jumps.
If you need inspiration to get moving like this, then do what I do and go into your basement and play some funky dance music and just start moving – jump, skip, and move around with power and intensity. Five of your favourite songs and you’ve completed your plyo workout.
a) plyos help develop the muscle fibers in a different way than weight training alone can, improving power, balance, mobility, and joint stability. These are important factors in gaining strength and avoiding injuries for all types of sports and activities.
b) the fast, explosive movements utilized in plyometrics cause our bodies to burn fat while maintaining muscle. Who doesn’t want that?!
c) plyos add increased intensity to workouts and keeps things challenging!
3. Heavy Weight Training
No matter what you do, no matter what your favourite fitness activity is, just promise me one thing: you will lift weights regularly and you will actively challenge yourself with heavier weights as you progress. If you don’t know where to start with weight training, then find a trainer – or better yet, sign up for coaching with me (I have both private & group online coaching options) so that you not only learn how to lift weights, but you get the best advice for reaching your fat loss goals. If you aren’t sure that you are ready for the sprints or plyometrics yet, then consistent weight training is the best place to begin for a solid fitness foundation. I could go on all day about the benefits of weight training, but let’s just leave it with the recognition that our bodies respond favourably to intense weight training for fat burning and body-shaping. Weight training benefits our metabolism and creates a healthy hormonal balance. It is the foundation of strength and vitality – it builds us up, rather than wears us down!