I am someone who has come from a non-athletic background, with very little interest in exercise in general from childhood into the early part of my adulthood. All those years, it was only when I was looking to lose weight that I attempted to workout. I have done all the typical “weight loss” forms of exercise – aerobics, step aerobics, jogging, long-distance running, exercise videos of all sorts, and weight and cardio “machine” exercises at gyms. I did all these things for the main purpose of losing weight and changing my body (or more specifically, to lose my squishy round tummy that seemed to be standing in my way of happiness). To an extent, I usually did get some sort of result from participating in all these different forms of exercise over the years. However, I would sum up my experiences in one word: Disappointing.
I may have lost some weight, but my tummy really never went away. I may have enjoyed an activity for a while, but would get bored and couldn’t stay committed. I may have felt “fit”, but I was hungry all the time trying to maintain that “look”. More often than not, I would work “hard” for a time but not get a sustainable or significant result and end up realizing that I had wasted my time and money.
It all seemed complicated. Why couldn’t it work for me? I thought that I must have to do more – but I didn’t want to have to do more. I was a busy mom who wanted to be able to eat on a regular basis, enjoy being active and fit, and finally feel trim in all the right places and for all the right reasons.
As you can tell, I have never been naturally lean, particularly fit, or athletically-inclined in any unique way. So believe me when I tell you that I am only convinced by evidence-based results because I am not emotionally tied to any pre-existing factor that deems me to be overly-excited by working out every day. I do actually really love running. But I am here to tell you that doing lots of running is NOT the answer.
Now that you understand where I am coming from and my own history, I will tell you about how I DO exercise now, and how I teach my clients to exercise for fat loss using the tools of INTENSITY and RESISTANCE in metabolic circuit training. I won’t go into the science or lots of details here (I am not a scientist – you can visit Metabolic Effect for that info – and I don’t have all day LOL), but what I will tell you is HOW to exercise in this way and WHY it is effective for fat loss.
The goal of this type of workout is to push your body into a high intensity state, marked by increased heart rate, muscle fatigue, and heat (sweat). When you do this, you create hormonal changes in your physiology that allow your body to continue to burn more calories for the next 14 or so hours. That’s a good deal!! Consider this method in contrast to the traditional “fat burning zone” of getting on an elliptical machine for an hour or running at a steady pace for an extended period of time. The goal in these scenarios is typically to keep going for longer periods so that you can burn calories during that time. However, when INTENSITY takes the priority over sustained duration, then we have the ability to push at 100% effort during that workout which results insustained burning of fat even when we AREN’T working out.
The catch is that you only need to exercise for a short duration for this to be really effective.
Therefore –>When applied to an effective fitness program, quality, intense exercises will usually be performed for a short duration – from 20 – 40 minutes at most. This is really all the time you need to perform 4 – 6 exercise a few times through. Most of my clients start with 20 minute circuits because it is DOABLE – which I believe to be THE most important factor of any exercise program: if you can’t find the time or motivation to do it, then it just won’t get done = waste of time and money. With this method of training along with a short duration, you also trigger the right hormonal balance which will result in more fat burned and less hunger and cravings. Long duration, moderate aerobic exercise tends to sacrifice muscle while burning calories – but short duration, high intensity exercise targets fat almost exclusively. This creates a more defined, toned figure with healthier metabolic consequences which will affect your appetite, stress levels, sleep habits, and emotional health in very positive ways! In this way, the exercise will energize you rather than deplete you.
When you switch to creating this intensity to your workouts, it’s all about challenging your body to work out smarter. It is not about quantity of time involved, it’s about creating QUALITY during that time. I am a big believer in resistance training, but that doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym. Most of my clients workout at home with a few sets of dumbbells or none at all. We work to keep challenging their intensity levels through use of whole body, multi-joint movements and increased muscle tension, as well as using bodyweight exercises as often as possible. The goal is always to work at 100% for as long as possible. As a result you tend to get uncomfortably fatigued in a short amount of time. Then you are forced to rest and recover until you can proceed again. You begin to take notice of how your body moves and responds when you focus on more than just the calorie burn. You start to sweat more and feel muscle fatigue as well as increased heart rate, like you’ve been doing cardio. You naturally inspire QUALITY to your workouts!
After I switched to this type of intense training using heavier weights and fuller body movements, my body started to change in all the ways I had always hoped for. My tummy started to melt away like I had never experienced before! Also please note: Dietary habits also play a huge role in this, but the missing piece of the puzzle for me (and many of the people I coach) was that I wasn’t craving carbs like crazy as I was before and I wasn’t starving like I was before….that switch allowed my belly to finally burn off and my body to feel and look healthy again!
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Ok, so now hopefully that gives you a few insights as to why you should consider increasing the intensity of your workouts and working out smarter, not longer.
Here are my 3 tips to help you start exercising for effective fat loss TODAY:
- Start with what you CAN do. 15 – 20 minutes of hard core intensity is better than 45 minutes of moderate walking on the treadmill – or not doing it at all. Just by being able to DO it and give it a try, you will gain the skill, the motivation, and change needed to help you feel and look better. This is a learning process. Progression should happen naturally – as you start to feel the benefits, you will be motivated to challenge yourself with a few more minutes or a few more reps each week. The change in your appetite and energy levels will encourage you to keep going!
- Invest in a couple sets of dumbbells if you are wanting to workout at home. Choose one pair that feels comfortable to lift and another that feels a bit too heavy. A few resistance exercises mixed with some good old body weight exercises, and you have the makings of a great fat loss workout. Remember, it’s all about YOU – what you CAN do and how motivated you are to challenge yourself toward positive changes.
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- If you do like to run (I still do LOVE running) or you enjoy traditional cardio-type exercise, then switch your longer runs to sprint intervals – outdoors or on the treadmill.Experiment with pace – especially if you are not an experienced runner – but slowly work to increase your intensity so that you can go hard for 15- 30 seconds and then take a 30 – 60 sec rest to recover. Thirty minutes MAX is all you need, less if you are just starting to exercise. By the way, metabolic training WILL help you improve your running and fitness level if you have goals in that area. Also, did you know that sprinting is one of the BEST exercises for developing hardcore abs? Google images of sprinters and you will see what I mean 🙂
I hope that this helps to inspire you to think about your fat loss exercise in new (and exciting!!) ways.
I will end this by saying that having adopted these training methods and consequently changing my body composition and hormonal state has benefited my overall health and fitness tremendously. I still love to run, but do it only for leisure purposes now to complement my regular weight training and metabolic work. As a busy trainer and coach, and mother of 3 young kids I do find it challenging to always get my workouts in and eat “perfectly” all the time…but I can say that by maintaining regular, but short high intensity workouts I have been able to keep my hunger and cravings under control and, while my figure has taken a backseat for a few months since my competition, I am happy with EASILY being able to maintain. I eat clean and healthy 80% of the time, but I am able to enjoy a few treats with the kids, some wine with my hubby, and really not worry too much about the rest. This is a huge victory in the history of my life 🙂
Please be sure to contact me if you have any questions – I’d love to hear form you!!
Always seek the guidance of a professional trainer or coach if you are new to exercise or unsure of how to start a fitness program. Individual health issues and medical history are important factors to consider and receive counsel about – this information does not serve to replace individual guidance or health care. All information provided here is intended to be used for educational purposes.