My latest weight loss coaching client really needed to learn how to lose weight with exercise the right way.
You see, when I first started working with Ms. X (name changed to protect the innocent) she was obsessed with exercise. She tried to workout 5+ days per week, which often consisted of using the elliptical at the gym for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
That’s ALOT of cardio.
Does anyone really want to do that much cardio, in particular, the long, slow, boring kind?
I certainly don’t.
And the fact that doing the same activity over and over and over can be bad enough, it may shock you to learn that cardio, in and of itself, is NOT the holy grail of weight loss exercises.
Doing too much can actually have the opposite effect that you hope it has. That’s right, not only will it prevent you from losing weight but it could actually cause you to gain MORE weight.
How you ask?
When you do cardio exercise in this manner, slow and steady for 45 minutes or longer, your body actually begins to think that life is pretty tough and you’re working really hard to find food but that you’re not actually getting any.
Your body starts to panic and increases your hunger hormones to try to get you to eat something – anything!
I discuss this in detail in my book, The Truth About Cardio for Weight Loss.
I had a friend who I used to run 5Ks with back about 10 years ago. We used to finish in about 30 minutes and and they were a great way to challenge ourselves and keep our weights down.
We even ran a 9.3 mile road race to challenge ourselves. It was a lot of fun but that distance was a stretch for me and most certainly my limit. My friend, however, wanted to continue on with the challenge and attempt a half marathon. I declined.
Unfortunately, she went on to run the half on her own, although I continued to coach her through her training.
She made an interesting observation. She noticed that since she started doing longer training runs, runs that lasted over 45 minutes to an hour each time, that she started to be more hungry more often.
She was so hungry, in fact, that she started eating more without really wanting to. Before she knew it she had gained 4 pounds while training for the half marathon.
Shocking, isn’t it?
It wasn’t a shock for me since, you know, this is my profession and all. But I find even today that people think that doing cardio is the only way to lose weight. And if doing x amount is good than doing 3x is better, right?
OK, back to my weight loss client.
After we addressed the low hanging fruit – the really easy ways she could alter her diet and start to lose weight – I brought up the exercise factor. Ms. X was shocked to hear that she could actually be doing too much exercise and preventing herself from losing her unwanted body fat.
So, that’s why I had to school her on…
How to Lose Weight with Exercise – The WLL Fitness Blueprint
Let’s discuss the correct strategy to exercise for weight loss. There are 3 components to an effective weight loss exercise program:
1. Long, slow activities.
The first thing you always want to be doing are long, slow activities, such as walking and bike riding. These should be activities that last 45 minutes to 1 hour in duration or that accumulate to several hours each day.
Now please don’t misunderstand. These activities alone will most likely not result in a major amount of fat loss, you’ll need to combine them with the other exercise methods below.
However, moving slowly is the foundation to any good fitness and weight loss program. Most notably, walking will help refine the activities of your fat burning hormones. It keeps them primed, so to speak, and ready to go when you need a little fat burning.
This type of activity is also imperative for your overall health.
You can start to incorporate more of this exercise into your day in several ways.
First, you could start walking or riding your bike when running errands locally. Using the heel-toe-express or your bike as a method of transportation as often as possible will be the key to your success.
You can also start taking after dinner walks or bike rides around the neighborhood with your spouse and making it a point to walk your dog one or more times each day. Remember, if your dog is over weight than YOU’RE not getting enough exercise.
You could also use this time to “play” your favorite sport or run around with your kids.
I even include yoga in this category because of the flow-like nature of many of the sun salutations and poses. And if you don’t do it for the weight loss and health benefits you should absolutely do yoga just so you can get out of bed when you’re 70. It’s that good.
Frequency: Should be done for a minimum of 60 minutes in one form or another every single day.
2. Resistance Training
Resistance, or strength training is done when you exert a muscular force against an opposing force (i.e. a dumbbell).
Resistance training is beneficial for several reasons:
- Increases muscular strength – important as we age
- Increases muscular flexibility
- Decreases the odds of injury
- Boosts your metabolism and causes fat loss
- If done correctly, can balance unbalanced muscles and improve posture
- Decreases stress
- Improves markers of overall health and decreases risk of disease
- Is anti-aging
- Ignites fat burning hormones, especially growth hormone, which naturally decreases as we age
- Decreases blood sugar levels
Since we are talking about exercise and weight loss, it’s worth noting that you should do strength training for the hormonal affect alone – it’s that powerful. Growth hormone is responsible for burning fat, building muscle, and keeping our bodies young on the inside and out. Anything you can do to naturally increase the amount of growth hormone you have is a good thing, and strength training is about the best there is.
Many women have a tendency to avoid strength training for fear that they will get big and bulky. Very few women have the genetics to become big without taking steroids. It just won’t happen.
Women also have a tendency to primarily use the cardio machines at the gym and shy away from the areas with all the doofy guys checking themselves out in the mirror. OK, this is valid, because watching guys check themselves out in the mirror can get old. But it’s something that’s worth your time to get over and start using the weights.
Frequency: 2-3 times per week making sure to hit all major muscle groups at last once.
[My home workout program, Ultimate Home Workouts, is a great way to get your resistance training workouts done in the privacy of your own home using only your bodyweight and a few small and inexpensive fitness gadgets.]
3. High intensity cardio intervals.
As I mentioned above, my client was doing cardio sessions that were too long, and too easy. It wastes her time without giving her the weight loss results she is looking for.
So, we made a change to spending more time following the components of this fitness blueprint, including high intensity cardio intervals.
I discuss the science behind why cardio intervals are superior to long, slow cardio in my book, so I won’t rehash it too much here.
The best part about cardio intervals is that they not only boost your metabolism and increase fat burning while you’re exercising, they actually work this way for up to 48 hours after you stop exercising.
Essentially, if you time your workouts right, you could be walking around and even sleeping with an elevated metabolism 24/7.
Bye bye fat!
So, if you’re spending a ton of time exercising but you’re not seeing results in your body composition then you may need to make a few changes and incorporate more cardio intervals.
Also, if you hate jogging and/or have little time to exercise then this is great news for you and you should take advantage of cardio intervals as well.
Frequency: Start slowly, but aim for 2-3, 20 minute sessions per week.
Your Fitness Schedule
Here is an example of how you could approach the aforementioned Fitness Blueprint.
Monday – 1, 2
Wednesday -1, 3
Friday -1, 2
Saturday -1, 3
Sunday – Play and rest
Wrapping Things Up
As always, when adopting a new exercise routine please take things slowly and be safe. Warm up appropriately before each workout and do each exercise with proper form.
Your body will adapt quickly, so have patience, and before you know it you will feel your pants getting looser and you’ll be able to give even greater effort to your activities. This, in turn, will further help your cause.
For your convenience I wrapped up the main points of this post into a handy dandy presentation. Check it out here and feel free to download it for future reference:
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