[Today I am pleased to run a guest post by holistic personal trainer Michael Andrew. Michael’s claim to fame: he was the first person to ever suggest that I try barefoot running. I did. Then he helped me train for my first marathon. And the rest is history. Michael is a great trainer that I very often recommend.]
The weather is warming. The sun is staying out later and animals, plants and people are coming out of hiding. Spring is here, with the promise of a fast approaching summer. A lot of us are inflicted with the tendency to gain an extra layer of fat over the long winter months and as we get older it becomes harder and harder to shed that excess weight. That annual weight gain not only looks bad but it can also affect everything from our self-esteem to our life-expectancy.
Here are the 5 vital components to effective weight loss. Follow these steps to lose those extra pounds and not only look great on the beach, but have more energy, feel stronger and live a longer more healthful life.
1. Interval training AND steady pace exercise
Study after study has shown that interval training is the most effective way to burn fat. While steady pace exercise may use a higher percentage of fat as an energy source, the same duration of exercise engaged in high intensity interval training (HIIT) burns far more calories and therefore more total calories from fat. The most common way to illustrate this is to ask which you’d prefer, 90% of my gross income or 10% of Oprah’s?
Furthermore, HIIT has been shown to have a greater benefit on heart health and your overall cardiovascular system.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should abandon steady pace exercise entirely. Slower pace exercise (like walking, skating, hiking or light jogging) is still recommended for beginners and as mentioned, it does burn fat effectively. It is also less draining, less likely to cause injuries and can be done more often than HIIT. Additionally, slow, steady paced exercise has several positive effects on your respiratory and circulatory systems that make more intense exercise possible.
2. Resistance Exercise
Cardiovascular exercise (running, aerobic classes, etc.) burns calories while you’re engaged in that activity, but one of the benefits of resistance training is that your body continues to burn calories at an elevated level long after you’ve stopped exercising. Not only that, but when you add muscle to your body, that muscle mass burns more calories all day and night. When you burn more calories than you consume, fat loss occurs.
Four tips for doing resistance training with the intention of fat loss: i) focus on the largest muscles of the body (legs, chest, back, shoulders) ii) try combining multiple muscle groups in each exercise (e.g. clean and press) iii) select a routine that allows minimal rest between sets to keep your heart rate elevated iv) always perform exercises to exhaustion (until you can’t do any more repetitions).
This last point is crucial. A lot of people choose a number, like 12 repetitions and they’ll arbitrarily select a weight and perform 12 repetitions of a particular exercise then move on to the next. However, to maximize the effects of weight training, no matter what weight you select, you must do as many repetitions as you can. In most cases, anywhere from 8 to 12 repetitions is a good amount. If you’re aiming for 12 reps, select a weight that is heavy enough that you simply can’t do a 13th rep. The key is to keep going until you can’t go any more. Then move on to the next exercise.
3. Increase your daily activity level
You’ve probably heard the suggestion of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, but if that’s not an option, consider walking up the escalator rather than just standing there. Try getting off the bus or train one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way. If you have an hour for lunch, try eating in half an hour and walking the rest of the time. Consider the possibility of riding your bike to work or the subway station, even just one day per week. Turn on some music and dance while you’re washing the dishes. March on the spot while watching TV, even if it’s just during commercial breaks. Find excuses to add movement to your day, rather than excuses not to.
4. Isometric muscle contraction
Static exercises like planks and wall sitting have huge benefits in terms of strengthening and toning, but you can do isometric contractions of your muscles any time, anywhere. Squeezing your glutes while standing in line at the grocery store or sucking in your abdominals while sitting in a movie theatre will increase your calorie expenditure during a period when you’re not otherwise actively exercising. Try squeezing the muscles as tight as you can for 1 minute or longer, followed by a rest. You can also try a “flutter” technique where you rapidly tighten and release that muscle as many times as you can. Again, large muscle groups burn more calories than smaller ones, but you can do isometric muscle contractions with just about every muscle in your body, from your toes to your tongue!
5. Eating habits
Everyone knows that we should eat more vegetables and less sugar. But when we set out to start eating more healthfully, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the (sometimes conflicting) nutritional advice out there. Furthermore, many people get frustrated when they think they’re eating all the right foods and not losing weight. Is it portion sizes? Is it the time of day they’re eating? Keeping track of all the latest recommendations, the nutrients that we’re supposed to consume and all the things that we should avoid could be a full time job. Fortunately, there are those out there whose full time job is doing exactly that. A visit with a registered dietician or nutritionist is a great idea to make sure you’re fuelling your body adequately for the level of activity you’re engaged in.
High energy is essential to the active lifestyle that leads to weight loss, but getting that energy in the right amounts and from the right sources is vital to your success.
Springtime is a great opportunity to get a fresh start on healthy, active living. Make this spring your time to get strong and fit for optimal health!
Michael Andrew is a holistic personal trainer. He is a contributing blogger at Soma and provides personalized online training plans at www.mkonlinetraining.com. For a personalized fitness assessment email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For nutrition consultation email email@example.com.
AROUND THE BAY
ATB race photos are up!