Hating what you do at the gym is the quickest way to failure. Not surprisingly, most people do not enjoy cardiovascular exercise. Yet, many believe that cardio is the only and best way to lose weight.
A huge misconception of individuals just starting their fitness journey is that they need to do an obscene amount of cardio to lose weight. I see it all the time; people go to the gym and do the elliptical or the treadmill for an hour time and time again. Let me tell you something--though this may get you quick results right off the bat, your body will quickly plateau. As soon as the progress slows down or comes to a halt altogether, people get discouraged and say screw it I’ll try again next year.
First of all, let it be known that I do advise to do cardiovascular exercise each week no matter what your fitness goal is. Things like walk, jogging, biking, or doing the stair stepper or elliptical will strengthen your heart which is important for your overall well-being. I’m not saying you shouldn’t engage in cardio because again, it is so important for heart health. However, if your goal is to lose weight, please do not think that you need to kill yourself on the cardio equipment everyday!
Our bodies do an amazing job of expanding their capabilities and adapting to the stress we place on them. If you do steady state cardio everyday, there will come a point where it becomes easier and this is because your body becomes stronger and adapts to the exercise. This also means that it takes less energy to perform the exercise. In order to keep progressing, you will have to increase the time and/or intensity of the exercise in order for it to be effective. This will keep going on and on until all of a sudden you’re up to well over an hour a day and honestly, who has time for that?
If your number one goal is to lose weight, here are my suggestions to you:
Circuit Training is performing a group of exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. This sort of training is highly recommended for those who want to lose weight because it keeps the heart rate elevated due to minimal rest. An example of an at-home, bodyweight circuit training routine would be 10 burpees, 10 push-ups, 30 jumping jacks, 20 high knees, and 10 jump squats, all back-to-back, taking a 60-second rest before repeating the circuit.
Peripheral Heart Action Training
This is simply Circuit Training that alternates between lower body and upper body exercises. Again, this is recommended for those who want to lose weight because the heart rate remains elevated due to minimal rest. In addition, special attention to the lower body will burn more calories than working the upper body because our biggest muscle groups are in our lower halves. You’ll find on leg days you’ll be a hot, sweaty mess compared to upper body days (at least I do!).
Exercise in an Unstable, Controlled Environment
Exercising in unstable environments challenges your core and balance skills and allow you to burn more calories. As an example, it’s more challenging to do crunches on a BOSU than on the floor. It’s more challenging to perform bicep curls standing, than sitting. It’s more challenging to do squats with a free bar versus a Smith machine. (Disclaimer: I am not saying you shouldn’t sit to lift weights or use a Smith machine, I’m just stating ways to increase your caloric output). Also, please be sure to progress into unstable environments! If you’re not able to do a push-up, do not attempt to do a push -up with your feet on a stability ball.
Half Your Time Between Weights & Cardio
Since cardio is a definite way to raise your heart rate, it is important to do when your goal is to lose weight. Maybe start your workout with 15 minutes of cardio, lift weights, and then end with another 15 minutes of cardio. Whatever your time constraint is, split it in half between weight lifting and cardio.
Change Intensities and Types of Cardio
Basically, don’t do the same type of cardio, for the same time, at the same speed and resistance everyday. Bike instead of elliptical. Incline walk instead of run. Play around with your speed and resistance. HIIT is a great way to burn the most amount of calories in the shortest amount of time. Challenge your body by switching things up!
Perhaps the most important thing of all is engaging in exercise you love. If you genuinely enjoy yoga and only yoga, you go do that yoga. In the long run, you will stick with it, leading to gradual, but consistent improvements. If you decide to take up running to lose weight, but really hate it, chances are you won’t stick to it, leading to negligible improvements over time. Always do what’s best for you in the long run.