Seven Exercise Strategies to Maximize Fat Loss

Because I’ve discovered that mindset is the root to happiness and personal success (WHATEVER you define that to be), I talk about it a lot.  Because I happen to believe there isn’t one single way to exercise or eat, I don’t always get very specific about how to move and how to fuel your body.

However, I’ve been forgetting that when you are getting started, you really want and need some direction and guidance.  I’ve been forgetting that at the beginning you are quite unsure of your own opinions and what makes sense for you…you haven’t learned that yet.  Going it alone without a roadmap is extremely daunting when you first dip your toe in the water.  Today’s post is that roadmap you’ve been waiting for!  🙂

Since I’ve been focused on “getting started” for the last few weeks, today I’m going to give you some guidance on how to move your body when you get started.  This is the basics…things to keep in mind when you start to shop around for a home workout to do, a group fitness class to join, or if you get some stuff online to follow independently while at the gym.

Let’s get started, shall we?

1. Bump up the intensity

When you are trying to lose body fat you need to get your heart rate up…get breathless to the point that talking would be difficult.  That is, to move with intensity!  On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the hardest you could possibly go, you want to hit an 8 or a 9.  Things should feel uncomfortable, but not unachievable and horrible.

To understand why intensity is important you need to understand how your body fuels itself.  Our bodies use a combo of sugar and fat for fuel.  The sugars in our body fuel us for performance, but not duration.  The fats in our body fuel us for duration, not performance.  When we exercise intensely (think interval training) for short bursts versus long-duration cardio, we use more sugar calories but also more TOTAL calories.  If you’re burning more total calories, then you are also ultimately burning more fat calories…which is what you want to happen for fat loss.  (This Metabolic Effect article explains this concept in better detail…look at the section under EPOC for a detailed example.  In addition, this article explains interval training and has a couple of fantastic infographics for easy reference.)

Get breathless.  Then rest.  Get breathless again.  Then rest.  (And not necessarily via timed intervals…push hard until your body needs a rest, then rest until your body can go again.)

Oh, and here’s something to chew on:  you can exercise intensely when walking, too.  Find a high beats per minute (BPM) song and step it out, then regain your breathing on a slower BPM song.  Find some hills and walk up as swiftly as possible, then catch your breath.  Hike up a steep grade going until your muscles are quivering or your heaving for breath, then rest.  Walking:  it’s low impact, you can be outside, it’s cheap, it’s accessible…AND it can be intense!

2. Short duration

Stop believing you need to spend hours doing cardio.  Running for hours, engaging in group workout classes that go for 50-60 minutes, spin classes that run an hour  AND  doing these things 4-7 days per week is actually not doing your body any favors.   Long cardio sessions can promote corThink efficiency!tisol production and inflammation.  Long cardio sessions require more fuel (move longer=more fuel required, which can mean a spike in appetite).  More is NOT better in terms of movement.  You can get results in far less time and with less strain on your body (Intensity with intervals…see above).  Read this article and this one to better understand how lengthy and too frequent endurance cardio is not helping you.

3. Don’t overdo the frequency of your intense movement

Just like spending too long each day exercising can work against you, so too, can working out with high intensity every day.  To promote fat loss and really jump start your metabolism you want to do this —>   move with an intensity level that forces you to rest (interval training at its finest) AND do this type of training 3-4x per week.  When you are working with intensity you are pushing your cardiovascular and muscular systems hard–they need to recover properly so you can hit them hard again for the most benefit.

4. Rest is as important as moving.

We are in a culture of more, more, more!!  If 30 minutes is good, than an hour must be even better.  If 5 days a week is good, then why not go all out and crush my body 7 days a week for even better results.  Our bodies are engineered for rest and leisure.  Our ancestors were likely not exerting themselves to the max for hours every day.  They likely did bursts of intense activity when required and then moved at a leisurely pace most of the time…and they didn’t sit like we do.  Most animals move in bursts:  in strength and in motion.  Think predator/prey.

Do not mistake what I’m advocating for rest as license to NOT move daily.  That isn’t my point whatsoever.  Move with intensity and purpose for a short time only a few days per week.  Then, move more in general while allowing your body rest between intense workouts.  Even the most elite athletes out there have rest built into their routine.  Very often athletes are on what is called a periodized training schedule that changes up intensity/volume/duration/rest cycles.  Further, athletes usually have off-seasons, too!  Rest is critical.  Stop negating it and allow yourself some.

Rest does not make you fat!!  Poor nutritional choices, chronic stress, and a sedentary life all mix together to create excess weight on a body, NOT rest.  Further, sleep is not the enemy either!

5. Add low and slow movement whenever possible  

Low and slow = low impact and slow paced.  Walk, bike, paddle, yoga, tai chi.  Movement that is simply for enjoyment and relaxation, and mind-body connection, not the sweat factor, is sooooooo good for you.  As a culture, we do not often see the value of leisure movement.  We want hard core, kick-your-ass, throw-up-your-breakfast workouts every damn day of the week.  This really isn’t good for us, isn’t sustainable, and messes with your cortisol levels (in particular as you age…managing stress hormones becomes even more of a priority when you get older).

I’ve walked in the last 9 months more than I have in probably the last 10 years.  I try to take an hour+ walk 3-4 days a week…and most of the time I hit that.  I am sleeping better and my anxiety level is managed better.  I enjoy being outside and walking allows me to do that without loading up equipment and/or going TO someplace to move.  I step out my front door and go where my feet take me.  My next step is to incorporate walking daily.

Shoot for some low and slow movement every day.  Start with 10 minutes and work from there.  A quick walk after you get home from work before dinner hour craziness.  A brisk 10 minute walk after dinner to settle your stomach.  A leisurely bike ride with your kids any time.  You pick what is manageable AND enjoyable for you.

6. Sit less

Sitting is killing us…quite literally.  This article cites that sitting more than six hours per day leads to an early death.  Chronic sitting is bad for posture, bad for your back, lengthens and tightens leg muscles in opposition to how we need them to work, and tanks our energy levels.

Get up and move more during your work day!

Drink a ton of water so you are forced to get up and use the restroom….each time you go, take a long lap around the office.  Set a timer on your computer and get up and stretch each hour.  If you are on a phone call, stand up and pace while chatting.  In a meeting?  Stand up from time to time!  Park further away.  Take the stairs.  Think of any opportunity you can to DECREASE your time in a seat.

7.  Add some weights

Incorporate the use of weights to promote muscle growth (helps to create higher metabolism) and bone density.    You can perform an entirely separate strength training program or you can incorporate weights into your cardio interval-style workout.  I do the latter because it tends to be more time-efficient, I don’t really have physique goals, and I’m not necessarily working toward strength PRs or power lifting.

Weight lifting/strength training is a huge subject.  Depending on your goals and what you like there are a myriad of ways to sling iron.

But for today’s post, I’m speaking of getting started and what to do when you aren’t sure.  I am a proponent of total body workouts (which include weights), interval style, 3-4x per week.  This is the type of workout I did when I was in fat-loss mode and still today, 5 years later, it is my preferred method of working out.  While I’ve tried some different things I always return back to this because of efficiency.  My number one goal is results/maintenance in as short a time as possible.

 

So what does my personal weekly movement look like?  Here’s a rough breakdown of what I do and what programs I have or am currently following:

Monday/Wednesday/Friday – 20-30 total body cardio/strength interval style workout (Lift Weights Faster – from Jen Sinkler, Metabolic Prime – from Metabolic Effect, or soon-to-try #treadLift – from Jill Coleman) plus a shorter walk of 20-30 minutes.

Tuesday/Thursday – 60-90 minute walk

Saturday/Sunday – With nicer weather I try to be outside doing some sort of yard work or moving with the kids, if that isn’t happening I will get a walk in or sometimes add another interval style workout like on M/W/F.  During the winter months I would add an additional workout like the M/W/F one above or try to go for a shorter walk if it wasn’t too cold.

What I do hits all the points above:  I get intensity with weights and cardio for a short duration that isn’t too frequent.  I rest my body, while incorporating low and slow movement and get away from screens when I can.

 

Phew!!  That’s a whole lotta info all at once.  Got questions??  Let me help sort some stuff out for you.  Send an email to carrie@headinthegamefitness.com and let’s see what we can figure out together to make this feel less scary for you.

You can do it!!  And remember what you do at the very start doesn’t have to be moving every single day…that will come with time.  What you need to do is move MORE than you have been, MORE efficiently.  Work on creating consistency first, even if that means just one day a week.  Get humming along and confident with that one day then add some more when you are ready.  All good things come with time, my friends!  🙂

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