As a trainer and someone who is used to working out and studying the different aspects of fitness ( I really love the nitty gritty science behind the human body and its mechanics), I feel that it is a good idea to write about the basics of fitness everyone, especially beginners need to know. There are so many diets, exercises and weight loss plans (good and bad) that it can be VERY confusing, so I have compiled some of the topics I get asked about the most as well as some myths that need to be thrown out.
1. Cardio – fast or slow or both? If you read any fitness magazine right now you will most certainly see an article on interval training or HIIT (high intensity interval training). In years past many people believed that a more moderate paced workout in the “fat burning zone” for a longer duration would be the best way to burn fat. We are seeing now that that is not the case. A 20-30 min workout of interval training burns far more calories due to EPOC – the calories you continue to burn after a workout because your metabolism has been raised. The fat-burning benefits and the cardiovascular benefits cannot be trumped by a longer slow workout in my opinion. This is a great way to lower your resting heart rate as well which is sign your heart is getting much more fit. With that said, these types of workouts are intense and should not be done every day. Interval training can be done 2-3 days per week, and HIIT (a more intense version of intervals) should be done only 2 non-consecutive days a week. Longer cardio sessions can be added in the rest of your cardio days. The good thing about longer sessions is it helps build endurance, so don’t completely get rid of your longer sessions.
2. Strength train to lose inches ! Pick up some weights if you want to burn calories while you sleep, get stronger, shrink your waist size and avoid bone loss as you age. That pretty much sums it up! Weight training is the best way to lose weight b/c as you add lean muscle your metabolism increases b/c muscle burns more calories than fat. For every pound of muscle you add you burn an extra 50 calories a day just by living. Don’t be afraid of the bigger weights b/c you will not get big. Women do not naturally have enough testosterone to get big like men. Where I work out and train there are women doing shoulder presses with 20 lb dumbells and squatting with 50-60 lbs. They are not “big” but fit and toned!
3. Get a basic knowledge of the muscle groups and how to train them with good form. This is essential for seeing results and avoiding injury. Plus if you can envision the muscles you are toning it makes your workouts seem more meaningful.
4. Over and under – estimating calories. Unfortunately those cardio machines at the gym don’t always tell the truth about calories burned. They usually over estimate – especially if they do not make you type in your weight and gender. if you do decide to use those numbers I would subtract 100 calories at least from what it says. Also, be careful not to underestimate your calorie consumption. If you are trying to lose weight I recommend having a food journal of your normal eating habits and writing your calories down for everything you eat for at least 3-4 days. you may not want to keep doing this everyday, but it will really open your eyes about how many calories you are consuming. It did for me!
5. Know when to rest – The days you train – especially strength training- your muscles are breaking themselves down. No muscle building is going on at all until your rest day. During your rest day and with a good night’s rest your body repairs those damaged muscle fibers making them stronger and making you more lean.
6. Wear the right shoes- ( First off I have to say these rainbow shoes are the prettiest shoes I have ever seen!) Okay, so this is a big one for me as I suffer from plantar fasciitis (in the process of treating it). This wearing down of tissue causes great foot pain, so I know how important it is to use good shoes. Make sure to change them out every 3-6 mo depending on how often you work out. I use a Sharpie and write the date I bought my shoes on the inside of the tongue to help me remember.
7. Set goals and make a plan for your success! – I cannot stress enough the importance of goals – especially if you are new to exercise. If you have larger weight loss goal break it down into 10 lb increments to maintain motivation. Once you achieve a specific measurable goal make a new one! Measurable goals are very important! They can be losing a certain number of pounds, dropping a pant size, getting to a certain body fat %, or lifting a certain amount of weight, etc…
8. Plan exercise into your weekly plans – Life is busy – especially if you have kids. Let’s face it – if you don’t schedule exercise it most likely will not get done. Make your fitness goals a priority. A healthy mom is a happier mom which is better for the kids-we all know that ;). Make time for yourself!