Friday, June 4, 2010
January usually starts like this...you join a gym because you have been so indulgent for the previous 2 months that drastic measures need to be taken. Your goal is to "Lose weight and tone up my jiggly arms and get rid of my belly!", yes, yes, I hear you.
January starts off well, with you going to the gym every day, completing a full hour of aerobic activity on the treadmill, eliptical machine or stationary bike...furiously going nowhere while watching MTV! All while on an empty stomach because you have also decided that January is de-tox month. Surely, if you do an hours worth of aerobic activity a day and eat nothing, you will lose that stubborn bulge. Sorry. No. Not a good idea. First lesson to be learned here is that running on empty gets you nowhere very fast. Yes, you might lose some weight initially but you will also put your health at risk and cause your metabolism to actually slow down and hold on to fat instead.
By February you are managing 3 days a week, either because you are too busy now that the new year has kicked in, or because you are suffering from de-motivation and muscle fatigue. Continually doing the same exercises and routines can put a lot of stress on certain muscle groups and leave the other ones to hibernate. We also become very efficient at burning calories which is why a lot of runners have a hard time losing weight after a period of time. I remember being told by a trainer years ago that in order to lose fat you had to run slow and long! Something I now know not to be true..slow and long = injury and muscle fatigue for your average recreational runner. We now know that the best way to burn fat and build stamina is by doing interval training, short bursts of fast sprints with rest periods in between.
March comes by and spring is in the air and you are visiting the gym maybe twice a week. It is starting to become a bit of a chore getting to the gym and you haven't really lost any weight because you have been so darn hungry from running all those miles to nowhere and eating large amounts of pasta for energy! Yep, this is the reality girls. Aerobic exercise makes you fat! What? No way! Don't be fooled by the calorie burning measurements on treadmills and other machines, they are not accurate and give you a false sense of what you have achieved. You may have burned a good amount of calories during the workout, that I wont deny, but you will not continue to burn for very long afterwards.You will also feel ravenous for the rest of the day and feel that you have earned that huge plate of pasta Carbonara.
By April you are managing to work out once a week and you spend your hour angrily sweating it out on the treadmill, failing to feel the endorphins because you are so stressed about having to waste your time at the gym in order to get into your skinny jeans. More stress, more cortisol, more belly fat!! Yes, here is another fact. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when our body is under stress and it can be the reason why so many women and men hold on to belly fat. Cortisol works alongside adrenalin which together helps us tap into our energy reserves in a time of crisis. We normally have high levels of cortisol in the morning and this declines throughout the day. However, in our busy and stressed out lives cortisol is continually being released into our systems. Back in the caveman days, cortisol would have come into play in order to fuel our muscles and help us fight or flee. Their stresses involved them running like crazy from a wild animal or fighting another angry caveman...our stresses are different and health threatening. With such a high level of cortisol in our systems along with an absence of physical activity, the body stores more fat and it is stored particularly around the belly. So, if going to the gym stresses you out, then you could be jeopardising your goals and increasing your cortisol levels to boot.
It's May and you haven't been to the gym in 3 weeks and your reason is the same as everyone elses "Don't have the time". This is the number one reason for not working out and the lamest. We have to make time these days because our lives would otherwise be very static.
So here we are 6 months down the road and you are feeling cheated by the disappointment of a failed goal and a monthly membership that you still have to pay until the end of the year. I am not saying this is how it is for everyone and it also depends on the quality of the gym you go to. In order to stay with the programme and remain motivated it is important to mix up your routine and use all your muscle groups so that none ot them risk suffering from amnesia. Neither do you need to spend an hour doing your workout. A fast and furious 30 minute session of smart training will fire up your metabolism and keep it burning for many hours after you have finished. Be brave and adventurous, dare to exit your comfort zone and join the men at the weight rack. Reduce your aerobic sessions and replace them with strength training ones and you will see your body transform within weeks. Lifting weights will give you the lean and muscular look that you have been longing for along with a strong core and sexy legs. It will also strenthen your bones and raise your heart rate and have you breaking out in an admirable sweat. Try something new. Take a dance class, join a Boot Camp session, run intervals up and down your local hill, paddle board across the lake, have FUN!
Life is about living and we want to do it for as long as possible. A smart exercise routine along with nutritous, organic food will keep our bodies healthy, supple and strong for many years to come.
In fitness and in health,