Ever notice the people we see day in/day out at the gym killing it 5 days a week and don’t always have a noticeable change in they physique? I’m not dismissing the benefits we reap when putting in the max effort during a great sweat sesh, but I am negating the cons of doing too much of it.
I fell into this trapped mindset more times than I can count and it was exhausting. Here’s the thing, the more time we put into training the more we have to do to see any changes. Our bodies adapt so therefore we have to add more and more (hours and hours) to see any potential shifts in our body compositions.
If we’re doing so much exercise simply to maintain, how on earth can we use exercise to lose fat? The answer is that we cannot. 2 hours per day turns into 3 hours per day and then 4 hours per day, etc.
What we need to be doing is asking ourselves, “What’s the LEAST amount of exercise we can do to get the biggest return on our time?” Who has the time to spend several hours in the gym or hitting that pavement for hours on end these days? Not many of us and those that do I can imagine it’s exhausting to have to ponder up the energy to think there’s another workout ahead that’s going to take up the latter part of our afternoon.
I’m going to share a quick story of an example I have with a former client of mine. She was struggling, which is totally okay. She was in the midst of some hard times and decided her outlet was 3 hours on the step mill. No joke, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Even on the weekends. My heart went out to her and I finally mustered up the courage to go and talk to her to see where her head was at. I began to gain her trust and she decided to start working with me. In the beginning it was a real struggle to ween her off the excessive amounts of cardio she was doing. (I didn’t get her off cold turkey) But we slowly cut back over time and she started lifting more weights. Her body fat was significantly high due to the high volume of stress her body was enduring on a daily basis. Not only coming from her home life, but with the hours of excess cardio her body was in a constant state of stress which lead to major cortisol issues. She had large pockets of fat around her hamstrings, belly and hip area and her cellulite was quite prevalent. (Again, no judgement here, just stating the facts). So we slowly cut back the cardio, increased her weight training (which was nothing prior) and I kept her diet the same. (Too much at one time was very overwhelming for her and understandably so.)
Over about a period of 6 months her body started to show a major shift, in a good way! Her cardio routine got to a normal amount (or what was comfortable for her to maintain) which was around 3 hours a week along with some heavy strength training and a healthy diet. I had asked if she would be willing to share some pictures of the changes and she declined but she was open to me sharing her story with you.
In a nutshell, she cut back immensely on her cardio, increased her weight training, stayed consistent to a diet rich in protein, healthy fats, proper carbs and water. It was amazing to see how her body comp changed: her increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in her body fat, especially around her waist, hips and thighs because her body was no longer in a state of stress. She didn’t look as flat, showed less cellulite, developed a stronger sense of self and had a body to show for it.
It took her a while to wrap her head around the concept that more isn’t better. Better is better. Her workouts with me were shorter, more intense and smarter than her hours spent on the step mill day after day. Plus, she didn’t feel like she was going crazy mentally, she felt at peace knowing she wasn’t going to gain tons of weight overnight by not spending less than 3 hours in the gym.
So what’s the best scenario for someone struggling with a similar situation? First, it has to begin with the mindset because if our heads aren’t in the game for a change (which is super hard I know) then it’s near impossible to make any major shifts. I get it, change is super scary, especially when we are more comfortable with what we know (even though we know it’s not working) rather than going with something new.
Now, I get that with endurance athletes there is a minimum of training that needs to be done and I’m not dismissing that by any means. Most of my stuff is directed at those that are tired of doing tons of it, want a body to show for it and do less to reap more benefits. 99% of the women I work with are just trying to get a lean muscle look that looks tight, toned and fit and I can promise that hours of cardio with no weight training isn’t going to get us there. Sure, I might get some heat for that and not everyone will agree with that statement but I’m stating what not only has worked for me but what has worked for my clients over the years. Something that’s sustainable and long lasting. Let’s be honest, the extremes don’t work and who doesn’t want to be able to hit the gym fresh and ready to go each day rather than feeling depleted from 2 hour session the day before? Not me.
So here are a few of my tips to get more “bang for your buck.”
Focus on more compound movements that work more than one muscle group. Examples of this include:
Lunges with bicep curls, squats to presses, lunges with overhead presses, goblet squats, KB swings (when done correctly), renegade rows with push ups, etc. Here’s one of my favorite workouts like this HERE.
Do HIIT 2-3 times a week. MAX 20-30 minutes at most. Train smart! Interval training is so effective when done right. I love sprints on any cardio machine (including low impact), track workouts, hill workouts, etc.
Walk! Walking is so beneficial for us in more ways than one and I used to think it was stupid if I wasn’t burning enough calories doing so. However, walking has been proven to reduce cortisol levels, help regulate hormones, reduce stress, create a better balance and walking helps our moods!
Eat whole, nutritious foods and create a grocery list like THIS.
Remember, “more isn’t better, better is better!”
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