Are You Wasting Your Time At the Gym?

Is Cardio Making You Fat

You think you’re doing everything the doctor ordered.  Three times per week, you step on the treadmill and watch as the “calories burned” number racks up on the monitor, and then you step off 30 minutes later, having burned your desired number of calories, and having gotten in your prescribed amount of cardio.  And you even watched your favorite show on TV.

But lately you notice you’re not getting anywhere.  You seem to be staying at the same weight and your clothes aren’t getting any looser.  If someone asked you, you’d tell them that you go to the gym to be healthy.  But underneath it all, you really did expect to lose some weight, right?  I get it.  Been there, done that.

Here’s what’s going on:  With long bouts of low-intensity cardio (steady-state aerobics), your body adapts over time.  So if you just consistently log in for 30 minutes, the treadmill screen will tell you that you burned the same number of calories, but in reality, you’re not!  In a cruel twist of biology, your body adapts by getting more efficient at that exercise.  Furthermore, as soon as you step off the machine, your metabolism immediately returns to its pre-exercise rate.  (If you think you can outsmart your body by spending even more time on the treadmill, think again – over time you will find yourself hungrier and craving carbs like crazy!)

If the goal is fat loss, using cardio machines is not the most effective way to do it.  In fact, according to Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, owners of Results Fitness in California (one of the most successful gyms in the country), steady-state cardio is the fifth-best choice for effective exercise for fat loss!

Here’s the best way to manage your time at the gym if you want to burn fat:

  1. If you have 3 hours per week spend at the gym, spend it doing resistance training.  Grab some heavy weights and start lifting!  Body sculpting doesn’t count.  If you can do more than 20 reps, you’re just doing aerobics, so go back and grab some bigger weights!  This will boost your calorie burn 24/7.
  2. If you have time 3-5 hours per week to spend at the gym, do weight training and add in some high-intensity anaerobic interval training.  (Example:  hill sprints!)  I’m talking MAX effort!  You’ll probably need a trainer to “encourage” you through these!  Now you’ll be boosting calorie burn 24/7 and raising your post-exercise metabolism.
  3. If you have 5-6 hours per week for the gym, add in some high-intensity aerobic intervals. (Example:  jog/run intervals.)  It’s still a higher intensity overall than steady-state aerobics.
  4. If you have 6-8 hours per week for the gym, and you’re still not losing fat, then you’d better take a very close look at your diet.  At this point, add a long bike ride or run at 75% of your maximum heart rate.  Why not do this all the time?  It will take away from other higher-priority fat-burning activities.
  5. If you have even more time, now add in your slow, steady cardio.  Go for long, fast walks or slow jogs.  This type of exercise is fifth on the list as far as effectiveness on fat loss, according to the Cosgrove coaches!

The Takeaway:  Overall, weight lifting is the best exercise for fat loss.  And if you’re going to be on a treadmill, make sure you get in bouts of high intensity.

Photo credit:  www.wewomen.com

Are You Making These Common Mistakes At the Gym?

Let me preface this post with the fact that I have made ALL of these mistakes at some time!  And at least if you’re at the gym, you’re trying!  

But here are the top ones I see:

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Mistake #1: You hold the railings of the treadmill.

A lot of people hold the railings, perhaps because they’re afraid of falling.  But when you’re at the gym, that’s where you want to train for real life.  And in real life, your arms would be swinging while you walk.  Let go!  Be free!  It will train your balance better, be a more aerobic workout, help prevent rounded shoulders and even make you burn more calories!

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Mistake #2:  You only use the cardio equipment!

Cardio equipment has its place, but if your goal is to lose weight, you want to hit the weights, too.  Did you know that your body returns to its pre-workout calorie-burning level as soon as you leave the gym if you’re just doing long cardio sessions?  But if you want to burn even more calories for 24- 48 hours after your workout (known as “EPOC,” or excess post-oxygen consumption), you’ll want to lift weights and do some high-intensity intervals.  So if you’re using the treadmill, check out some of those interval programs.

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Mistake #3:  You saw someone do an exercise and, without instruction, 

you try it on your own.  

I love to get new exercises ideas at the gym, but more often than not, I see a lot of what NOT to do! One of the most dangerous gym crimes I see is bad kettlebell swings.  Kettlebells aren’t really that different from weights, but when you start swinging around all that iron, you’d better know what you’re doing.  Check out this link for an excellent kettlebell swing lesson: https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/exercise-spotlight-kettlebell-swing/

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Mistake #4:  You use the equipment incorrectly.

There’s a reason that most gyms offer a free session with a trainer to orient you to the machines.  Yes, they want you to sign up for personal training sessions (and by all means, sign up!).  But the other reason is so that you don’t get hurt.  Take advantage of the free session.  Most gyms also encourage the trainers to circulate the gym while they’re not with a client so that they’re available for your questions.  So ask away!  That’s why they’re there!

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Mistake #5:  You eat your profits after your workout.  

I will always remember the time I saw someone all sweaty at Starbuck’s, wearing a t-shirt from the new gym in town.  I asked her how she liked the gym, and she said that she loved it.  “The workouts are so hard that I always come here and reward myself with a crappuccino.”  (Okay, I added that last word.)  But seriously, even an intense workout can be canceled out with the calories of just one muffin!  Make the most of your exercise by having a whey protein shake immediately following it!

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Mistake #6:  If you still look pretty after your workout!

Some people read books, talk on the phone, or distract themselves so much that they leave the gym without having worked up a sweat at all.  If you still look cute, you probably didn’t work out hard enough.

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Mistake #7:  Lifting weights that are too light.  

This infraction ties in with Mistake #6.  If you can lift that weight more than 20 times, it’s time to bump it up to a heavier weight.  While you don’t want to overdo it, you do want your workout to be worth your time.  Oh, and don’t worry about bulking up.  It takes months, if not years, for weight lifters to get that bulked-up look.  And they lift the big weights down at the end!

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Mistake #8:  You don’t go to the gym at all!

This gym looks so lonely!  I love to see the gym in January when it’s full of people enthusiastic about exercise! I think the biggest mistake people make is being over-zealous when they first start out.  Just start easy, and keep going.  Never give up.  It’s intimidating at first, but it will get easier over time.  In fact, most of the trainers I know were very overweight or out of shape at some point in their lives, and their efforts to become healthier actually brought them to their present careers.  So if anyone would understand, it’s the other people at the gym.  The door is always open!  Who knows?  Maybe you’re the next trainer-to-be!