Want results? It’s time to get outside of your comfort zone.
We know that diet plays a big part in getting into shape. That’s why one of the first things I offer on The Happy Gal is a free 7-Day Meal Plan as well as my new cookbook Healthy Eating The Happy Gal Way. But even though nutrition is a big piece of the puzzle, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of exercise. The key is learning how to exercise the right way. I have spent a lot of years exercising…but I have to admit that I’ve never had any real strategy. I’ve pretty much just hit the pavement or walked into the gym, and done whatever has occurred to me in the moment. And that’s been a good thing; this type of exercise has benefitted my body. It has allowed me to be active, healthy, and maintain an appropriate weight. But I never could create much change. I always looked just about the same, no matter what I did. It’s funny because in the past, I periodically would hook up with friends and exercise with them for about a six-month period. Many of them would begin to lose weight and create definition. Not me. Always the same. Observing this time and again, I concluded that my body must not be the type that would ever have any muscle tone.
I was wrong.
(Sometimes it’s a good thing to be wrong.)
I’m no swimsuit model or candidate for a body building competition, but I have seen a change in my body in the last few years. I have spent some time learning about the science of exercise. This has made all of the difference in my results. If you are like me and have been exercising for a long time, but your body refuses to respond to your efforts, you are going to want to check out what I have to say below.
Shock and Awe
First of all, our bodies are engineered to adapt to what we do to them. By nature, we don’t like to be uncomfortable. So when placed in a new situation that causes discomfort, such as beginning a new exercise program, our body goes to work to acclimate itself to these new demands. Soon, what used to be hard doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Have you noticed this with exercise?
I’m sure you also noticed that your greatest weight loss came at the beginning, when the workout was hard. As the workouts got easier, what happened with your weight loss? Did it slow down? Can you connect the dots here? While all exercise is beneficial, consistent weight loss and definition comes when you find ways to exercise that constantly keeps your body guessing – shock and awe.
So how do we do this? In my first nutrition post (Food is our Friend) I introduced the idea that our focus in feeding our body is to create muscle. The same is true for our focus in exercise. Because muscles are what burn the unwanted fat, a muscular body can do the same cardio workout as a softer body, but the muscular body will burn far more calories. That’s because every pound of muscle burns 30-50 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns only 2-3. So when we begin exercising to lose weight, often we are inclined to run, bike, or participate in other cardiovascular forms of activity. But if we do this exclusively, we are not targeting the development of stronger muscles that can work harder for us (and burn more calories) during our cardio workouts. Thus, strength training is crucial for creating change in your body.
(Side note: Many women worry that if they use weights, they will bulk up and look like a body builder. Let me assure you, achieving huge muscles doesn’t happen without a strategy. Body builders use diets, supplements, and specific workout routines to acquire such muscle mass.)
The workouts I post on the Happy Gal are consistent with this exercise strategy. A cardio workout is designed to bring your heart rate to a peak of intensity, allow for a small break, and then repeat the process. The good news is that with this kind of cardio workout, 20-30 minutes is all you need. Studies have shown that interval training continues to burn calories for hours after your workout…much more effective than a steady jog or walk. It sounds to good to be true, but it’s not; you can actually exercise for less time and get more benefits with interval training.
Happy Gal resistance workouts are also founded on the shock and awe strategy. Using a variety of exercises to train the same muscle groups, and pushing those muscles to fatigue are the ways to create change in your body.
Be sure to check out these workouts for a variety of fun workouts that are sure to give you great results: Plyometric workout, High Intensity Interval Training, Workouts on Vacation, Smart Cardio Treadmill Workout.
And be sure to check out these other important posts on exercise. Piece together the elements of working out effectively like a puzzle, and you will see change!
Eat Smarter, Not Harder – A more in-depth look at the ways that exercise and nutrition work together.
The Secret to Regular Exercise – Tips to make this an everyday, enjoyable part of your life.
Tone Up and Lose Weight for Good – Three ways you can create the results you want – permanently!