Personal fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.
Sure, there are short-term workout plans and “shred” programs that may produce fast results and short-term benefits, but there's a very good chance you'll see all that progress go out the window if you don't stick to a steady routine. More often than not, these are unsustainable and many times people end up putting all the weight back on, or worse….
Many people blame time constraints for their lack of exercise consistency, but is that really a good excuse?
The truth is, you really don't need all that much time to meaningfully accomplish some exercise. In fact, a recent study just published reports all it takes is just three minutes of movement for every half hour spent sitting to help offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Subjects who followed this strategy showed notable improvements in bad cholesterol and daily blood sugar stability.
Now, while moving for just three minutes every half hour almost certainly represents the bare minimum approach to exercise, many trainers believe mini-workouts are a great way to slowly start that fitness marathon toward a leaner body. Even just 5-10 minutes a day can really jumpstart your weight loss journey.
However, at a certain point, you're going to want to graduate to longer exercise sessions. When that time comes, there are a number of additional tips to keep in mind that will help you achieve, and then maintain, the lean yet toned body you've always wanted. Keeping reading to learn the best secrets to getting a leaner body for good.
1 Never neglect weight training
Many people believe that trimming down and leaning out is usually associated with cardio exercises. Any knowledgeable personal trainer will tell you weight lifting and resistance exercises should not be neglected. Why? These exercises jumpstart the metabolism and increase fat burning.
Our bodies are brilliant. When you train against resistance, you are building muscle mass. As you train against a resistance, be it weight or gravity, you are often training anaerobically, which is a fancy way of saying 'not in the presence of oxygen.' However, as the muscles repair and gain in strength, the metabolism changes such that, at rest, fat is being used as energy.
Moreover, combining resistance exercises with clean eating helps simultaneously reduce body fat while preserving lean muscle mass. And preserving lean muscle mass is crucial as we age.
2 Lift first, then cardio
Like salt and pepper or bacon and eggs, lifting weights and cardio exercises represent two sides of the ideal exercise coin. Each variety is equally important to attaining and keeping a lean physique, but which should you complete first?
Research backs the suggestion to hit the weight room before making your way to the treadmill. You'll build more muscle by lifting weights first since you have more muscle glycogen [aka carbohydrates] stored up to use as energy. It'll be significantly more difficult to have a great, heavy resistance, weightlifting workout if you're depleted of glycogen because you did cardio first.
A recent study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise tracked a group of participants and noted those who performed resistance exercises and then moved on to cardio enjoyed greater fat burning than other subjects.
It’s recommended a minimum of 10 minutes, and ideally 30-40 minutes, of steady state cardio after a weightlifting session. This will get you lean much more optimally.
3 Vary your routine
Being consistent with cardio and exercise is no doubt important for maintaining a lean body, but that doesn't mean you need to run 5K every other day or slog out 90 mins at the gym. There are plenty of faster, and less intense, options out there to help you continually meet your lean body goals.
If you're short on time, consider trying out some Interval Training. Often tagged as HIIT workouts, these are usually shorter sessions, lasting anywhere from 5-20 minutes, and characterized by intense, brief bouts of motion followed by even shorter rest periods repeated cyclically. For example, 30 seconds of jumping jacks followed by a 10-second rest, repeated for five rounds.
If you are looking for a way to burn fat fast and get lean quickly, HIIT is a solid option. Done properly, HIIT is more efficient in terms of burning calories than other traditional forms of cardio, even after you've completed a workout. The good thing is, you do not need to spend countless hours on the treadmill. Just go out and sprint the mountains, push tires or find other creative ways to incorporate intervals into your daily routine.
HIIT workouts can result in significantly more burned calories in comparison to spending the same amount of time on other forms of cardio, like cycling or jogging. Furthermore, like resistance training, HIIT workouts are another proven way to stimulate extra calorie expenditure post-workout in comparison with steady-state cardio. In other words, your body will keep burning calories hours after you stop sweating!
On days you need a bit more recovery, consider going for a more leisurely walk or light jog. These cardio exercises, referred to as "low-intensity steady-state training" (LISS), are a great way to stay active while still giving your body time to recover after more strenuous workouts. Known as “Active Rest” days, these will keep you burning calories - and take up time you may be tempted to indulge on calorie intake!!
4 Eat for muscle
Much of the nutrition "science" peddled within the fitness industry is BS and just there to drive the profits of corporations and brands. If you're eating a healthy diet with lots of different fruits and vegetables, food based proteins, whole grains, not too much sugar or processed stuff, and limited alcohol - you're probably doing fine.
But if you want to avoid losing muscle as you age, it's worth making a couple of tweaks. Increase the protein in your diet as well as the number of times it’s consumed during the day. A side benefit: Adding protein to anything you eat effectively lowers its glycemic index, which means you’ll feel fuller longer and won’t be reaching for that afternoon snack.
So if you really want to have an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie without feeling a sugar crash, put a smear of almond butter on it.
It may help to consume 3 to 5 milligrams of creatine powder a day, usually in a smoothie or a glass of milk, just before or after a workout. Creatine is scientifically proven in its ability to build and maintain muscle - unlike a lot of other ‘fad’ supplements out there.
5 Make exercise fun
We've often touched on how consistency is key to maintaining a lean life, but consistency requires motivation.
Where can you find motivation on particularly lazy days? One study suggests a refreshingly simple approach to fitness: Forget about personal bests, distances covered, or counting calories and ask yourself, What can I do today that will be fun and get me moving?
The study interviewed a group of adults and those who were more consistent with their exercise routines shared one common factor: They enjoyed their workouts.
So, do whatever you have to do to make exercise more enjoyable. Start working out with a friend, or maybe take up a new sport you've always wanted to try. The research indicates that once we find a form of physical activity we truly enjoy, it will be much easier to stick with it for the long haul.
Four factors, in particular, are closely linked with exercise enjoyment: Competence (meaning it should be an activity you can eventually excel at), followed by the opportunity for social interactions, novel experiences (aka the thrill of trying something new), and physical exertion (which equates to that satisfying post-workout endorphin rush that keeps us coming back for more).
But how to fit it all in….
“I don’t have time to exercise or get to the gym” - it’s a common challenge I hear every day from busy people who want to get into shape….and the older we get, the less time we seem to have.
Most adults say they want to work out but just don't have the time when they're also focusing on a career, maintaining a social life, and everything in between. It’s been proven through much research that more people feel much happier when they exercise consistently.
Of course, smart time management can go a long way toward carving out some time for bench presses and bicep curls. Ask yourself: How many minutes (or hours) per day do you scroll away on a smartphone or tablet? Eye-opening research has found that an average adult actually has about three-five hours of free time daily, which is usually wasted on screen time.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying some time on TV or Instagram here and there, but these findings just go to show our schedules may not be quite as packed as they seem. Finding the time for a single weekly exercise session should be doable for even the most dedicated workaholic.
If you can only manage one bout of weekly exercise, focus on weight lifting and resistance exercises. Why? It may be surprising, but lifting weights once per week offers a bevy of attractive benefits from both a physical and mental perspective. In fact, science shows lifting weights on a weekly basis can improve your strength, mood, and so much more.
Getting lean for life is not about short term, quick fixes. It’s about finding a sustainable and effective way to stay consistent with your exercise and nutrition… and most importantly, making it enjoyable!
At FitSELF, I focus on four key principles to ensure clients are set up for life to achieve and maintain that lean, athletic look and healthy lifestyle: nutrition, exercise, hydration and recovery. All of these have equal importance in sustaining the body and life you dream of.
Most importantly though - is that all four of these are underpinned by a solid mindset. Remembering our ‘why’ and looking at the positive benefits of this lifestyle will keep our willpower and motivation in check when things get a bit rocky.
Being motivated to get fit and be healthy should not be built on guilt or pain or negatives, instead, it’s about enjoying the benefits gained by living a lean and healthy life.
To hear more about how to make that life a reality, head to the FitSELF website: www.fitself.co.uk
Or don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly to see how I can help you.