If you are struggling to keep your fitness motivation going after starting out full of enthusiasm in the New Year it’s time to give your fitness regime a motivational boost.
If you are not already using a heart rate monitor then seriously think about getting one.
The thing is that a heart rate monitor will show you how much fitter you are getting before you feel any difference yourself. And you will always have something to challenge yourself with.
I have a Polar F6F which is a great little mid range heart rate monitor. It is like having a coach asking you to work a little bit harder, a little bit longer, an extra few calories during your fitness session yet it tells you if you are pushing yourself too hard. You never have to reach a level higher than you are capable of, yet you can’t get away with slacking either – your heart rate will tell you when you are.
And if you like to see your progress in black and white you can plot your results until the cows come home until you are literally off the charts from where you are just now.
Lazy by nature, I use my heart rate monitor whenever I exercise so that I can’t get away with anything. And I’m convinced (in fact, I know) I wouldn’t do half as much without it)
Just now Amazon have some great deals on heart rate monitors with up to 30% off – if finances are a bit tight don’t go for anything fancy – the basic functionality will do just great and you can always upgrade if you get hooked. (The Polar F6F is my second heart rate monitor.)
If you can manage it, working out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning burns more fat than at any other time.
Don’t ask me about the exact science behind it, but it’s something to do with insulin levels being at their lowest level and glucagon levels being high – causing the body to use fat for fuel.
On top of that, for a double whammy, exercising first thing in the morning will get your metabolism revved up and into high gear for the rest of the day.
Personally I find that I feel light headed if I exercise without eating – and keeling over is not a good idea. I drink a cup of mint tea and eat a big juicy orange and that seems to be enough to tide me over but maybe that defeats the purpose – and I just use the calories from the orange
But if it’s right for your body chemistry then why not give it a go and get out from under the duvet and straight into your fitness gear?
Photo by exfordy
If you’re looking to lose a few pounds and help things along with exercise, try working out twice a day rather than once.
With split routines
- you increase the calories you can burn without tiring yourself out in one long mega-session – you can work out for longer in total each day and put more effort into your routines
- you keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders giving it a big boost twice during the day
- you keep your goals central in your mind – and hopefully yourself on the straight and narrow
- you won’t have much time left for sitting around pigging out in front of the TV!
If you try this be sure and vary your activities each session and each day so that you reduce the risk of strain and injury on any one part of your body.
Split routines are used most often in weight training to mean working different muscle groups each day and avoid overtaxing any one part of the body, but if you are up for it here is a suggested a.m. p.m split routine incorporating both cardio and strength training.
You have to be pretty dedicated to lose weight through exercise alone.
I remember how astonished I was when I first worked out that at 3500 calories a pound you have to run more than a marathon to lose a single pound of fat!
That’s why going to the gym and then rewarding yourself with a snack is counter-productive – you will probably eat more calories than you use up.
Yet, exercise is still good for weight loss for many reasons :-
- every calorie counts whether it’s 10 or 1000 – better to use them than not use them
- it helps build muscle and muscles burn calories even when you are at rest – your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories) increases
- it improves your mood and general sense of well-being – so you are better able to avoid comfort eating
- it keeps you occupied and away from the fridge
- if you exercise enough, you can eat just a little more and still lose weight. This helps to prevent a sense of deprivation
- you will keep your muscles and skin in better condition as you lose weight and are less likely to lose muscle tissue and tone
The best way to lose weight is to combine exercise with healthy eating so that you exercise a bit more (say 250 calories worth of exercise a day) and eat a bit less than you need at your normal (non-exercise) level of activity (say 250 calories) – that way you’ll steadily lose about 1lb a week without too much hardship.
A little while ago I wrote about the myth of the fat burning zone – the idea that moderate exercise is the best way to burn fat.
This myth led to every piece of cardio equipment at the gym being given a misleading fat burning program or fat burning zone workout.
You think you’re doing well – 30 minutes “burning fat” – when really you’d be better getting on your treadmill and doing interval training for the same period (and you’d continue burning fat after your workout).
The myth arose because you burn proportionately more fat when you exercise at a moderate pace than you do when your workout is more intense – so a bigger percentage of the calories used come from fat.
You just tend to forget that you use fewer calories overall!
Anyway, I read today in Personal Trainer Cliff Lathams‘ newsletter something even more interesting about fat burning. He says
“I have news for you. You burn a higher ratio of fat to carbohydrate during complete rest. Therefore, sleeping would burn the most fat off your body. And you don’t really think that sleeping in on Saturday morning helps you reach your goals do you?”
Mmmh – think about that next time you step on your treadmill and choose your workout program.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read and heard that you are better to do moderate exercise if you want to burn fat – and exercise for at least 30 minutes to start burning it. I think I even believed it myself at one time I heard it so often.
It’s true of course that all exercise is good for fat burning – a calorie burned is a calorie burned after all (although you are probably not burning as many as you think – so no, you can’t have that Snickers Bar after the gym, no matter how hard you think you worked, without making your visit pretty much a waste of time as far as calorie burning goes).
Anyway I digress.
The truth is that you will burn a lot more calories (and in the end shed more fat) if you vary the intensity of exercise during your session rather than sticking to a moderate pace the whole time.
So for example, you would go at a moderate pace for 3 minutes and then go as fast as you can for 3 minutes before returning to your moderate pace for 3 minutes – essentially alternating moderate and fast pace for the duration of your session a.k.a. interval training
The advantages to this:-
- you are working harder for half your session and so directly burning more calories
- you will be working wonders for your level of cardio fitness – interval training is one of the best ways of getting fit fast
- you get an added calorie-burning boost AFTER your workout. Research shows that you burn 25 per cent as many calories in the hour after your interval training session as you do during it. So, that means if you burn 400 calories during your session – you’ll burn an extra 100 calories in the following hour while you sit with your feet up! Why? It seems the body has to make more effort to get back to normal after intense exercise.
If you feel a bit distraught at the idea of all that intense exercise, don’t let it put you off working out altogether. Remember some exercise is ALWAYS better than none and if you are doing anything at all then good on ya!