You're crushing it daily with cardio workouts, but you can't lose weight or make any progress. What gives? I'll help you understand what you're missing from your routine and how to get the fitness gains you've been lusting after.
It's common knowledge that to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you take in. So you focus on cardio workouts and you eat right. You do this thing. You jog a few miles 2 or 3 days a week. Then, because you're getting *ahem* more mature and less able to keep the pounds off with jogging alone, you join a gym. You always bypass the weight room (full of grody bros, and you definitely don't want to bulk up) and hit the cardio room. You do the elliptical. You do the stair climber. You do Zumba. You spin. You crank your treadmill incline until you're barely standing upright. You get so into it that when Justin Timberlake comes on your playlist, you actually cry. You ARE bringing sexy back. You ARE. But when you step on the scale the numbers refuse to move down. Your pants are just as snug, and when you see pictures of yourself you feel filled with frustration and anger. You're working out so much! Why can't you lose weight???
The American College of Sports Medicine says aerobic exercise is super important for your heart and health. Cardio workouts should always be a part of your fitness routine. But continuous endurance training - where you raise your heart rate up to a steady state and hold it there for a prolonged period of time - isn't enough to help you break through plateaus.
Here's the big secret. Aerobic exercise alone is not the best exercise to lose weight; it's only half of the equation. It's just as important to build lean muscle mass through strength training.
Danielle DiDonato Martinez, MPH, CPT, and owner and creator of RockStar Fit, agrees. "Performing steady state cardiovascular exercise is beneficial to increase cardiovascular strength and endurance," she explains. "However, for weight loss, incorporating resistance training into your workout is vital. Increasing your overall muscle mass revs up your metabolism by allowing you to not only burn calories while you are exercising, but also while at rest."
In other words, if you spend 45 minutes in the weight room twice a week, you're gonna be shedding cals even while you're slumped on the couch watching Netflix or 'gramming pics of your latest adventures with self tanner. Want some inspiration? Think about JLo. She's lean and muscular from head to toe. Her body is working overtime, all the time, because she's packed with muscle. And that's a surefire way to kick the fat to the curb.
Watching the Clock
Another way to accelerate your metabolism is to trade in your endurance cardio workouts for interval training a couple times a week. Short bursts of intense effort followed by short recoveries have been proven to burn calories more quickly than steady state cardio. Next time you're on your favorite cardio machine, try going all out for 3o seconds and then backing it down to a steady pace for about a minute of recovery; 20-30 minutes of that sweat fest and you're done!
Weight Room Worries
If you want to build muscle but are intimidated by the weight room, or have absolutely no idea how to use the machines, try a strength training class. Or, ask your gym if they have a personal trainer who can show you the ropes. It's better to be informed than to hurt yourself or waste your time. Once you feel more familiar with the equipment, you can start slowly increasing your resistance as your strength grows and your waistline shrinks.
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Image: Sarah Olive Bergeson