March 30, 2010
So there’s this myth out there, and no wonder so many of us believe it, as it’s been propagated in so. many. places. Let’s get it out of the way right now: women cannot bulk up from lifting too much weight. For reals. We don’t have enough testosterone. Ergo, heavy weights are your friend, not your enemy.
You’re not going to look like those guys, mmkay?
Why heavy weights = slimmer you
The simple reason for this is that muscle burns more calories. Each pound of muscle in your body burns 35-50 calories per day, whereas each pound of fat burns about 5. So, when combined with a sensible diet (one that includes a substantial amount of protein)with a small caloric deficit, you can achieve some great fat loss results.
Okay, before I go any further I need to say that I owe EVERYTHING to the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women.
Lou Schuler, the author, does a superb job of exploding a whole bunch of myths about women and weights. He and the co-authors break down everything from why most weight machines (you know, the ones that your gym touts and that they probably have setup in some sort of circuit formation) aren’t nearly as good as free weights, to a meal/diet summary, to a full six month weight lifting program. It’s serious and it’s awesome.
How do you lift heavy weights?
Okay, so I am by no means an expert, I just do what awesome books tell me to do. So I suggest, first of all, finding a program that you can follow. New Rules of Lifting For Women (NROLFW) is a great place to start.
Where most women go wrong when it comes to weights is that we completely underestimate what we’re capable of (whereas I bet most men do the opposite!). You want to lift heavy weights. Heavy means that by the time you get to the end of your reps (usually 6, 8, 10 or 12) you are almost at failure; if someone told you you have to lift that barbell or those dumbbells one more time you wouldn’t be able to do it again with good form. That’s where you need to be. From there you should progress. Keep a log. Try to lift slightly heavier with every single workout. You will only get out of your workouts what you put in. Lift weights about three times a week, and make sure you have a rest day between lifting days.
What do you do on days when you don’t lift?
There are tons of routines that can be complementary to weight lifting. I try to work out five days a week, so that breaks down to three days of lifting and two days of something else. I like to mix it up, but lately I’ve been doing HIIT on one of those days and hot yoga on the other. Sometimes I do hot yoga on both non-lifting days, because I do HIIT on lifting days as well.
I say do whatever you like. If you don’t like it, you aren’t going to do it. So whatever it is that you like: spinning, aerobics, dance, yoga, pilates etc., do that.
The proof is in the pants.
(Oops, that sounded unintentionally dirty!). But seriously, you won’t necessarily see huge weightlifting results on the scale, that’s because, especially early on, as you lose fat you are also building muscle, so the scale might not move that much. But take your measurements. Check out how your pants fit. That’s where you’ll really see the results. Since muscle takes up less room than fat, you can technically lose fat, gain muscle, stay the same weight but get considerably slimmer. Also, weightlifting causes your muscles to retain water as they repair themselves, so don’t be startled if you jump on the scale the day after lifting and discover that you’ve gained a few pounds, it’s just water weight.
Since I started NROLFW late last fall, I’ve definitely seen serious changes in my body. My arms are slimmer. My back is nicely muscled and there’s no back fat in sight. Even my thighs, which are definitely my least favourite body part, are showing some nice tone and looking far less thick. The jeans that used to be snug can now come off without me even undoing them. So yeah, it’s definitely working.
Don’t be afraid of getting into the weight room with all the men, be proud of being brave enough to be there and strong enough to lift those weights.
March 18, 2010
So we’ve all heard, ad nauseum, about the importance of cardiovascular health. So we go to the gym. We become slaves to the elliptical or the treadmill. We pump out mile after mile. But, for me at least, traditional, endurance-based cardio doesn’t seem to provide the results I feel it should. Actually, other than improved endurance and cardiovascular health (which obviously aren’t to be overlooked, but let’s be honest, I’m talking about vanity and health here!) I saw very few physical benefits from cardio once I got settled into a routine.
What has worked for me has been a good mix of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weightlifting (more on that in Part 3).
HIIT is basically interval training on steroids. I do my HIIT on a 2:1 ratio of high intensity to lower intensity. What does that look like? I do mine on the treadmill (HIIT is best done on an outdoor track. But I live in Canada. And it’s March. So…yeah) with the following process: two minutes of walking at 3.5, one minute of running at 8.5, two minutes of walking at 3.5, one minute of running at 8.6, rinse, repeat until you reach the 20 minute mark (you can always start with 15 minutes and work your way up). You want your top speed to be whatever “all out” is for you. Basically, at the end of the minute of high intensity work you should feel totally spent. By the end of your workout you should pretty much feel like death (I know, I’m like so inspirational, right?!).
Quick (kind of) side note — I used to do HIIT going from a jog (5.5) to a sprint (8.5+), but I’ve recently changed to walking at 3.5 for the low intensity portions of my workout and this has been WAY more effective, because it means that I can really go all out when I get to the sprinting portions.
Not sure what the heck I’m on about? Check out this video for a great how-to on HIIT:
So the bottom line is this: HIIT is more effective for fat loss than steady state cardio. Why, you ask? Excellent question! Studies have shown a significant after-burn that goes along with HIIT. When you do steady state cardio you log your, say, 2.5 miles and burn 250 calories; the second you step off the treadmill, you cease burning calories at that higher level. HIIT, on the other hand, keeps your body burning calories well after your workout, so ultimately the burn is higher and your thighs/bum/tummy are smaller.
Get it? Got it? Good.
Next time we’ll talk about lifting some serious weights and why big weights can equal a smaller body.
Have your incorporated HIIT into your fitness routine? What kind of results have you seen?
March 10, 2010
In the last two years, getting in shape, staying in shape and constantly trying to push myself just that little bit further (I’m a Type A personality, can you tell?!) has become a really meaningful part of my life. I’m not sure how it all started, I think I just got fed up with my lazy, increasingly soft self, so I decided to do something about it. Two years and 15 lbs later, I thought maybe some of the knowledge (okay, I’m an official exercise and nutrition nerd) I’ve gleaned through some trial, and a lot of error, might be helpful to some other brides-to-be out there.
It all started with Jillian Michaels. In the spring of 2008, I started hearing endless buzz about the 30 Day Shred. I thought I’d give it a try. How hard could it be? It was only half an hour after all. Yeah, I ate my words pretty quickly on that one. After my first attempt at level one I couldn’t walk for about three days. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. I stuck with it though. I made it through levels one, two and three, and even started doing two levels back-to-back when I was feeling really motivated. I was getting stronger and my lung capacity was definitely improving, but I didn’t seem to be getting that much smaller.
That’s when the truth about weight loss became clear to me: it doesn’t matter how much you work out if you aren’t watching what you eat.
Best Bridal Body Tip #1: You are what (and how much) you eat.
I started to read more and more (The Nest’s Health and Fitness Board became my daily reading. Those ladies seriously know their stuff!) and discovered that within the fitness community, it seems to be a well-known fact that weight loss is 80%-90% diet, and only 10%-20% exercise.
I know that right now you’re all like, “Thanks for nothing! Everyone knows that.” But I can tell you that people sabotage their own weight loss efforts ALL the time. I know, because I was one of them.
Here’s the thing: You’ve just started working out regularly. You’re doing 30 Day Shred. Those workouts are freaking HARD. You were sweating BUCKETS. So obviously you burned a lot of calories and can have those two cookies after dinner, right? Wrong. 30 Day Shred, for most people, only burns about 150 to 200 calories. That’s about a half cup of ice cream…not very much at all.
I watched what I ate, got my recommended intake of fruits and veggies and ate primarily whole, healthy foods. But I was eating too much of them so the weight wasn’t coming off.
What the best way to overcome this? I know it sounds old school and oh-so-1970s grapefruit diety, but you’ve gotta count calories. It’s easier now than it used to be. I use sparkpeople.com, which is free and a great way to track your food intake. Another stumbling block though: the only way to actually know how much food you’re eating is to weigh it. Measuring spoons and cups are less standardized than we’d like to believe.
-Weight loss = calories in vs. calories out. There’s no other “secret'” to it.
-You can still occasionally treat yourself, just make sure those treats are included in (and not above and beyond) your daily caloric limit
-Give it time! It can take up to six weeks before you start seeing changes in your body..and you may not see them on the scale, trying measuring instead of weighing.
-Don’t just do it for your wedding. Make it a permanent lifestyle change.
In the next installment of Your Best Bridal Body: Stepping up your workouts