Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

My husband I were recently discussing a similar topic so I thought I would re-share this blog post from 2017.

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Click here to get a FREE PDF download of high intensity workouts you can do right in your living room!

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

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3 Signs You’re Not Lifting Enough Weight

fitness-594143_1280Your fitness plan is (or should be) an ongoing process, not a deadline and strength training in particular is meant to be progressive. The way to build strength is to overload your muscles so they are forced to adapt and get stronger. Sometimes, though we get complacent with our routine. It’s easier to stick with what you know and what you’re comfortable with than to change up what you’re doing. But….if you’re not seeing results or if your strength training plan is stagnant, something needs to change.

Here are 3 signs you need to increase the weight your lifting.

  1. You could lift your current weight forever. If you count your reps to 10 and stop just because you reached 10, you might need to increase the weight. You don’t need to push your muscles to complete failure with every single set but if you get to 10 reps and could probably do 10 more without even blinking, you need to up the weight. Your strength training routine should be challenging and that means you should be lifting a weight that you can only lift 8-12 times with good form.
  2. Your fitness progress has stalled. A plateau in your progress could be due to a variety of reasons so examine your overall routine carefully but one of the possibilities is not enough weight. Your muscles will eventually adapt to whatever stress you put on them and then it will no longer be a stress. If you’re not lifting heavy enough to tax the muscles then they have no reason to grow. 
  3. If you’re just going through the motions. If you’re moving through your workout mindlessly with no need to concentrate on what you’re doing then you may need to increase your weights. If you’re lifting heavy you have to concentrate to use good form and not drop the weight on your foot. So if you make your mental grocery list while squatting, it’s time to reevaluate.

Don’t be afraid of weight people! Jump start your routine with a weight increase.

If you need a strength training plan to get you started, try these.

Happy Exercising!

How Do I Start Exercising At Home?

IMG_1192Some people need the accountability of meeting a workout partner or attending a scheduled class or training appointment. Some people aren’t motivated to exercise once they’re home and their couch and pjs are calling to them!

However, many people love the flexibility and privacy of home workouts. And no locker room cooties! That’s reason enough for me!

If you want to workout at home, either full time or as a supplement to your gym routine, it’s not hard to get started.

  1. Make sure you have a dedicated space to exercise. I’m not saying you have to have your own in-house gym room complete with a rubber floor and mirrors but, designating the spare bedroom or the family room or even the backyard if the weather cooperates will help you stay focused. And having a designated place to keep any equipment you have is also a good idea. If you plan on streaming workouts online, make sure you can easily see the screen.
  2. Figure out what you already have available. A set of stairs you can run up and down? A sturdy bench you can jump on? A device to stream workout videos on? Once you know what you have, you can decide what to do with it.
  3. Pick your exercises. A mix of cardio type exercises and strength exercises will make for a well-rounded program. To get you started, pick a variety of exercises from each column below and mix up the order for a great workout. Do each exercise for 1 minute moving through your list. When you’re done, stretch a little or rest 1 minute and go through it again for a longer workout. Do this 3-4 times per week.  

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Alternatively, you can stream an exercise video. Anything from yoga to high intensity interval training. This is a great way to mix it up. FitnessBlender.com has a full library of videos for all kinds of workouts. You can also do a straight cardio workout by going for a run or hike or running up and down your flight of stairs.

4. Finally, if you are interested in getting some equipment, start simple. You can get a very effective workout with just a jump rope and a kettlebell. A resistance band set is portable and takes up very little space and a medicine ball isn’t much bigger than a soccer ball.

That’s all there is to it! Home workouts don’t have to be complicated but they can be powerfully effective…and fun.

Happy Exercising!

What Fitness Equipment Should I Buy?

As a fitness professional, I get questions about lots of different topics.

One of which is….

“What fitness equipment should I buy to use at home?”

There are so many ways I could answer this question. I don’t suggest that anyone HAS to buy fitness equipment in order to get a good workout. Bodyweight workouts are great and you can use stairs, park benches or the curb out front to workout and never spend a cent. 

Or you could spend thousands setting up a home gym.

If you’re looking to expand your home workout routine without taking out a second mortgage, here are some items that pack a big exercise punch without pounding your budget.

A yoga mat is a good general piece of equipment even if you’re not into morning vinyasa. You can use it for stretching or foam rolling (Which I highly recommend, by the way!). You can also use it as a base for doing other activities to protect your hardwood floors or keep from slipping on tile. Yoga mats are very portable too so if you decide to workout outside you can keep your butt out of the dirt.

Resistance bands are a great addition to bodyweight workouts or a great alternative to dumbbells. They take up very little space and like a yoga mat, are very portable. And if you think bands won’t provide heavy enough resistance to give you a good workout, think again! You can get a killer full body workout with a couple of bands, attached handles and a door jam attachment.

A jumprope. Yep, a simple jumprope. If you haven’t jumped rope since elementary school I want you to go immediately to the nearest toy store or dollar store and grab a jumprope for a few bucks. You don’t need a high-speed, fancy sports rope. Just a simple rope with a decent set of handles and you can get a workout that will kick your ass!

Kettlebells are a little bit more of an investment than the other items on this list but you can get a wide range of exercises with two or three bells in varying weights. They can be used in similar ways as dumbbells but take up less space. Some of my favorite exercises with a kettlebell are squats (I like any kind of squat, really!), overhead presses and swings.

My personal home gym happens to have a lot of equipment in it. I know, I know…I advocate no equipment, bodyweight workouts all time, how can this be? Most of my equipment was given to me or bought second hand or at deep discounts – thank you Sports Authority going-out-of-business sale. And it has taken me many years to acquire all the equipment I have. If you’re just starting out working out at home then you can definitely do it with nothing or just a few pieces and add to your home gym over time when the opportunity arises.

Happy Exercising!

Note: This post contains affiliate links

If…Then… Do You Have A Backup Plan?

Your workout and nutrition routine should be consistent and progressive to give you the best chance of seeing results but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Consistency over the longterm is what really works. But let’s be real, life happens and sometimes you have to stray from your routine. You have a sick child at home or you have to travel unexpectedly or a pipe bursts and you have a flooded basement. And on and on.

What if you skip your workout for a few days? What if you eat more tacos than planned (I’ve never done this, I’ve just heard people do!!) What if you are more sore than expected after a workout and can’t do your prescribed routine the next day?

Having an “If…Then…” plan allows you to get back to your routine quickly without beating yourself up for days when you make less than desirable choices. (I’m looking at you, Girl Scout cookies.) Studies show that “if-then” planning (contingency planning) ups your chances of success no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. This can work especially well with health habits.

For example:

“IF someone brings donuts into the office on a random Wednesday, THEN I’ll avoid the break room and eat the healthy snack I have stashed in my desk.” This obviously requires that you plan ahead and have healthy snacks in your desk in the first place!

“IF my schedule gets crazy and I skip a few workouts, THEN I’ll find 20 minutes the next day to take a walk or stretch.” Doing something is better than nothing and can get you back on track.

“IF I get sick and can’t exercise, THEN I’ll continue to eat well to feel better and workout again soon.” It’s important to rest when you’re sick but plan to start with light exercise again as soon as possible.

No plan and no person is perfect. You’re going to have bumps in the road. Having a back up will get you back on track. Even the back up plan won’t be perfect and won’t always work but its better than having no plan at all.

But a back up plan is only as good as you make it. Don’t blow this off. Give some thought to the things that could derail your exercise and nutrition routine. Be honest about your cravings and weaknesses. Be honest about things that get you off track. Keep your personal motivation in mind. Why are you exercising in the first place? Why are you trying to change your eating habits? If you always keep your personal reasons in mind, it makes getting back into your routine that much easier. 

Take time today to think about some of these things. Make yourself a plan. Let me know if I can help!

Happy Exercising!IMG_1204

Home Step Workout

Working out at home allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule but can sometimes be limiting since I only have a certain amount of equipment. I get creative with things around the house, such as a step or fireplace hearth. This is a simple but very effective workout. It left we wiped out with my legs feeling like Jell-O!

Make sure you have a sturdy step and that you plant your feet solidly on the step when you’re working out.

1 minute of walking step-ups.

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1 minute of running step-ups.

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30 reps of alternating lunges.

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30 reps of angled push-ups.

 

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Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

30 reps of side squats. Switch sides halfway through.

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30 reps of tricep dips.

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Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

Another 1 minute of walking step-ups.

I repeat this circuit 2-3 times depending on how much time I have and how I feel.

Happy Exercising!

 

 

3 Ways to Make Your Strength Routine More Efficient

I enjoy exercise. Moving and sweating and pushing myself. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend hours and hours on my workout. I’m busy just like everyone else so I need to create efficient exercise routines.

I’m not a bodybuilder or figure competitor so I have no need for dozens of exercises that hit every individual muscle. There’s nothing wrong with that type of training (I’ve used it at other times in my life) its just not what I need right now.

If you’re like me and need an effective and efficient workout too, follow these principles…

1. Compound Movements

Compound movements are exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Working multiple muscles at once certainly saves time. These can all be done with or without added weight. Things like:

Squat Presses – after you squat down and return to a standing position, press the weight overhead.

 

Row to Stiff-Leg Deadlift – bend over at your hips with weight hanging straight down. Pull weight up to chest. Return to start. Contract glutes and lower back to stand up straight.

Walking Lunge with Alternating Shoulder Raise – step forward into a lunge position while lifting both arms to at least shoulder height. One arm at front and one arm to the side. On the next step alternate arm positions.

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Lunge with Shoulder Raise

Kettlebell Swings – start with the kettlebell between your legs in a slight squat. Contract glutes and hamstrings to thrust the weight forward and lift to about shoulder height.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.

2. Circuits

Circuits are a great way to get a quick workout in when your schedule is busy. Alternate upper and lower body movements and move from one exercise to the next without stopping. For example, squats, pushups, lunges, bent over row, etc.

3. Intensity Level

Adding more weight to your current routine (within reason!) can increase your intensity just enough to give your program a little boost. If you’ve been just going through the motions or doing a set number of reps without considering how challenged your muscles are, then maybe its time to increase the weight to make your workout more efficient and effective.

Happy Exercising!