Want to Get REALLY Fit? Five Tips to Help You Achieve your Fitness Goals
Anyone who know me agrees that I am a veteran gym rat. Since I was in 7th grade, you could find me at the local dive-gym in Phoenix. I wanted to build muscle, but more importantly, get these huge limbs that dangled from my sides to look more lean. Why couldn’t I just slim down these strong-man carnival arms? Since I was in junior high, my larger arms became a source of unwanted attention. People always commented on my arms, which sounds awesome now that I am older, but at the time, they were a large source of my low self-esteem and body insecurity.
I’m not sure where I acquired these beastly arms (or that’s how I felt at the time), but I can tell you—I never learned to appreciate my biceps until I became older. I finally had come to terms with my large arms and made a lifetime pledge to myself. If I couldn’t beat my genetic makeup—I would battle it by working hard and making my arms shine.
In college, I read every fitness magazine I could get my paws on. Oxygen Magazine was known for its muscular fitness models instead of Self Magazine which focused on models in exercise outfits. I had finally found my people. At parties, I was known as the girl who could carry a couple of six-packs that matched the one under my ratty tank top. At the time, I struggled with an exercise addiction, which grew to dangerous standards. I trained 3-4 hours every day including an hour of cardio followed by 2 hours of weight lifting. Now that I have learned that over-training is a real thing—I’ve worked hard to appreciate my body and work on habits that avoid tendonitis.
Throughout the years, I realized there were many training questions towards building good habits as well as increasing strength. Women want to be lean and strong; whereas, in the past, many just obsessed about a size 2. So I thought I would write a blog post that covered some of the mistakes women often make when creating a productive, safe weekly fitness routine. Even though I think I’ll always struggle with certain issues, I make it a goal to keep it at a safe intensity and rest when I know I need it. I hope you find some of the suggestions helpful to you.
If you don’t have experience in the gym, hire a good trainer that focuses on functional fitness and avoid the ones who want everyone to be a body builder.
I cannot tell you how many trainers I have seen who focus solely on building muscle for aesthetics. Of course, people want to look good in their bikini and feel stronger as the pull a train. What? You don’t pull trains or flip tires on the weekend? It’s probably because YOU DON’T NEED TO. As far as I’m concerned, unless you’re training for a power-man or CrossFit competition, you don’t need to be flipping tires. Unless your weekly tasks include lifting a car off a loved one.
Find a trainer who is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. These trainers usually have more experience working with athletes, utilize functional training and are familiar with individual injuries. I have a loose shoulder and knee, so if I hire a trainer who is not experienced with joint laxity—I could acquire a much more serious injury.
2. Use weights that are challenging to your ability level.
This is a big one. So many women are concerned with “getting too big”. Unless, you are downing high-calorie protein shakes and power lifting 4 times a week—I guarantee you are not going to show-up the meathead grunting next to you. It takes hours of training to gain significant muscle mass. Just ask someone who is competing for a fitness competition.
The best way to keep your muscles lean is to do higher-reps and limit power-lifting that focuses soley on maxing-out or coming close to it. Maxing out is lifting the highest weight to your ability, and it isn’t necessary for the woman who wants to stay lean and build muscular endurance. Functional training focuses on building muscles to work more efficiently doing those daily tasks that utilize your strength. For instance, I can carry a large dogfood bag over my shoulder, as well as carry about 4 heavy grocery bags in each hand. Not at the same time, of course. But, when that 16-year-old bagger asks “Mam, do you need help with your groceries?” Hell no I don’t.
3. Do cardio that you love to do.
For some reason, many women are addicted to cardio. They have it burned into their psyche that this is the only way to lose weight and stay lean. Now, there is definitely some truth to this. Cardio does help you stay lean—but it’s the weight training along WITH the cardio that creates the best results.
The challenging part about cardio is finding an activity that you love to do. Guess what? It’s easier than you think. You must find an activity that makes your heart happy. Not everyone is built to be a runner or cyclist. You can also hike, swim or dance. Take a Zumba class or pick up pole dancing—it’s super fun, and I promise you will sweat. You’d be surprised how many calories I probably burn after two hours sweating on the dance floor. I count this as cardio. You don’t have to be on a treadmill for 2 hours to receive amazing results.
4. You must do weights and cardio to receive the best results.
If you aren’t weight training and the Stairmaster has become your new addiction– you will not achieve your goals as quickly. I remember this man who was overweight at the gym just killing himself running. I would see him every morning, pouring sweat, without noticing any results of weight loss. I couldn’t figure out why this man (after killing himself) wasn’t losing weight. After about a year, I started seeing him lifting light weights in the gym. He significantly slimmed down in about 3 months after incorporating weight training into his routine. Just shows you how cardio isn’t as effective on its own.
Did you know keeping a heart rate slower for a longer period of time burns the most fat? Higher heart rates burn mostly sugar to utilize a quick energy source. Sugar burns quickly and fat burns slowly. Think of fat as your reserve tank. Ever notice how ultra-marathoners tend to be a little beefier than a typical marathoner? It’s because they need that reserve tank to help them pull though those last grueling miles. In order to lean out—keep the heart rate slower, and go for a longer time-frame. Also, keep in mind you can split up your cardio. My nutty dogs need two walks a day. So I break it up 20 min run in the a.m. and 20 min in the evening. It still burns the same amount of calories.
5. Switch up your activities.
Every hear the term “muscle confusion”? Muscle confusion is a way to introduce different activities into your regular weight or cardio routine. Ever wonder why walking doesn’t produce the same benefits as other activities? Most often, it’s because our bodies walk every day. Try adding some hill repeats to the end, or adding in some plyometrics. This will kick your ass into a fat-burning machine. It will also cause you to handle a higher work load for a longer period of time.
Muscles become familiar with activities they do most often. There is a reason for the term “muscle memory”. It doesn’t matter what activity you do—whether it’s running or swimming. Your body still becomes acclimated to your regular activity. So add in something different. Try a boot camp or dance class. Pick up ice-skating. Be a dog who can learn new tricks. No one is too old to try something new. Your body may not like a new activity, but it will tell you what hurts. If it’s miserable or painful—find something that is fun and enjoyable.
My training schedule is way more relaxed than it used to look, but for all you out there that ask me “so what do you do?” Here’s an example below. It’s muscle confusion at its finest.
Monday –Run 2 miles at slower pace. Vigorous flow yoga for 30 min.
Tuesday–Run 3.4/4 miles at slower pace. Pole dancing for 1 hour. (great all round workout)
Wed—Run 2 miles. Gym for an hour. (Fast-paced weight conditioning circuit)
Thursday—Run 3.5/4 miles.
Friday—Run 2 miles. Pole dancing 1 hour.
Sat—Run 2 miles. Boulder/ rock climb or at weight training for 1 hour
Sun—Easy run, yoga, roller skating, mountain biking, football drills with my son– or rest. This day I typically enjoy doing something outside.
In conclusion, I recommend you stick with it. Don’t give up if you’ve seen a plateau in your results or weight. I promise if you do the five things above, you’ll have more success with your goals. One thing I have discovered is that the best fat-burning results come from at least 45 min cardio/week and 2 days of vigorous weight training. However, without switching up your activities, you won’t see as good of results. I’ve worked with many clients that bitch about finding time. I promise you can find an hour of free time. You MUST MAKE TIME–just like you brush your teeth or color your hair. You have to make your health and fitness a priority. Fitness doesn’t come from watching reality shows at night—it comes from hard work and consistency. So set your alarm—wake up early, and get your ass to work.