Make a visit to almost any gym around the world and you’ll see one thing that never changes – rows of people trying to lose weight by slogging away on the treadmill. Here’s the problem: steady state cardio (like walking or running at the same pace for 20 minutes or more) is not the best, easiest, quickest or most enjoyable way to lose weight, so what’s going on?
Why do we do it?
Lots of reasons, many of them related to fear. We fear so many things about the gym, here are a few worries most people have:
- Afraid I’ll look like I don’t know what I’m doing
- Afraid I won’t know what to do if I don’t spend an hour on the treadmill
- Afraid I’m not doing a good workout if it isn’t miserable
- Afraid to use weights or machines wrong
- Afraid to hurt myself with weights
- Afraid that lifting weights will give me huge muscles
What if I told you that most of those things are very difficult to do? First off, everybody else is feeling the same way, nobody is looking at you because they’re too busy worrying who is looking at them. Seriously. Even the giant guys lifting weights in the corner. (Maybe especially the giant guys lifting weights in the corner!) Leave the fear at the door, and read every label on every machine until you’re sure you know how it works. If you can’t do that, ask one of the Gym Instructors or Personal Trainers at your gym to show you around.
So that’s why we stick to what we know and pound away on the treadmill for 40 minutes every time we go to the gym. Now we need to know why it’s not working for us.
Why it’s not working
Steady state cardio does burn fat, it just doesn’t burn fat at the rate that other forms of exercise (interval training, resistance training) do. For such a significant amount of exercise, it’s incredibly inefficient at burning the fat that you hope it will.
Secondly, believe it or not, your body is incredibly efficient, and also pretty lazy. Your body will always adapt to any kind of exercise, making it easier to complete, and thus having less of an impact on fat burning. If you’re going to the gym 4 or 5 times a week and doing the same workout, your body knows what’s coming and gets less benefit from it over time.
What DOES work?
Interval Training and Resistance Training. What are those?
When you really push yourself to exercise in a higher heart rate zone, then bring your heart rate down, only to raise it again, you are forcing your body to work in different ways to burn fat. This leaves you in an “after burn” period, meaning that your body continues to burn calories at a slightly elevated rate even after you’ve finished training. Win.
Resistance training is weight training – whether that’s free weights, weight machines, body weight, TRX/suspension training, or even training with resistance bands. If you’re aiming to lose fat, then you should be trying to grow muscle too, but before you panic, you’re not going to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger – and if you do, tell me your secrets. Muscle burns more calories than fat, it gives you a shape that makes clothes look better on you, and there’s nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment you get when you lift something heavy.
Need more proof?
On the left, I was regularly running 5k and eating healthy, on the right I was eating the exact same foods, but I had spent a year weight training. Quite a difference, right?
If you need some help with your training, get in touch for a free consultation, just send me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.