Thursday, April 26, 2012

Working Out (And Burning Fat)

It’s no question that exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. After all, the human body was made to walk, run, jump, and dance… we were made to move! It’s not about being the skinniest, or the fittest, it’s about feeling good in your own skin. As simple as that.
Unfortunately, most of us (myself included) spend the majority of our time being stationary. Sitting in front of the TV, or behind a computer. And if we don’t take our health into our own hands, it could be extremely detrimental.

I've made it my goal to get fit and get back into the shape I use to be in. It seems as though my body and metabolism just isn't what it used to be. Apparently, I can't eat mass amounts of junk food anymore and not gain weight. Weird! doing so, I've had some time to do some serious research. What I found most interesting, is that so many people didn't know what I didn't even know. And that's how to burn fat in the best way.
When I first starting heading back to the gym, I would hop on the elliptical (my go-to cardio choice), and just give'r. And to my surprise, if you're actually trying to lose weight, this isn't what you should be doing. Instead, slow it down. Yeah, I know. I'm telling you to not work out as hard. And here's why...

Working out at lower intensities will actually use fat for energy. Anything at a higher intensity just conditions your heart, which is awesome, but not the most effective way to burn fat. The goal is to burn the fat first, then go for endurance later. It's recommended that you monitor your heart rate, keeping it somewhere between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. This is what is called the "fat burning zone". I also found that women typically have a higher heart rate than men, for some reason unbeknownst to me. For example, my maximum heart rate is around the 190 range, but I tried keeping my heart rate inbetween the 140-150 range, which is actually 70-80% of my maximum heart rate. Ya following? So don't go and get all obsessive with the numbers, this is a general guide. And it works.

At first when I started trying this method and was monitoring my heart rate, I felt like I was going so slow. A baby could crawl faster than me. A turtle would be walking by going lightning speed in comparison. But I just kept thinking in my head, "This is going to pay off." with a little bit of "Keep going, fatty!" And as my body adjusted, I kept the same pace but just increased the resistance. And it paid off. I've been losing inches!

But! The one thing about the human body is that it adapts. Quickly. I cannot stress the importance of switching things up, and making your body really work for it. Keep your body guessing.

After about a month of doing low intensity cardio, I started to get bored. To me, cardio is incredibly boring to begin with. My body was bored, my mind was bored, and frankly, I was losing my motivation. (And trust me, if you wake up before the sun, you need a little bit of motivation)

(Sebastian and I... notice how dark it is outside? I'm totally half asleep here.)

My solution? Switching to high intensity interval training. Otherwise known as HIIT. What this does is it supercharges your metabolism and burns major amounts of calories. Throughout your workout, you basically alternate between lower intensity (60-70% of your maximum heart rate) and higher intensity (90-95%). You can accomplish this by either increasing your resistance, or changing your pace, such as going from a walk to a run. Begin by warming up for two minutes at the lower intensity, then go for the next two at the higher intensity, so on and so forth.
Not only will this help you burn more fat, but there are countless benefits to learning how to control your heart rate. Including striving towards a lower resting heart rate. To put it simply, the lower your heart rate, the less your heart will have to work. If your heart doesn't have to work as hard, it will last longer. (Bonus!)

At the end of the day, nobody knows your body better than you do. Do what works for you and what you're most comfortable with. Don't be afraid to start slow. The key is actually starting. Combining these cardio tips with a sensible diet and consistent (!) workouts will help us all live healthier, happier lives.

What are your fitness goals? And how do you stay motivated?

P.S. Look forward to more fitness tips in the future as I learn more about getting fit and staying in shape!

(Top Photo)


  1. My motivation? You. You are my beacon of shining light made of rainbows and butterflies :)

  2. Wow, I need my own Anonymous... ;)
    I just walk my dogs... I hate exercising just for exercising's sake- I think I'm the only person who gets angry from endorphins! So I've gotten the dogs used to a good 1-2 hour walk (3-5 miles) every day, and I do that, at their pace. It's made me a lot more fit, but my pudge/muffin top has plateaued, it seems, so I'm trying to add in some Wii Fit to burn a little more. *sigh* I just want to be able to eat my chocolate and Eton mess without showing it! Great tips, though- I'll start paying more attention to my heart rate, and adjust accordingly!

  3. I've been doing different things over the course of the year - I started with a Boot Camp class at my gym to get me kick-started, and did spin on my off days. Then for a while I slacked and just did spin. Then I started doing spin and pilates, and now I'm doing spin and TRX (which I LOVE). I definitely needed to focus on some muscle development - apparently I have NO muscles.

    I'm a morning worker-outer too! I could NEVER go after work!

  4. My hubby swears by HIIT.
    I swear by sitting on the couch. Ha.