Wednesday, January 25

Straight from the horse's mouth

I just realized that it's been almost a year that I've been working out with my trainer. I've picked up some great tips along the way, some that most of you have probably already heard and hopefully some will be new. So now I pass on the knowledge baton to you. :)

1) A balance of strength training and cardio is always best. First of all no machine is "better" than the other... just do what you like. Stationary bike, elliptical machine, treadmill, stairmaster... do whatever will keep you moving. On the days you strength train, 20 minutes at a fat-burning heart rate level is enough. For me, that's about 125-130 bpm. On non-strength training days, you should up your cardio to 30-40 minutes at a cardio-training heart rate level which for me is about 150-160 bpm. Ideally you should do this twice a week, which adds up to 4 times a week. Cardio has always been my weak spot~ I get so bored! I usually give up 5 minutes into a workout but now I keep my mind busy watching TV. You shouldn't bring a book to the gym because if you can concentrate on reading while you're doing cardio, you aren't working out hard enough!

2) For the fastest results (in terms of decreasing your fat percentage and burning the most calories) you want to concentrate your strength training on your legs. Your largest workable muscle group is in your legs so you'll burn the most in the last amount of time by working out your legs. Squats and lunges should always be incorporated into every workout session. Of course some will argue that the back is the largest muscle group and can burn the most fat & calories but to properly workout your back muscles you need at least 5-6 different movements so it's a little more difficult. With the legs you just make sure you're working out your quads and hamstrings evenly and you're good.

3) Keep your heart rate up doing strength training. In between sets of anything, grab a small step (just slightly shorter than your knee) and climb up and down. Start with your left foot up, bring the right one up, step the left foot down then the right foot down. Repeat 15 times. Then start with your right foot and repeat for another 15. Getting your heart rate up will help your muscles burn more fat and calories during normal strength training, even if it's something like working out your abs or biceps.

4) You hear stories about Britney Spears doing 1000 crunches a day and what not. If you're doing crunches the right way, you do not need to do that many to get the same results. First of all make sure you vary and do all the crunch positions so that you utilize all of your ab muscles. That means doing a set straight-up, doing a set of lower abs, then doing a set of twisties to target your obliques. For your regular straight-up crunches, the best position is to lie down on a hard surface and prop your feet up so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle, like a chair on its back. For lower abs, the best way is to grab something above your head, then slowly lift your butt up towards the ceiling, with your knees moving in a slow back and forth motion as you pick up your butt. Make sure you don't rock too much, you should only feel this movement in your abs and not your lower back. Obliques can be done on the floor with one foot propped up against the opposite knee, put your hands behind your head and aim your elbow for the opposite knee. I do 2 sets of 20 for each position. Also, while you're doing all of your other work outs you should keep your tummy tucked into your spine which will also help strengthen your core and tighten those abs.


1) Drink a lot of water. We always hear this but this is seriously the easiest way to lost your water weight in 2-3 days. Your body holds on to whatever it doesn't get enough of. If you're not drinking a lot of water, your body will hold on to the water it does get which will give you a permanent bloat. By drinking a lot of water (think 2 liter-sized Smart Water bottles a day) your body will realize it doesn't need to hold on to water because you will always be consuming some more and you will drop your water weight. (And pee a gazillion times)

2) Don't drastically change your diet. Starting a diet like the atkins, zone, or south beach is often a temporary thing because you can't stick with that for your entire life. There will be nights out and special occasions where you need to eat real food. Instead make small changes. Eat out for dinner often? Get in the habit of ordering a side salad with EVERY meal and eat that salad first before you touch anything else. This will make you full faster, and fill you up with veggies so that you are a healthy-full not steak-and-fries-full. You will eat less of the fatty unhealthy stuff and eat more healthy protein and fiber.

3) Also another good tip for eating out: when ordering, ask the waiter to immediately put half of every portion "to go" and serve the other half. This will prevent you from eating too much: if you're like me, your stomach is slow to give the "I'm full!" signal and you always end up overeating. This way, you still get the satisfaction of cleaning up your plate.

4) Don't skip dessert, but try choosing fruit or sorbet instead. If you skip dessert when you really want it, you might cave in to your sweet tooth when you get home and end up eating brownies, cookies and who knows what else. Which reminds me of another tip, if you get a craving, give in to it but within reason. Crave some potato chips? Grab a small serving and enjoy it while you eat it. Once I was craving a French Bread Pizza. I decided to eat some chips instead... but they didn't satisfy me. Then I added a cookie, some candy and some cheese bread. Still not satisfied. I went as far as eating 2 more servings of snacks until I finally gave in and made myself some Pizza. So if I had eaten the Pizza in the first place, I wouldn't have had to eat everything else.

Of course I'm not an expert on dieting. I mean I rarely stick to mine. I find my biggest problem is forgetfulness. As in, I literally forget that I'm supposed to be watching what I eat until I finish eating. So this brings me to my last tip. Write down what you eat. Buy a cutesy little book (I got a black leather one from Coach) and every day write every little thing you put in your mouth. 2 Mint Milanos. 1 glass Orange Juice. 4 McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. 1/2 order of fries. Make sure you write EVERYTHING you eat right then and there. The next time you're about to sneak a Lay's Baked Potato Chip, you'll skip it because you're too lazy to take out your eating book.

So what tried-and-true methods do you have for working out or dieting?