I want to get to the heart of the action this week, as I continue with Part 2 of "7 Rules of Highly Effective Weight Loss."
Of course, now that I typed "heart of the action" I can't stop singing the Huey Lewis song, "Heart of Rock and Roll." If you love ol' Huey like me (or just the 80's in general), you're welcome. If not, I'm sorry I'm not sorry.
Anyway, why am I writing about this topic - as opposed to deadlifts and lolcats, which are the real meat and potatoes of this blog? As I mentioned in Part 1, there are so many misunderstandings about what it really takes to lose weight. Does almost anything work? Yes. But cutting carbs carbs and doing tons of cardio will most likely leave you just hungry and injured.
In case you missed it, Part 1 covers how big of a role diet, sleep and nutrition are to losing weight. Once those three big stones are covered, then you've really set yourself up for success with the other points below.
4. Train for Strength.
Let me know if you've heard this story before - Person A decides they need to lose weight. So, Person A elects to start running because 1) they think it will help them lose weight and 2) they see thinner people running and think if they do enough of it, they will look like them.
(Sidenote: I really can't blame people for this train of thought. Many years ago, the "I want to look like them so I'm going to do the same workout" idea is what led me to start doing Crossfit workouts. I haven't told many people about that and there's a reason - because when I think back to that time, I cry a little bit inside.....and my soul hurts.)
ANYwhoooo, after a few months go by Person A hasn't lost much weight at all, and now they're most likely hobbled by knee, foot, ankle, or back issues. Unfortunately, it's a scenario I see played out all..the....time. And call me old fashioned, but exercise isn't supposed to injure you (sorry Crossfit, but it's true).
What did Person A do wrong? They didn't prioritize strength!
But first, let's take a step back. When people run, any imperfections in their gait only get reinforced with every step they take, especially when they're overweight. Combine that fact with how very few people are ever taught to run correctly, all these injuries make sense.
When you train for strength, your afforded the "wiggle room" most people need so mistakes in their gait don't result in running related injuries. I've even seen strength training improve someone's running stride, which is literally killing two birds with one stone. (Ok, maybe figuratively.)
Plus - or at least in theory - training for strength increases your resting metabolic rate, or the calories you burn when you're at rest. Last time I checked, if we're trying to lose weight, we want all the help we can get.
How do you implement a strength program if the goal is weight loss? It's actually not all that complicated. One way I like is to focus on density, which is a fancy way of saying performing as many perfect reps and rounds as you can in a set amount of time (~10-20 minutes). Exercise wise, you can focus on cycling through the following:
1A. Goblet Squat x 8-10
1B. Crawling x 20 yards
1C. TRX or Inverted Rows x 8-10
1D. Dead Bugs x 3 each side
Strength training in this type of structure allows you to be more efficient with your time, and keeping your heart rate elevated without the injury risk of running. The program above can also be replaced by deadlifts, some variety of pushups, some type of row, and even. more. dead bugs.
What you shouldn't do is train like a max effort powerlifter, by taking all the time in the world between sets. Or, just don't act like the bros hogging the squat rack - checking Instagram, taking selfies, and seeing how many times they can say the word "meow" in casual conversation. (<-----Which is exactly what I do when I'm deadlifting, but I'm also going for max strength, not weight loss)
And, if you think weight training will make you gain weight, you're sadly misinformed....and you should read this post.
5. If you have time for more than 2 training sessions a week, add in low-intensity cardio.
I know, I know. After I spent the last 3 minutes telling you how running is terrible for you, I'm doing an about-face. But, I don't think I'm completely changing my tune either.
In the age of desk jobs, you'd be crazy to tell someone to "move less." Most people need to move more, and not just for cosmetic reasons. Further, I've realized how low intensity/long duration cardio can really help someone's overall health. The key, as with anything, is finding the right modality for the right person.
This blog post by Mike Robertson does a fantastic job explaining why everyone needs some form of long, slow cardio. But if you're too lazy to click on the link, I'll give you the Cliff Notes version: 1) By having a good cardiovascular base, it promotes heart health in a different way than you receive from strength training. 2) Long slow cardio gives you a bigger tank, and makes everything else (yes, even a set of deadlifts) easier. 3) It'll help you recover for your next strength session.
Many of us are too busy or don't want to train every single day. For that reason, only add in this long duration, low intensity cardio if you have extra time apart from strength. Don't worry about how fast you're going, simply staying within 120-150 beats per minute for 30 minutes is really all you need.
6. Progress conditioning slowly.
A few years ago, I failed to realize how much benefit there is in real low intensity cardio. As such, I would have someone go as hard as they could on the AirDyne for 15 seconds. I mean, it's only 15 seconds, and if you're working as hard as you can, people will naturally go slower if the need to. Right? RIGHT!?
Wrong. And, it was an unfortunate lesson for me to learn as my clients would be absolutely dead to the world after 1-2 sprints on the bike. After they picked themselves (and their lunch) off the floor, we usually had to end our session early. Worst of all? I can't hop in my DeLorean, go back in time, and hit myself in the face for putting my clients through that!
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that you need to treat aerobic work just like you would in strength training, and progress people properly. If someone wanted to learn how to deadlift, the last thing I would ever do is load up a barbell with 400 pounds and let them give it a go - yet, I was doing just that on those bike sprints!
Even if we're as low as 40% of someone's max effort, people will still be able to see some aerobic gainzz. By slowly building yourself up - rather than going balls to the wall on Day 1 - you'll be better positioned to see improvements, stick with it, and lose weight. And who knows, you may even learn to love the AirDyne (or at least, not hate it quite so much)
7. Visualize Success.
I'm a big believer in the old adage, "whether you think you can or you can't, you're right." Call me corny, but hear me out.
Many of us pride ourselves on our hard work in the gym. But, when it comes to something like a heavy deadlift, or losing weight, we don't put in an equal amount of mental preparation. By visualizing success, you'll be more apt to stick with your program. It'll help you stay calm and keep your focus when you realize that what you're doing day in and day out has a greater purpose.