It is true. Exercise intensity, not duration is what drives results in the gym. *recovered cardio queen (me) hangs head in shame*
That’s great, but more helpful if we can define what exactly that means. Problem is, “intense” is so subjective. What’s tough for me, might be a walk in the park for you or vice versa.
That, and an intense sprint sesh at the track and an intense lift in the gym look very different. Or do they? While, at first glance, they may appear as similar as a linebacker and a ballerina, they are, upon further review, actually quite similar. I’ll get into that in a minute, but first a few housekeeping items:
- If you’re an exercise newbie, don’t worry about the best kind of exercise for fat loss, physique results. Whatever. Big rocks first (e.g. physical activity), small rocks later (e.g. exercise type). Instead, find what you love and do that. If you do what you love, you’ll be able to sustain it. Sustainable actions ===> sustainable results. If you don’t love anything, do the easiest thing: leisure walk. The do-anywhere workout that requires no equipment, it carries huge benefits and should be considered not exercise, but a necessity. Get moving first, add intensity factor later. [This is the approach I tend to use with my clients that have a significant amount of weight to lose i.e. whose primary goal is fat loss]
- Intense exercise (e.g. weight training) is great. I could write a whole post on its [positive] implications for our physical and mental health; also overall well-being. In terms of our physique, it primes the body to build muscle and increases insulin sensitivity post-workout. Additional calories and/or carbohydrates consumed in this window are less likely to go forward fat storage and instead, toward muscle repair and growth. Still, too much of a good thing is still, too much. Yep, that’s right. Too much exercise of the intense variety could actually make us fatter. You know that puffy, water-logged group fitness instructor look? Which brings me to my next point…
- Do not underestimate the power of restorative activity. WHY? The lower intensity stuff actually helps the higher intensity stuff to work. It keeps the metabolism responsive. Make it happen. Don’t know what to do? Leisure walk, restorative yoga, foam rolling/light stretching, mani/pedi, massage laugh, time w/ family & friends. Whatever. The goal is not calorie burn. R-E-L-A-X.
- Trudging along on the treadmill, or ellipticalling your life away at a moderate intensity is not intense exercise; even if you have lungs of steel and can endure the aforementioned monotony for hours on end. I say this in the nicest way possible as I used to be one of them. I’ve been there. I get it. I do. Now before we go any further, let me clarify that I am not saying that cardio is bad. However it is not the most effective tool for fat loss. Why? The more that we do, the more we’re going to have to do to get results. In terms of sustainable fat loss, nutrition is the gross control and exercise, the fine control; a tool we can use to shape the body. That said, used strategically and in moderation, cardio can enhance a training program.
Whether you’re an athlete, recreational gym-goer or exercise newbie, you’re going to have to get comfortable getting uncomfortable if you want to #getbetter. That said, the last thing I want is for your workouts to be so intense that you begin to loathe your workouts to a point where you don’t do them because they make you so sore (to the point where walking is a struggle for days), so tired, they’re not fun, etc. Intention without action is meaningless. If you’re ‘ON’ a program (with or without a trainer) that you cannot sustain, you cannot expect sustainable results to match. Period. End of story. Now if you’re training with intention, it’s
not always hardly ever rainbows and unicorns. But, I do look forward to the challenge(s) because I know that, through them, I am getting better. And, I keep it fun.
So now, what you really came for. Not sure if your intense workouts are “intense enough.” Here’s a quickie checklist for you to use to know if you’re doing MetCon correctly:
- Breathless – Is your heart rate up? Breathing heavy? Use the “talk test.” I always tell my clients, classes that they should be able, but not want to talk at maximal effort. Sweat now, small talk later. Move faster. This will also help w/ No. 3 (below).
- Burning – In your muscles. That feeling in your legs when someone tells you to go into a wall sit and hold, pulse a squat or a push-up. Totally normal. And a place where you want to be multiple times throughout your workout. (aka mechanical failure)
- Heat – Are you sweating?
- Heavy – Do the weights become heavy that you have to drop them? (aka metabolic failure) If not, lift heavier.
A few items worth noting…
- The results we achieve in these types of workouts are attributed to the hormonal response/environment created in the body, and not calorie burn. Wha?! Yes, fat loss requires caloric deficit but hormonal balance is pivotal e.g. hormones dictate how the calories we take in are partitioned (i.e. whether they go toward fat storage or the repair/growth of muscles).
- Just because you are not sore after a workout, does not mean it was not a good i.e. effective workout. In fact, more often than not, I am not sore. The body’s response to exercise is so individual.
My best advice? GET FOC– USED. This is why I have success with my [unique-to-me] approach. Because I am the person I want to be right now, whether I am or am not, and I do the things that person does aka action. It’s the BE-DO-HAVE model of successful behavior change. My training time is training time. I keep it short, but intense and work through my sessions with intent. Sure, pure strength sessions or a sprint sesh are a bit different with rest in between- I’ll chat it up with a friend/training partner, but if I’ve only got 20 minutes on my hands, you can bet those side conversations are kept to a minimum. What else am I not doing? Emails, IG, Twitter, FB; also, text. All of those things will be waiting there for me when I am through. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
I know this approach to training may be different than what you’re used to (e.g. slower, heavier, designated rest, weight machines, whatever), so if you have any questions, let me know on my Facebook page! If not, tell me your fave way to sweat or show me on IG @emilynminer (don’t forget my hashtag #eatnourishTHRIVE). 🙂