10 Things Trainers Wish You Knew About Your Workout
Are you undermining your workout? Fitness experts weigh in on common exercise infractions—and how to correct them easily.
“After doing the same cardio or strength routine three to six times, your body adapts and you burn fewer calories,” says Michael Sokol, the owner of One-on-One Fitness Personal Training Services, in Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona. Eventually your results—weight loss, muscle definition—will slow down. Also, repeatedly placing stress on the same muscles and joints could lead to an overuse injury.
Action plan: Once a month, change one thing about your cardio and weight-training regimens: Take a Zumba class in lieu of your Saturday walk, for instance, or use a resistance band instead of dumbbells. Bonus: Mixing things up may help you stick with exercise. A 2001 study conducted at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, found that people who varied their routines enjoyed their workouts more—and exercised more regularly—than did people who went with the same thing every day.
2. Cardio Isn’t the Magic Bullet for Weight Loss
While biking, running, and walking are great for your heart, “research suggests that it’s difficult to lose fat when you do only cardiovascular activity,” says Jeff Halevy, a celebrity trainer and the CEO of Halevy Life, a health and fitness service company in New York City. Although aerobic exercise will burn calories, it doesn’t really change your metabolism. What does: lean muscle mass. “Muscle helps you burn more calories even after your workout is over,” says Halevy. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (the baseline amount of calories you burn in a day), says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., the director of fitness research at Quincy College, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Women tend to lose five to seven pounds of muscle in each decade of adulthood—one reason why the pounds creep on as we get older. Westcott’s research has found that if you do strength training three times a week, you can add an average of three pounds of muscle in about three months, increasing your metabolism by 6 to 7 percent.
Action plan: Keep doing cardio three times a week, but add two or three strength-training workouts. Aim to work all the major muscles over the week; complete one to two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. To get started, check out the website of the American Council on Exercise for an extensive library of weight-training moves.