Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~~Albert Einstein
Sometime during the last six months, I stopped seeing results in the gym.
Nothing much has changed with my diet (aside from a little sugar indulgence over the holidays ). Nothing has changed with my workout schedule either. I teach 4-5 aerobics and spin classes and weight train (primarily body part splits) 2-3 times each week.
Yet despite all this exercise (6-8 hours weekly) and a commitment to clean eating, my jeans are feeling a bit snug and my mid-section looks ‘mushy’. My first thought was that I’m just not working hard enough in the gym. My second thought was to blame age (I’ll be 45). But there are so many fabulously 40+ fit women out there it seemed like more of an excuse than a reason .
So I purchased a heart rate monitor (Timex Ironman Road Trainer, watch and chest strap combo; I’ve always loved their watches for ease of use and longevity of battery) to quantify my efforts and see whether I truly had become complacent in my workouts. After a few weeks of monitoring, I can safely say that I work pretty hard, both when teaching and when lifting weights. During a typical 60-min step and sculpt class, my heart rate is in my target zone (70-75% maximum HR) for 40-45 minutes and the monitor tells me I’m burning upwards of 550 calories. Same calorie burn for 30-40 min in the gym.
After talking to a couple of fitness instructor colleagues, I realize that my situation is not unique. Aerobics instructors and other endurance athletes often lose that sharp, lean look more typical of sprinters and other athletes whose sport requires short bursts of all out effort. That’s because our bodies get good at saving energy for the duration (i.e., the third class within 24 hours). In fact, my heart rate recovers very quickly even after intense bouts of exercise, which is great for cardiovascular fitness but less so for fat loss.
Although I do include intervals and plyometrics in my training, their effects are overshadowed by the long (relatively) slow distance work that my workouts are largely comprised of.
In an attempt to stop the insanity, I’m making some big changes.
I’m ditching the body part weight training I’ve been focusing on for the last two years (I’m pretty happy with the size and strength gains I’ve made) and switching entirely to rest based interval training. Combining upper and lower body moves together and alternatively with plyometrics (think burpees, squat jumps, box jumps, skipping) to create a metabolic circuit that will keep my heart rate elevated throughout the entire workout and create an ‘afterburn’ effect (heart rate should continue to rise while you rest between exercises, resulting in an elevated metabolic rate for up to 36 hours after the workout). I’ll be posting my workouts for you to try at home and to keep me from slipping back into my old training style!
Of course, diet is key too and no matter how well we think we’re eating, there’s always room for improvement.
I’ll be following the diet plan (note, it’s not really a diet; there’s no calorie counting or weighing or measuring of food) outlined in the book ‘The Metabolic Effect Diet‘. I’ve had this book on my bookshelf for well over a year, but only recently decided that I really need to give it a try. According to their definition, I’m a ‘mixed burner’, meaning that my body can easily shift between burning stored fat and dietary sugar depending on how I’m eating and training.
The main change for me will be a further reduction in my intake of starchy carbs, including a few of my favorite fruits (the very sweet ones). But, I get to eat more nuts and nut butter than I have been, which I see as a fair trade!
I’ve taken bathing suit photos (which I’ve decided not to share, just yet…) and will do so again every four weeks until I reach my visual goal. I’m not weighing myself, but would really like to fit back into my favorite pair of Miss Me skinny jeans!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Metabolic Effect, check out their Facebook page.
When your workouts stop working, do you give up or change it up?