Workouts stopped working? Big changes lead to big results

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.Β ~~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 πŸ™‚ ). 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!

Source: Miss Me

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?

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  1. You just described basically how I workout and eat. πŸ™‚ I have a CrossFit gym and so much of it is full-body movements done in intervals, on the clock, rounds, etc. Also we do heavy lifting (Olympic and power) which, for me, really shreds fat. And I follow the Paleo diet! Your plan should give you great results, especially already having such a solid fitness base to begin with. I look forward to seeing your progress. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the support Ginger! I’ve been curious about Cross Fit for some time, but the closest box to me is about a 45 min drive away and with work and kids’ activities it can’t happen right now (plus, I have a free membership to the awesome gym I work at, so joining another doesn’t make sense fiscally)

      • I totally agree. With your knowledge, you could easily do CrossFit workouts at your normal gym. Some things would have to be modified based on equipment and such but so much of what CrossFit workouts are can be done almost anywhere, with enough creativity! Lots of fun! πŸ™‚

  2. we love doing interval training!! really feel it has helped us get in better shape than plain cardio and weights.

    sounds like you are on the right track! keep it up

  3. Your post was timely as I’ve been thinking I need to change up my routine a bit. I work out everyday and do a lot of interval and circuit training already, but I noticed I’ve reached a plateau. Given I’m content with how I look, I haven’t made many changes, but if I want to get back to how I looked 10 years ago when I really ratcheted up my fitness routine, I need to quit using the excuse “I’m well into my 40s now so I don’t need to challenge myself as much”, and, well, start challenging myself. Guess it’s time to get that heart rate monitor back out. Thanks for nudging me in the right direction. πŸ™‚

  4. I love this post because I think it is so true that even those of us with the best workout habits get “stuck.” I remember when I had a PT that we would always switch things up so that the body didn’t get comfortable. I am sure your new plan will be a complete success! And you are so brave with your bathing suit pictures!!

  5. I have the same “super fit, yet mushy” problem as you. Now can I say I’m just 45? I am so good at saving energy too, as my schedule is similar to yours. So I’ve also added metabolic conditioning to the mix. I hate it until it’s over. Then I feel really proud of myself. I also feel like barfing. Ah well.

    • What are you, 46? You look so very fit in all your videos, my dear. Don’t you hate the middle age mush? I love to read Jody’s (truthtobefit) blog posts about menopause and training and nutrition. She has lots of great ideas!
      So is it warm enough in California that I’ll have to wear shorts?


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