You asked: Cardio versus strength training for fat loss

I am not sure if you have heard, but you do not need to run to be thin. But cardio, more accurately aerobic exercise, is often promoted as THE BEST STRATEGY for weight loss. Aerobic exercises are touted as:

  • Burning more calories in a shorter period of time.
  • Cheap, all you need is a pair of shoes and ground to walk all.
  • Supposedly higher fat burning.
  • And more.

The truth is that long duration, aerobic activities are not the most effective, efficient strategies for fat loss.

I could tell you all the benefits of strength training. But you can Google that and come up with some pretty respectable answers. What I want to tell you are a few reasons  WHY strength training is better than aerobic exercise for fat loss and weight maintenance.

EPOC

After exercise , the body continues to need oxygen at a higher rate than before the exercise began. This sustained oxygen consumption is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Because of this, the body continues to expend energy after exercise and therefore burn calories. Research shows that EPOC is greater after resistance training than it is after aerobic exercises – likely as a result of greater intensity and disruption to the body’s homeostasis.

While you may burn more calories during 30 minutes of aerobic training than you will with 30 minutes of strength training (not always the case!), you will burn more calories in the hours following strength training than you will in the hours following aerobic training because of EPOC.

MORAL: Strength training ultimately burns more calories than aerobic training.

Muscle burns calories – fat does not

I know you have heard it, “Muscle burns more calories than fat.” I hate this phrase – because it implies that fat would burn some amount of calories. It does not!

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this post.

Want to see results from only working out 3-5 hours a week? It’s possible! I have done it and so have many of my clients.

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Personal training is expensive!

People spend triple on their cable than they are willing to spend on fitness!

I’ve been thinking about the cost of personal and small group training.

Is it too expensive?

No.

Not really.

I was recently asked for my recommendation – she was willing to spend $30/month for a gym with classes and kickboxing. I had no solid recommendations – as those facilities do not offer programs that I would generally recommend. I offered some guidelines for what to ask, such as are the instructors certified?, but I didn’t have much to say.

Prioritized spending

The average American spends $86 per month on cable (does not include internet or phone).

Fifty-six percent of Americans have a smartphone – average cost is $200 for the phone (with a 2-year contract) and $71 a month – versus $36 per month for those “dumb” phones (from the CTIA Wireless Association).

The average American adult spends $2295 a year on alcohol.

Read 10 Things Americans Waste Money On.

A little perspective

Compare this to what she is willing to spend on fitness.

$30 x 12 months = $360 a year.

Wow.

$852 or more a year for a cell phone. $2296 a year for alcohol. A measly $360 a year for fitness.

This makes me sad.

Life costs money

Please do not get me wrong, I do realize personal training can be expensive. That is why I choose to offer different levels of service. Small group training and classes make fitness more affordable. As to not be a hypocrite, let me be honest with you.

Do I have a smartphone? Yes. And I could probably do without, but it would make some of my business dealings more difficult.

Do I have cable? No. I do not even own a television.

Do I buy alcohol? Rarely. I do not have an iPad or tablet. I rarely eat out – eating healthy at home saves money and calories.

My frivolous spending is limited to coffee (black, no fru-fru drinks) and the occasional pair of shoes (which I have to be able to wear for work).

The bottomline

I am not saying that everyone can afford personal training and should hire a personal trainer. There are many individuals out there who truly cannot afford it. I am just sharing a little perspective.

Think about where you spend your hard-earned money – is this spending improving the quality of your life?

And as always, if you are working with or thinking about working with a trainer, make sure he or she is a qualified professional.

Like what you read? Please visit me at Better By Becca!

Take a second glance: Images of female athletes

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Howard Schatz’s images of female athletes have re-emerged and gone viral. The images – intending to display the varying array of body types – are bothersome to me. Perhaps because of my own insecurities. But also because I know the way that our minds work: we compare.

Check out both images and the Huffington Post article here.

Let me lead you through a second glance.

I am an athlete

No, I do not train for a sport, but I am an athlete – training for life. I immediately scanned the sports – looking for those athletes that I could most relate with and I compared my body to theirs. I am often asked if I am a swimmer – so I scanned for the swimmers and compared my shoulders, my legs, and my torso to theirs. Nope, I do not look like them. While I am not in ‘ peak physical condition’ as the disclaimer says these athletes are, I cannot help but compare. That is what we do! We compare. We judge (we know we shouldn’t but we do). And we ultimately beat ourselves up. I train so hard, and dang!

Now, I did not beat myself up. I could see the flaws in the images…so it made it easy for me to keep from traveling down that dangerous slope of negative self-talk and self-criticism.

I will share one significant flaw – hopefully to keep you from seeing this as a true representation and to prevent you from allowing yourself to compare and spiral into a dangerous place of despair.

The images are not to scale

Unfortunately – and I noticed this almost immediately – the photos are not to scale. The images are presented in a manner that inherently leads us to compare the athletes to one another. Yet, the 5’5″ golfer stands taller than the 5’8.5″ bodybuilder.

It is a trick!

Minor? Maybe. But tricky, tricky, tricky!

That is just one example, if you look at the heights of these athletes, that screams of the deception.

The bottomline

The intentions are good. And yes, the bodies of athletes vary significantly. All human bodies vary significantly. But I feel that the presentation is flawed and deceiving.

I have heard several clients and friends talking about this ‘artwork.’ Some are disappointed by the lack of clothing. Some are truly amazed by the differences.

Me? I am disappointed and bothered.

What do YOU think and feel about these images?

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Managing stress and anxiety in a chaotic world

Many of our difficulties originate with stress and anxiety. Packed schedules, competition in the workplace and social circles, pressures to be perfect, and lack of self-care (e.g., sleep, exercise, healthy eating) all play a part in high stress and anxiety levels.

Those who know me well know that I can suffer pretty severe anxiety. Anything that requires numbers – I will need someone to talk me down out of my anxious state. And nothing makes me more anxious than being late – I become light headed and nauseous. The mind is powerful!

Stress is described as “the psycho-physiological responses of the individual to any influence which disturbs homeostasis.” What does this mean? Physical, mental, and emotional changes to your body’s normal balance. These changes depend on a given individual’s tolerance to stress. What might cause a great deal of stress to me may not elicit the same response in you. And vice versa. Stress can be the result of environmental factors, although illness and nutrition can also play a role. An individual’s reaction to stress can involve aggression and anger or inversely, inhibition, regression, and fear (Moran, 2004).

Anxiety involves a feeling of fear or a perception of threat and it may or may not be specific to a particular situation. Possible symptoms are nausea, loss of composure, reduced motor coordination, and aggression (Moran, 2004). The intensity of anxiety can be directly related to the amount of associated stress and more often than not depends on the individual’s perception.

The following tips can help you while learning to manage stress and anxiety.

  1. Be informed. Ask questions and know your expectations, roles, and responsibilities.
  2. Use imagery. Imagine yourself performing the tasks – flawlessly and with ease.
  3. Maintain a strong social support system. Having strong social support can help you cope with the stress, whether by having someone practice scripts with you – for example before a big presentation – or  by watching a movie to distract you for a time.
  4. Practice physical and mental relaxation. Release tension and clear the mind. Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery are two forms of self-care. Treat yourself to a massage. Learn self-massage or tapping!
  5. Communicate. Let friends, family members, and colleagues know how you are feeling and what you are thinking.
  6. Get plenty of sleep. Inadequate rest can lead to fatigue and poor judgment.
  7. Drink plenty of water. Everything suffers – physically, mentally, and emotionally – when the body is not properly hydrated.
  8. Maintain a positive attitude. And practice self-talk. People with positive attitudes tend to approach problems with more hopeful and optimistic views.
  9. Maintain realistic expectations and goals. Having unrealistic expectations can lead to unnecessary pressure and stres.
  10. Celebrate. Recognize goals and milestones that you have achieved!

The bottomline

Everyone of us faces periods of stress and anxiety. Some of us have more serious experiences, but often times we can manage daily situations by implementing one or a few of the above tips.

What tips do you have for managing stress and anxiety?

References

Koslowsky, M. (1998). Modeling the stress-strain relationship in work settings. New York: Routledge.

Moran, A. P. (2004). Sport and exercise psychology: A critical introduction. New York: Routledge.

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Listen. Slow down. Rest.

My body has been telling me to slow down and rest. But my mind is fighting it – NO! I have difficulty with doing nothing – both physically and mentally. As my favorite surgeon noted, I am a “Go go go girl.” (Not to be confused with a go go girl.)

My back hurts.

My hip hurts.

My hands hurts, with small blisters beneath my calluses.

My foot hurts.

My knee has been popping (not a good sign).

There is a pinching pain between my shoulder blades.

My head hurts, pulling from my shoulder blades.

And yet, my mind does not want to slow down. I share this, not to complain, or to whine, or for sympathy. But to show that I understand and that I too fall into the trap. The trap of habitual exercise and not wanting to stop – for fear that you will not start again.

Slowing down and resting is something that I have actually gotten better at these last few years. Each of my injuries forced me to slow down – each of them designed for the function of forcing me to slow down (there is a reason for everything, isn’t there?). I have since become more in-tune with my body. I listen to it. While I am pretty good at slowing down or cutting back,  I am not so good at resting completely. I go a little bit stir crazy on rest days (although I force myself to take at least 1 rest day a week).

Avoid overtraining

Some individuals may suspect I am overtraining. I am not overtraining – simply managing a chronic, mysterious condition (narrowed down to being autoimmune). Most of my pain has nothing to do with my workouts. However, minor aches and pains can be good indicators to slow down and avoid overtraining. Has your body been sore for too many days in a row? Rest. Are you getting adequate sleep but still fatigued? Rest.

Avoid Injury

If your body is fatigued or you are experiencing some pain, there is a good chance that you will workout, compensate with other areas, and incur more pain or injury. Another injury does not appeal to me – I do not think it is worth the risk.

The bottomline

Listen to your body. Slow down when it needs it. Rest when it needs it. When it doubt, if you have been working out hard, rest.

Rest —

Challenge: Strengthen your ‘no’ muscle

Many of us have difficulty saying no. I for one, have GREAT difficulty saying no.

We have difficulty setting relational boundaries – unable to say no to friends and often overcommiting ourselves or doing things we do not want to do..

We have difficulty maintaining work boundaries – unable to say no to our boss’s every request, working long hours and bringing work home.

We have difficulty with food boundaries – unable to say no to food that seem to stare us in the face daily or not knowing when to stop.

Read on to learn how I strengthened my no muscle.

Long-term potentiation

As with anything, saying no can become easier with practice. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It is like a muscle, use it and it will become stronger. There is an abundant amount of research out there supporting the notion. We call it willpower. Scientists call it long-term potentiation (LTP).

When you practice saying no, you can strengthen the nerve cell connections in the brain – when the connections are strengthened they are potentiated (Amen, 2010). Practicing over time strengthens these circuits and builds what we know as willpower. LTP occurs whenever these circuits are strengthened and practiced and the associated behaviors become almost automatic (Amen, 2010).

My ‘crazy’ experiment

I tested the LTP theory years ago. I had always felt like I had no willpower – prone to binge drinking and eating. I had begun working with a trainer and saw the weight loss benefits. Wanting to see what results I could truly obtain, I quickly modified my diet – strictly following the guidelines that I provide in my meal and snack creation post. At the time, I was having difficulty with giving up my beloved Snickers candy bars. Having read about LTP and that it is possible to increase willpower. I thought I would test it out.

I took a “Fun Size” Snickers bar to work and placed in in front of my computer monitor. At the time, I worked in publishing and sat in front of the computer for 8-10 hours a day. My goal: I will not eat the Snickers today. I sat there all day with the Snickers in front of me. I practiced saying no. Some might argue this was desensitization (it may have been). I wanted to, but I did not eat it!

I set the same goal for the next day.

And the next.

I would tell myself, I did not eat it yesterday and I do not need to eat it today.

This went on for months. More than a year. Eventually the Snickers bar was so old that it wasn’t appealing (although I am sure it has an absurd shelf life) and I threw it away. I had built willpower and the ability to say no.

It was not easy

This brief summary omits the days of stressful deadlines, when I almost ate that bar. I didn’t mention the emotional days, when I wanted the candy bar, but said no. It doesn’t mention my colleagues – who all thought I was crazy – who were nay-sayers and bullied me to eat it.

The challenge

What do you need to say no to?

For me, it was Snickers. At other times, it has been saying no to clients who want to train with me during periods that I am generally unavailable. There was also a time when I needed to learn to say no to alcohol.

I challenge you to think about what you need to say no to. Starting today, you will practice. It starts with 1 day. Then 1 day becomes 2. And if I can do it — so can you.

So tell us, to what are you going to practice saying NO?

References

Amen, D. G. (2010). Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. Three Rivers Press: New York.

Are group fitness classes effective?

I taught two group fitness classes yesterday morning. Back to back. I do this most Saturdays. Out of curiosity, I wore my heart rate monitor this time. First, I wanted to see how high my heart rate got during some of the exercises I selected for the TABATA class. I did not intend for the heart rate to get too high, and it didn’t. Second, I was curious as to how many calories I would burn during two hours of teaching – two classes that I heavily participate in.

When I stopped my heart rate monitor at 2 hours and 2 minutes, I was disappointed: 890 calories. To give you some perspective, my average 45-60 minute workout burns 500-700 calories. Granted, this was not the same intensity, nor designed to be my workout, but it led me to think critically about whether my classes were adequate and appropriate – and about the overall effectiveness of group fitness.

Intended outcome?

Why do most individuals attend group fitness classes? Most have the goal to lose weight. Are group fitness classes targeting that goal? I believe that the answer to this question is complicated – it is both yes and no.

For example, depending on the exercise selection, TABATA can be a effective and efficient workout. I perform this form of high intensity interval training on a regular basis. I design my classes in an equally effective manner (with a lesser degree of intensity). BUT, if a member comes to my Saturday morning class and this is the 8th class she has been to this week, will it be effective? Will the intended outcome be reached? Probably not.

Desired results far too uncommon

I have been in and out of my fair share of gyms. When you are a group fitness instructor, by default you end up filling in at what seems to be every workout facility within a 30-mile radius. And unfortunately, I have seen very few members achieve their desired results. Weight loss. Improved fitness. Very few group fitness programs will get you this results. Even more disheartening, is that I would see the same faces over and over – watching some individuals attend 8-10 hours of classes a week – with no results. Sadly, most of these individuals are overtraining. Some are undernourished due to extending periods of dieting and/or yo-yo dieting. Most are frustrated and at a loss for what else to do.

Solution

It is pretty simple. While I am not a proponent of many group fitness classes, I will not suggest that you forgo the classes. I will recommend the following:

  1. Attend NO MORE than 4 group fitness classes a week. Most group fitness classes target the same muscles, energy systems, etc. and miss the same muscle groups, form, technique, and energy systems.
  2. Research your instructor – ONLY take classes led by degreed and certified professionals. This one may be tough. There are some good instructors out there who do not have degrees, they have been fanatics for years and they bring good energy and great intentions. But generally speaking, you want to work with someone who has been trained to manage situations as they arise – providing variety that is safe, efficient, and effective.
  3. Work with a qualified trainer first. While working with a qualified personal trainer long term is not always financially feasible, it is in your best interest to invest the time and money into a few (3-12) foundational sessions with a trainer. A qualified trainer will teach you form and technique that the group fitness instructor simply is unable to provide in the setting (some know your form is off but are not able to correct form on every person every hour). With this investment, you will gain valuable knowledge that you can bring with you and ensure that you get the most out of your workout.
  4. Wear a heart rate monitor. Sweat is not indicative of a good workout – however most group fitness class attendees use sweat as the measure of whether the workout was good. It is not the only indicator. Neither is soreness the only nor the best indicator of a good workout. What else can you measure? Your heart rate. Target heart rates are highly individual – for more specifics please contact me personally.
  5. Change? If you have been going to the same class for years – it is time for something new!
  6. Give it your all. Some times a group class can become social hour. While this is not all bad, remember why you are there and give it 100%!

The bottomline

Not all group fitness classes are bad. These classes can be a great way to build community support and accountability. But if you are a regular attendee, be honest as to whether you are getting the results for the time and energy you put into the work. If you go to classes every day, and are not getting the results you desire, you may be overtraining – or simply inefficiently training.

I love group fitness classes – that is how I got my start. (It is also the reason I suffered overuse injuries and eventually elected to have surgery.) Follow the 6 recommendations above and you can get the most out of those classes!

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A no-quit circuit workout

We played with video today. I have said before that I do not intend to share too many workouts, but it was on my heart to share this one.

A simple – but not easy – workout, comprised of 4 circuits. Rest 1 to 2 minutes between circuits.

Circuit 1 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Spiderman Pushups (each side)
Dumbbell Squat to Press
Chinups (or assisted Chinups)

Circuit 2 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Jump Lunge
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Goblet Squat

Circuit 3 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Dumbbell Reverse Fly
DB Jump Squat
Superman Pushup

Circuit 4 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Dumbbell Step Up
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Dumbbell Squat

You can view a video tutorial on this workout on my Facebook page.

Muscles = You must be a bodybuilder?

It is really funny actually. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I am a bodybuilder. I have been asked by roommates. I have been asked by strangers at the mall. I have been asked by strangers at gyms where I workout. I have been asked by strangers at gyms where I work. I have been asked by men, women, boys, and girls.

My friend Emily gets asked this as well. Neither of us looks like a bodybuilder. It has become a bit of a joke between us.

You must be a bodybuilder

I have narrowed it down to the fact that we are women, with muscle, who look like we know what we are doing in the gym. This accounts for the comments in the gym. And more than knowing what we are doing, we are not afraid of the heavy weights and are actually drawn to them – I would much rather do 4-6 reps of heavier weight than 12-15 reps of less weight. And for some reason, people associate heavy weights with bodybuilding – when bodybuilders actually use lighter weights for the bulk of their training.

I have determined that the everyday individual’s logic is:

If you know what you are doing in the weight room and you lift heavy weights, then you are a body builder.

Can you offer me any insight?

I am not a bodybuilder

When I let myself dwell on the comments, I can get down on myself. I have shared much about my battles with body image, and comments can trigger rampant thoughts. Out of season, bodybuilders often carry a significant amount of subcutaneous fat – a result of the considerable amount of calories required to build muscle and support the training regimen. I think, I know my body carries some subcutaneous fat, and I am okay with that – but how big do I look? 

There was a period in my life when I thought I would train for a competition. That season of thought has long since passed – there is no need for me to purposefully harm my body and risk significant metabolic damage. For what result? To stand mostly naked, in insanely high heels, and holding uncomfortable poses on a stage in front of individuals who are judging me? I will pass. While I like goals, and my body would likely adapt well to the physical training, I have no desire to put myself in the position of being judged based SOLELY on my appearance.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I am an athlete – I compete in the game called life

Opposed to bodybuilders, I train for life. I train for getting in and out of the car, impromptu hula hooping contests, unexpected basement demolitions, and so forth. While a bodybuilder may appear strong, most individuals would be surprised by their lack of functional movement and use of those big muscles (this is a broad statement and is not representative of ALL bodybuilders). This falls along the lines that models cannot do pushups – there is an overall disconnect between appearance and reality.

Compliment or insult?

When I have been asked if I am a bodybuilder, sometimes it comes across as a compliment and other times as an insult. The first few times, I let it get to me. Now, I just shake it off. Sometimes, individuals just do not know what to say and that is what comes out.

I love being strong and muscular, so I chose to take it as a compliment every time. And now every time either Emily or I hear it, we laugh and it causes a day’s worth of amusement.

The bottomline

I am not a bodybuilder. None of my friends are bodybuilders. I trained a friend for a figure competition – she is not a bodybuilder. We are strong – and have trained for life and the many obstacles it throws our way.

Further, I am not opposed to bodybuilding or figure training, it is just not for me.

The point is this: not all muscular individuals are bodybuilders. So stop asking us that! (You may give us a complex.)

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