Sprained ankles. Broken bones. Gym Hottie rejection. Stolen spots. The occupied state of the “lucky” treadmill. Pistol whipped by a resistance band. A personal trainer with cold calipers and cold fingers. All the TVs locked onto The Hallmark Channel during a Nicholas Sparks cry-a-thon. Discovering the protein powder mixed in your water bottle is actually infant formula. There are many reasons for tears in the gym and I’ve seen my fair share of them. (Okay, that last one was me. (Fine, all of them were me. Shut up.)) But the number one reason I’ve seen people of both genders collapse in hysterics can be summed up by one word:
Enter from stage left (gym studio left?) my gorgeous, leggy, thin, blond friend. While she recently had a great deal of success losing some poundage, she was not quite yet to her goal and yet her weight loss had stagnated. This, in spite of continuing with her healthy eating and exercise habits. Nothing, my friends, sucks worse than doing “everything right” and have it not work anymore. I wrote a detailed – and rather witty, if I do say so myself – post on plateaus and how to deal with them back in January. (Really go read that one first.) That one deals with all touchy-feely weepy aspects of the Dieter’s Nightmare. (And you thought it was those awful Weight Watcher “cakes” that appear twice their real size on the outside of the box and taste just like the inside of the box. If the box was spread with chocolate-colored grout.) The basic gist is that we’ve all been there. Some of us are still there. It royally stinks.
But my friend wanted more detail about point #4, “Change it up.” (Well, actually she just wanted to borrow my Jillian Michaels book Master Your Metabolism but I can’t find it – I loaned that sucker to somebody, if you know who you are can I please have it back? K thx! – so I offered her my advice as a sorry second.) There are a ton of variables to try changing to see if you can kickstart your metabolism back into high octane burn. Here are a few suggestions to try and a few not to try:
1. Interval training. The science really supports this one. Intervals done right are very painful (you’re training at 90% or more of your maximum ability) but they are short. As with most exercise, more is notbetter (hgh, human growth hormone, works while you rest, remember?) but do try working in a couple of interval workouts a week. 20 minutes max is all you need. And don’t tack them on to another workout. Seriously. Because then you won’t be able to give those intervals your all. Bored of treadmill sprints (or they give you shin splints)? Try bike sprints. Or rowing sprints. Or, heaven help you because you willbarf, swimming sprints.
2. Mess around with your macronutrient ratios. Recent research has shown that eating fat and protein for breakfast can give you a metabolic boost that will help you burn fat throughout the day and help you stay full longer. I’m not saying cut out healthy carbs all together, just don’t fear the fat! And don’t mess around with that Smart Balance stuff – go for the full fat butter, coconut oil, olive oil, heavy cream and whole eggs. For instance, my go-to breakfast these days are my (by way of Deb, Allie, Heather and half the fit-o-sphere) protein pancakes topped with a tablespoon of coconut oil or two tablespoons of heavy cream.
3. Try a new type of exercise. Always do step class? Try martial arts. Die-hard runner? Try boot camp. There are more ways to exercise than even I can blog about (not that I’m not trying, mind you) and change is good. It shocks your body and will make you sore in places you didn’t know you could be sore!
4. Cut back on your cardio. For many of us, the instinct to just do more – more classes, more miles, more laps – is strong. If some is good, more is better right? Not so with exercise. And you know that I speak from experience here. Too much cardio actually teaches your body to store fat, can increase your hunger or just convince you that since you ran 10 miles you can eat whatever you want, goldanggit. Many of the leanest people I know (holla, MizFit!) do minimal cardio and focus mainly on the weights. I’m not telling you not to do cardio – you can have my endorphin rush when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers, er, neurons – just to resist the impulse to do more of it. If you want to run a marathon to prove to yourself you can do it or because you love to run or because racing gives you a thrill or even just because you think the finisher’s tee is adorable then you should totally do it! But if you are running a marathon because you think it will make you lose 10 pounds, rethink that.