“Fat burning workouts”? Or gimmicks on machines?

Chris has asked a good follow up question so I though I’d post this one too.

I am confused on fat loss programmes, the gym machines seem to have lots of different programmes on there, but I seem to find the “fat-burning” programme very easy and don’t even break into a sweat?

Here’s one of my favourite and least favourite subjects at the same time! It always makes me laugh when they put these ‘”fat burning” programmes on the machines. Are they suggesting that the rest of the programme don’t burn fat? Do they suggest that the rest of the programmes are for very specific purposes only? The reality is that this is a very gimmicky way of training so don’t listen to their claims, most of these so called programmes are to make the machine seem a little more interesting, and keep some variety in there. You can measure your heart rate during exercise, and I measure all my clients, but if you find that difficult, look to put a 8 or 9 out of 10 effort each time you train and you will be doing very well, now THAT is the intensity you really want to be reaching in your workout, not what some made up routine on a machine that doesn’t work you that hard in the first place.

I addressed some of this in my previous post “do I need to work over 20 minutes to burn fat?”. If you think about this logically, any exercise will burn fat and you don’t need to be working for hugely long periods of time to burn fat, it’s what you do and not how long you work for. The fat-burning programmes you speak of usually encourage you to work at low intensity for lengthy periods, that’s why you never get into a sweat as you say and you are being short-changed of a great workout potentially.

The good news is that you can make any programme a “fat-burning” programme, all you have to do is make the effort worthwhile and exercise with purpose. If you are not really pushing yourself, and simply doing the workout at a slow leisurely pace, you need to up the intensity to truly burn fat as they say. If you’re working on a treadmill, increase the speed, or increase the incline. If you are doing weights or resistance exercise, add the weight progressively to increase intensity, and cut your rest in between sets down, that’s why I encourage you to work in a circuit style as seen in previous posts. See my interval training post, that’s got some solid training ideas in there to truly burn fat and quickly.

You know deep down chris that those “fat-burning” workouts that seem to last for really long periods at low intensity don’t really work, are hugely boring, take most of your evening up, and you need to buckle down and make improvements if you really want the changes for the better you are obviously looking for.

I have posted lots of examples of workouts already, and hopefully you can see that the theme is relatively brief workouts, but done at a higher intensity. You don’t have to work yourself until you’re blue in the face, but you do need to work slightly out of any comfort zone you may be in right now. Look for constant improvements, keep a training journal over the next 12 weeks, and you may be surprised at what you’re doing in week 12, compared to week 1.

Try some outside workout, can’t beat the fresh air and you can get a different scenery each time!

Let me know how you get on!


Walking versus running

A good question has come through from Chris, someone who like many others, has been viewing the site and has finally posted! Question is

Which exercise is better, walking or running?

There is no straight answer to this one Chris as I like to look at the big picture. The easiest to answer is this. If someone is new to training or wants to get started running, it can be intimidating and downright hard to say the least, anyone who has done it can testify to this!

Also, you may have a problem with your knee/ankle/back, and if this is the case, then I would advise walking to start with, make sure you get a good set of running shoes (although you won’t be running) as all the best technology and support goes into running shoes, they don’t have to expensive either, there’s always pairs on sale at any sports shop and sometimes you can get an excellent pair for around £40. What you want to spend is up to you, but bear in mind they mostly last for around 500 miles so you need to change them regularly, that is the true secret.

They used to say I would be a cripple by the time I was 35, however I change my shoes every 8 weeks now through picton sports in Llanelli, and im feeling better than ever at recently turning 41. I change them so often because my running would be considered excessive by many, but it is a big part of my job! So having proper training shoes is absolutely vital, or you will invite injuries.

Back to the question of walking versus running. I would say that an average person usually finds running for any length of time to begin with too difficult, so walking quickly is achievable and will soon get most people out of breath. Then, I would move them on to hills to drive up the intensity of the workout and this again, can be very tough!

Then, I find as long as there are no prior injuries or knee complaints etc, a lot of individuals want to step it up and achieve some running targets. I start with maybe running for 20 yards, walking for 50 yards, running for 20, walking for 50 and son on. Over a 6 week period, it could easily become running for 150 yards, walking for 50 yards, running for 150 and so on. People progress at different rates depending on ability, motivation, dietary habits etc, but with some well thought out and progressive training, the results will be very good.

I would only attempt to run a maximum of twice a week to start, to get your joints used to the extra load (the pressure can be 3 times your body weight). When you get up to around 20 minutes of constant running on the flat, I would suggest trying to bring in interval training (see my recent post on that), sprints on flat and sprints up hills over shorter distances (see previous posts on training for sports). These forms of training not only relieve boredom, but they cam bring you some tremendous results.

I have some individuals who are very good walkers too and just love walking. They start off on flat of course, then they work on rolling hills, and then they work up to some very demanding hills and even mountains. I have had a couple of people walk/climb up some very  famous peaks in the world, so the sky’s the limit.

So back to the question which is better, I would say both are very good depending on personal preference. I would say that most have a desire to run, but I have some who hate running and love to cycle. I have some who love to swim. I have some who hate an audience and love to work inside with weights and body weight exercises. I am fully aware that many people have ailments that make running not very attractive. It is up to me to make sure they have a programme that they can still get into amazing shape with. Anyone who has trained with me will know after a good period of conditioning, I seek out the highest hills and some of the most demanding terrains. There’s plenty of them around the Llanelli, burry port and gower area’s so take your pick and see what you can do.

Another point, I would use the level of intensity as your guide to your workout. Think 1 as very easy, and 10 as working at your max. If you can get a 8 or 9 out of a walking workout, then that’s fantastic, and the same with running. It’s the effort you put in that counts and not necessarily if its walking or running. If you have an issue with your knees, choose non weight bearing such as cycling and swimming, walking may be okay too but running may be inviting trouble.

Up to you and let me know how you get on and good luck on the challenge next week!


Gym advice

Questions are coming in again so this is from Rhian who has just joined the site and wants advice on using the machines in the gym.

I have responding by telling her to build up gradually and the first month should be about building up slowly, and generally improving your general conditioning. It’s virtually impossible to go into a 6 day a week schedule if you haven’t done anything for some time. Your body will take time to get used to it’s new activities. Also, if you begin too quick, you are putting yourself at high risk of getting injured and will probably lose your enthusiasm very quickly.

So the perfect start for you rhian would be two resistance workouts per week, and two cardiovascular workouts (working heart and lungs more).

I have responded to your comments on my gym based workouts  posted some days ago, where you posted your question, and i have given guidance on using the machines you requested, such as the rower, exercise bike, stepper etc. I really think you should really make sure you form on the machines is first class before seriously upping your efforts on them. Proper form on ANY exercise is vital, and i cannot preach it enough.

So on a typical week, i would suggest this (i’m not exactly sure of your current physical condition but i’m playing it safe and taking it slow)

Monday and Thursday-start off with a 10 minute warm up on bike

Resistance workout

Chest press

Lat pulldowns

Lateral raises

Leg extensions

Leg curls

Tricep pushowns

Dumbbell curls

Aim for 8 repetitions on each exercise, start of just one set of each first week, two the second week and three the third week, keep it there then for a while and aim to increase the intensity of each exercise by adding a little more weight.

In your first 3 weeks, i would finish off with a rower for 5 minutes on the monday (noting your metres pulled), and finish off with the bike for 10 mins on the thursday, noting how many metres you have travelled, should be on the screen in front of you.

Tuesday and Friday

Your own personal triathlon

Depending on current ability and don’t be afraid to finish after 5 mins on each exercise, we all have to start/start back somewhere and the only way is up!

Start off with 10 minutes on bike

10 minutes on stepper/x trainer

Then 7 minutes on rower to finish

This should be more than enough to start with, try and increase intensity each week as you go along, but don’t push yourself too hard for the first 3 weeks. Go along at your own pace and the first month is never time for heroics!

Try and walk every other day on your own, especially the weekend, when there is more daylight and nothing better than fresh air!!

My own personal opinion would be that you could also use the home based workouts seen in my previous posts. They can be just as hard, sometimes even harder, you don’t have to travel from your house and they always get done. Some people on the other hand like going to the gym to get out of the house so totally up to you?

There are also endless outside workouts you can do and i have an endless list of those, so just ask.

The best thing about non-gym workouts is that they are free, you are only competing with yourself and you can tell us all about your progress on here, where others can help and encourage you, including me of course!

Any problems, let me know!


Interval training

Snowed in for the first time in a long time today, so posting this a little earlier than planned! If you really want to maximise your fat burning, forget all those boring long distance runs that can stress your joints, try this one to jump start your metabolism!

If you are running for example, try and use lampposts as a guide for training intensity. You would jog slowly for one post, then sprint the next post, then jog the next, sprint the next one after and so on. Your efforts may only last a couple of minutes at a time to start with but this a great form of training for increasing your stamina, and really getting your fat burning underway.

If you on a treadmill in a gym, try running slow and steady for one minute, the sprint the next minute or certainly push it, slow for the next minute, sprint the next minute after that and so on. If you can work up to 20 minutes of this, you will be doing extremely well indeed!

If you are out cycling, try making your training intervals a bit longer, so you could still use landmarks, it’s just that they will be further spaced out. They could be 100 yards of sprinting on the bike, then 100 yards of steady pedalling, then you go for it again for 100 yards and so on. You can make the intervals any distance you want, depending on how you feel and which route you are on. Cycling is not always about long distances, and don’t forget, brit mark cavendish is one of the msot exciting riders, and he’s a sprinter who concentrates on the last couple of 100 metres in the tour de france (although he may have rode 100km before that!).

Ensure you have a good warm up before attempting any of these,  as they will stretch you over short periods and will be very intense. They can add great excitement to your workouts. To get up to this kind of workout, i would suggest you build up a base first to get some stamina levels and you don’t shock your system too quickly. You could even try using this system in a daily walk just to start off, it will work you hard, and break the monotony of the walk up.

All to be done when the snow goes of course!!


Gym based workouts

Had some emails in so i’m going to do a great gym circuit that works, and is very much using the same principles of the home workout, which really works too of course!

Select 6-8 exercises again, trying to work each body part in each circuit, and try to do a total of 3 circuits if your fitness allows. Take sips of water in between each circuit, and use good form in each exercise, no cheating or using too much weight for the sake of it!!

Use 8-10 reps for each exercise, and i like 12-15 reps on the leg exercises, you will get out of breath so scale down the weight you normally use, over the weeks that weight will go back up slowly as your fitness improves.

Bench press (chest)

One arm dumbbell rowing (back)

Upright rows (shoulders)

Leg press (legs)

Arm dips (using bench) (triceps)

Dumbbell curls (arms)

Sit ups (do as many as possible)

So basically, you will be using the same principles as the home circuit (see my previous posts), and if you really put a good effort in, you will get an excellent sweat and really get out of breath. Plus you will be breaking down muscle tissue, as you should now by now will raise your metabolism significantly (burn more calories 24 hours a day!).

Other examples would be

Pec deck

Lat pulldowns

Lateral raises

Leg extensions

Leg curls

Plank-Aim for 1 minute eventually (the gold standard)

Alternate squat thrusts-your best effort on each one, it’s a great exercise!

Your combination of circuits is only limited by your imagination. The bottom line is i repeat, DO EACH EXERCISE IN PROPER FORM, not simply so quick as just to finish it, or you won’t get the results you want!

I would do these circuits in the gym on a monday, wednesday and a friday (use the 48 hours in between each circuit to your advantage). These are over quickly but bring some big results to your body’s firmness and stamina levels. All good stuff!