We started with the Jane Fonda phenomenon. All dressed up in leotard and shin warmers. It was high impact bouncy aerobics and everybody bought the video tapes. Did everybody lose the weight? Then we moved on a bit, we started running an hour a day, 7 days a week. It was the in thing. You cleared your schedule, went to work earlier, just so that you can get to gym and get your hour of cardio in. Cardio was the way to lose weight. Did everybody lose weight? Fast forward to today. This day and age see more woman move on to weight training. Yes, we are serious about weight training. Every time we pick up those pink, plastic covered little dumbbells, we are carving muscles of solid rock that will look sexy in our strappy tops on the beach. Are we looking like that?

So what is the problem then? Why are we following these trends and not noticing any awe inspiring results that are promised?

 

Let’s look at the facts.

Aerobics are lovely to watch. The energy in a well organized aerobic class is electrifying. There is pumping music and a pretty instructor in the front to encourage the people to jump a little higher and push a little harder. So what is wrong with that, you ask, absolutely nothing really. Except maybe that there are 30 people in a class of high impact moves, which many of the participants might have knee, ankle, hip or lower back problems. The instructor can unfortunately not give all these people her personal attention. One person might strain him or herself, are very sore the next day and will never go back. Ok, that is a reason, but why do these people always look the same year in and year out? They train three times per week. They sweat when they come out of the class, so they must work hard and the bonus is, they are having fun while getting fit. Yes, they are definitely getting fit. Aerobics are fantastic for cardiovascular fitness. The heart gets big and strong, does not need to pump 100 beats per minute to distribute the blood through the body so it does not work so hard and you will live longer. But, aerobics will not give you the nice arms for strappy top season. For that you need to do strength training. The down side of lots of aerobic training is that you lose lean muscle and you will actually become weaker! Don’t believe me? Go watch the Comrades marathon or any other marathon for that matter. Skin and bone is what brings those runners home. They can run forever, but are they strong? Mentally yes, stronger than a lot of us, but physically? The other problem with aerobics is that your body will get used to doing the same thing over and over again. Say you start doing aerobics classes, you will start out with burning 100 calories, by the end of your first week of hectic, leg burning aerobics, and you will now only burn 90 calories and so on. Still a great class, but the results are getting less and less, you get frustrated and stop. What is the solution? If you love aerobics very much, and a lot of people swear by it, change your classes regularly to keep your body guessing and throw in some high intensity weight training in between your aerobic classes.

 

We naturally moved on to even longer cardio sessions on the treadmill, bike or in the swimming pool. This can be slightly worse than the aerobics. Why? At least in the aerobic class, your instructor changes the intensity every now and then. When we jump on a treadmill, set the incline on 0 and the pace on 8.5 and set the clock for 30 minutes that is what we do for the whole 30 minutes. No change in speed, no change in incline. The workout stays exactly the same day in and day out. Like in our aerobic example, you will start of by burning a lot of calories and then those numbers will dwindle down as your body gets used to the exercise routine. How do you counter this? Do interval training. Change your workouts every time. Did you use the treadmill yesterday? Jump on the bicycle today and swim tomorrow. Whatever you do, do it fast and get it done. Interval training is all about training hard for a period of time (like 1 minute) and recover for the same amount of time. Your interval can be increasing your speed or increasing the resistance (on a bicycle) or the incline (on a treadmill) as you get more fit, make your working period longer and your resting period shorter. Do this for only 20 minutes and the fat burning benefits will stay with you for the whole day.

 

So what is the big buzz around weight training and why must I avoid the pink plastic covered dumbbells?  Before we get into the “I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder” debate, weight training is the only way you will see the arms you want. Yes, muscles to get “bigger” when training with weights, but genetically woman do not produce huge amounts of testosterone, so we will never look like the horror movie images you are thinking of at the moment. Your muscles will grow in proportion with your body. Nice looking toned arms for the summer season when you want to show some skin. Again, the secret is high intensity workouts that are short and to the point. You do not have to spend 2 hours in a training facility to see great results. Try supersets. Do a move on a specific muscle group and without resting, do another move on the opposite muscle group. This way you will get in and out of the gym in record time and you will see results. Oh, just to remind you, toss the pink weight and use a weight that challenges you!

 

Variety is the spice of life. So chop and change your workouts on a regular basis, have fun and follow a nutritious eating plan, otherwise all your hard work will be undone by bad eating habits.