How much do you have to work out to get a lean and toned body?
A lot of people believe that living in a gym is the only way to get the body of their dreams. This myth becomes an excuse for many people not to work out (what’s the point in working out 10-20 minutes a day if it won’t bring any results?)
I found out that long workouts are not crucial to getting in good shape. Sometimes 30-minutes a day is everything you need to get that lean and toned body.
There was a time in my life when I was teaching (and working out at the same time) 3 one-hour classes in a row (cardio, strength and Pilates) 3 days a week. It was the most physical activity I’ve ever had in my life.
Of course I dropped weight really fast on that schedule but I looked more like a zombie-skeleton than a healthy-looking girl at that time. I was constantly hungry and had to drink a ton of coffee to keep my energy levels up.
My husband had similar results when he was working out a lot. While he gained muscle mass (because he was doing mainly weight lifting) he was still constantly hungry (and hunger is definitely not a man’s best friend) and he didn’t have enough energy for the running that he loved so much.
Today there are programs that guarantee exceptional fitness results if you devote several hours of your day to them (P90X being the most popular one of them.) I know at least 5 people who have started these programs but dropped them in within a few weeks because they could not keep up with the crazy schedule (none of the people I know got the results that were advertised.) I suggest that you keep reading if you are not ready to stick to this super workout schedule yourself.
Last time I shared with you my personal fitness plan which helped me get in the best shape of my life. However, my fitness plan is just an example of a “power workout” that you can create for yourself. Here are the actual secrets of 30-minute-a-day workouts.
The actual secrets of 30-minute-a-day workouts
- Be consistent. Consistency is the most important rule of 30-minute workouts. You can choose any workouts that you like but you must be really diligent about sticking to your routine. I usually have 1 rest day a week (though I still like to fit in a little Yoga or just take a walk on those days) but I work out every other day. Sometimes I will break down my workouts into 10-minute increments that I do throughout the day. Sometimes I feel that I need a little bit more than 30 minutes (and I do not deny my body in this little luxury.) However, workouts are always on my daily priority list just like taking a shower or brushing teeth.
- Do the workouts that you love. In order to be consistent you need to choose workouts that bring both your body and mind in balance. If you hate the workouts that you are doing you will never be able to stick to them. Some people say that working out is just not for them. I believe that they just haven’t tried enough workouts to find what they really like (see how you can choose the best workout for you.) Keep trying different workouts until you find something that you really love.
- Learn to love your workouts. While this point can contradict the previous one, I believe that we can learn to love certain workouts. I used to hate running because it was so boring. The first few times that I tried running I gave up on it for a few years. Right now I love running because it is my personal getaway. I can leave my worries, projects and responsibilities at home and just have some time alone. It is my personal time to think and time to be with myself. Can you find ways to love some of your workouts?
- Decide on the gym membership. I am personally not a gym person (not anymore at least) but I know many people who get motivated by going to the gym. A gym can really motivate some people and completely kill the desire to work out in others.
Here is why gym can be a good choice for you:
- working out with other people can be motivating,
- you can work with a personal trainer or take classes if you do not know how to start working out on your own,
- you can send your kids to the gym daycare if nobody can take care of them at home,
- you do not need to buy any at-home equipment,
- the fact that you paid money for the membership will make you more consistent with your workouts.
Here is why you might want to skip the gym:
- a gym can be an intimidating place if you are shy or if you do not have sufficient body confidence. It takes a lot of courage to go to a group class if you have never exercised in your life.
- introverted people (like me) simply need a break from being around other people (however extroverts can actually find more motivation by working out with others),
- I personally do not like the fact that there are hundreds of other people sweating on the equipment that I am using. It’s just yuck!
- you want to save money on a membership.
- Do not overwork yourself. Most people stop exercising because they get injured during their workouts. Muscle strains, knee and ankle injuries, dislocated joints, shin splints, extreme muscle soreness and other injuries can knock you out of commission for a few weeks or even months. In order to prevent injuries make sure that
- you have a proper warm-up and
- you stretch enough after a workout (while experts are still trying to figure out the actual benefits of stretching for injury prevention you can at least make your muscles more flexible and avoid acute muscle pain the next day.)
- Maintain proper form during any exercise (if you are not sure how to maintain it consider taking a few classes with a personal trainer to learn the basics and to correct your body imbalances.)
- Do not increase the intensity of your workouts too rapidly.
- Be smart about the new workouts that you try (read about my most miserable mistake with barefoot running)
- Follow common sense and do not push yourself too hard if you are not feeling well.
- Develop body awareness. This is the most difficult secret to follow. Most of us use our bodies just like we use cars – we drive in them but we never completely understand them. Well, there is a deep connection between your body and mind (after all we are not robots) and if you use this connection to your benefit then you will maximize any workout. Mindful exercise activities like Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi will help you establish this connection. Performing each body move mindfully can increase the effectiveness of your workout by up to 10 times.
“A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy callisthenics or forced contortion.” ~ Joseph Pilates
- Make your workouts balanced. I believe that the best results can be achieved only by combining different forms of exercise. Bruce Lee created the most powerful form of martial arts by combining the best moves and principles from all styles and traditions. You can create your own “power mix” by combining the most beneficial moves for your body. In order to achieve this balanced approach to exercise you need to combine cardio, strength moves and stretching (nothing new here, I know.) I like to add the Smart Body workouts like Pilates, Yoga, martial arts or dance to this mix to improve coordination, posture and general body mechanics.
- Do not waste your time. If you want to make 30 minutes really work for you cannot waste any time. It means that you cannot be talking to your friend while working out at the gym. You cannot be talking on the phone while power walking. You cannot be watching your favorite TV show while exercising at home. Concentrate your mind on the workout that you are doing and work at the highest comfortable intensity.
- If you are weight lifting do not just stand between your sets. Work a different muscle group or add a 1-minute cardio “break.”
- Combine a few moves to challenge your body (do lunges with bicep curls, combine squats with jumps etc.)
- Try HIIT workouts while running, using the elliptical machine or doing any other type of cardio.
- Avoid sloppy moves using the momentum of your body. Concentrate on controlled moves with proper form.
- Do not let anyone or anything distract you.
- Constantly challenge your body by trying new moves, workouts or increasing the intensity of your workouts. Do not let your body get bored.
- In case you are feeling out of energy. It is important to distinguish between mental and physical exhaustion. A lot of times we miss workouts because we are feeling tired. Let me tell you a secret, it is the worst reason to miss a workout.
A good dose of exercise will freshen you up after the most difficult day. In the modern world we often suffer from mental exhaustion that affects our bodies (dull pain in the muscles, heavy head, back and neck pain, basically the feeling of a juiced lemon.) 30 minutes of exercise should be a priority on days like that. You will feel refreshed and invigorated. After the workout you will feel like Rocky when he became the heavy-weight champion of the world.
Now follow these steps to create your personal workout program. What are you going to try this week? How will you challenge your body? Contact me with any questions. I will be happy to answer them personally or in a separate post. I can also help you reach your fitness goals through private coaching (contact me for more details.)
Keep it balanced!
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Photo credit: magiccyril