Losing weight may be at the top of every girl's gym-related wish list, but too many people are going about it the wrong way. Three-hour treadmill sessions or whole days spent on the elliptical may seem like the best way to burn calories and lose weight, but you can get there much quicker by turning on the intensity and stepping your workouts up a notch.
Cardio seems to be the go-to workout choice for most gym-goers. Cardio does burn calories, which accelerates weight loss, but it's not all about how much time you spend doing cardio. A short, high intensity session can be more effective than a long, slow plod-along. Switch from slow 45- to 60-minute sessions to short interval workouts, in which you go all out for 15 to 20 seconds, then ease back for 30 to 45 seconds and repeat over the course of 15 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, try a Tabata workout, advises trainer Charlotte Andersen of "Shape" magazine. This involves 20 seconds of ultra-high-intensity exercises, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. You can burn as many calories doing this as you can in a slow 60-minute workout, Andersen says.
Lifting weights to lose weight might seem counterintuitive, but it's one of the most effective ways to burn fat. Building lean muscle ramps up your metabolic rate, according to MayoClinic.com, and a faster metabolism means you burn calories quicker, leading to faster weight loss. Not only that, but adding a little muscle mass can make you look more toned and increase definition.
When dieting for weight loss, your metabolism will naturally slow down because of your reduced calorie intake. This becomes a vicious cycle, as weight loss slows down, too, so you cut calories further, weight loss slows again, and so on. To keep your metabolism revved up, include metabolic circuits in your workout. These involve a mixture of high intensity weights or cardio exercises performed back to back, with no rest in between. Try a circuit consisting of kettlebell swings, split squats, pushups, squat jumps and mountain climbers, each performed for 20 seconds, advises strength coach Jen Comas Keck.
Check your progress once a week by stepping on the scales and taking pictures of body part measurements. A one- to two-pound weight loss each week is ideal, so if you're not reaching that, you'll need to step your training intensity up or add five minutes to each session. Complete two full body weights sessions, two interval cardio sessions and one metabolic circuit each week. Consider your diet, too -- you'll never lose weight if you're still eating chips and candy and drinking soda, no matter how hard you train. Don't restrict your calories too much, but cut back enough so you're hitting your weekly weight loss goals while still giving yourself enough energy to train.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.