If you’re trying to lose weight and/or wanting to start on a new exercise regimen, check out my earlier post on how to get things started.
So now you have your gear ready and you’re mentally prepared to transform your lifestyle, what’s next?
Know how to maximise the benefits of your training and see faster results in weight loss. Bear in mind, exercise and sensible eating go hand in hand. You can’t just do one without the other. For now, let’s just focus on the physical training because it’s most important to burn existing fats in the body.
My top 10 exercise tips for effective weight loss based on my experience:
1. HIT THE LOCAL GYM
The gym is an ideal platform to start off your exercise regimen as it has the best of both worlds where you can strength-train and cardio work-out all in one place.
Joining a gym in Singapore doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. Besides the branded private gyms that charge exorbitant monthly fees, there are other heartland options to consider such as ActiveSG* gyms (by Singapore Sports Council), EnergyOne gyms at SAFRA or those at Community Centres that have more affordable no-frills packages.
* For info, ActiveSG is an all-encompassing and inclusive national movement for sport where all can experience the joy of living better through sport. Sign up for your free ActiveSG membership to receive $100 credit which can be used for admissions to swimming complexes and gyms, booking of sports facilities, programmes & activities as well as gym and swimming packages.
2. HIDE THE WEIGHING SCALE
In the first couple of weeks when starting out on exercising, I was pretty depressed, emotional and easily lost control as I was overly obsessed with ‘ridiculously fast results’ so if the number on the scale didn’t drop to my expected, I’d just break down and give up. So the husband saved me by hiding the scale somewhere in the house where I couldn’t find it (till today I still don’t know where he usually hides the scale!) and only bring it out every 1st and 15th of the month. And wow, this trick really worked psychologically. I was impressed with my results as weight loss seemed more significant when I only weighed myself once every 2 weeks. So my advice is to resist weighing yourself everyday because our weight fluctuates due to water retention & various other reasons. In fact, if you weigh 5-10 times a day, every time would read a different figure so it’s pointless to do that.
3. EXERCISE ALONE
I’m saying this from experience as I’ve ever been to gym with a friend a long while back but we always ended up talking more than we exercise. So it’s best to exercise alone which is not a bad thing as a good workout requires a lot of focus in managing speed & intensity, counting sets & repetitions and distractions may just cause your routine to go haywire, really.
But for a start, it’s probably more encouraging and motivating to have an exercise buddy around just to boost your confidence while you’re in the gym that’s probably filled with iron-pumping veterans. Can be pretty daunting at times, lol. Just make sure you don’t get carried away with the girly talk!
4. DRINK WATER
I’ve never drunk so much water in my life till now, lol. I used to be a camel that survived on only 2 cups of water per day but now, I’d gulp down at least 1.5-1.8 litres per gym session because I sweat so much from all the cardio exercises. It is important to stay hydrated so we can get the most out of every gym session by keeping our performance level up as our muscles will not tire out easily.
When I have enough sleep (at least 7 hours), I seem to perform better the next morning without having to push myself way over the top but once that sleep pattern is disrupted and I don’t get sufficient quality sleep, I can hardly get that energy to complete even 10 minutes of elliptical training and every movement just feels heavy and lethargic for me. Plus we also need sufficient rest for sore muscles to recover and for muscle tissues to repair.
6. CARDIO + STRENGTH TRAINING
Cardio and strength training go hand in hand. It is pointless to do so much cardio but the body still looks flabby with saggy loose skin. And it is also a waste of effort to lift all those weights only to have our muscles covered up by layers of fats. So for effective weight loss, we have to do cardio to burn off those existing fats and then strength-train to lose those extra inches because muscles occupy less space than fats so our body will look more toned and lean.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as spot reduction so even if you do 1000 ab crunches per day, it’s not going to reduce your belly if you don’t do any form of cardio. With regular cardio and strength training, you’d definitely see results in no time – just like me.
7. INTERVAL TRAINING
It’s all about speed and intensity. Strolling on a treadmill without breaking a sweat will not do much. Sprinting on a cross trainer with zero resistance which is equivalent to using momentum to propel your movements is also a waste of time and effort. To get the most out of a cardio workout i.e. to maximise the number of calories burnt in the shortest amount of time is to combine variations of fast and slow speeds as well as high and low intensities.
When I first started my cardio training, it was really tough because I had poor physical fitness and my stamina was practically non-existent. I was the type who could easily go out of breath just by climbing up stairs on the overhead bridge. So I spent some time trying out different resistance levels and speeds on the elliptical trainer just to find the range that I was most comfortable and able to work with. Here was what I did based on a 20-minute total body workout:
00:00 – 02:00 Warm up at 6kph at level 4
02:00 – 03:00 9kph at level 7
03:00 – 04:00 7kph at level 5
04:00 – 05:00 12kph at level 7
05:00 – 06:00 5kph at level 5
06:00 – 08:00 7kph at level 6
08:00 – 10:00 Change direction to backward pedal at 9kph at level 7
10:00 – 12:00 7kph at level 5
12:00 – 13:00 9kph at level 7
13:00 – 14:00 7kph at level 5
14:00 – 15:00 12kph at level 7
15:00 – 16:00 5kph at level 5
16:00 – 18:00 7kph at level 6
18:00 – 20:00 Change direction to backward pedal at 9kph at level 7
Do a 5-minute cool down or repeat the routine if you feel you are fit enough to go through another round.
I started out with resistance levels of 4-7 but now I train on levels 13-16 so this form of interval training had greatly improved my fitness and stamina by leaps and bounds within a couple of months.
Nothing is fixed for intensities or speeds when doing elliptical training but I just want to show the ‘pattern’ of my workout whereby I interchanged between high and low resistance levels and fast and slow speeds based on what my body was capable of doing. If you’re not into elliptical training (which I feel is better than running because it’s a lower impact workout so chances of getting shin splints, knee pains, etc are low), you can use the treadmill for running or brisk walking. For the treadmill, your resistance levels will be the inclination settings so the higher it is (i.e. steeper slope), the more intense and difficult it will be.
For traditional cardio whereby you just train in the same speed and intensity throughout such as jogging on the track or around your neighbourhood, you’d probably need to do days and hours of that to see results. With interval training, we make our hearts and lungs stronger and we can burn more fats along the way in a shorter amount of time so it’s the most effective and time efficient exercise.
8. LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS
If you think lifting heavy weights will make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, then you’re very wrong. Women have less testosterone compared to men so gaining big, bulky and well-defined muscles will not be easy unless you really do train every single day and consume lots of protein shakes, high-protein diet etc to bulk yourself up.
The only way to build muscles in our body (and to look toned and lean) is to lift heavy weights which will cause our muscle tissues to tear (nothing to be alarmed about as that’s how muscle soreness or ache comes about) and when we rest, these torn tissues will repair and that’s how our muscles become stronger every time.
In the beginning when I was working out on the rotary lat pull-down machine, I could only manage 30lbs of weight but as I continued to improve my strength, I can now lift 85lbs. Same goes for the other machines that I work on in the gym that just make me stronger over time.
It is important to have one rest day in between strength training days so our muscles have more time to repair and rebuild and this is how we get stronger progressively. More muscles in the body means an improved basal metabolic rate which in turn burns more calories as you exercise and even at rest or when sleeping.
Currently, I hit the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday where I do both cardio and strength training. I’d also go in on Tuesdays just to do cardio so my muscles can rest from the previous day workout. And if I feel I’m up for it, I’d also go gym on Saturdays for cardio only. Thursdays and Sundays are my definite rest days.
10. EAT TO LOSE
If you want to lose weight, you have to eat. If you want to repair muscles, you have to eat. Especially on days that you exercise, you’d have to eat to replenish your energy and calories. I don’t believe in fasting or dieting (impossible especially when I’m a foodie, a home cook and a food blogger!) but I practise sensible eating by tracking my calories intake. Knowing how much calories I’ve expended from exercising and how much calories I’ve consumed from food on a daily basis helps me plan my eating habits. But of course, there is a certain sacrifice to be made if you want to lose weight. For me, I’ve cut back on sugary foods, sodas, processed food and fast food. But I don’t feel deprived as I still indulge in my favourite waffles, ice cream, cakes, curry puffs, cookies and chocolate once a week when I have my cravings. Anyway, if you exercise as hard as me, it’s fine to have cheat days every now and then. Losing weight need not be a depressing thing! I will touch more on food and nutrition in a later post.
In my next and final instalment of Exercising Right for Effective Weight Loss, I will be sharing my complete training routine in the gym and the types of exercise I do. Stay tuned!