Just recently lost some weight? Congratulations! Now make sure you keep it off with our top tips to help you keep the weight off for good.
You’ve got the body you’ve always wanted. Now how do you make sure you keep it? Diet is key and we’ll show you how to stick to a healthy eating plan for life on page 112. However, it’s also crucial to think about your exercise plan beyond the eight weeks you’ve completed.
Over the past few weeks, your fitness will have improved significantly, so some of the exercises you found hard at the start will now feel comfortable, maybe even easy in some cases. To stay in shape, you need to keep challenging your body. Your abdominals and the rest of your body will be stronger, leaner and more able to cope with new demands, so you need to keep surprising your body with new challenges.
How can you make your workouts harder?
There are several things you can do although not all at once. You could reduce the number of rest periods you have between sets, so that the muscles being worked have less time to recover between each one (e.g. cut rest periods from 60 seconds to 30). You could also add extra sets or reps and work until you are fatigued. Or you could increase the amount of weight you’re lifting. So if you are crunching up using a 2kg medicine ball, instead reach for the heavier 3kg or 4kg one!
However, it’s easy to get carried away and risk injury, so it’s important not to change everything at once. Choose between adding extra sets, reducing rest periods or increasing weight – not all three at once! If the volume of exercise goes up, the intensity should come down and vice versa.
One day you could add an extra set, the next you could shorten rest periods.
Variety is key for best results when exercising
To keep your body-fat levels down, continue with regular cardio exercise but make sure it’s varied to push your body to the limit. While steady-state cardio will burn calories, most of us tend to stay in our comfort zone, which means we burn fewer calories and often hit a plateau.
How often do you need to do cardio exercise to stay in shape? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends using the FITT principle – Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type of exercise.
Frequency – to improve your cardiovascular fitness, the ACSM recommends doing cardio exercise three to five times per week, resulting in expending 1,000-4,000 calories per week.
Intensity – for best results, the ACSM recommends working at 57 to 94 per cent of your maximum heart rate (to work out your maximum heart rate, deduct your age from 220).
Time and type – aim for 20 to 90 minutes per day or 60 to 300 minutes per week.
Aim to involve large muscle groups, so exercise like running, swimming, rowing or using the cross-trainer would be perfect.
Mixing up your cardio work
Classes like Spinning and circuits will burn a lot of calories, as they work you at various intensities and challenge your fitness levels. Aerobic intervals will help burn fat as they challenge the body – you could run or cycle at a comfortable speed for three minutes and then run at a harder, more challenging speed for three minutes, then repeat this three to four times. The easier intervals should be at around 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate and the harder intervals should be at around 85 per cent, so you’ll know that you’re working hard. Make sure you warm up for five to ten minutes at an easy intensity level of around three to four out of ten on the RPE scale. Only do this type of session twice a week.
Why threshold sessions will help you get fitter
Another way of improving your fitness and burning optimum calories is threshold training. This is where you work at the point of discomfort – where your body’s energy production shifts in favour of anaerobic (exercising without oxygen) rather than aerobic (with oxygen). It’s putting you on the edge of discomfort, where your intensity level is an eight out of ten. If you were asked a question, you’d be able to answer it in broken words, but it would be tough! An example could be doing four intervals of five minutes’ running, at an eight out of ten intensity, with a minute’s recovery between each five-minute interval.
This type of training is hard as the recovery intervals are short, but it will get you fit and burn lots of calories. Ideally only do it once a week to allow for adequate recovery.