People apologize to me to all the time.
“I’ve never gotten into Pilates.”
“I really hate running.”
“Yoga’s okay, but I just can’t find the time for it.”
When I tell them it’s okay, they look at me quizzically. I think there’s some confusion about exercise, physical fitness, and what I call the Move Facet.
You are made to move. Period. But that doesn’t mean you have to do a certain kind of movement.
While the more different types of movement you do, the better, you still don’t have to partake in a specific practice. Think of it this way: You want to stretch your muscles regularly, but you can do this through focused stretching, full-range-of-motion moves, yoga, dance, certain Pilates exercises, etc. There isn’t one way to stretch. The same applies to cardio, strength-training, muscle toning, and balance building.
Okay, so you agree with me that your body can—and should—move in a variety of ways. But you’re still confused because now you’re wondering…
What’s the most effective exercise for losing body fat?
Easy. It’s the movement that brings food from your plate or bowl into your mouth.
Sorry, that was sarcastic. But it’s true that the Nourish Facet (what you eat) is what you need to focus on if you want to lose body fat. By eating more vegetables, replacing toxic fats with healthy ones, and minimizing white sugar and flour, you’re not only going to optimize your shape but you’re going to boost your energy so that you might actually want to move—and that can only help your body look and feel even better.
You’re wasting your time if you’re trying to figure out how many calories a workout consumes or if you’re exercising in the “fat-burning zone.” Separate the ideas of movement and body fat in your mind. (Need I remind you that fat cells and muscle cells are two different things?)
Move for strength, power, flexibility and balance. Eat for energy and to support your ideal body shape.
What’s the most effective exercise to create long, toned muscles?
Any resistance exercise (contracting the muscles against an external force) can, with persistence, build up the mass of your muscles. As a woman, this will most likely develop the coveted “tone” more than “bulk.” As to the most effective exercise for this, think heavy lifting or plyometrics (explosive exercises, such as jumping).
When it comes to getting “long” muscles, know this: These tissues are made to contract (shorten) and extend (lengthen), but you can’t change their resting length. When people, usually Hollywood stars, boast that Pilates or ashtanga yoga transformed their bodies and gave them long, lean muscles, they’re being melodramatic. I know—this is shocking.
If you’re prone to bad posture, have a compressed spine, and/or limited flexibility, any movement that encourages you to stand up tall and release muscle or fascial adhesions may cause your muscles to look longer and more toned. You’ll improve your range-of-motion, too, which can help release muscle tension and keep you feeling loose.
But here’s a very important thing to keep in mind: The most effective exercise is the one you’ll actually do. If you loathe the sweaty jostling of jogging or yoga poses make you roll your eyes, your compliance with these sorts of movement will not be high. In other words, you won’t do them. That’s why I always urge you to find something enjoyable, whether or not it’s the most “effective” option.
If you don’t find any movement enjoyable (really?), then try to pair it with something pleasant: walk with a friend, listen to podcasts when you’re on the treadmill, stretch while you watch your fave program, talk and laugh with me while I put you through your paces.
There’s freedom in realizing that you don’t have to jog or do Crossfit if you’re not into it. If you’re having a difficult time with this, please reach out. I’m sure I can help!