Think of all the people you’ve known over the years who were trying to lose weight. Ballpark estimate; how many of them actually a) lost all of the intended weight and b) keep that weight off for good. Think it’s 50%? 25%? 10%? Studies detailing how many people actually reach their weight loss goals are all over the map. Rather than debate the merits of some arbitrary stats, I’m going to sum things up pretty simply:
Most people NEVER reach their weight loss goals!
This isn’t shocking. In fact, you probably already knew this.
Most of the people you and I know, who talk about wanting to lose weight go through a four-step cycle
- Decide to lose weight
- Start exercising
- Lose the “easy” pounds before watching progress stall
- Lose motivation, quit, repeat step 1 in 4-6 months.
Of course, there are those who actually lose the weight, before putting it all back on in a matter of weeks or months. These people go back to step one in 6 months to a year.
The Common Denominator
You’re probably asking yourself (and if you aren’t, you should be) what do all of these people have in common? Well aside from missing out on their weight loss goals, they share one very important characteristic. They simply have not taken a calculated approach to weight loss.
If they were doing things correctly, they should have squeezed in one little important step between step one and two above. Once you’ve made the decision to lose weight, you’ve got to take the time to carefully plan HOW you’re going to accomplish things. Glossing over this part, and diving in to the exercise part is setting yourself up for failure. Most people get the immediate gratification of losing the “easy” pounds once they begin exercising, but the well of easy weight loss dries up quickly. Once the going gets tough, their lack of a calculation is exposed, their progress comes to a screeching halt, and their motivation evaporates. I don’t need to go on about what happens next.
Doing Things the Healthy Way
First, let’s understand what we mean by weight loss. I’m assuming most of you don’t want to lose muscle mass, right? So we’re actually talking about fat loss. You want to burn off the excess fat you’re holding on to. Whether you’re 100 pounds overweight or sitting at 20% body fat and want to move into fitness model territory, the planning phase will be similar. What you’ll actually be doing will vary drastically, but the game planning will remain closely related.
That said, there’s a huge difference between someone with a ton of body fat to lose and someone at a healthy weight, but wants to do something about that “soft” appearance. You need to remember, your primary concern should be FAT loss…not the number on the scale. While the person with a ton of weight to drop may want to use the scale as a benchmark to start, the person who is already in relatively good shape and just wants to tighten, needs to not concern themselves with lowering the number on the scale. Your primary goal is to decrease your body fat percentage by conversely increasing your percentage of lean muscle mass. Make sense? Check this out:
Doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman. A 130 lb body with 25% body fat is going to look way different from a 130 lb body with 15% body fat. Remember this when you skip meals in hopes of seeing the number on the scale drop the next time you step on. The number is dropping because you’re losing muscle mass…not necessarily fat.
One last thing I want you to keep in mind…assuming you have only a modest amount of weight to lose, you simply can not burn more than two pounds of body fat a week without sacrificing muscle gains. Forget the faddy diets and nonsense fitness plans that promise you’ll “Lose 40 pounds in 4 weeks!” .
Keep building muscle. Keep lowering your body fat percentage. These are your goals. Your reward? Watching your physique and health improve like you never thought possible. Respect BOTH parts of the body improvement equation and you’ll have much greater long-term success.
Where Do You Currently Stand?
First, you need to determine where you currently stand. To simplify things, I’m going to provide the following three classifications to help you figure out where you’re at TODAY.
- Person A: Out of shape, never or infrequently exercise, >40lbs to lose.
- Person B: Slightly below average, exercise 1-2 times per week, 20-40 pounds to lose.
- Person C: Average, exercise 2-3 times per week, 10-20 pounds to lose.
- Person D: Active, exercise 3-5 times per week, < 10 pounds to lose/no weight to lose but want to tone and tighten up.
In reality, most people probably share characteristics from several of the above classifications. Bottomline, you know where you stand better than anyone else. Accurately asses this and begin adopting workouts that are appropriate for your current abilities. Look for ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of failure. If you never have a workout that you can’t fully complete, you’re not going hard enough.
Already, you have an understanding about what healthy fat loss truly means, you’ve assessed where you currently stand, and you’re just itching to get going. Now comes the fun part. This is where you start planning your roadmap to success…or in other words, the workouts that are going to get you to where you need to be.
Get Ready for Serious Fat Loss
Remember above I said the planning phases are largely the same, but the direction you take will be dependent on where you currently stand? What I’m laying out below would be applicable to person C and D…and quite possibly even person B, from the examples above. If you are drastically out of shape and have a ton of weight to lose, the following recommendations may be a bit too intense to start with. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered if you’re just looking to ease into something and get that fat loss train moving. Start here, and progress accordingly.
Determine Your Schedule
First and foremost, figure out how many days a week you can commit to working out. Be honest with yourself. If you can only commit to three days a week, make the most of those three days. Personally, I recommend four to five days of exercise with another couple of hours each week participating in an active hobby of your choice.
Once you’ve got your schedule determined, it’ll make planning your workouts so much easier. When it comes to workouts, I don’t think there is a silver bullet out there that will work 100% of the time for 100% of the people on them. Doesn’t matter if it’s P90X or something you found here on Share It Fitness. Personally I find those with the best success are doing a variety of workouts which utilize several different fitness methods. An effective fitness program may take some components of HIIT, metabolic conditioning, and some intense plyometric work, and roll them into one killer routine. Then again, what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Because of this variation, having a seasoned professional create a personalized fitness program for you specifically, is almost always going to be the best route.
Customized fitness programming is something we’ll be starting at Share It Fitness in the near future, so if you’d like to be alerted when the beta version of FitPlan becomes available, leave a comment below and we’ll put you on our list.
Determine Your Workouts
For those of you chomping at the bit and want to get started immediately, check out the guidelines below. Again, this is for the slightly-out-of-shape to in-shape-but-wanting-to-tighten-up individual.
- Two 30-minute HIIT cardio sessions. Vary sprinting with biking.
- Two power lift sessions (see day 1/2 of Speed/Power plan)
- One complex barbell workout
- Three 10 minute “finisher” workouts
- One plyometric cardio workout
- One jump rope workout (see Iron Man workout)
Wondering how I fit all of this into a five-day schedule? Have a look:
- Day 1: Power lift session #1 followed by 30 minutes HIIT cardio. Total gym time: 1 hr 15 minutes.
- Day 2: Jump rope workout followed by 10 minute finisher workout #1. Total gym time: 45 minutes.
- Day 3: REST/Yoga (my active hobby)
- Day 4: Power lift session #2 followed by 10 minute finisher workout #2. Total gym time: 1 hour.
- Day 5: 30 minutes HIIT cardio followed by 10 minute finisher workout #3. Total gym time 40 minutes.
- Day 6:REST
- Day 7: Complex barbell workout followed by plyometric cardio workout. Total gym time: 1 hour 15 minutes.
This type of set up would have you actively “working out” 5 days a week for a grand total of 4 hours and 55 minutes…which is just slightly less than 3% of your entire week. Not asking too much of you, is it?
Every six to ten weeks I’ll re-evaluate things and mix up the workouts I’m doing. Maybe I’ll include a different plyometric routine or vary the exercises in my power lift sessions. Sometimes I’ll go in a complete opposite direction and include some different stuff like pilates workouts in place of a jump rope workout. It all depends on how I’m progressing and how my body is responding.
The one constant to remember however….ALWAYS be looking to increase the weight of your exercises. Shoot for a modest 5% increase in weight used every 2 weeks or so. Some people will call for a faster increase. Personally, I find shooting to bump things up every half a month or so will allow for a safe and steady progression. This is how you avoid hitting plateaus and falling into that cycle to nowhere.
Fat Loss Recap
The main takeaway from all of this is you’ve got to take a calculated approach to your fat loss goal. You can’t go out there without a plan and assume you’ll continue making progress indefinitely (this is assuming you make any progress to begin with).
Identify your current abilities. Identify what you want to achieve. Identify how you’ll achieve it. Monitor your progress. The last two parts are the most important, so check out the detailed description of them below…
- Design a fitness plan (or have a professional design one for you) that will help you reach your identified goal AND is appropriate for your current fitness level.
- If on your own, pick out workouts based on how many days and hours you can commit to working out.
- Physically write down which workouts are on which days of the week. This way you’ll walk into the gym already knowing what you’ll be doing.
- Chart the weights used for each exercise every few days so you know when it’s time to bump things up.
- Mark down when you’ve started a new workout so you’ll be aware how long you’ve been doing the same thing.
This is the fat loss approach that works. It’s unfortunate so few people take this approach, because they are missing out on the satisfaction and benefits of achieving a beautiful and healthy body. No matter where you are, you can achieve your goals as long as you take a calculated approach. Stay focused, stay hungry, and good things are sure to be coming your way.