Planning an exercise program for weight loss is not as easy as you might think.
In fact, making informed weight loss decisions that are best for you can be downright overwhelming with all the noise and fake news dribbling out of the media.
Vox says, “Celebrity endorsements are prominent, as are anecdotes from average people who have allegedly had success following this great new program.”
And then there is also the ongoing problem with diet books written by doctors.
This article in Vox also tells us, “The problem with all of them is what they promise when it comes to weight loss. No doctor has ever uncovered the solution to weight loss. If someone had found the fix for this immensely vexing and complex problem, we wouldn’t be facing an obesity crisis.”
Now let’s explore what to ask yourself when planning an exercise program for fat loss and not worry so much about carbs and calories.
More than often, when people decide to go on a weight loss quest, they sign up for a gym membership and start pounding on the treadmills for hours hoping to miraculously drop 20 pounds (8 to 10 kilos) in a couple of weeks.
They hate to run; they hate the exercise and they force themselves to go through the motions just to achieve weight loss.
After a week or so, when these people see that they really have not lost as much weight as they expected, they curse and swear and believe that what they’re doing is not working and they are destined to be fat for life.
They will mumble incoherently about “being big-boned” or blame their genes and then throw in the towel and never step foot in the gym again… until the next New Year’s Day resolution where this scenario plays out again.
To plan an exercise program that works for you, you must first understand who you are and where you are at physically. This is crucial!
Learn to listen to your body – it will give you the answers.
Then you’ll be able to work with yourself instead of against yourself… because almost always, you’ll lose to yourself.
You have to learn not to be bullied by your own thoughts.
Your body can stand almost anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.
If all this sounds crazy, it’s understandable. Read on and you’ll get what I mean.
1. How Overweight are You?
If you’re 10 or 20 pounds overweight, that’s still manageable. You’ll be able to engage in most activities and in a month or so, you’d have lost enough weight to start some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and other functional exercises.
However, if you’re obese and movement is difficult for you, there’s no doubt that you’ll need to go slow. What does that mean?
It means that initially, you’ll need to find a form of exercise that’s not too torturous. Walking, water aerobics or swimming laps, slowly cycling on a stationary bike, etc. are all excellent forms of exercise to build your strength and endurance.
If your diet is on point and you’re at a daily caloric deficit, you will lose weight.
The goal here should be treating your weight loss journey as a marathon and not a sprint. It WILL take you time to lose weight. So don’t torture yourself for fast results. They won’t come as fast as you think.
To help you along with your journey here are 5 tips for long-term weight loss success.
2. What’s Your Current Level of Activity?
If you’ve not done any exercise for years, jumping into a kickboxing class at the gym just might have you throwing your back out and collapsing into a panting, sweaty heap of exhaustion…….and never returning.
Pace yourself. Start off with slow and steady cardio like walking or cycling. Do some resistance training, but use lighter weights so that your muscles, joints, and tendons can get used to the movements.
When you’re first embarking on a fitness program, it’s best to train for 5 or 6 days a week… but train lightly. The goal here is to get your body moving without overly taxing it and at the same time creating the habit of exercising.
After 2 to 3 weeks, you’ll be more limber and can scale up your intensity gradually.
Many people make the mistake of going too hard too early when the cardio feels like pure pain and suffering because their cardiovascular system is not ready.
If it feels like torture, you’ll avoid it. You’ll end up skipping workouts and finally stop training altogether. Always pace yourself. Slow and steady wins the race.
And while we are on the subject of exercise and fitness training there has been some healthy debate on the floor at my gym recently which poses the question – “Can you be fit and healthy and lessen the risk of a heart attack even though you may be overweight”. It has been such a robust discussion that I wrote another article I recommend you read: Can YOU be Fat, Fit, and Healthy? It’s a raging Controversy.
3. Do You Have Any Health Problems?
People with knee problems should not force themselves to run just because everyone else is doing it. If you have a sore back, CrossFit style training may not be suitable for you. Stick with something that is low impact.
It’s best to consult a doctor before engaging in any activity. Here’s a pointer you should know – exercise is a tool to assist in weight loss, BUT it’s your diet that gets the job done.
So, as long as you focus 80 percent of your efforts on cleaning up your diet and eating at a caloric deficit, you’ll see good weight loss results. This means cutting back on sugar, processed foods (takeaways), and alcohol.
The exercise is more to boost your metabolism and accelerate the process.
That means you do not need to force yourself to run just to lose more weight.
You don’t need to do heavy deadlifts because everyone else is doing them. You only need to do exercises that you can safely handle, and those should still be good enough to help with your weight loss plan.
However, it is extremely important to know the benefits of why strength training is so important as you start ageing.
4. What are the Activities You Enjoy?
Picking an activity you enjoy will help you stick to your training program for a much longer time. People often engage in activities they dislike because they don’t know any better and are sucked in by the latest glossy muscle mag or gym marketing campaign.
If you love swimming, then hit the pool and do laps. Don’t force yourself to run on the treadmill. If you prefer calisthenics, then skip the weight training and engage in body-weight training instead.
If you prefer working out with others, go ahead and join the group classes.
There’s no rule saying that you have to train alone. Choose activities you enjoy doing. As long as you’re moving and breaking a sweat, you’re doing great. You must know what you love to keep progressing.
5. How Much Time Do You Have for Exercise?
The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen. If you don’t have an hour a day, 30 minutes will do. If you don’t have 30 minutes, 10 minutes will do. Just do something.
You’ll be amazed at how effective even 10 minutes is. If you don’t have 10 minutes a day to exercise, you REALLY need to analyze your life and make some changes.
The more time you have to exercise, the more flexibility your training will have.
If all you have is 10 to 20 minutes a day, your cardio will need to be high intensity to get the benefits of fat burning for a longer period.
You’ll need to engage in HIIT sessions 2 or 3 times a week, and resistance training about 3 times a week. Since the sessions are short, the intensity will matter. More speed, more weights, more effort.
Of course, you’ll need to do what you can handle (remember points #1 and #2).
6. What are Your Personal Preferences?
Some people prefer training at a gym while others prefer training in the privacy of their own homes. Neither is right or wrong. What matters is that you do what feels right for you.
If you wish to train at home, you could get a treadmill and your own weights. Don’t want those? No problem. You can purchase commercially sold DVDs like Insanity Max or P90X and follow along to the videos.
Ask yourself what you want. For some people, the idea of getting ready to drive 20 minutes to go to the gym may seem like too much effort. In that case, working out at home may be ideal and they’ll be much more likely to get started.
7. Do You Need a Trainer?
The truth is that trainers cost money. The question here is, “Do you really need one?”
The answer – it depends.
If you need someone to motivate you, a trainer will help. If you’re clueless at the gym, a trainer will help you to get familiarized with all the equipment in the gym and show you how to do all the exercises in proper form so you don’t injure yourself…….this is very important.
Spending a few dollars to learn proper form is money well spent.
A personal trainer will structure a training program for you that involves cardio, resistance training, core training, and so on. Generally, they’ll try to get you to achieve all-round fitness.
However, if you don’t wish to spend the money on a trainer, you can always look up videos on YouTube. There are literally thousands of exercises with or without equipment you can learn from but be aware, many of these videos are not made by qualified trainers.
To sum up, Planning an Exercise Program for Fat Loss……..this is your checklist.
• Consult a doctor before embarking on any exercise regimen.
• Choose an activity you enjoy.
• Your training should have 2 to 3 cardio sessions a week and 2 to 3 resistance training sessions a week.
• Aim to exercise 5 to 6 times a week.
• Know how much time you have to exercise daily and plan your workouts according to the time you have.
• Start slow and add intensity and resistance as you progress.
• Work out at home if you want, or train in a gym if that’s what you like.
• Hire a trainer if that’s what you need to get motivated. You only need a few sessions to have a training plan and a good understanding of the different forms of training.
• MOST IMPORTANTLY – Watch your diet and always consume fewer calories than you expend. Your weight loss success rests on your compliance with your diet.
So there you have it. Adhere to the pointers here and you’ll see weight loss and your dream body in about 90 to 120 days. Don’t gasp at the time taken. The time will pass anyway.
One point I keep coming back to is the fact that a “one size fits all” approach to fitness and nutrition just doesn’t work anymore…….find something YOU like doing and just keep doing it.
The results of lifestyle changes are well worth the wait so stick with it.
Cheers – John – your Active Ageing Mentor and Coach.
P.S. Encourage your friends towards better health and fitness – like and share. Thanks.
Shane MCLEAN says
Great advice coach.
John Falkinder says
Thanks Shane…….appreciate your comment. Cheers – John.