The Programme: Your Questions Answered
I’ve been amazed by the fabulous response to the exercise programme we published on Thursday this week – you guys are awesome. I’ve been rather inundated with questions since, so apologies if I haven’t been able to email back right away!
The questions that have popped up most often, I’ve answered here (with Matt’s help – he is Mr. Science, after all) – but any others you think of, pop them in the comments below!
Should I plan on doing all three steps 3-4 times a week or as needed?
If you can, it’s definitely most effective if you can do all three steps as a whole unit. However, if you’re pushed for time – a feeling I know all too well – you might find it easier to spread the walking out over the course of your day. Remember, that whole NEAT thing is, much like Ron Burgundy, kind of a big deal. The more you can increase your activity levels on a general level, the more likely you are to lose weight.
I’ve had phases, over the course of the programme, where I’ve been just too busy to get to the gym as much as I’d like. This is where it becomes a psychological thing – because it’d be easy, in times like that, to decide I wasn’t doing it perfectly, so there was no point doing it all, and finding myself at the wrong end of a box of Krispy Kremes.
For instance, in August, there was a fortnight where I only managed to make it in four or five times in the course of a fortnight, and I was resting a bad shoulder – so when I was working out, I was skipping the resistance training entirely. What I was doing, however, was walking to and from work, and making the effort to go for a stroll on my lunch break whenever I could. I was eating a lot, but it was all good stuff – so you wouldn’t know I was on a programme at all.
In that fortnight, though, I still lost 1.3kg of fat, gained 0.3kg of muscle, and reduced my visceral fat from 7 to 6 (if you can’t remember what each of these is, I’ve talked about them here). All in, I went from 82.2kg to 80.5kg. Now, I appreciate that isn’t a world-changing amount to lose – but given I was only walking, and not for as long or as much as I ought to, it’s still pretty impressive. So just do what you can, and more importantly – think long term.
Should fat-burning exercise always follow resistance training? Or can you lift weights one day and walk the next, as a way of distributing those hours spent at the gym? (It might make me sorer, but it would give me another excuse to walk to work!)
You’re right that you might find you notice a little more soreness, but ultimately, this programme is designed as a foundation that you can adapt to your own life. If you can take the principle steps and tailor it to fit into your life, then that’s ideal – so if you’d prefer to split it up, that’s absolutely fine. Just make sure you give yourself a chance to warm up and cool down either side of your resistance training (I speak from – painful – experience!)
If you only have 3 hours to exercise one week, what do you usually prioritize? Is it better to walk, lift, or do abbreviated versions of both?
This is a tricky one, because for the first 20 minutes of your workout, you’ll be burning glycogen, rather than fat. That’s why the duration is important – because it gives your body the chance to settle in, hunker down and get to the fat-burning part. That said, if you are really short on time, I’d suggest doing a 5 minute warm-up, all of the resistance training section (which will take about 10-15 minutes) and then around 40 minutes of fat-burning exercise.
The thing about this programme is that you’ll get out of it what you put in. If you can, even just for a few weeks, find the time to do the whole lot, you’ll see results like I have – especially if, like me, you’re multi-tasking your treadmill time. If you’re not able to do that, it’ll still work, but slower – so you may need to be more patient with your results.
I live in an extremely rural area and the nearest gym is more than 60 miles away. Walking outside is not too great either when the roads are icy out here in the country. I’m wondering if my Nordic Track XC Skier would be a decent alternative to the walking?
I think Matt feels for you on this one – he lives in the middle of nowhere, so most of the exercise he gets over the winter involves chopping logs, chasing chickens, and the like. But I’d say the skier sounds like a great idea! You can do any kind of low-impact cardio exercise in the fat-burning section – I only talk about walking because it’s what floats my boat. But if you’d rather cycle, swim, use the elliptical machines, dance, or whatever, that’ll work too. It’s just about maintaining your heart rate at that level. So make it your own!
In the resistance training part, you said to aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps per movement. But how many movements total? Or, said another way, how many total sets constitute a “full” resistance workout? And how long does it usually take?
A full workout would be three sets of each exercise – with each set made up of 8-10 lifts. So, for instance, I’ll do three sets of ten reps on the chest press, then move on to the shoulder press, where I’ll do three sets of ten again… And so on. I find it takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long a rest period I take between each set. And how busy the gym is at any given time!
Many of the machines at my gym seem to have faulty heart-rate monitors. Do you use a heart-rate monitor? If so, any recommendations? And… What scale do you use?
This isn’t an official endorsement, or any kind of sponsorship deal – but the equipment we’d recommend would be this Polar heart rate monitor, and this Omron BF511 Body Composition Scale. However, you don’t have to invest in a body composition machine so long as you really do understand that your standard bathroom scales might not reflect the progress you’re making, if you’re gaining muscle and losing fat at a similar rate.
If you don’t invest in a body composition scale, you should invest some faith in the fact that change will happen. You’ll find your shape, and the way your clothes fit, might change faster than the number on the scales – but that’s why the scales really don’t matter.
What’s more important is the fact that you’re taking control, and changing your life – and you’ve got enough trust in your own ability to do that in a healthy way that will help you to lose the weight, and keep it off. So… Good luck!