So…now that you are fired up and you have an idea how to get your mind on the row you ask yourself…what to do for a workout routine? The first thing that might come to mind is to “lose weight”, right? But how? What is the best plan or routine out there? Well, it all depends on your personal goals.Most of my clients and many people I know want the same…”tone up and lose weight”. There are numerous things you can do; you can participate in any type of group exercise classes — spinning, kickboxing, step aerobics, conditioning classes — they are all great to get you started and into fair shape. However, if your goal is to really keep the weight off and stay toned, it may not be enough.

Now you might not like what I have to say (one of my best and worst qualities is that I am brutally honest)…but try to follow me on this one…

Go to the gym and take a look around the “cardio section” (treadmills, climbers, elliptical, bicycles, etc). You might notice that the majority of the people there are actually not in such a great shape, or that they don’t look “toned and firm”. Don’t get me wrong, you will also see some people who are in really good shape, but I bet if you ask them if that is all they do, they will tell you that they also train with weights.


Fit Girl with Dumbells

Sorry to tell you, but cardio alone will not get you “toned and firm” (if that is your main goal). You have to build muscle in order to become firmer and more toned, and to maintain weight loss. Cardio is a great way to lose fat, but you will truly get the best results from a combination of cardio and weight training. For every pound of muscle that you add to your body, that same muscle will burn an extra 50 to 70 calories a day alone. I’m not saying that you should become a “muscle-head” at all; I’m talking about lean, firm, and toned muscle. Weight training or resistance training is what builds muscle, not cardio. Even the word “cardio” tells you what it does… (cardiovascular), in another words, you are working your heart and building your endurance. And even if you do some weight training, let me tell you that most people might be doing it wrong when they try to combine both (you might find yourself in the same situation.) I bet you like to go for a 30 minute run or more before you lift, right? I’m sure that you feel too tired to lift afterwards, and you end up not doing a good job at all. Well, here is why…when you run, for the first 30 to 45 min you are burning sugar (glucose), truly only the final 15 to 30 minutes of your cardio are the ones in which your body is finally using fat as source of energy (based on a 1 hour session).


Your body will always burn sugar before it burns fat, but your heart must be at a certain rate in order to burn that fat. Now, you go to the floor and start heavy lifting…within about 5 minutes you are too tired for a weight training workout. But do you know why? That same sugar that you burned during cardio before your workout is what gives you the “power” to lift weight. However, because your heart rate is now lower, you will not use fat as a source of energy – your body will use muscle instead (catabolic stage). You will never look toned and firm because you are burning the same muscle you should be building.

Change things around…always lift first, you will need that sugar to push the weight hard, but try not to lift for more than 40 minutes. Once you are done lifting, do the cardio for only about 30 to 45 min. Keep in mind that you have to be in the right “cardio zone” to achieve your specific goals (see chart below).

In terms of a best routine out there, and if you want to get fit, toned and lose weight at the same time, I highly recommend a combination of circuit training and drop sets. Circuit training is a total body routine, performed at least 3 times per week. A drop set is when you decrease the weight resistance for any amount of “drops” (ex: 100lbs=10 reps/80lbs=10 reps/60lbs=10 reps).

Try to keep one thing in mind, once you start this routine, there should be no rest, try not to stop and have casual chats. You will have plenty time to talk after you are done.

I have to say that it will be a hard, intense workout at first, but stick with it. Even if you have trouble with the routine the first few times through… make sure you will make through your “first day”, otherwise you will always find yourself back on your “first day”. Next thing you know, you will be cruising through the workout without a problem. Take baby steps, stay focused and move forward.

The “battle” has just begun!!

(NOTE-Since I wrote this page in 2001 I found out there is proven medical condition regarding too much cardio and no weight training. It is called “chunky aerobic instructor syndrome.” Do a google or ask.com search for this and see for yourself!!)

Rolando Amorim

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