Monday, December 1, 2008

To Keep Your Body Fat-Free This Holiday Season: Try These 4 Quick Fit Tips

For everyone the holidays are busy. It happens to all of us. However, do not let yourself get caught in the trap of not working out in place of making more time for holiday errands or events.

Do you want to risk losing the lean muscle mass and strength that you have worked so hard to build and maintain?

The thing is losses in lean muscle mass will lower your resting metabolic rate, which accounts for the vast majority (about 60-75%) of your total daily calorie burning. That's a big chunk! With a lowered metabolism, what this means is that everyday you will be burning less and less calories which will put you at a much greater risk of putting on ugly, unwanted body fat during the holidays. Plus, losing strength will mean that the next time you start to work out your performance will be sub par and you’ll get smacked in the face with that ugly word that no one ever wants to encounter when it comes to their training: regression!

Are you wanting to stay fat-free this holiday season? There are a number of different ways you can maintain or even increase the number of calories you burn per day, both from exercise and from your normal daily activities.

Use these quick yet effective strategies below to maintain and/or increase your current amount of lean muscle mass and maximize your daily calorie burn to best protect yourself against the deadly holiday bloat!

1.) At least once per week, perform an intense strength training session

To be honest, when I'm busy and/or don't necessarily feel like working out (yup it happens to me to) I adopt this approach. Studies show that only a single strength training workout per week during times when you cannot train as frequently as you normally do is an effective way to maintain your current levels of strength and lean muscle mass.

Shoot for at least one good strength training workout per week to best maintain your strength and lean muscle mass and stay buff during the holidays and to prevent unwanted regressions in fitness. To make even better progress and prevent weight gain, aim for three total body strength workouts per week. For rapid fat loss, perform three total body strength workouts per week and also perform three cardio interval workouts per week on non strength-training days.

2.) Hit Your Totals

The body cannot differentiate between 100 push-ups performed in a row versus 100 total push-ups performed in a day. When you honestly cannot find a five to 20-minute time slot to complete an effective total body workout, look for hidden chunks of time during the day to get in a certain number of daily repetitions for a certain number of exercises that work your entire body.

Got a free moment from now until you need to take the turkey out of the oven? Then, bang out 10 push-ups, 10 rows, and 20 squats. Using this method throughout the day will lead to big numbers by the end of the day that will burn the same amount of calories in addition to creating similar muscle building effects as if you did all of the exercises at once during a single workout.

It is important to note that this “Hit Your Totals” routine is merely a back-up option to the ideal 20-minute interval training workouts which are scientifically proven to burn nine times more fat than ordinary exercise (see my article Total Body Fat Loss Workouts to Prevent the Holiday 5-10 Pound Gain at

Short rest periods between exercises create the optimal hormonal environment for rapid fat loss and lean muscle gain, where as the long rest periods (full recovery) between movements do not. However, it comes down to effective (“Hit Your Totals”) versus optimal (50-10 Total Body Circuit Interval Training Workouts), so be sure to at least be effective this holiday season!

Picking multi-joint, compound movements that hit as much of your body’s major muscle groups in the shortest amount of time possible is ideal for maximum fat loss and lean muscle gain (e.g. squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, rows, etc.).

Use the plan below as guide to build your own “Hit Your Totals” workout. Adjust the repetition ranges accordingly based on your current strength levels. The only thing you need is your body weight and adjustable dumbbells and/or resistance bands. Perform this plan up to three times per week, resting a day between workouts. Make sure to alternate between Plan A and Plan B for more variety. You can either hit your total by doing one exercise first (e.g. perform push-ups rest-pausing as needed until you get 100 total), or by simply employ circuit style training (e.g. 20 squats, 10 push-ups, 10 rows, repeat 10x throughout the day to hit your totals).

The Hit Your Total Workout For The Holidays
Plan A-

Body weight Squats or Hip Extensions: 100-200 total
Push-ups: 50-100 total
DB/Band Rows: 50-100 total

Plan B-

Body weight Lunges or Single-Leg Hip Extensions: 50-100/total per leg
Off Chair/Couch Dips: 50-100 total
DB/Band Curls: 50-100 total (feel free to swap pull-ups or pull-downs here if you have access to the equipment)

3.) Rage Against The Machines

I am not harping on machines and saying they are all bad, just that people rely too heavily on them. For my personal training and boot camp clients that I see on the North Shore, for optimal fat loss and lean muscle gain I focus primarily on free-weight movements as mentioned above and only occasionally implement machines.

This holiday season make it a point to not use them; in the gym or anywhere for that matter...if you can. Of course you have to use your car (machine) to drive to the mall during the holidays, however when you get to the mall, try to park farther away so you can do more walking to get inside.

Avoid using elevators and escalators and opt for the stairs; all those steps truly do add up. As cliche as it sounds, it's true and it works! But it's got to be implemented for it to have any effect. Seriously, try it for 2 weeks and let me know how you feel...I'm serious.

Instead of having your lovely kids carry the bags, burn more calories by carrying the bags yourself. Stay on your feet as much as possible and resist the temptation to let a robot or machine do the work for you.

4.) Engage in more outdoor holiday activities

Are you aware of how exhausting a good snowball fight can truly be? Have you ever been in a snowball fight where when you came indoors afterwards and your snowsuit was soaked with sweat and you were exhausted? If you have you know what kind of awesome workout that is. Essentially you spent 30 minutes to an hour or however long you were out there in total fight or flight mode. Talk about an awesome way to burn calories without even thinking about it!

Make an effort to get outdoors this holiday season and go for a skate, throw around the football or have your very own “Ice Bowl.” Once again, all these calories here and there truly do add up and could make a difference between you fitting in your pants or ripping your pants by the time the clock strikes midnight this New Year!

Look your best!


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