At Ocean Blue Fitness we pride ourselves on being able to provide the results our clients are looking for, and in many cases, that includes fat loss. Years ago, when I opened Ocean Blue, I was really excited to find my mentors, who had written multiple books and magazine articles about fat loss. They shared with me the following formula for fat loss: If you have one to two hours per week, strength train; if you have three to five hours per week, do three strength workouts and one to two interval cardiovascular workouts; if you have up to six hours per week include a day of steady-state cardio and always one day of rest. They pointed me in the direction of research studies supporting strength training as the primary activity when one’s goal is fat loss and I also learned how bouts of intense interval training trump steady-state cardiovascular activities for fat-burning effects. I joined other fitness professionals in promoting these concepts and saw excellent results with my clients.
Recently, when I decided to integrate Pilates reformer training into our programming, I had to ask myself: where does Pilates fit in to the fat loss formula? Is Pilates reformer training good for fat loss? While fat loss is certainly not the one and only goal held by my members, this still seems like a valid question to ask, and it is certainly one that I expect to hear from my members.
In thinking about this question, I went back to the beginning, which is always a good place to start. Why had I started Ocean Blue? Well, back in the early days of boot camp, my mind was not on fat loss. Rather, my objective was to offer a unique and exciting fitness experience that went beyond showing up. After many years of teaching classes at various facilities I was quite used to being someone’s M, W, F 8 AM appointment. The simple act of showing up to class seemed to be in and of itself the goal of these participants, and they measured their success accordingly.
I don’t want to discount the power of just showing up, because I would absolutely tell you, as a member at Ocean Blue, that showing up, whether it is in terms of getting to the gym or going through the process of making a weekly menu plan, is one of the most powerful things you can do. Our daily actions are the key to achieving our goals. On the flip side, my goal with boot camp was to give people a sense of accomplishment with their fitness. I wanted them to leave their workouts feeling a rush of pride at what they had accomplished that day and an eagerness to return and achieve a bit more at their next workout. I felt that with goals and purpose my participants would be energized and excited and, ultimately, they would achieve what I consider to be the most important element of fitness…they would be happier people.
This brings me to my first belief about what constitutes fitness for fat loss. The individual needs to enjoy the activity to the extent that he or she will want to show up repeatedly and participate in it. If an individual is not inspired by the fitness program, then it is not part of the fitness formula for fat loss. Regardless of the fact that lifting weights has been scientifically proven to be more effective at helping individuals lose weight than spinning or running on a treadmill, it simply does not matter if lifting weights is not something one enjoys. Of course, if you’ve never lifted weights then I would ask that you give it a try at Ocean Blue before deciding that you don’t like it.
Including fitness activities that you love and enjoy is a seriously important and often overlooked component of any program. If you enjoy lifting weights but love running, perhaps you will want to strength train two days a week and run three or four. If you love strength training but know you feel tight, then maybe strength train three or four days a week and attend Pilates or yoga once a week. Personally, I find that allowing myself to be less rigid works well. I vary the frequency and type of workouts I’m doing based on what, if anything, I’m training for and how I’m feeling as well as other elements like the seasons and outdoor activities I’m enjoying. Find what works best for you, and make sure to prioritize enjoyment.
My second belief about fitness for fat loss builds on this concept of enjoyment. Not only won’t we stick with what we don’t enjoy, but we will also feel stressed when we try to make ourselves do things that we don’t like. Stress is the enemy of fat loss. Whether it’s strict, miserable dieting or punishing ourselves for being fat with overly intense workouts or workouts we don’t really enjoy, when our stress hormones increase, our bodies fight back by retaining fat. Developing an enjoyable fitness routine that challenges us without overstressing us is a key element of fitness for fat loss. One of the most important things we’ve done at Ocean Blue has been to focus on community and sense of fun. In addition to being very serious about providing excellent coaching, we are equally committed to creating a space that our members feel relaxed and happy in.
My third belief about fitness for fat loss is that fitness activities that makes it possible for individuals to strength train more safely and effectively will ultimately support fat loss efforts. If strength training is the “best” exercise for fat loss, then there will be times when someone will benefit greatly from fitness activities that complement this type of training. This is where Pilates fits in. Pilates reformer training will enhance our members’ coordination and body awareness as well as address muscle imbalances and weaknesses. Improving breathing patterns, core strength, stability, and mobility are all benefits of Pilates that will naturally enhance progress in the area of strength training. So yes, in my opinion, Pilates has a place in the fat loss formula.
On a final note, with all this talk about fitness strategies for fat loss I would be remiss if I didn’t make it clear that exercise alone will rarely lead to weight loss. I’ve had countless clients look at me one or two months into their memberships and remark that they haven’t lost any weight. The reality is that while strength training alone may lead to body composition changes such as losing fat and gaining muscle, it rarely leads to weight loss and can even lead to a slight weight gain since muscle weighs more than fat. Ultimately, for most people to achieve the results they desire it will be important to make some nutritional changes in addition to building and sustaining a fitness routine. Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s post so you can avoid a common mistake people make when attempting to lose weight.