Working Out Harder Won't Get You To Your Goal Quicker

Say goodbye to grueling 90 minute gym sessions.
Workout smart, not long .
Workout smart, not long .

Hands up who eats well and works out constantly all through winter to maintain a healthy and balanced weight and lifestyle?

And now hands up who eats yummy, comforting food (hello chicken shnittys and cheese platters) in the cooler months and all but abandons their gym membership, opting for cosy, slouchy clothes instead?

Yeah, us too.

We've got one more month of winter to endure before the mercury starts to rise. And while being healthy all year round is ideal, for varying reasons (warmer mornings, more revealing clothing) it seems easier to focus on fitness in the lead up to summer.

If spring being around the corner is enough to motivate you back onto healthy living, don't assume that working out to maximum capacity will get you to your fitness goal quicker. Before you even hit the gym you need to assess what you're eating.

"The fact is you can't out-train a bad diet," Nik Toth, personal trainer and founder of The Lean Body Coach told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Exercise only accounts for about 20 to 30 percent of [weight loss] results, maximum. I've worked with hundreds of clients who have tried exercising harder but didn't change their diet, and they weren't getting results. However when I clean up someone's diet, even if they barely exercise, they'll lose weight straight away."

Once you've switched to healthier eating, the next step is to take a look at what you're doing in the gym. Going hell for leather on the cross trainer for 90 minutes might leave you in a sweaty heap, but that doesn't mean it's the best way to spend your workout time.

"Working out more efficiently is better that a really long workout. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best approach to losing body fat quickly. Research shows us that shorter, high-intensity cardio sessions result in greater fat loss over time than longer, low-intensity sessions, and this is because high intensity exercise can burn more calories than low intensity exercise. As fat loss is dictated by energy balance, this is a no-brainer," Toth said.

The important point here is that the high intensity exercises are done in intervals -- meaning a short bust with a break in between. Because you're exercising as hard and fast as you can for a short time period (usually 30 seconds), you should be gasping for air and feel like you couldn't go on any longer. The recovery break lets your heart rate come back down while you catch your breath, before you go again. You can get in a very effective HIIT workout in 20 minutes.

It is important to measure if you're working out efficiently by your breath, not by how much you sweat.

Sweat is not an indication of intensity. Some people don't sweat much, while some very fit people can sweat a lot. Exhibit A.
Sweat is not an indication of intensity. Some people don't sweat much, while some very fit people can sweat a lot. Exhibit A.

"If you can carry on a conversation, you are not working hard enough. Sweating on the other hand, that's not so much an indication. I hardly sweat for example, not even in a hot yoga class, and it's not because I'm not working hard enough. Other people barely step foot in the room and they are already 'glowing'. It is dependent on the person's physiology," Toth said.

Ideally, you want to be combining a mix of HIIT strength and cardio as well as low-intensity steady, slow cardio.

"This means that you use all of your energy systems, which helps your body burn more fat as well as adapt, so you can also improve your performance," Toth said.

"Compound, functional movements and working the larger muscle groups such as legs is a smart way to train. People always ask if they can spot-reduce certain areas but to get a lean and defined body you need to work the legs because they are the largest muscles and it will help with growth hormone production."

Great moves are squats, lunges, leg presses and deadlifts. Aim for 10-12 reps for at least 3-4 rounds.