Question: Over the last year, I’ve gained weight in my hips/thighs/butt area so I want to try and thin down that area. I’ve gotten so I really enjoy the stair mill [a reverse escalator], but I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t just bulk me even further. My usual routine is 30 minutes on the elliptical and then 30 on the stair climber. Do you think that will help slim me down? Or should I try something else?
First the bad news: Unfortunately you can’t spot train and thin down just in your legs. If that was possible I’d have the world’s flattest abs. Sadly, no matter how many crunches I do that is not the case. Our problem areas are problem areas for a reason. Sigh…
The good news is that you can tone and tighten your legs along with everything else. The other good news is that as a woman you are unlikely to bulk up simply by using the cardio machines. You’d have to carry weights (BIG weights), take supplements (BIG supplements), and generally let the gym run your life in order to look even remotely like a body builder.
What you really need to do is switch up your workouts. Our bodies are super-efficient machines so if we keep doing the same routine our bodies figure out how to do it using the least amount of calories. What happens is that the first few times you do a program you burn say 300 calories. Then your body gets wise to you and only burns 297, then 295, then 293…you catch my drift. By switching things up a little now and then your body doesn’t know quite what to do and can’t get away with slacking off.
If you love the stairmill or other cardio equipment, one way to change your routine would be to do High Intensity Interval Training. Another would be to change which machines you are using. At RVC, the Wave is great because it moves side to side, like skating, which uses completely different muscles than other machines. Ergo, your body won’t know what hit it the first few times. Also try biking, rowing, and cardio classes. You could even simply switch the order of your workout or mix it up by doing 15 minutes on the stairmill, 15 minutes on the elliptical, and then repeat the stairmill and elliptical for 15 minutes each. Or try 5 minutes on each piece of cardio equipment – with bikes, Arc Trainers, AMTs, Versa Climbers, Rowers, Treadmills, Steppers, Ellipticals, The Wave and Stairmills at your disposal just doing 5 minutes on each would give you 50 minutes of cardio and hit pretty much every muscle in your body. Try it and see how much harder it is.
Finally, the best and most counter-intuitive way I’ve found to lose weight and get smaller is by weight training. It seems odd that by building more muscle you’ll get smaller but that’s exactly what I’ve found to be the case. The more I lift the smaller I get. (It helps that the more muscle you have the faster your metabolism works.) I teach a class called Body Pump that is barbell based and I have never looked so toned or been so strong. However, I too have to be careful and make sure I switch thing up. Even though I teach several classes a week I find the pounds creeping up and the jeans getting tighter (and I can’t keep blaming the dryer). If I don’t up my weights in class or do something completely different like swimming, running, or free weights I start getting a little thicker than I’d like. (It doesn’t help that I’m a big fan of eating and don’t always make the right choices but that’s a post for another time.) Luckily, I get bored if I do any one thing for a long time so I like changing my routine. So get creative and change your routine. Your body will thank you.
Don’t believe me?
What about her? This is Janet Marsico. She’s an all-natural (i.e. no hormones) body builder and has won a bunch of Fitness Championships. (Please ignore her ‘Tanorexia’. I don’t get it either.)
She was asked: What would you tell women who are primarily interested in losing weight but they’re afraid of lifting weights because they think they’re going to get too big or muscular or lose their femininity?
Janet’s Answer: Well, I myself was one of those women so I can definitely relate to this question and completely understand where these women are coming from.
Heavy weights are intimidating and a bit overwhelming, absolutely. BUT, it takes a lot of eating, and a lot of time to gain serious muscle so they need not worry. Plus, they have to remember, what is on top of the muscle at times is not always “muscle”. The muscle tends to get covered by water and fat tissue. They just don’t realize it.
The majority of women don’t have enough testosterone naturally to get “big.” The women that have given bodybuilding and weight training a bad rap have enhanced themselves with male hormones. With proper diet, cardio and training, you can definitely achieve the look you want. But lose their femininity with heavy weights? No way. In fact, going back to genetics, you won’t believe the amount of weight I have to put on a leg press machine (which is NOT a lot), just to maintain the size on my quads. I put three 45 lb. plates on each side and that’s not even my maximum weight. … So ladies, do not be afraid of those heavy weights, challenge them!
To see more of her interview go here.