So you’ve made a resolution to workout and eat right in 2012, but you’re finding that you don’t have as much time as you thought you would or as you originally had when you first started. I’m here to tell you that you can reap the same weight loss benefits in half the time if you workout smarter. This revelation started by observing a girl at my old gym. Said girl would already be on the elliptical when I would arrive at the gym at 530pm. 2 hours later, on my way out, I would see the same girl on the same machine, plodding away. She looked miserable, and her body never changed. In the entire 7 years that I belonged to my old gym, this girl’s physique never changed for the better. In fact, she got a bit doughier and softer-looking as time progressed. If I didn’t know her and she told me she did 5+ hours of cardio a day, I’d call her a liar. What my friend on the elliptical didn’t understand was that the more cardio you do, the more you HAVE to do in order to see the same calorie-burning benefits. Over time, the body adapts to the stimulus and refuses to change. Think back to the first time you ever ran more than a mile. You were probably out of breath, covered in sweat, and exhausted. If you continued to run 3 miles a day, every day for a week, you’d soon discover that you’re not as tired, not as sweaty, and feel like you could go for longer…..so you do. 3 miles becomes 4, 4 becomes 6, and so on. Before too long, what you were once able to achieve in 30 minutes now takes you 60 minutes. If you’re not careful, you’ll be exercising for 90+ minutes and you’ll only be maintaining your weight. That’s a tough pill to swallow for a new gym-goer. No wonder people get frustrated and give up after 3 months. I would, too, if I had to run for 90 minutes just to maintain my 140 lb physique. There are 3 main types of exercise that, in my opinion, all count as “cardiovascular exercise:” Resistance training via circuits (weight lifting), high intensity interval training (HIIT), and light intensity steady state (LISS), or aerobic exercise. What you must understand is that your body does NOT know the difference between an elevated heart rate from resistance training versus that from aerobic exercise. Unless your goal is to run a marathon, or unless you can honestly tell me that you looooooove hours of cardio, I truly do not believe that aerobic exercise needs to be done as much as most people think. I know that statement is bold and will not sit well with some, but I’m here to try to help you improve your quality of life based on published scientific research that I’ve read and from results that I’ve seen in both myself and my clients. And I want you to be in and out of the gym in 40 minutes as opposed to 90. I am sure your kids would like to see you for dinner. Let’s be clear that by aerobic I mean steady-state, endurance cardio. I will go into what I think is the superior form of cardio later, but there are other things we need to address first. An important thing to discuss is EPOC. EPOC stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, and refers to the body’s increased oxygen consumption after exercise. The body needs oxygen at a higher rate during this post-exercise state in order to return itself to its normal resting state. Thus, energy (calories) is also being burned at an elevated rate. During EPOC, the body replenishes its energy resources, re-oxygenates blood and restores circulatory hormones, decreases body temperature, and returns to normal heart and breathing rate. Evidence suggests that HIIT and resistance training have a more pronounced effect on EPOC than aerobic exercise. This is because these types of activities disrupt the body’s normal state to a greater degree than aerobic exercise. As a result, more energy is needed after HIIT and resistance training to restore the body to its resting state. The research shows that as intensity of activity increases, EPOC duration also increases. All of this means that you burn more calories for a longer period of time after HIIT or circuit work than you do with aerobic work. The take home? Workout harder for a shorter amount of time, and receive greater benefits. For competitors, realize that you don’t have to do 2-a-days to get stage lean. For those of you trying to get in shape, know that you can burn JUST as many calories in a shorter amount of time than you think. If you love running, go for it – just don’t think it’s the only way to an enviable physique. Here’s to a speedy New Year! Beth is an NPC and OCB figure competitor and has been competing for 3 years. When she’s not rocking the stage in her stiletto heels, she’s either at work as Project Manager at a Pharmaceutical company in Durham, NC or she’s in the gym training clients or teaching spin classes. In her very minimal free time, Beth likes to sleep, eat, play with her dog, and spend time with her boyfriend and friends (who also like to sleep and eat).