With the start of the new year comes the onslaught of resolutions filling up your Instagram feed. At the top of everyone's list, according to Google? Weight loss. But hold up: just because everyone around you wants to lose weight doesn't mean you should, too (we happen to like you just the way you are, #thankyouverymuch). That said, if you did write "lose weight" in your to-do app this year there are a lot of smart ways to set yourself up for success.
Here are a few things you need to know first.
1. In order to see results, hitting the elliptical for 30 minutes while you catch up with the Kardashians once a week just isn't going to cut it.
Instead, aim for three workouts if you're just getting into a routine again, or five to six sessions if you've been at it for a while, says Holly Rilinger, a Nike master trainer, master Flywheel instructor, and star of Bravo's Work Out New York. "And keep in mind that rest is key to reset mentally, physically, and emotionally, so make sure to build in at least one full rest day."
2. It's kind of a big deal that you bring your A-game to each and every workout.
"I'd rather see you do balls-to-the-wall workouts three times a week than see you give 50 percent for five days," says Rilinger. "Decide when you walk through that door you are going to give it 100 percent the entire time, and check in throughout your workout with one simple question: Can I give more?"
3. Experts say that healthy eating habits are just as, if not more, important than logging time in the gym if you want to see more permanent changes on the scale. Here are 27 tips from registered dietitians on how to eat healthier this year.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about workouts.
Major key: "Finding a trainer or workout that makes you happy is actually really important to weight loss," says Rilinger. When you enjoy doing it you'll be more likely to stick with it. Below are 10 workouts that will help you reach your weight loss goal. If you've tried one of the classes here and there and didn't really love it, don't give up on the sport altogether. You may not have found an instructor you love yet, and that can make or break your goals.
1. Interval Training
The number one training method the experts turn to again and again for weight loss: interval training. What's that? "Any form of exercise where your heart rate spikes and then comes down repeatedly," says Rilinger. This type of training keeps your heart rate elevated, which in turn keeps your metabolism humming. When that's happening, you burn more calories.
One of the many styles of interval training is indoor cycling, though this workout leans heavily toward cardio over strength training Rilinger explains. She also notes that cycling requires you to use various muscles in your body— quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core, for starters— which once again translates into weight loss. "The more muscles you have to incorporate, the more calories you're going to burn because those muscles all require energy in order to work," she says. "And the more energy you use, the higher those calorie-burning numbers climb. It's all a cycle."
2. Weight Training
Consider this "the mother of all weight-loss techniques, the highest in the workout food chain, the top of the totem pole," says Rilinger. Resistance training, whether it's with your bodyweight alone or with added weights, is another ridiculously effective way to drop pounds. Lifting weights has been shown to increase your resting metabolic rate which means you'll continue to burn calories even after you finish working out. Rilinger suggests adding it into your routine at least three times a week. And since your body adjusts to workouts after being exposed to the same moves at the same intensity, becoming less effective over time, she says to mix it up about every three weeks to keep your body guessing. Here's a dumbbell workout to get you started. (And use actual dumbbells, not the adorable dessert dumbbells above.)
3. Boot Camp
For a workout that's going to keep your metabolism elevated all day, turn to boot camp, as these classes (think Barry's Bootcamp) combine two of the most effective styles of training: interval and resistance. "You'll perform exercises, some more cardio-focused and others strength-focused, full-out for short bursts of time, coupled with short periods of rest," says Adam Rosante, certified personal trainer and author of The 30-Second Body. But if it's your first time giving it a go, speak up. He says a good instructor will help you determine when you need to crank up the weight or intensity (tip: if you can cruise through 10 reps without any trouble, it's too easy), keep your form on par, and can always provide a modification for any move that might be too tough or irritates an injury. If you can't make it to a studio, though, you can virtually sweat it out with Rosante in his 20-minute C9 Challenge, or try this bodyweight-only 16-minute routine.
"At its essence, boxing is really another form of interval training," explains Rosante. But it also makes you feel insanely badass. Here's the trick to remember: it's a common mistake for beginners to punch using only their arm strength, but the majority of your power is going to come from your core and you'll use muscles that are typically ignored in other workouts (hey there, obliques).
It's best to log this type of workout in a class, as Rosante says it's crucial for beginners to learn proper form from an instructor who can help keep your intensity level high. Here are beginner-friendly video from Milan Costich, founder of Prevail boxing gym in Los Angeles.
All you need is a pair of sneakers before you head out the door. But if weight loss is the name of your game, the lackadaisical head-out-for-a-light-jog style of running isn't the way to go. Instead, find a hill you can sprint up, or crank the incline on that treadmill. "Running up hills forces you to work your glutes and legs— two of your body's biggest muscle groups— even more, which requires smaller muscle recruitment and more energy expenditure," explains Rosante. As noted earlier, the more energy you're using, the brighter that calorie-burning fire burns. But proper form here is key. "Lean into the hill, and drive your knees as high as you can, striking the ball of each foot down directly under your body," he says. "Keep your hands open and arms bent at 90 degrees, and drive your arms straight forward up to face level, then backward to the top of your back pocket." And try not to let your arms cross over your body— that'll just waste the precious energy your muscles need. If you're training indoors, here are a few fat-burning treadmill routines to get you started.
There's a reason CrossFit has become such a booming part of the workout industry— it works, so long as you don't overdo it. (The same principle applies to every type of workout.) Workouts are varied (you may be doing anything from kettlebell swings to rope climbs and box jumps to front squats), and the routines are designed to be short and intense. The most important thing to find when looking for the box (CrossFit slang for "gym") that fits you best: a well-informed coach who can explain and modify the moves. Here are a few things to keep in mind before every WOD.
If your biggest excuse for skipping a workout is being crunched for time, Tabata is your dream come true. It's designed to be four minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that consists of 20 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times explains Shanon Squires, an exercise physiologist and human performance lab coordinator at Colorado University Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. And you can use this protocol with different exercises, including the battle rope slams above. You'll spike your metabolism and heart rate in four minutes, but Squires warns against making this time frame a habit if you're trying to lose weight. "Your body will quickly adapt to that interval, and you'll need to increase the volume or intensity to continue getting a benefit from it," he says. To do that, Rosante suggests extending your session to 20 minutes and following the same format. Simply pick four exercises—think jump rope, squats, mountain climbers, and squat jumps— then do each for 20 seconds as hard and fast as you can (while maintaining proper form, of course), then recovering for 10 seconds and 10 seconds only. Repeat for eight rounds on that one move (so, four minutes of work) before resting for one minute and moving on to the next exercise. Here's a tabata workout to try.
Quit thinking of yoga as the "relaxing" workout you try to do on active rest days. Rilinger says it can be a secret weapon in your weight loss arsenal because it keeps you flexible and healthy for your other, more intense workouts (like that boot camp class). But that's not all. "Yoga requires balance and stability, which promotes functional strength, and it helps our mental health," she says. Aim to squeeze it in at least once a week. And if you can't make it to the studio, there are plenty of flows you can do at home.
If you can't stand the thought of running, or just want to work out without a ton of pounding on your joints, do a few laps in the pool. Rosante says you can burn over 750 calories in an hour of swimming and you'll work all of your major muscle groups. As with most workouts, it helps to go in with a plan. Try this one, from Rosante: Tread water for as long as possible by standing upright in the deep end and using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Then rest for two minutes. Now swim 10 sets of 100 meters (that's back-and-forth lap in an Olympic-sized pool), resting for one minute in between sets. By the time you climb out of the pool, your muscles will be pleasantly worn out.
10. Jumping Rope
It's time to kick it back to the good ole' days of P.E. class, when you first learned how to swing a jump rope. This tool is cheap, portable (it'll fit in the tiny parts of your suitcase!), and can be used just about anywhere. After just a few minutes you will feel your heart rate racing! Here's a speedy routine to try from Rosante:
Warm up with a light 3-minute skip with the rope
Do 100 traditional jumps (both feet leave the floor at the same time, and no extra hops in between)
Once you finish, immediately do 100 jump rope sprints (think regular jumping rope but at an even quicker pace)
Repeat steps 2 and 3, but follow this format: 50/50, 21/21, 15/15, 9/9
If you want more, work your way back up the ladder until you reach 100/100 again
Oh, and whatever you do, don't do it barefoot. "Few things compare to the pain of missing a skip and smacking the tip of your toe with a jump rope," says Rosante. Noted. You can do this entire sequence mock-style, though, if you don't have a rope handy.
You got this!