If the workout isn’t working post-holiday, it’s time to reboot your mindset. Clare Geraghty sorts the fitness facts from the fiction

MYTH: ‘If I exercise, I can eat what I want’

TRUTH: Weight loss is 80 per cent diet, 20 per cent exercise.

‘The reality is that you can’t out-train a bad diet,’ says celebrity trainer Dalton Wong, founder of Twenty Two Training, who has honed the figures of Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Lawrence. ‘Weight loss starts and ends in the kitchen. Working out is the easy part – it’s the other hours of the day that you have to learn to be disciplined about what you put in your mouth. Exercise makes you lose weight quicker and ensures you can sustain your weight loss, but you’ll never drop the pounds on a junk-food diet, no matter how much you train.’

Nick Weiss, master instructor at Equinox gym, debunks the myth that you can work out to ‘catch up’ for what you put into your mouth. ‘To lose weight, you have to plan to create a calorific deficit,’ he says.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: ‘Before eating something, imagine having it naked in front of a mirror,’ says Wong. Suddenly that cupcake doesn’t seem too attractive. If you are craving a treat, don’t deprive yourself, but just have a small amount. ‘Three bites satisfies a craving – any more than that is gluttony,’ advises Wong.

Woman doing side plank core exercise
Rest days and proper sleep support weight loss

MYTH: Celebrity bodies are attainable

TRUTH: It is part of a celebrity’s job to look good. They have to make time for exercise, and often train for a role or red-carpet event.

‘Celebrity bodies are attainable – just quit your job, forget about your family, hire a trainer, a nutritionist and a masseuse, and commit a few hours a day to the gym,’ says Weiss.

‘It takes time [to get into celebrity shape],’ adds Wong. ‘A-listers have the pressure of films and red carpets, pushing them to achieve amazing results in tiny periods of time. Real people’s lives aren’t like that.’

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Become the best version of yourself. Accept that you’ll never have Cameron Diaz’s legs or Madonna’s abs and, instead, aim to be a healthier, stronger and leaner version of yourself. ‘Comparing yourself to others is simply setting yourself up to fail,’ says Nicola Addison, owner of Eqvvs personal training where models Erin O’Connor and Daisy Lowe work out.
MYTH: Days not spent in the gym are wasted

TRUTH: Rest days and a proper sleep support weight loss.

‘Resting is crucial for your muscles, your nervous system, your brain and your body,’ says Wong, ‘but also for weight loss.’

‘Every time you place physical stress on your body, you need to give it time to recover to be fitter, stronger and support your metabolism for the next time you work out. If you’re going to go at it every day, how is your body going to recover?’ asks Addison.

Working on the biceps

Once a routine gets easy, change it

‘Getting sufficient sleep to allow your muscles to repair after an intense workout helps to improve your basal metabolic rate – the amount of energy your body needs daily at rest,’ she adds. ‘Your metabolism needs to be pushed to use the food stored in your body to produce energy. Interval training (see opposite) is an effective way to do this. In order for it to work at top speed, you need appropriate rest, which means days off the gym.’

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Never work out more than five days a week. Try to exercise either on alternate days or on weekdays only. You will also lose motivation quicker if you work out every day.

Make sure you get enough sleep. ‘Our bodies work with the rhythms of the sun,’ says Wong, ‘so we need less sleep (but still at least six hours a night) during the summer, and at least seven hours in winter.’

MYTH: If a regime works, stick to it

TRUTH: For maximum fitness and weight loss, vary your exercise routine.

‘Your body is always searching for the most efficient way to do a task. If you do the same exercise routine all the time, your body will work less and less hard until it doesn’t feel like a workout any more. Mix it up for long-term results,’ says Weiss.

‘Progression is about stressing the body,’ adds Addison. ‘Varying your routine will yield greater results.’

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Once a routine gets easy, change it. But, warns Addison, ‘if altering your regime means that you’ll make excuses not to do it at all, then don’t change!’

Woman doing push-ups

Remember that fat takes up 19 per cent more space than muscle

MYTH: Cardio is the best way to lose weight

TRUTH: You will look leaner mixing cardio with strength, weight and resistance training.

While you will lose weight on a regime of just cardio, the best results are achieved if you aim for 40 per cent cardio and 60 per cent resistance training – either mixing the two into one workout or, if it’s easier to think of in this way, two days a week of cardio (running, cycling, swimming) and three days of strength or resistance training (pilates or weights work). Sticking solely to cardio exercises encourages your body to become more efficient at storing fat. ‘It’s imperative to mix it up,’ says Wong.

While resistance (weight-bearing) training might not get the quick weight-loss results of cardio (muscles are three times as heavy as fat), it will achieve great ‘fat loss’ results. Remember that ‘fat takes up 19 per cent more space than muscle, so you’ll get a more toned look if you combine the two,’ says Addison.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: ‘Try cardio circuits with both cardiovascular training (skipping is a great option if you’re short on space) and strength training such as squats, lunges and lifting hand weights,’ says Wong. ‘You need to add additional load to your body so you burn more calories and tone muscles more efficiently.’

MYTH: An hour of running is much better than 20 minutes for fitness and fat burning

TRUTH: it’s not how long you run for, but how you use your time.

A quick burst of sprinting or rowing is more productive than jogging for a long period or hours spent in the gym. High intensity interval training, in which you alternate periods of all-out exercise (for example, two to three minutes sprinting) with low-intensity recovery periods (such as jogging), increases fitness and burns more calories over a short period of time than steady cardio.

‘Interval training will have an impact on your metabolism as it improves the capacity of your muscles to use up fats to produce energy,’ says Addison.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Try doing five three-minute bursts of exercise at around 90 per cent max heart rate, with a two-minute rest period in between, two or three times a week. Make sure you warm up beforehand and have a cool-down afterwards.

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