The summer season is about fun, sun, and the beach for the next three months. This is also the time of the year when most of you are getting your beach body ready.
In all honesty, you should've started a month or two ago. But you've got time.
Before we get into the good stuff, there are certain things you need to know about getting into beach-body shape. We'll start with the most common mistake people make when trying to get in shape, the nasty C word: cardio.
Ever notice the athletes who run hard and sprint for short distances? They typically have lean, toned and defined bodies. Then you see the marathon athletes, who usually run relatively long distances, and are typically less muscular, thin and less defined. Is this you?
People who run longer distances burn more calories; this notion is nothing new. Yet, long-distance runners typically have a higher percentage of body fat when measured.
It's difficult for the body to hold on to lean muscle, because it wants to break it down. Your body will only keep the muscles it needs to get the job done; lower intensity and longer duration cardio don't require much muscle.
If your goal is to lose weight, especially fat, it's important to maintain and/or increase the lean muscle you have. Muscles burn fat at rest, so the more lean tissue you have, the greater potential you have of burning more fat at rest. You become a 24-hour fat-burning machine.
Another point to consider is that when you use lower intensity exercise, your body stops burning calories once you stop that activity. The body can easily recover and doesn't need as much calories at rest to repair itself.
Recovery and repair
Higher intensity work is the opposite; more calories are needed at rest to drive the recovery and repair process.
But doesn't your body burn more fat during less intense and longer activities? Yes. However, even though a higher percentage of calories burned comes from fat, the body eventually adapts to this activity. Assuming that you continue this type of workout, your body will become better at it, and when it does you will actually be burning less total calories for the same distance and time.
Is higher intensity activity the way to go? If your goal is fat and weight loss, then the answer is yes. High intensity activity saves lean muscle because it needs it to create force. A perfect example is sprinting, which requires a lot of force.
You were probably thinking, doesn't the body adapt to this as well? Yes, it does! However, you'll like this adaptation much better than the lower intensity version. The body adapts by increasing lean (not bulky) muscle, which allows you to create more force. The more force you create, the faster and harder you can go. This means you will need more calories to sustain, recover and repair from this level of effort. It's like hitting the Fat Loss Lotto Jackpot!
Should one stop doing long, slow, distance cardio? Of course not! This type of activity is great for developing aerobic capacity and training the heart and lungs. These are just some of the benefits of doing less intense and longer duration cardio.
However, if your goal is fat loss, there are better ways to get the job done. If you would like to incorporate lower intensity work, you can add it after your higher intensity workout, like strength training. In fact, doing lesser intensity work may help you recover better from your higher intensity workout by allowing your body to cool down and circulating the blood more to get rid of metabolic waste.