It’s a common conundrum. You know that regular exercise has many health benefits, from decreasing risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, to boosting mood and energy. But between meetings, work deadlines, the kids and a merry-go-round of obligations, spending an hour—even 30 minutes—at the gym feels like Mission Impossible. Which means that “exercise” winds up at the bottom of your long to-do list—again.
I get it. I’m a reformed workout-a-holic who believed—for a couple of decades (!)—that doing “real” exercise meant spending at least 2 hours at the gym. I’ve been a runner since age 13 and weight training since I was 19. These days, like everyone else, I have a busy schedule. I am also managing hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and adrenal fatigue, two stress-sensitive conditions that negatively affect energy level and metabolism.
This past spring, I gained 7 pounds that left me feeling physically uncomfortable and mentally “weighed down”. I was already eating clean (no processed foods, no sugar, reasonable portions). Even with additional workouts, my weight did not budge. That’s when I enrolled in the Metabolic Aftershock program, designed by Dr. Jade Teta, a naturopath whose background also includes 20-plus years in the fitness world as a personal trainer. At first, I was highly skeptical that a short but intense 15-minute metabolic conditioning workout, featuring full-body exercises in a way that incorporates a cardio component into a weight-training workout, done 3x / week—along with 1 hour of walking every day (accumulated throughout the day)—would be effective.
By the end of his 9-week program in September, however, I had lost 4 pounds (plus 3 additional pounds since then), and I’ve kept it off—without counting calories and logging minimal time at the gym. I’m back at my happy weight—and, thanks to Jade’s program, now an affiliate of the Metabolic Effect and a big believer that, when done correctly, “less [exercise] is more”.
The secret is to exercise smarter—not longer, says Jade.
He and his brother Dr. Keoni Teta (also a naturopath) are the authors of The Metabolic Effect Diet and, most recently, Lose Weight Here (Rodale, April 2015). The brothers Teta are co-founders and developers of the MetabolicEffect.com, which features metabolic strength and conditioning programs, with a holistic, hormonal approach to fat loss.
At 42, Jade, who sports a bald pate, goatee, and has described himself as having a “linebacker-looking” body, is enviably buff. Does he spend hours in the gym to fine-hone his physique?
Nope, says Jade: “Most of my workouts are about 20 minutes. “I’m a guy who likes to lift big and heavy in quick succession, and I do fast workouts. I also train with heavy, heavy weights.”
In the following Q&A, Jade shares, with me, tips on how busy people can exercise smart. Anytime. Anywhere.
The Metabolic Effect and Exercise
Kathryn Matthews: Your fitness programs and both of your books approach exercise (and diet) from a metabolic perspective. What exactly does “metabolism” means? Why and how is it relevant?
Jade Teta: “Metabolism” refers to all the chemical reactions that go on in your body that keep you alive, lean and healthy. Your metabolism is like a battery or the engine of a car; it’s what allows your body to run—and to run well.
The metabolism is always responding to the outside world and the way that it receives this information is through hormones—your hormones tell your metabolism how to respond. For example, if a tiger comes at you, you’ll get a rush of adrenaline (a stress hormone), communicating to the body, “Hey you need fuel to run away!” So, when we talk about “balancing the metabolism”, one of the first things you have to consider is: “what is going on hormonally in the body?”
Kathryn Matthews: So, how does “balancing the metabolism” affect our diet and exercise efforts?
Jade Teta: Think of “balancing the metabolism” as a racecar. Most racecars are built the same way with slight variations, and they all run at similar speeds. The outcome at an Indie 500 or at NASCAR really depends on how fast the pit crew can change the tires, change the oil and tune up the engine.
The same applies to your metabolism. For example, someone who goes on a “diet” to lose weight is usually taking the traditional approach of what I call “Eat Less, Exercise More”. This person ends up like a racecar on a track, going as fast as it can—until it burns out. By eating less and exercising more, you set in motion metabolic adjustments that lead to greater hunger, lower energy, increased cravings—and decreased metabolic rate. Your metabolism acts like a thermostat by trying to protect your body from the stress of dieting. The “stress” is your body’s perception of “starvation”. Your metabolism is just as strong, if not stronger than your willpower, and it becomes even more resistant the harder you work. For any “diet” to succeed, you need to have a “crew”; in other words, a plan that helps control hunger, cravings and energy. Without a backup plan, a diet will always fail. I talk more about this and the “Eat Less, Exercise Less” and “Eat More, Exercise More” approaches in my book, Lose Weight Here.
Kathryn Matthews: What are practical strategies to incorporate more exercise into our busy lives?
Jade Teta: Many people believe that exercise is an activity, to which you have to dedicate a block of time, say, 30 to 60 minutes. Not true. The body responds to cumulative physical activity, so, you can engage in small bouts of activity throughout the day—and still reap tremendous benefits.
Kathryn Matthews: How would you go about getting a muscular, fit-looking, toned body without spending at least an hour at the gym?
Jade Teta: If you don’t have the time—or the desire—to go to the gym, you can still transform your body. Here’s what it takes.
1. Commitment. First and foremost, exercise must be a priority. If someone tells me “I don’t have time to exercise”, what I hear is “It’s not a priority.” So, you have to make exercise a priority.
2. Mindset. Stop thinking about “exercise” as something that you always have to commit 30 to 60 minutes of your time. Movement is exercise. And accumulating “movement” throughout your day can still transform your body.
Our bodies weren’t designed to sit for hours at a stretch. You’ve got to move. But we’re also not built to kill ourselves at the gym every day. It’s about finding balance.
3. Efficient movement vs. Frequent exercise. Most people regard “exercise” as an all or nothing proposition. The thinking goes something like this:
“If a little is good, more is better.”
“If once a week is good, 5x / week is better.”
“If 30 minutes is good, then 90 minutes is better.”
Myth #1 is that exercise has to be super-frequent. Not true. If you work out 2x / week—but with enough intensity—that should be enough. Engage in movement that is efficient enough to get the job done, like a 20 minute session of traditional weight training using heavy weights.
Myth #2 is that you must devote 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour to exercise. The following is an example of how you can accumulate small bouts of activity throughout the day that will actually change your body.
♦ Wake up. Do 1 minute of push-ups.
♦ Get dressed. Shower. Go to work. Do 1 minute of push-ups.
♦ Finish lunch. Do 1 minute of push-ups.
♦ Arrive home (from work). Do 1 minute of push-ups.
♦ Get ready for bed. Do 1 minute of push-ups.
You’ve got enough volume in your chest muscles and core work to create a stimulus effect that’s going to change the way your body looks.
The next day, you can do squats or lunges, following this same routine.
Once movement becomes a priority, there are different ways on how to get it in, from short 15-minute workouts 3x / week, to 1 minute bouts of activity accumulated throughout the day, to a standard 1 hour workouts 5x / week—and everything in-between based on your personal preference and psychology.
Aging and Exercise
Kathryn Matthews: What advice do you have for those in their 40s, 50s and 60s about exercise? What are the biggest misconceptions about aging and exercise that people tend to have?
Jade Teta: It’s all about mindset. Many times, especially at mid-life, people look in the mirror—and don’t like what they see. That’s when they’ll start crazy exercise regimens—whether it’s marathon training or 100 sit-ups a day—that can’t be sustained.
At mid-life, whatever exercise you do, it needs to be something that you will do—and can do—for the long haul. You must ask yourself two questions: 1) Why am I doing this? And 2) Is this sustainable?
Kathryn Matthews: Does exercise stress the body?
Jade Teta: Yes! Exercise is stress. It’s a good stress when you do the right amount of exercise—for you—because it helps your metabolism stay balanced. But, doing too much exercise (again, for you) contributes to an unbalanced metabolism, which then creates hunger, energy and craving issues. Keep in mind: as you age, the type and amount of exercise that you did in your twenties or thirties can become too much exercise when you’re 50 or 60. So, at midlife, it’s important to ease into any exercise program and to engage in exercise that is sustainable for the long-term.
It’s a popular belief that more exercise—ideally, 60 minutes, 5x / week—is better. Not true. Smart exercise is better. By “smart”, I mean: “What is the minimum effort we need to put forth to get the results we want?”
Kathryn Matthews: But isn’t exercise the best way to jumpstart body transformation?
Jade Teta: That’s another huge misconception.
Most people think that “getting in shape” means doing more exercise; the truth is, they need to address their diet first, then change their relationship to movement.
Jumping into an exercise program makes people feel like they’re being pro-active about, say, losing weight, but, often, they’re not fit enough to do a program, like P90X or CrossFit, and they risk injuring themselves and starting back at square one (no movement).
Bottom line: If you’re a self-described couch potato who wants to change your body shape, get your diet in check first. Just start walking. You don’t have to do anything else. Once you straighten out your diet, then you can focus on exercise.
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