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What happens when weight loss stops? You do more cardio. Here are 5 reasons why that might not be your best approach.

My body just can't lose weight.

The voice on the other end of the phone sounded beaten, frustrated, and hopeless.
 "If you knew. If you knew how hard I've been working. You'd understand. You'd know I wasn't making excuses."
My heart went out to Sarah, a mother of a 3-year-old girl, and a successful real estate agent. She had come to me after another friend of hers, Tracy, had lost weight working with me through my online training program, just 6 months after giving birth.
A deep breath followed, and Sarah asked why she should believe her body wasn't programmed to look a certain way.
I asked her to keep an open mind, stay patient, and to walk me through everything she had done. As she told me her tale of diet and exercise, I nodded and immediately knew what was wrong.
Sarah was putting in time to her weight loss. But the type of effort she was giving—specifically her over-reliance on running—was a problem I had seen many times before, especially with women.
I explained to Sarah the reasons why her type of running plan isn't always the best way to lose fat.
Notice the wording there; I did not say running is bad or will make you fat. That’s just not true. It’s a great form of exercise and one with a lot of value.
This was about efficiency and understanding why your current cardio approach could be a reason why your jeans don't fit better—even when you spend plenty of time in the gym.
Sarah decided to give it a try and push ahead. One month later and 7 pounds lost, we have her back on track and believing that her body can change.
If you're like Sarah and think your body is or are frustrated by your lack of progress, here are some simple adjustments you can make to make sure your running approach is not one giant weight loss mistake.

Running Mistake #1: Your Workout is Always the Same

Your body is an amazing machine. It's so incredible—and designed for efficiency—that if you do the same thing over and over again, the process becomes easier.
In the case of running, not only will running feel more effortless when repeated workout after workout (even if you're still sweating and pumping your legs), but your metabolism literally learns and reacts so that fewer calories are burned with the same exercise output.
This is where traditional "steady state" running falls short on a long-term weight loss plan. Research conducted at the University of Tampa found that doing steady state cardio—such as running on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a consistent pace that's not near maximal effort (think sprinting)—helps out with weight loss…but only initially.
The subjects lost a few pounds in the first week and then kaput! Nothing more. The reason? Within a week their metabolism had adjusted and now didn't need to work as hard to burn off the fat.
One of the biggest "problems" with just running at a steady, moderate intensity pace, is that the calories you burn are limited to the time you spend sweating.
Once your body adapts, the benefit is limited.
That's why weight training is oftentimes viewed as better than "just" running. Lifting weights impacts your metabolism by causing mini-micro tears that need to be repaired. That healing process requires energy, which means you're burning more calories—a process that can sometimes last for nearly two days.
To put it more simply: With cardio, you can slog away for 30 minutes at a lower intensity and burn 200 calories—or you can just 200 calories fewer per day. It's the same thing.
With weight training (or as you'll soon find out—sprints), that's not the case. The calories you burn are not limited to what you do in the gym. Meaning a little variety might not seem like a big change to your routine, but it will have a dramatic impact on transforming your body.

Running Mistake #2: You Go Longer, But Not Faster

One of the most important variables with any type of exercise—cardio or other—is intensity. If you look at the average person who runs, they pick a pace that they can maintain for a long duration.
Think about it: When you jump on a treadmill, elliptical, bike or trail, you're starting with the intent to be there for a while. Maybe it's 30 minutes or an hour, but your goal is to push at a pace you can sustain, work hard, feel tired, and then go home.
While this is great for endurance, it's not so great for fat loss.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed the exercise habits of over 34,000 women and concluded that it took about an hour a day of moderate (3 mph walking) exercising to maintain weight. Notice, that's not weight loss. And 3 miles per hour is not very fast.
Now imagine if instead of just arbitrarily picking an amount of time to exercise, instead you focused on pushing yourself to certain level of difficulty.
If the 3.0 on a treadmill would be a "4" on a scale of 1 to 10 of difficulty, what would happen if you pushed yourself at an 8 or 9 for a shorter period of time?
There's no need to guess, I'll tell you: More fat loss.
Research at the University of Western Ontario compared short but intense exercise, to long, less-intense cardio. One group perform 4 to 6 thirty second "sprints" while the other group did cardio for 30 to 60 minutes. The results were nothing short of amazing. Despite exercising for a fraction of the time, those in the sprint category burned more than twice as much body fat.
That's because the process of sprinting causes similar internal changes to your body, such as those that occur during weight training. Your body needs to replenish it's ATP (energy), covert lactic acid that's produced during exercise into glucose, and restore your blood hormone levels after such a hard workout.
All of those processes mean your body works harder and burns more fat—both of which don't happen during aerobic running sessions.

Running Mistake #3: You Focus too Much on Calories Burned

You know what I hate? The calorie- trackers built into cardio machines that inform you how many calories you burn.
They are misleading and oftentimes do more harm than good. You see, a common weight loss mistake has nothing to do with what you're doing in the gym, but instead how much you think your workouts influence the amount of calories you burn.
Believing that the majority of the calories you burn results from exercise is a dangerous misunderstanding. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Just being alive—sleeping, standing, eating, thinking—requires a tremendous amount of energy. Remember, the machine analogy used earlier? This is why it applies. You burn calories just being alive.
The number of calories you burn at the gym actually pales in comparison to normal functioning and your daily activities that are not exercise based.
Does that mean there's no need to hit the gym? Of course not. Exercise has many health benefits, but the type of exercise you perform in the gym will influence how many calories you burn outside of it.
Running will burn calories, but sprinting or lifting weights will result in more muscle. And the more muscle you have on your body (no—not the "bulky" muscle of bodybuilders), the more calories your body burns just functioning.
Your muscles are like a 3-year-old child: are active and needy. So it only suits you to have more muscle so that you can burn calories without having to work or think about it.

Running Mistake #4: You Don't Try Other Forms of Cardio

Now that you know muscle is important to your overall weight loss goals, it only makes sense that you would want to do the type of exercises that help this happen the fastest and most efficient ways.
If you're a lover of the slower, longer duration cardio, I have some bad news: "Endurance" running and walking (longer duration, lower intensity impairs strength and muscle growth, according to research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
What's more, even if you increase the intensity and run on an incline, cycling was still better for gaining muscle and burning fat, says researchers from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Again, the point here is not that "running doesn't work" or that there aren't any benefits.
This is about losing weight the most efficient way possible. And if you have limited time, you might be better served by cycling (preferably at a high intensity) as opposed to going for a longer walk or jog.

Running Mistake #5: You Run Too Much (Yes, Too much!)

This might sound crazy, so just hang with me: The number on the scale might not be changing because you're doing too much running.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that this isn't problem for the majority of people struggling to drop a few pounds. But I've worked with many clients—and seen hundreds of other case studies—where fat loss has been stunted by doing too much.
Exercise is an undisputable component of a healthy life. However, exercise is still stress of your body. The demands of which impact your hormones, which also control your ability to lose fat.
Specifically, the hormone cortisol is released when you exercise. All cortisol is not bad (despite what late night TV and supplement ads might have you believe), but chronic stress and chronic cortisol can lead to insulin resistance and force you to store belly fat against your best-laid plans.
After all, research published in the journal Hormone Research found that long distance running—like that done in endurance runners—causes an sustained increase in cortisol. And this increase in cortisol for long period of times can lead to more inflammation, slower recovery, breaking down your muscle tissue, building up fat, and even harm your immune functioning.
Just as bad, if you're suffering from too much stress—whether it's the result of exercises for too many hours or not recovering with the right nutrition—you can harm your thyroid and lower your metabolic rate, making weight loss more difficult.
If you're doing an hour of cardio per day, that's more than enough for fat loss. (Remember, this isn't for endurance training.)
If you start running 2 to 4 hours per day and aren't losing weight (or maybe evening gaining), you might be best suited to reduce your running frequency, add some resistance training, and see what happens. Odd are, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

You just crushed a really hard workout. You upped the load of your training, or you stepped out of your routine and tried a new activity. You feel great—until you wake up the next morning, barely able to move.

Enter delayed onset muscle soreness, better known as DOMS. It's an acronym that athletes and fitness buffs wear with pride.

life by daily burn logo 2As its name suggests, "DOMS is muscle soreness that becomes evident six-to-eight hours following activity, peaking around 24 to 48 hours post-training," says Jon Mike, CSCS, NSCA-CPT and PhD candidate in Exercise Science at the University of New Mexico. While the symptoms will often start to diminish at about 72 hours, "the precise time course and extent of DOMS is highly variable," Mike says.

DOMS is most pronounced when you introduce a new training stimulus—a new activity, increased intensity or volume—or if you are new to physical activity in general. "Your body is making adaptations to better prepare your muscles to do that activity again," says Lauren Haythe, certified Kinesis Myofascial Integration Practitioner and yoga teacher. That's why on Day 1 at the gym, after doing squats or lunges with 10-15 pound weights, you can be brutally sore the next day. "But, as you continue on, you can build up from there, and you won't be so sore," she says.

While all kinds of muscular contraction can cause soreness, eccentric contraction—where the muscle lengthens as it contracts—is most often associated with DOMS, according to Mike. This includes movements such as running downhill, lowering weights or lowering down into a squat or push-up position. "There is also some evidence that upper body movement creates more soreness than lower body exercises," says Mike.

Muscle discomfort is the most common characteristic of DOMS, but there are other symptoms. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), these may include reduced range of motion and joint stiffness, local swelling and tenderness, and diminished muscle strength. These symptoms appear gradually following exercise (not to be confused with acute pain that may arise during physical activity).

Muscle Soreness: Myths vs. Facts

No pain, no gain. Lactic acid build-up. An indicator of muscle growth. These are all phrases that we tend to associate with DOMS. While you may think you know everything you need to know about the condition that has you waddling like a duck, you may be surprised by what's actually happening in your body.

Myth #1: DOMS is caused by the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles.

The verdict: Not true. During exercise, your body needs energy, and it breaks down molecules to get that. As a result of this metabolic process, your cells naturally become more acidic, which makes your muscles feel like they're burning. But this isn't caused by lactate. Lactate is actually a by-product of the metabolic process and serves as a buffer that slows down the rate at which the cells become acidic. "People produce lactate all the time, even at rest. It clears your system 30 minutes to 1 hour after working out," says Mike.

A study in Clinics in Sports Medicine found that DOMS is the result of microtrauma in the muscles and surrounding connective tissues, which causes inflammation. The reason that eccentric muscle contraction (think lowering a dumbbell back down in a bicep curl) is more likely to be the culprit is because it places a higher load on your muscles compared to concentric contraction. "It's the active lengthening of muscle fibers under load. It's like you're pulling on a rope, and there's so much force that the rope starts to tear and pull apart," says Mike.

Myth #2: It’s not a good workout unless you’re sore the next day.

We often wear our DOMS as a badge of honor and believe that if we're not sore, we're not doing enough during out workouts. But that's just not true.

"It doesn't mean that you're not getting as good of a workout because you're not crippled the next day," says Monica Vazquez, NASM certified personal trainer. "You should feel [soreness] 24 hours to three days after the activity. If, after three days, you try to do the same exercise and you cannot because you go immediately to muscle failure, you've done too much," she says.

According to Mike, studies have shown that soreness itself (using a scale from 0 to 10 to assess the level of soreness) is poorly correlated as an indicator of muscle adaptation and growth. There are many factors that influence how DOMS presents itself in individuals. "There is great variability, even between people with similar genetics and even among highly-trained lifters [and athletes]," he says. So while comparing notes (and commiserating) is all part of the process, soreness and DOMS isn't the best gauge of how effective your workout was or who's in better shape.


Myth #3: The more fit you are, the less susceptible you are to DOMS.

It's true that you will start to feel less sore as your body adapts to your workouts and learns to distribute the workload across your muscle fibers more effectively. That's why you should regularly change up your exercise routine.

However, there is also a genetic component to how sensitive we are to pain and soreness. "People can be no-responders, low-responders or high-responders to soreness," says Mike. If you're a high-responder, you will experience DOMS more acutely than someone who is a no- or low-responder when given the same training load. While you can't change your genes, it is important to know where you fall on the spectrum to understand how your body may respond to changes in your workouts.

Myth #4: Muscle damage is a bad thing.

Yes, DOMS appears to be caused by trauma to your muscle fibers, but it's not a definitive measure of muscle damage. In fact, a certain degree of soreness seems to be necessary. "When muscles repair themselves, they get larger and stronger than before so that [muscle soreness] doesn't happen again," says Vazquez. While these mechanisms are not completely understood, Mike notes that some muscle trauma is needed to stimulate protein production and muscle growth.

Myth #5: Pre- and post-workout stretching is a good way to prevent and treat DOMS.

Unfortunately, no. A review of studies for the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews on the effects of stretching before or after exercise on the development of delayed-onset muscle soreness found that pre- and post-workout stretching did not reduce the effects of DOMS in healthy adults. In fact, research has found that static stretching prior to working out does not safeguard you against injury and may actually decrease your power and strength.

While you may not be able to avoid soreness altogether, ACSM suggests advancing slowly with a new workout, giving your muscles time to adapt and recover. Vazquez recommends always including a proper warm-up (including dynamic stretching), and cooldown period as part of your routine.

Stop Waddling: How to Recover from DOMS

There are a number of ways to alleviate those can't-make-it-up-the-stairs symptoms. A sports massage is one good way to reduce the effects. "A massage will move the fluid and blood around in your body, which can help heal the microtrauma in your muscles better," says Haythe. A study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found massage to be beneficial on both gait and feelings of post-workout soreness.

Other common ways to treat DOMS include foam rolling, contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water), Epsom salt baths, increased protein intake (to increase protein synthesis) and omega-3 supplementation (to reduce inflammation), and sleep. New research in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that supplementing with saffron may also help to alleviate DOMS. Regardless of your preferred Rx, Haythe recommends looking at your diet to make sure you're taking in nutrients to help your body heal. "Find a diet that can really help you feel the best that you can feel," she says.

When It's More Than Just Soreness

There may be times when you overdo it with your workout and feel bad. Really bad. But when should you be concerned?

"If your level of soreness does not go down significantly after 72 hours and into the 96 hours mark," says Mike. ACSM advises that if the pain becomes debilitating, you experience heavy swelling in your limbs or your urine becomes dark in color, you should see your doctor.
If it's an injury, you're more likely to feel it immediately during your workout— something that should never be ignored. Soreness, on the other hand, will appear gradually, often the next day. "An injury will likely limit your range of motion and last longer than three days," says Haythe.
When all is said and done, DOMS shouldn't be avoided or revered. And it shouldn't be your only gauge of your level of fitness or strength. "People think that the only part of their workout that matters is the hard part," Vazquez says. "But, you can do more of the hard part if you don't injure yourself."

Long-term, Haythe says, "You'll build more muscle, strength and endurance if you give your muscles a chance to take a deep breath and recover."
Kick off meatless Monday with Eating Bird Food‘s recipe for a celebratory fiesta bake featuring quinoa, black beans and sweet potatoes. This flavorful take on a casserole can be made ahead of time, frozen then re-baked for those busy evenings.

Simple Fiesta Bake

Ingredients


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups (400 g) sweet potato, diced
  • 1 medium (120 g) red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion (35 g), diced
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon taco seasoning (certified gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can black soybeans or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared salsa (mild, medium or hot)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese

Optional Toppings


  • 2% Greek yogurt
  • Sliced avocado
  • Sliced green onions
  • Chopped cilantro

Directions


  • Bring the water and quinoa to boil in a saucepan. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the covered saucepan cool for 4-5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9″x 13″ dish and spread the sweet potato, bell pepper, and onion in the bottom. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the taco seasoning.
  • In a bowl combine the beans, cooked quinoa, green onion, cilantro and 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning; mix well.
  • Place the bean and quinoa mixture over the veggies in the baking dish. Spread salsa on top of the quinoa mixture. Top with cheese.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Removed cover and bake for another 20 minutes or until cheese has melted, the sweet potatoes are cooked and everything is hot throughout.
  • Serve immediately topped with greek yogurt, avocado slices, green onion and cilantro if desired.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 5 |  Serving Size: 2 cups
Per serving: Calories: 436; Total Fat: 15g; Saturated Fat: 8g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 46mg; Sodium: 541mg; Carbohydrate: 54g; Dietary Fiber: 11g; Sugar: 5g; Protein: 22g
Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 620mg; Iron: 18%; Vitamin A: 250%; Vitamin C: 46%; Calcium: 38%

To really hit your stride as a runner, you must, of course, put in the miles. But when you’re not on the road, there are a few things you can do to keep pushing yourself. Moves that challenge the lower body and core improve your balance and strength, giving you more power with each step. Whether you regularly run marathons, just signed up for your first 5K or jog recreationally, this routine will boost your speed and endurance—and give you something to do when you’re stuck inside on a winter day.

Your Trainer: Debora Warner, founder of Mile High Run Club in New York City, designed this workout exclusively for SELF.
You’ll Need: a resistance band and a chair or bench 1 to 2 feet high. For some moves, you may want a yoga mat or lightly padded surface.
Do: this 8-move circuit 3 times, twice a week, on your days off from running.

Reverse Lunge Lift

Stand with feet together, hands on hips. Step right foot back into a lunge, keeping shoulders over hips (as shown). Push off right foot to stand on left leg with right knee bent 90 degrees at hip level. Return to start for 1 rep; repeat on opposite side. Do 15 reps per side.
Works glutes, quads

Bridge With Band


Lie face-up, knees bent, feet hip-width apart, a resistance band around lower thighs. Bend elbows 90 degrees. Lift hips to form a straight line from knees to shoulders (as shown). Lower to the floor for 1 rep. Do 40 reps, then lift hips and pulse knees out 30 times.
Works lower back, glutes, outer thighs

Power Step

Stand with left foot on a chair, arms bent (as shown). Swing arms as you press through left heel to stand on chair and drive right knee to hip level. Return to start for 1 rep. Do 15 reps. Switch sides; repeat.
Works core, legs

Oomph Squat

Stand with feet hip-width apart, a resistance band around lower thighs. Clasp hands in front of chest. Keep back straight as you squat, opening legs against band (as shown). Return to start for 1 rep. Do 15 reps.
Works legs

Plank Jack

Start in a plank with arms under shoulders, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, core engaged. Keep arms locked as you hop legs out to sides, landing on toes (as shown), then back in, for 1 rep. Do 20 reps.
Works arms, core, glutes, inner and outer thighs

Victory Pose


Lie face-up with arms extended overhead. Keeping legs straight, lift torso and legs as you lower arms until body forms a V and arms are parallel to floor (as shown). Return to start for 1 rep. Do 15 reps.
Works arms, core, legs

Tripod Push-Up

Start in a plank with arms under shoulders, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, right leg off floor. Squeeze left glute and bend elbows to do a push-up (as shown). Return to start for 1 rep. Do 6 reps. Switch sides; repeat.
Works chest, arms, core, glutes

Knee Sit-Up

Lie face-up with arms extended overhead, legs straight. Keep arms straight as you sit all the way up, sweeping hands toward ankles and bending knees (as shown). Return to start for 1 rep. Do 15 reps.

Make this simple chicken Waldorf salad by Love & Zest for a lunch you can take your meal on-the-go! This recipe remixes leftover rotisserie chicken with common ingredients like plain Greek yogurt, orange juice, mayonnaise, apples and onions.

Waldorf Chicken Wrap
Ingredients
4 cups rotisserie chicken, deboned, and shredded (approx. 1/2 small chicken)
1 medium lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons 2% plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 medium Gala apple, diced
1/4 cup dried plums (prunes), diced
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 cup arugula
4 medium 100% whole wheat tortillas (approx. 120 calories each)
Directions
Using a fork, combine the shredded chicken with yogurt, mayonnaise, orange juice, and lemon juice until the ingredients are well mixed. Season with freshly grated pepper.
Fold in in apples, plums and onions.
Assemble the wrap using the chicken salad mixture, arugula and whole wheat tortilla.
Nutrition Information
Serves: 4 |  Serving Size: 1 wrap
Per serving: Calories: 333; Total Fat: 14g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 84mg; Sodium: 976mg; Carbohydrate: 30g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 8g; Protein: 25g
Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 138mg; Iron: 13%; Vitamin A: 6%; Vitamin C: 16%; Calcium: 8%

If you can get fresh peas at the market, a great way to enjoy this summertime treat is in a simple five-minute salad. Simply add fresh peas to a large pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes, chill in a bowl of ice water, then drain. To the cooked peas, add olives, feta cheese, green onions, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. Enjoy this light, healthy salad with your family. It makes a great alternative to mayonnaise-rich potato or pasta salads at summer barbecues or picnics.

bodyweight exercises video

A total-body workout doesn't have to take an hour or more if you pick the right moves.

Home Workout FollowUP

If you're looking for a straight forward strength training routine that you can do at home without any special equipment, this workout is for you. Former commando Jon Stratford walks you through how to execute each move with correct form so you avoid injury. These moves aren't easy, but Jon patiently points out how to position every piece of your body so you get the maximum benefits from each move. In this video, you'll learn how to perform:

  • squats
  • planks
  • pressups
  • lunges
  • dips
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