Exercise Less- Lose More- 7 Simple Tips

I have had so many clients who come to me and say that they workout for an hour a day on the treadmill or elliptical and never lose weight. I have heard from so many clients who gained weight during marathon training. Surprise, surprise most people do not realize exercise can be a major stressor on the body. The autonomic nervous system does not know the difference between a traffic ticket, a poor night of sleep, or a hard stair climber workout. When over stressed the body will divert its efforts away from digestion, fat burning, muscle growth, sexual function, reproduction, and immunity to colds and flu’s. The sympathetic nervous system, activated by stress, will take over putting all energy towards survival and escaping the perceived tiger.
The standard American diet plus a lack of sleep, a non stop to-do list with excessive cardio will make the perfect storm for hormone havoc and weight loss resistance. If you want to lose weight start by slowing down and losing self-punishment mentality. When the body is under stress it senses scarcity/famine so the last thing it will do is release its precious protective fat. You have to show your body that it is safe so it does not need to shroud it self in layers of paunch . For the body to receive and understand these messages it is important to eat a proper diet and exercise in a smart and manageable way.

exercise less to lose more

1. Exercise Less:
 Experts recommend doing 20 minutes of intense exercise 2-3 days a week.
That means doing some sprints outside or on the treadmill by running as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then walking for one to two minutes, and repeat. For a more detailed description see this video. This fires up your metabolism by releasing human growth hormone which burns fat and prevents aging. Would you rather look like a sprinter or a marathon runner?

Do what a sprinter does to look like one- quick bursts of high intensity!

2. Do body weight exercises:
You don’t have a gym membership or fancy equipment? Look into a mirror, you have a gym right in front of you. Try some push-ups, jumping jacks, pull ups, planks, squats, lunges. The possibilities are endless. You can jump rope, climb stairs or do burpees. We all get into a “paralysis of analysis” where we think we have to have perfect gym clothes or certain special machines so we just continue to sit on the couch. You do not need special stuff, just do some exercises using your own perfectly designed free machine. 

3. Slow Down and Breathe: 
Incorporate a yoga, stretching or meditation day at least 10 minutes per day. It is good to do some slow stretching/ mediation/deep breathing everyday. This activates your sympathetic nervous system encouraging hormone balance and weight loss. Deep breathing provides energy for your cells and will increase your mental clarity.

Hike out in nature to reconnect and revitalize!

4. Walk:

 Spend some time just walking slow outside getting some sun for optimal Vitamin D. When I lost 80 lbs back in 2001 I just walked around my parents neighborhood for 30 minutes a day. It is not rocket science folks, consistency is the key. It was not until many years later that I became a trainer and learned a million different ways to work out. Do not over think it, just get out and do something to get your blood pumping which will stimulate your detoxification systems aiding in weight loss. Paul Chek recommends a walking mediation where you just get out by yourself away from all the phones and people, and noise. He advises us to get out into nature and reconnect with the ground, even walking barefoot will improve life force. Try to inhale for 4 steps, hold it for one step then exhale for 4 steps. This will become more natural as you practice.

5. Focus on Large Muscle Groups:
 When you are at the gym don’t spend 30 minutes doing bicep curls. Use your time wisely by focusing on your major muscles groups that recruit as much mitochondria(the energy factory of the cells) as possible. Spend your time doing squats, dead lifts, dips, and pull ups, push ups and shoulder presses, and rows because these exercise recruit small and large muscle groups at the same time. These exercises mimic movements that we actually do in real life such as hauling groceries, climbing stairs, putting away boxes in the attic, pulling weeds, picking up kids, chopping wood, or climbing a ladder. Avoid exercises like the seated adductor machine, it is not a good use of your muscles or time. 

6 Crunches are so 90′s:
There has been groundbreaking research that crunches are terrible for your spinal health. Planks are much more beneficial for fast and effective core conditioning. Planks also recruit all the muscles that support the spine for avoiding injury according to a video here by expert Dr. Stuart Mcgill.

7. Do Something New: 
Your body adapts very quickly to stimulus. If you are doing the same routine every time your results will be limited. If you run the same pace or course several times a week it is unlikely to produce the change you are hoping for. Try adding heavier weights or increasing functionality such as standing on one leg or a bosu ball. Take a new type of class that will use new skills. It is important to incorporate different planes of motion such as twisting or moving side to side. This will build coordination and balance which is important for staying young and sharp.

Create a Program for Success: I would spend two day doing weight training,  and two days doing short sprints. Then on your other days focus on slow walking, yoga, and stretching. Work on trying to get some meditation and deep breathing in everyday. If you need help creating a program give me a call.

Savor each morsel!
Caitlin Weeks, BA, NASM Certified Trainer, Bauman Certified Nutrition Educator, C.H.E.K. Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Nutritionist in San Francisco serving the Bay Area and beyond via phone and Skype consultations.


  1. susan says

    i'm wondering how you would adjust your suggestions for injury recovery. i'm in the process of getting my knees back in shape after being stressed and becoming arthritic. my Kaiser PT has me doing the recumbent bike for 20 minutes 5 days a week (at a low setting), and some easy knee exercises. he says the elliptical and treadmill are hard on the knees. it's been about 6 weeks now doing this routine with little else, except for some upper body exercises.
    i'll add that i'm 55 and about 40 lbs overweight so my progress has been quite slow.
    just wondering how to know when to step things up a notch.

  2. Rachel @ day2day joys says

    Cool website you have! Love your tips, espcially #1, we call it burst training!

  3. Caitlin Weeks says

    Hi Susan
    Try to stick to a Paleo Diet because that is 80% of losing weight. Exercise is not the biggest factor. You can get a great guide here http://www.practicalpaleoguide.com/index_cb.php?hop=ctwfitness or buy Paleo Solution or Primal Blueprint. By following this diet you will reduce your inflammation so your knees stop hurting, then you can exercise. Stop Eating grains ASAP and your knees will feel better fast. Also consider a good fish oil supplement. Also check your vitamin D to make sure it is in a good range. If you have more questions email me offline.