During the first six months of my weight loss journey, I lost over 100 pounds by doing nothing but using the elliptical machine. While I wouldn’t have lost weight as quickly, I could’ve stayed home from the gym and still lost a considerable amount of weight.
When giving advice on how to lose weight, I focus a lot more on counting calories instead of burning calories. The reason for that is because losing weight has a lot more to do with what we put in our mouths instead of what we do in the gym. We already burn calories in our daily lives while we’re working, sleeping, eating, watching television, etc. Everything we do burns calories. Obviously, the gym will help you burn even more calories (creating a larger calorie deficit), but it’s not required.
That’s not to say I don’t highly recommend going to the gym (for both weight loss and a myriad of general health reasons), but it’s not required to lose weight. All that’s needed to lose weight at the end of the day is a calorie deficit.
Basic Requirements at the Gym
I could care less what super fad gimmick exercise routine you do. I just want you to be in the gym four or five days a week for at least 30 minutes a day, ideally 60.
Move your legs a little, try to build up a sweat, those kind of things.
Personally, I do a little bit of cardio every weekday for about 20-30 minutes except for Wednesday. On Wednesday, I’ll do about an hour of cardio. My cardio consists of a combination of the StairMaster, elliptical machine, and CrossTrainer. Honestly, I don’t care what machine or activities you use to do your cardio. It’s up to you!
The only thing required of you when you’re doing cardio is effort.
You can certainly just walk on the treadmill if you like to burn calories and that may be the only thing you’re able to do for a very long time depending on your age and starting weight, but don’t get comfortable. Keep pushing yourself to your limits. There’s no set program or routine I’d recommend, but instead just keep adding resistance.
Ask yourself when you’re doing cardio: is this tough? If you answered no, then crank it up a notch. If you answered yes, keep going at that speed/resistance then change it up when the answer turns into a no. I preach simplicity when it comes to counting calories, so why did you think I’d talk about burning calories any differently?
As far as weight lifting, yes, I recommend it even if you’re trying to lose weight. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t touch a weight until I had lost just about 100 pounds and it’s something I wish I would have done. I’m not the kind of person to have regret, but it is something I recommend for other people to do when they’re first starting out.
Do you have to lift weights to lose weight? Nope, just like you don’t need cardio, but lifting weights does help you lose weight and look great when you finally get to your goal weight in addition to cardio. Both work very well as a package deal.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to do anything in the gym to lose weight. I will never preach complexity. While there are certainly many in-depth discussions that can be had about doing cardio and lifting weights, that’s not my cup of tea. My business is keeping things simple and sustainable for people trying to lose weight in a world where the typical span of a weight loss attempt is 4 days. Complexity (at first) breeds failure.
Don’t make working out in the gym complicated. By just showing up two weeks after you joined means you’re already doing better than tens of millions of Americans.
Keep counting calories, burn calories however you can, and you’ll lose weight.
Posted by Shawn Tyler Weeks on January 27th, 2012