By Jorge Cruise, Prevention
Here is the perfect weight loss plan if you're short on time. My "8 Minutes in the Morning" program minimizes your time spent exercising while maximizing your energy and results. Losing weight does not take a lot of time and isn't hard when you use effective and proven techniques.
This plan is the result of my coaching more than 3 million people online. I created it, based on their feedback and success stories, specifically for people who are time deprived but want rapid results. If you don't want to spend hours in the gym but want to look as if you do, this program is for you.
Rise and Exercise
When I suggest to people that they get up 8 minutes earlier in the morning to exercise, I sometimes get, "Oh, I'm not a morning person. As soon as the alarm goes off, I'll hit the snooze button." If you keep thinking that way, yes, that's what you'll do.
I truly believe that there's no such thing as not being a morning person; that's all in your head. I used to stay up late at night because I thought of myself as a night owl. I would read, watch television, listen to music, and talk to friends on the phone. So when I first started exercising in the morning, I had a really tough time doing it consistently. It's hard to get out of bed in the morning when you just crawled into bed a few hours before.
Here are two great reasons to change your sleeping habits:
A commitment to consistency.
Morning is the only time of day that most people have free. Later in the day, distractions will come up. You may plan to do your exercises during a lunch break, but a friend asks you to lunch, and you think, "Okay, I'll do them after work." But, after work, your 10-year-old asks for help with his homework. Then your husband wants to snuggle on the couch. According to research, morning exercisers have a better stick-with-it rate. When you commit to exercising in the morning, you bypass excuses.
That feel-good feeling.
Exercising sends a signal to your pituitary gland to release endorphins, your body's natural feel-good drug. The more endorphins you have in your bloodstream, the better you feel. When you exercise in the morning, you will feel and handle yourself better no matter what happens in your day, whether it's getting stuck in a traffic jam, dealing with an annoying coworker, or tending to a sick child.
Build Muscle to Lose Fat and Feel Younger
An important factor that determines how much fat you burn throughout the day is the amount of lean muscle tissue in your body. The more lean muscle tissue you have, the more efficiently your body burns fat.
Normally when you lose weight, you lose 75% of it as fat and 25% of it as muscle. But when you do strength training, you lose nearly all fat and no muscle. Lean tissue derives 75 to 95% of its energy from body fat, so for every new pound of muscle you build, you incinerate about 30 additional calories per day. The more lean tissue you have, the more body fat you will shed—even at night, while you sleep.
For example, if two women weigh the same amount but one has 5 lb more muscle, she will burn an extra 150 calories a day.
You'll feel younger too, because strength training turns back the aging clock. Strength training also encourages you to exercise more throughout the day. Once your muscles become stronger—usually by week 2 or 3—you will find yourself suddenly doing things you never thought possible. You'll take a walk instead of sitting in front of the TV, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and take quick walking breaks instead of sitting at your desk all day. All of this will accelerate your results.
What about Aerobics?
Although aerobic exercise is essential for strengthening your heart and lungs, alone, it is not the most effective way to get lean. And aerobic exercise may be uncomfortable if you are very overweight.
If you focus only on aerobics, your overall body shape will stay the same, even if you burn fat. For example, if you are pear shaped, you will just look like a smaller pear if you do only aerobic exercise. And your body will still be flabby.
But the exercises in the "8 Minutes in the Morning Workout" will help you improve your body shape and burn fat. You will tone your shoulders so that your waist looks narrower. Your arms will be smaller as well as firmer. Your abdominal muscles will not only be leaner but also stronger, and they'll provide better support for your torso.
That's not to say you shouldn't do any aerobics. Prevention recommends that you do about 30 minutes of aerobics a day to keep your heart and lungs strong. Plus, it helps to reduce your stress level.
Start your workout with a short warmup to increase the temperature of your body and your joints. When you warm up, the joints move more smoothly, and you avoid injury. Save your stretching until after the workout. Stretching while you are still cold can lead to muscle pulls and injuries.
Do one set of 12 repetitions from exercise A, then immediately do one set of 12 reps from exercise B. Switch back to exercise A, and continue the cycle for a total of four sets. If you can do an exercise more than 12 times, the weight is too light. If you can't reach 12 repetitions, the weight is too heavy.
The best way to cool down from your workout is with a quick full-body stretching routine. This will increase your range of motion so that you stay flexible and avoid injuries.
Lie on a mat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You may place one or more pillows under your back and head for support. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bring your elbows in line with your shoulders, making a right angle between your upper arm and your side. Exhale as you slowly extend your arms and press the dumbbells toward the ceiling. Keep your elbows loose. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you return to the starting point.
Sit in a chair, and grasp a dumbbell in each hand. You may put a pillow on your lap for support. Lean forward, and extend your arms straight down, being sure to keep your elbows loose. Exhale as you slowly bring your elbows toward the ceiling. Once the dumbbells reach the top of your thighs, hold for 1 second. Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbells.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your back straight, and your abs tight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with your arms straight and your elbows loose. Exhale as you slowly lift the dumbbells out to the side until they are slightly above shoulder level and your palms are facing the floor. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you lower your arms.
Lie on a mat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Make a fist with your right hand, and place it between your chin and collarbone. With your left hand, grasp your right wrist. This will prevent you from leading with your head and straining your neck. Without moving your lower body, exhale, and slowly curl your upper torso until your shoulder blades are off the floor. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you slowly lower yourself.
Triceps (back of arms)
Lie on a mat on your back with a dumbbell in each hand by your ears and the dumbbells pointing toward the ceiling. Straighten your arms, but keep your elbows loose. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you return to the starting point.
Biceps (front of arms)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with your arms extended. Exhale as you simultaneously curl both arms to just past 90 degrees, bringing your palms toward your biceps. Keep your elbows close to your sides, and concentrate on moving only from your elbow joints, not from your shoulders. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you lower.
Hamstrings (back of thighs)
Lie with your back on the floor and your heels on the seat of a chair. Exhale as you slowly contract the back of your upper thighs to push your butt toward the ceiling. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you slowly lower your butt.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight and your abs tight, exhale as you slowly squat down to about 90 degrees. Don't let your knees extend past your toes. Make sure to push your butt out as if you were sitting in a chair. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you slowly return to the starting position.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with your arms extended but not locked. Keep your chest out, your shoulder blades rolled back and down, and your abs tight. Exhale as you slowly lift your heels and rise onto your toes. Hold for 1 second. Inhale as you slowly lower.
Kneel on all fours with your knees hip-width apart, your hands slightly wider apart than your shoulders, and your fingers pointing forward. Raise your right leg until your thigh is in line with your torso. Exhale as you slowly push your foot toward the ceiling. Once you've reached your maximum contraction, hold for 1 second. Inhale as you slowly lower your leg until it is once again in line with your torso. Do one set with your right leg, then switch sides.