Smutty Fitness: Balance in a fitness routine
I've been pretty active and working on my health for probably the last six years — since my first year of university.
I've gotten to a weight I'm happy with, and I'm not so much worried about weight loss than my shape and tone, but sometimes I feel like if I do too much cardio with running or spinning, my muscle percentage suffers. On the other hand, if I concentrate on gaining muscle — I love kettle bells — than my fat and calorie burning is too low. I really love yoga, but I worry that I'm not burning enough calories in classes to keep to my goals. Ahhh!
I guess my question is, what is the correct ratio for the average woman looking to burn fat and keep muscle — plus include a weekly yoga class?
I understand your frustration. When I am focused on training for a marathon my butt literally melts off of my backside. When I am in my mountain bike season my glutes, thighs and shoulders become so strong that I can barely squeeze into my pants or my jackets. If I am focusing on weight training I become thick all over. There is no right way or correct ratio to do things, however I am going to offer you this advice.
If you are really into running, I would suggest you add a day in your week where you are challenging the strength in your legs, either by running a hilly route, going on a steep mountain hike or getting into a spin class where you focus on heavy resistance. Combine this with one or two full body strength training workouts and you should be able to maintain your muscle mass. The beauty of having high running mileage weeks is that nutrition, although important, is not a huge concern as your body is burning through not only the calories you are consuming but the ones you have stored on your body. In order to prevent losing too much weight you may need to add a few hundred calories on the days where you are expending more than 400 calories in a workout.
If you are feeling like kettle bells is what you want to be focusing on, perhaps in your running off season, then nutrition becomes key and it is important to stay away from refined sugar, simple carbohydrates and alcohol. The last thing you want to be doing is adding muscle while at the same time adding fat due to unused calories that are being stored on your body. You do burn calories while weight training, especially while doing full body movements such as kettle bells, however the burn is less than it is when getting out for long runs. Do three or four days a week of strength training, but add in a spin class or two or a weekend run or hike with a girlfriend to still get the cardio your body needs and craves.
As for yoga, you cannot go wrong with adding a yoga class to your weekly fitness routine, regardless of what you are focusing on. If your workouts are mainly running and cycling, make sure you are getting in a class that focuses on opening up your hips and stretching your hamstrings. You could always replace one strength workout for a full body yoga flow or power class. If you are focusing more on strength then add in classes that address flexibility, such as yin and hatha, to keep those muscles you are building long and lean.
Fitness should be about doing things that you enjoy, and always trying to find something new to add in when your routine starts to feel stagnant. Unless you are training for something specific, specificity is not important. What is important is that you wake up feeling good about yourself and looking forward to your next workout, whatever that may be.