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How to burn the most calories during exercise, the non-diet way.

A friend wanted to lose some weight. Her plan to achieve this goal, was to start jogging. For maximum effect, she intended to do this in the morning, on an empty stomach. I said that I didn’t think it was a good idea…

We got into a debate about the mix of fuels that are burned during exercise and what the experts are saying about getting into the “fat burning zone” …and got nowhere.

In retrospect, I know why we were talking in circles- I didn’t make it clear exactly what it is that I thought wouldn’t work. What I thought would not work, is for her to fall in love with exercise this way.

When choosing the best form of exercise for an individual, the question we need to ask is: is this way of moving sustainable in the long term? Weeks and months and years from now, am I likely to have moved more consistently viewing exercise as something that must be done to “maximise the burn” and change my body? Or is there a better way?

The key to sustainability

Over an extended period of time, the days, weeks, months and years that make up our lives, continuing exercising requires more enthusiasm than discipline.

The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek enthousiasmos, and literally means “filled with God”. To be enthused is like being connected to an energy supply, getting charged up. Enthusiasm makes something feel like play, not work. It is enjoyment, not duty that enables us to make a lifelong commitment to exercise, and lifelong commitments are what we’re after.

Enthusiastic movement

I’ve spent a lot of holiday time in the coastal town of Jeffreys bay. It is famous because of its fantastic waves. Surfers from around the world make their way there every winter when the big swells roll in.

I have sat and watched them for hours. Surfing is a great example of enthusiastic movement. The waves are BIG, the paddle out is far and long and hard work. I can imagine the surfers getting totally out of breath and tired as they fight their way out to the back, and maybe saying to themselves- that’s it, after this next wave, I am going to quit. But then the perfect wave comes. They get such a rush from surfing it, that they automatically want to repeat it, and start the paddle back without a second thought.

The famous wave in Jeffreys bay is called Supertubes, but for my kids, there is also a supertube. The kiddies version i.e. a waterslide.

They have to run up 7 or 8 flights of stairs to get to the top, then slide down for a few seconds. For a solid hour (insider tip: the most economical way for four of them to slide is to get the early-bird-special-one-hour -unlimited-rides when everybody else is still sleeping and there is no queue at all), they run up the stairs, slide down, run up the stairs, slide down, run up the stairs, slide down. It is enthusiasm that fuels their movement. They cannot NOT run.

Another favourite pastime with the kids is exploring the sand dunes. The acrobatics that get performed there- enthusiastic fun.

My own best personal trainer is my love for nature. I love fynbos and birds and to be able to see far into the distance. I will walk for hours and hours on all terrains to get to see what is in flower or to get to the highest point to see the view

What enthuses you?

Do you enjoy hitting a ball? The camaraderie of team sports? The wind in your hair as you ride a bike? Catching a Frisbee? Cold water? Dancing? Gardening?

If you have never been an exerciser, if you hate formal exercise, like I do, maybe you should shift your focus. Spend time doing the things that excite you. Play, chase, be in awe, jump, marvel, fool around, dance- have fun!

Sustainable activity rewards you twice: immediately, in the pleasure of doing the activity, and over time through improved health, well-being and quality of life.

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