Abdominal exercises along with changes to your diet are an effective way of toning your stomach Image Credit: Getty

If you look in the mirror and aren’t satisfied with your current weight, it might be time to take action. Here in the UAE, where a large number of people suffer from obesity, falling into a trap of fast food and a lack of exercise is all too easy. We exist in a culture where restaurants can deliver food to your doorstep with just a few clicks of an app on your smartphone. Invariably the nature of your diet has an unquestionable influence over your weight but with the right sort of exercise you can speed up the process of dropping a few kilos and get in shape at the same time.
Ester Ionescu, Group Exercise and Personal Trainer Level 3 at Fitness First, says that if you’re aiming to target body fat, then weight training can be more effective than cardiovascular exercise. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t include cardio exercises in your exercise routine, as it will improve your overall stamina and general health. “The biggest mistake people make when they want to lose body fat is that they do a lot of cardio, attending two or three classes back to back, everyday, which is wrong,” says Ionescu.
She explains that each of her clients is given an initial assessment before she sets out a tailored programme that reflects their current level of fitness, aims and ability. “When someone comes for personal training, we create a personalised programme so that the person will achieve his or her goal. For someone looking to lose fat, the basic programme would be free weights and of course cardio but not too much. Each session is different.”
At Fitness First, there is a thorough process involving a questionnaire and assessment prior to establishing a tailored plan. “The programme is adapted in line with each person’s goals and after establishing information about the client’s history, health and lifestyle, I am able to understand the person that I’m going to be working with and what they need,” explains Ionescu.

HIIT fat where it hurts
One of the most popular and effective ways of fighting the flab is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It involves short and hard bursts of exertion followed by brief breaks where the body has an opportunity to recover. HIIT is also a solid barometer of your own fitness levels, where as you progress with your endurance, you will find yourself able to tolerate longer periods of intensive training with shorter recovery breaks between exercises. If you’re looking to lose body fat, Ionescu agrees that HIIT is an extremely efficient approach.
“It’s very effective. The idea behind this type of training that you train at low- to moderate-intensity intervals that are alternated with high-intensity intervals. HIIT is considered more effective than normal cardio because the intensity of the workout is higher and you have the ability to increase both aerobic and anaerobic endurance while you burn fat.”

Getting results
Each person who visits a gym with the intention of toning their body and dropping fat is different and should therefore manage their expectations accordingly. In fact, some people may start seeing results after just a few weeks whereas it could take someone else several months before their body starts to change. “There is no exact time that I can someone that they will start to lose body fat but once the person starts to training the results should start to show,” explains Ionescu. “It’s different from one person to another.”

Abdominal training
When we start piling on the pounds we often do so around our waist. Subsequently a frequently request trainers hear at gyms is that they want to tone this area. The quickest and easiest way to achieve results is abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups. The one key to exercises and reducing your chances of contracting an injury is sufficient recovery time. “It’s very important,” says Ionescu. “A good workout comes from a proper recovery. If you’re weight training, then you need to include recovery time between sets.
“If you’re doing cardio training such as group exercises, you need 24 hours minimum to let your body recover.” Ionescu also underlines the importance of stretching to improve your flexibility and reduce the chance of injury. “Stretching should be included in your routine two or three times per week — it’s really important.”
One of the main misconceptions that people bring to the gym is the notion that fat is unhealthy. While we all know the health implications of obesity, fat is still an important element in a healthy body. “We have the good fat, which is vital for our health, and we have the bad fat, which occurs as a result of unhealthy food and not exercising,” explains Ionescu.
Perhaps the most important element of fighting the flab is psychological. If you’re going to succeed, you will need to be strict with yourself and change your habits. Ionescu advocates this point.
“Make your dreams come true,” she says. “Make it happen. Nothing comes easily so fight for it and make it a reality.”