A few years ago before I got back into regular weight trainingI think almost every woman that I talk to or work with at some stage will say, “I want to tone up”.
I thought it would be a good idea to try and understand what this actually means and what you actually might have to do to ‘get toned’ plus also share a little of my own journey.
Firstly, I have to say that I am not a fan of the phrase ‘tone up’. For me it’s a bit like the word ‘diet’, in so far as it can send the wrong messages or send people in the wrong direction from what they are actually trying to achieve.
I think what most people are saying when they talk about getting toned is that they actually want to create a firmer, more shapely body and ultimately look and feel better about themselves. A simple explanation of how to achieve this is by increasing your muscle mass and reducing your body fat to give you some great definition – sounds easy right?
My experience is that the vast number of people will go about this the wrong way and probably set unrealistic expectations about how long this process will take (late night infomercials have soooo much to answer for!).
If you are in great shape right now it might only take several weeks of eating and training right to achieve your goal, but for most people who want to ‘Tone Up’ (aiming to lose between 5-10Kg – which I think is the average for what most people want to achieve), it’s going to take a few months of dedicated hard work in the kitchen and the gym.
Let’s deal with the issue of body fat. Looking ‘toned’ requires you to reduce your body fat to a point where your muscles are visible. I am not talking about when you are in the gym lifting weights and your muscles ‘pop’, I’m taking about having definition when you are wearing your normal day to day clothes. Reducing your body fat in this way really comes down to your nutrition and often the scales will not tell you the whole story.
If you look at my photo at the top of the page you will see a picture of me taken five years ago after I had taken some time off training to focus on my kids. I was in a healthy weight range at 52 kg (I am only 5ft tall) but I hadn’t trained seriously with weights for a couple of years and my nutrition wasn’t where it needed to be.
The photo directly above (with the sledge hammer!) was taken with my weight at 49kg, only 3kg lighter but after training and eating properly for just over 6 months I was exactly where I wanted to be. That feeling of sluggishness had gone away, I am full of energy and have nowhere near the digestion issues I experienced in the past.
My message here is that even though the scales had only moved by 3kg, the changes in my body were significant and all achieved through training hard and eating well (focusing on building muscle and reducing my body fat) consistently over long period of time.
This is not about trying to get really ‘skinny’, this is about eating well and training hard to get your body into great shape …..but most importantly its about feeling great within your self and being healthy!
The second area you will want to look at to achieve the ‘toned look’ is muscle development. Lots of women fear building muscle as they believe they will end up looking manly but the reality is that women don’t produce enough testosterone for this to occur and you will notice that incredible things will start to happen to your body.
I see so many women who over do the cardio aspect of their training (which is important in your mix) but hours spent running on a treadmill will burn calories and body fat but it won’t get you the shape you want. What you actually need to do to get the bum or the shape you want is to incorporate weight training and start lifting regularly and heavy.
I also highly recommend engaging a personal trainer if you are just getting started. Even half an hour every week or fortnight will ensure you stay accountable, focused and are training properly. Ask around your friends to find a good one and if you are worried about the cost, have a look at some of things you spend money on each week and ask yourself where you prioritise your health and well being.
The third area and probably the most important is what you eat and drink – by far the largest single impact on your body shape will be by changing what you put in your mouth each day. The problem with this is there are just so many opinions and conflicting information out there about food and nutrition. I like to keep it really simple and suggest you start eating small portioned sized meals regularly throughout the day and focus on whole natural foods that actually offer nutritional value rather than processed foods that come in a packet.
So getting toned is really about achieving the body shape you want that will make you feel fantastic inside and out. Focus on fueling your body with the right foods which will make you feel better and reduce your body fat, then make sure you are weight training regularly each week as part of your training program.
I maintain the shape I want these days with a combination of eating well consistently and training hard, it only takes just a couple of weeks to start seeing results – once you see them that is all the motivation you will need to keep going and embrace these new healthy habits for good!