Guest Post: Jo Giroux on Weight Loss Exercise

Jo Giroux is a personal trainer, weight loss consultant and nutritionalist. She also runs the fabulous Park Fit class that I attend every Monday in the Derbyshire Dales. Jo is a wonderful trainer, incredibly motivating in the face of mass cynicism and has really helped bust my body back into a recognisable shape. Jo has kindly posted about the best ways to shed fat while exercising.

Get Fit

I’m often asked what’s best for fat loss or weight loss, and it’s a been the hot subject for years. As somebody that runs, I’m a big running supporter. But for fat loss? No. It’s resistance and HIIT training that’s key.

I hear the same thing time and time again – “I want to lose weight but I hate running”, ” want to shift a stone so I’ve started going running”. If this sounds like you and your goals then read on.

It’s very easy to assume that running will single handedly shift the pounds because you see how many calories you’ve just lost on your little running app or watch and think that’s it. The thing with running though is once you stop, so does the calorie burning. There is very little Exercise Post Oxygen Composition (EPOC) with running (or any other steady state cardio) – so you only burn calories whilst you run. There is no doubt that you’ll burn calories, which is fab, but it will take longer.

You see that woman (lets use a woman for this scenario) who runs and runs and runs, has slim hips, lean muscles etc etc. Trust me, she’s been running for years, probably since school. And she’s like that because of her GENETICS. Not because she runs for hours on end. Don’t compare yourself to that woman – you won’t get her figure because we’re all different. It’s about being the best YOU can be.

So in Park-Fit we do a lot of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and there’s a reason for that. When it comes to efficient calorie burning HIIT is leaps and bounds ahead of standard cardio. Why? EPOC! That thing I mentioned before. When you do HIIT your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours and hours afterwards. What does that mean? It means that whilst your sitting with your coffee post Park-Fit you’re still burning calories. HIIT forces your heart to adjust to the changing conditions: sprints, hill runs, fast feet etc. Your heart learns to operate outside its norm, and your body learns to adapt to these changes. All of this changing and sprinting kicks your metabolism into high gear for hours after you’ve finished exercising.

Studies have shown that participants who did integral training as opposed to steady continuous exercise lost THREE TIMES the body fat. I’d take that option every time. The bad thing about HIIT is that it’s exhausting. Your body wants to give up after 20 minutes and it takes time to recover.

So where does resistance/weight training come into it? Simply put, the bigger the muscle, the more calories it needs to work and keep being efficient. Big doesn’t mean you’ll turn into Arnie – as women we don’t have the physical capacity to get like that. But we can become lean.

Which exercises in particular are best suited for weight loss? Exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles – squats, lunges, burpees, kettlebell swings, push-ups etc. Hence the reason I like to do these most sessions. Get them in your workout, mix it in with some HIIT and you’ll build muscle and burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after you’ve finished.

This is all good and well, but if you don’t eat properly all the above means nothing. Eat right, eat real foods. Don’t miss meals – you may see weight loss but not necessarily FAT LOSS. If you skip or miss meals your body will hold onto its fat stores, resulting in a weaker metabolism. If you want advice about your food – just ask. I’m happy to help whether you come to a Park-Fit class or not.

So, my ultimate advice? Establish your goals, but be realistic about it. Do a variation of exercise if you can, and pick something you enjoy. If you want faster results in less time – do HIIT and resistance. Run if you like. I run because I love the feeling of running, but it’s not for weight loss reasons. That’s why I do burpees 😉

For more details about Jo Giroux, please visit her website:


Frugal fitness

Living in North London is not always conducive to frugal living. Take Muswell Hill, for example. The place is a monument to the middle classes; coffee shops punctuate a long row of estate agents, clothes boutiques, baby boutiques and cosmetic boutiques. On Friday I realised my one and only sports bra was sat in the washing machine and a great barrier to my work out schedule for the weekend. With little spare time and no inclination to be trying on bras while keeping a toddler in check, I bobbed into Sweaty Betty to get some highly engineered scaffolding. There, in a shop that sells itself above my means, was the answer to my current conundrum of whether or not to join the gym.

I don’t especially agree with paying for exercise, it should be the most frugal of activities where you put on some running shoes (and a decent sports bra) and put one foot in front of another at increasing speed. However, a whole industry has been made out of making exercise very un-frugal and I too have been victim to the ‘year-long gym membership’ in the past. Joining a gym, using it for about 3 months and then never stepping foot inside again, counting down the weeks until I could hand in notice like a little chubby truant.

Instead, I went running sporadically in the clement weather and in a fit of January resolution making, bought a Davina DVD for a fiver. I actually use the DVD twice a week or so and see it as a personal challenge to get through the thing without cheating by way of sitting and watching it with a cuppa when I start to break the slightest sweat.  So I know that if I joined a gym with all the best of intentions, I would talk myself out of actually going because there would invariably be a bottle of wine urgently needing my attention at home.

Yet, upon my visit to Sweaty Betty, I found that with my purchase came membership to the Sweaty Betty club and therein lies free exercise classes. Yep, totally free exercise classes once a week in store. I am trying out yoga tomorrow and hopefully ballet fit later in the week. Sure, I will probably stand out like a sore thumb with my ‘kit’ being some incredibly battered up muddy trainers, holey leggings that have seen better days and a vest which cost less than the bus fare to get there.  As I watched my husband do some post-run stretches on my yoga mat tonight, I wondered whether I should give it a scrub first before taking the stinking, cat scratched and stained excuse for a mat down tomorrow  morning.  But I think I hear a glass of wine calling me.

Short Term Goal

I have now officially lost 10kg since the arrival of the boy; which is 1 stone 8lbs in proper English.  I actually weigh a lot less than before I was pregnant, although as I have stated before, my body shape is a heck of a lot different. It’s probably age as well but there are still some clothes that I cannot comfortably fit into again.

It is heartening to see how far I have come, not only in terms of weight loss but also in adjusting to my new life. I actually quite like it now. So I no longer have an interesting job title and more free records than I could possibly listen to, (seriously, I am still trying to get through the last of the CDs I received before my maternity leave ended and the best mate has more promos for me of some the more recent releases). But big whup – this week I taught my son to pull a range of funny looking faces and monster noises. Nothing has greater job satisfaction than that.

I almost dropped him and the pram down the stairs this afternoon because he made me burst out into laughter making straining, grunting noises as I pulled the pram up to the front door. I am pretty sure I don’t make straining grunts as I hike the pram up the stairs but I could be wrong, it often feels like I am giving myself a hernia.

Slight digression aside, I now have a short term exercise goal: to run down to Finsbury Park and back without stopping for a walk. It’s around 6km there and back. I can currently manage 4km, or as I am measuring it, to the end of Rancid’s cover of The Kids Are United on my play list. On Friday, I hope to make it to the end of Dolly Parton meaning that next week an addition of Bowie should take me the full 6km. The novelty of listening to music on my ipod is probably what is carrying me so far in the first place. I am not a good runner, get a mouth full of midgies each evening and feel like my asthmatic lungs will explode at any minute or my flat feet won’t carry me back home.

Once I have acheived this goal, I will sign up for a 10k race. If I can run up these hills around here, I think I can manage a nice, flat park somewhere. Plus those races always have lovely little goodie bags at the end. I still don’t know how I managed a 10k a few years ago, I barely even trained running a few laps of ‘Scary in the Dark Park’ over in Tottenham.

On a side note, today’s cheer has been brought about by the boy dancing to music. His new favourite song is Jilted John by Jilted John. My mini punk rocker…