Recently, an om gal-pal contacted me with a clandestine mission. She revealed that she and her cousins had devised their own version of the Biggest Loser, and she was seeking a competitive edge. I was to be her Jillian Michaels—albeit without the motorcycle jackets, TV contract, or endorsement deals. A poor man’s Jillian Michaels, if you will, and I’m OK with that . . . In fact, I love the idea.
My friend, a dedicated yogi, was off to an admirable start with regular asana practice and brisk walks with her toddler son in tow. Still, she suspected that she'd need to bring in the big guns if she wanted to play hard ball with her newly motivated relatives.
She also knew that her individual goal is among the most difficult to achieve. You see, my friend is not overweight, but she is trying to whittle away the last few, stubborn, post-baby pounds with which many women struggle. This creative family affair seemed like a good opportunity to regain her svelte pre-baby self once and for all. In other words: She was ready to wage battle with the hardest pounds to lose. These pesky critters don’t respond kindly to mere brisk walks and a sensible diet. They don’t defer to a few extra crunches. They don’t magically slide off while you’re in viparitakarani. Few people lose these last lingering pounds and say, “Gee, that was a piece of cake!” No pun intended.
To be fair, my pal doesn’t eat cake. Judging from the many meals we’ve shared over the past few years, I’d say that her nutrition plan needs little tinkering. Her workouts could use a little jolt, however, which is why she summoned my input via text last week. First, I asked, “Have you tried running yet?” To which she provided the colorful response: “Running? I only run when there’s a shoe sale, and someone is grabbing the last 7.5.” And, the rest of the conversation unfolded thus . . .
Me: OK, my first instinct- and ur not gonna like this- is that you need a few activities that really jack your heart rate.
Gal Pal: Pls do not suggest I wear a leotard . . .
Me:No, but I might suggest old school Reebok “pumps.”
Gal Pal: Are you going to make me run (insert pout face) . . .
Me: Will you do jumping jacks maybe? Any big hills in your neighborhood? What about a pool?
Gal Pal:Jumping jacks? Fo real, Jane Fonda? Yes lots of hills. No pool. Would rather run. How about a jump rope?
Me:Can u jump rope? If so- that’s the jackpot.
Gal Pal:Well, I am my middle school’s reigning champ 4 yrs in a row.
Me:Oh snap! THAT’S MY GIRL! OK, ur golden. Will send a workout via email now.
Me: My computer is acting batty. Google: om gal jump rope.
Gal Pal: Perfect. I heart you.
The following day, my pal reported back that my No B.S. Most Efficient Workout Ever nearly killed her. (She has a flair for the dramatic—charmingly so). If anything, the workout killed only fat cells.
Any expert will tell you that weight loss is a mathematical equation. You must subtract (burn) more calories than you add (consume). Losing the last few pounds is toughest because your body becomes cozy with its current metabolic state and level of activity. In fact, once your body knows how many calories it requires to maintain a certain weight, it will convince you that this is the amount of calories you need by sending hunger signals when there’s a deficit.
For someone like my friend, who eats healthfully and is already active, the solution to shedding her last traces of post-baby weight depends upon the quality and nature of her activity. Let’s face it: There’s no sense in recommending that she slash calories if there aren’t many excessive calories left to slash. I believe this firmly and try to steer readers, friends, and students far away from starvation diets masquerading as a nutrition plan or “detox” program. Instead, I recommend altering your workout routine, adding some high intensity intervals, trying a more vigorous style of yoga, or exploring a different physical discipline that forces you to work harder than your standard ho-hum workout done on autopilot. Any trainer worth his/her salt will tell you the same thing: Don't workout longer; workout smarter.
The day after our text message repartee, my friend only worked out for 30 minutes, but the nature of the jump rope routine that I gave her was so intense that she blasted as many calories as her usual, brisk, 90+ minute walk. So, if your workout needs a little lift or your scale is hoping for a dip, try elevating your heart rate. Jumping rope is killer, but jumping jacks are great too. If you’re a hard core yogi, try integrating several rounds of kicking up into handstands against a wall into your daily asana practice. If your joints need gentler options, get thee in a pool and start swimming or water-jogging. These activities are bound to get your ticker pumping, and while you probably won’t win the Biggest Loser crown (and I’ll never own a Harley like Jillian), you can still count on seeing some winning results.
Rebecca Pacheco photographed in Boston by Jonathan Pozniak for Lululemon
Welcome, Om Guys & Gals!
Rebecca Pacheco is a writer and yogi who began practicing yoga at the age of 16 and teaching at the age of 20. For the past decade, she has worked with students of all levels, including beginners and experienced yogis. She has appeared in national ad campaigns for Reebok, Ryka, and New Balance and taught at an internationally-renowned yoga studio. The World According to Om Gal is her creation and your new favorite hOMepage.