How to Burn More Fat and Build More Muscle While Playing Sports
Why Sports Burn Less Calories and Build Less Muscle Than You’d Think
Back in the episode, “How Many Calories Does Yoga Burn?” I introduced the fact that even the most difficult of yoga classes, such as Bikram yoga, actually burns far less calories than you’d think: about the same number of calories as walking.
Sure, there’s growing popularity of hybrid forms of yoga such as “Man Flow Yoga,” “Kettlebell Yoga,” and other forms of yoga, during which you do everything from burpees to pushups to squats. But ultimately, the idea is that you can be “exercising,” but really not exercising as hard as you’d think. Even gym classes can be like this.
Case in point: I once went to the gym to take a “metabolism-boosting class.” The class was scheduled to begin at 6:30. I left my house at 6:00 to drive to the gym and get there by 6:15, so I could get into the class. I then waited around for 15 minutes for class to start, and then a few extra minutes waiting for latecomers. I then spent another 10 minutes in the class warm-up, although I’d already warmed up while waiting. Each section of the class included demos and instructions from the teacher. By the time the class was over and we spent 10 minutes doing a very easy cool-down and stretches, I had spent 90 minutes devoted to “working out.” But when I looked at my watch, I discovered that I only actually engaged in significant fitness-boosting exercise for a total of 22 minutes (although I guarantee that multiple class participants would proudly check off the class as being 60 minutes of exercise). Had I stayed at home and simply used my inexpensive home exercise equipment, I could have achieved three times as much exercise and still had plenty of time left over.
The same issue exists with three other sports I see many exercise enthusiasts using to stay fit: namely tennis, golf and basketball. Let’s look at why, and then see how you can make these sports actually burn more fat or build more muscle.
I play tennis one to two times a week at my local tennis club. I’ll be perfectly honest: it’s simply not that difficult, especially if I’m playing doubles or a social game of singles. Sure, the average professional tennis match is comprised of hours and hours of running, sprinting, lunging, diving, and shuffling, but this simply isn’t the scenario in most recreational matches.
Instead, much of the time is spent standing and waiting to receive a serve, drinking or snacking during side switchovers, or idling at the net as your partner hits shots.
While I don’t personally take many “cardio tennis classes,” which comprise of drills and hitting mixed up with sprints, pushups, burpees, lunges, side shuffles, back shuffles, etc., I do incorporate these same principles into my own tennis game. Before returning every serve, for example, I jump in the air, land then do three quick steps from side to side—a form of “plyometrics.” I also do jumping jacks, lunges, and even pushups while my opponent or partner get drinks and snacks. Yes, I’m that guy. And I’m constantly moving, squatting, stepping, dodging, and keeping my heart rate elevated during the match, rather than just assuming that the act of “being on the court” automatically means I’m getting more fit, which it doesn’t.
Let’s look at golf next. I have several friends who actually arrive at golf courses prior to the official first tee time, and play a round of speed golf with just a few clubs and a lightweight bag. In between each shot, they sprint and jog, and often complete 18 holes in 60-90 minutes. That’s moving!
But even if you’re playing golf at a more leisurely pace, you can make it more difficult. For example, in the episode, “How To Use A Weighted Vest,” I show you how to wear a 20-40 lb weighed vest during activities ranging from cleaning your house to hiking. And while the heavier vests can inhibit your golf swing, the lighter vests work just fine while golfing. You can also, of course, opt to walk instead of using the cart, and even do body weight pushups or body weight squats (or any other variety of body weight moves!) while you’re waiting for your opponents to tee off.
I also play disc golf, which is very similar to golf, except using Frisbees. Before each hole, I crank out 10-30 burpees, and then I run rather than jog the course. As you can imagine, if you get creative with traditionally “passive” activities such as golf, you can gain significant amounts of fitness while also experiencing nature and competing with yourself or with others.
Finally, there’s basketball. I’ll occasionally show up at a club or gym to play a round of “noon ball,” and am always amazed at how much time one simply spends “standing around” and waiting to play, and how easy it is to burn through 90 minutes and only really play 20 minutes of actual basketball.
The solution? Not only do I spend plenty of time jumping, shooting, throwing a ball against the backboard and rebounding it, chest passing against the wall, and doing dynamic stretching while waiting to play, but if I know I have a good 10-15 minutes before I’m supposed to be on the court for the next game, I’ll even slip into the weight room, crank out a set of squats or overhead presses, then show back up on the court. If you’re creative and you simply make it a point not to stand in one place watching the game that’s currently on the court, you can definitely use something like noon ball to squeeze in a true workout.
Finally, I must point out the fact that I do not endorse annoying your friends, teammates, and partners by running around like a crazy muppet with your arms flailing around, cranking out burpees in between tennis points, or grunting through lunge jumps as your partner drives a golf ball.
But at the same time, I’ve found that I can definitely squeeze in little bursts of fitness here and there without disrupting the nature or spirit of the sport I’m playing. Your golf buddies don’t need to know you’re sporting a 20 lb vest under your polo, your tennis partners honestly aren’t going to judge you harshly if you do 20 body weight squats instead of drinking a beer as you visit during a side switchovers, and you’re only going to get respect by keeping your body active and practicing your shot rather than sitting slumped on the sideline while waiting to play noon ball. Just use common sense, and of course, enjoy your sporting experience!
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