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Gained a few “COVID kilos” during lockdown? Personal trainer ZARA MICHALES has guidance to help you get back on track.

Losing extra quarantine kilos in the thick of winter may seem almost impossible. But as the saying goes, summer bodies are made in winter. Before you get started on a weight or fat loss program, I recommend you set “SMART” goals. That stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

1. Find your baseline

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) will tell you the amount of energy (calories) your body needs simply to survive, without structured exercise. There are a number of apps or websites that will help you estimate this. My favourite, easy-to-use app is My Fitness Pal (free). It asks you to enter your age, sex, level of activity, height and weight to determine (roughly) your BMR. 

2. Up your activity levels

How active are you each day? The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days for adults. There are additional health benefits when this amount is increased to 300 minutes per week (60 minutes each day for five days). How many steps are you taking per day? The step goal standard is around 10,000. Wearable Fitness tech like Fitbits, Garmin watches and the Apple Health app on your phone track activity levels and can motivate you to move more. It may surprise you to discover just how few steps you are taking; especially if you are working from home.

3. Decrease calories

Weight loss is about creating a calorie deficit. Put simply, you need to be burning more calories than you eat, so your body will draw energy from its stored supplies (body fat). However, it’s important that you are setting realistic deficits by never eating fewer calories than your BMR requires. A 2007 study conducted by the University of Trieste in Italy found that when calorie intake is restricted too much, especially if your diet is low in protein, it can slow your metabolism down. And when combined with inactivity like the quarantine period we have just experienced, it can cause you to lose muscle mass as well as fat.

4. Quality-control your calories 

Foods that are nutrient-dense contain high levels of nutrients but are relatively low in calories. Nutrient-dense foods like beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and meat pack fibre, lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Fruits and vegetables also contain a high percentage of fibre and water that increase feelings of fullness, and can help you eat fewer total calories throughout the day. 

5. Boost your metabolism by lifting weights

The more lean muscle tissue you have, the more energy/calories your body needs. Even at rest, you will be oxidising fat at a higher rate compared to someone who has less lean muscle. (It’s why large muscular men seem to eat mountains of food and never put on fat.) I recommend doing a combination of strength and endurance-based weightlifting that involves compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, pull-ups, and bench press. For strength, choose moderate to heavy weights with lower repetitions. This type of lifting encourages muscle growth and boosts your metabolism for up to 48 hours after your workout.

Tools for success 

Plan your meals and workouts ahead of time. This helps reduce the guesswork and prevents you from making poor choices.

Choose a day to plan meals and do a big grocery shop.

Review your weekly physical activity summaries on workout apps and adjust calories and exercise where needed.

Workplace tips 

Use your lunch breaks for a jog or quick HIIT session. 

Set a timer on your phone to go for a 5-10 minute walk every hour.

Take your Zoom call on a walk with your phone instead of sitting down. 

Set weekly step challenges and competitions with your colleagues using fitness tech.

20 x Spiderman push-ups.



Zara Michales
is a professional group and personal trainer. She has worked in gyms around Sydney for the past five years and is currently based in Venice, California.