After helping clients lose weight for 2+ years, I've learned that there are three keys to exercising for weight loss:
Walking: Walking is a great fat burner. I know it doesn't feel like you're doing much because you're not working up a sweat or burning as many calories as on the elliptical. But if you're walking at a fast pace (and I mean with sneakers on...New Yorkers take note: walking in your high heels doesn't count), then you should be in the fat burning zone the whole time. When you're working out at the gym, you're probably in the cardio zone. Now, you don't have to believe me on this one. I'm pretty sure a lot of my clients don't. But give it a shot. Try adding in an extra 30-45 minutes of fast walking on the days you're not working out, and see if the pounds start to melt away easier than before. If you can't find the extra time in your day, try shorter bursts of walking throughout the day. Get off the subway a stop earlier for an extra five minutes of walking, or walk to the post office instead of driving. Those extra steps add up and they really do make a difference.
Variety: When you do the same type of exercise over and over, your body gets used to it. Have you ever felt like you're in great shape, but then tried a new type of workout and found yourself huffing and puffing? Pilates is easy for me because I do it all the time. But running absolutely kills me. My boyfriend, on the other hand, can run around me in circles, but thinks pilates is really hard. We both need to add a little variety to our workouts. I should run more and he should try pilates once a week (although I know he won't do it). The best way to keep your body working hard is to keep it on its toes. Try yoga one day, running the next, and kickboxing for your third workout. Soccer players, for instance, are always doing something different. At practice, you jog, sprint, jog backwards, jump, kick, etc. Your body never gets used to what you're doing. And in keeping your body guessing, you keep your weight loss from plateauing.
Again, if time is an issue, get your exercise in throughout the day. Some of my clients are lawyers who work around the clock. They're not making excuses. They literally don't have time to work out. But they do have time to target specific areas throughout the day. Laugh all you want, but I tell my clients to do ten squats every time they go to the restroom. Or do pushups when they're in their office and no one is watching. How about lifting weights when you're sitting on the couch at night watching TV?
If you're trying to lose weight, try working out 3-4 days a week and adding some variety to your workouts. And remember, whether you live a very sedentary lifestyle and you're starting from square one or you workout every day, something as simple as starting to walk more can make a big difference!