You are in the gym every day, putting countless hours in a given week into lifting weights and doing cardio. You watch what you eat, manage your stress and try to get enough sleep.
But you are frustrated.
The number on the scale hasn’t budged and you feel like all the work you have put in has been a waste of time.
I’m here to tell you that that you are quite a bit closer to your goals than you realize though. You probably don’t need to overhaul what you are doing in and out of the gym, but rather need to make some small modifications, that in time will pay off huge. With that in mind, here are some key ideas to consider.
1. It starts with your head
I’m a personal trainer not a psychologist. But the more time I spend in the industry, the more I realize that individuals need to understand how your mind affects your health and in turn the actions you take in regards to your health. If you feel like a failure, believe that you are broken and need to be fixed or aren’t happy with who you are now, in this moment, an exercise program or diet won’t help you in the long term. Sure finishing up a cleanse, diet, or some fancy infomercial exercise program may give you a fleeting sense of satisfaction (as it should), but think about what effect this has on you psychologically. Did it empower you to make positive change for good? Or did it exploit the insecurities you may have about your body/health? Our society doesn’t need more diets and detoxes and fancy exercise programs. We need individuals to understand that making small changes to their mindset and in turn their behaviors will pay off huge in the long run. Simply put, mindset and behavior change is the foundation on which everything else in health is built.
2. Nutrition is a REALLY big deal
While it pales in comparison to mindset, more people need to understand the power of good nutrition. Without going into too many details here as this isn’t a nutrition post, start by making one small change to your diet today. Start eating more protein. Build every meal around a good source of protein. Eat a palm-sized portion of protein at every meal (roughly 30 grams is a good place to start if you have a food scale). Don’t obsess over whether or not you are eating too much sugar, aren’t consuming enough calories, just focus on one specific and measurable goal for one month.
Don’t believe me? Think about it this way.
If conquering one goal is too difficult, can you imagine what would happen if you tried to do a complete dietary overhaul and tackle many goals at once (a popular approach used in many diet/detox and cleansing programs)? It’s like teaching a student calculus before he even has a firm grasp of basic arithmetic.
3. Lift heavy things frequently.
I love cardio. I love yoga. I love pilates. But if this is the main attraction of your fitness program, you may need to rethink your workouts a little. I encourage all my clients to lift heavy weights. Challenge and push yourself. If you are doing squats only lifting 10 lbs. you aren’t pushing yourself. You are staying within your comfort zone. You don’t have to go all CrossFit with your workout but your body does need and want your workouts to be on the edge of your comfort zone, not under or completely over that zone.
What I see more often than not though are the two extreme ends of this exercise intensity continuum. Generally speaking people either aren’t pushing themselves hard enough, and therefore their bodies have no reason to adapt, or are pushing themselves too hard and their bodies are fighting back (fatigue, burnout etc.).
And for the record if you are a woman your muscles won’t get bulky, they will gain strength. Increased muscle mass not only increases your metabolic rate and therefore calorie burn, but has dramatic effects on your mental well-being as well.
4. Rest/active recovery is incredibly underrated.
While I’m a huge proponent of lifting weights regardless of your health goals, it is equally as important to incorporate rest/active recovery days in your health plan. While this will vary from person to person, generally speaking walking, light jogging, yoga, pilates, quality sleep etc. are great forms of rest and active recovery. Incorporating these lower intensity exercise and rest options into your life is imperative because contrary to popular belief, your body doesn’t adapt and change in the gym. It’s on your rest days and times between workout sessions that your body builds muscle and burns the most amount of fat. If you are constantly pushing yourself, your body is constantly being broken down. Smart recovery is HUGE when it comes achieving your health goals.
5. Train movements not muscles
Squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, rows and carries. That covers about 90% of what you will ever need in your exercise program. Sure those exercises aren’t sexy or flashy but they are effective. Compound multi-joint exercise target the most amount of muscles in the body. Furthermore, they are what you do in your life outside the gym, so they are about as functional as you can get. You squat, you pick things up off the ground (deadlift) you push things, you pull things and you carry things. While single joint exercises like bicep curls have their place in fitness, when is the last time you did a bicep curl outside the gym? Do you think it is the best use of your time in the gym then? Unless your goal is simply to get bigger biceps, start focusing on pushing yourself on the simple compound exercises.
6. Patience & Consistency.
Last but not least comes patience. Fitness and health is a journey not a destination. Enjoy the ride, and don’t put so much pressure to get to your destination so quickly. It’s easy to be inspired by what you see in the media and the flashy testimonials from infomercials, and TV shows, but in reality patience and consistency is the name of the game.
If you are tempted to go on a cleanse/detox/elimination diet/whatever-is-trendy-by-the time-you-read-this, ask yourself what your life and health will look like AFTER the program. Did you enjoy it enough to want to continue it long term? If the program is designed to give you a ‘boost’ or ‘jumpstart’ into fat loss, did it do that? Or after the cleanse are you more discouraged and confused than ever about what to do to keep you performing and living and your highest level? Extreme measures taken to achieve good health will more than likely leave you disappointed and discouraged in the long run.
Interested in learning more about how to incorporate these principles into your workout? Email us today to sign-up for a FREE assessment and workout where a certified personal trainer can show you how powerful small changes can make on your life!