Many people have discovered fitness during this quarantine – or lock-down – or forced vacation – or whatever you want to call it, and that’s fantastic! Truly, I don’t care what brings you to a healthy lifestyle, as long as you’re here, but many people don’t understand how to maximize what they’re doing to get the best results they can. I mean, ANYTHING is better than nothing, but if you’re putting in the work, don’t you want to see results?
There is nothing more disheartening than doing what you thought was the right thing, only to discover that it’s barely lived up to your expectations. So let’s take a look at 10 things that you need to know to maximize your results!
10. You Can’t out-train a bad fork. I’ve said this before, which is why I list it first. Many people toil away under the false pretense that working out – or eating right – will lead to weight loss. While both activities contribute to weight loss, it’s actually possible to gain weight while doing both! There is a difference between eating to lose weight, and eating to be healthy. That’s not to say the being overweight is healthy, it’s not. There are mountains of reports that correlate obesity to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint problems and a host of other health issues. It’s also possible to eat healthy food items, and put on excess weight. Weight gain is due to consumption of more food/calories than your body needs to operate. Excess food is converted into fat to be stored in case your body needs future energy. It’s a biological process designed for our survival. If your goal is to lose weight, it’s a matter of cutting the amount of calories you’re consuming. This is the ultimate goal of almost all diets.
So what? Well, if you’re working out intensely, but then feeding your body with calorically dense foods that offer little nutritional value, then you’re not trying to lose weight, you’re trying to make yourself feel better about a poor diet. But I don’t blame you entirely for it, unfortunately, most people don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing. Our society has made it very easy to make poor choices and very difficult – to the point of deceptive. Think granola bars – they’re NOT healthy. That yogurt you enjoy in the morning? Compare the sugar grams to a doughnut – surprise! they’re awfully close.
So what should you do? Educate yourself. There are resources on this blog discussing sugar, the truth about weight loss, understanding macronutrients, micronutrients and a host of other topics that are great resources! Next, understand your goals, working out is an unbelievably healthy thing to do for your body, and it will help your success in losing weight while eating a healthy diet, but it won’t fix it. Understanding this extremely important difference will instantly help you to understand why you might be busting your butt in the gym or home gym, but aren’t seeing the results that you want.
9. Workout an hour a day. It sounds like a lot, but an hour a day committed to yourself isn’t that much. Especially in the current situation. Just imagine the difference you could see if you committed to this? An hour less of Netflix to dedicate to the state of your health – especially during a pandemic? Seems like a cheap investment to me!
I’m not saying you need to be killing yourself in the gym everyday for an hour, on the contrary, it’s important to allow your body to recover from the previous workout before taxing the same muscle groups again. But spreading the different areas of your body out over a week, or introducing yoga on a non resistance day, or running or swimming (if you happen to be quarantined with a pool!), or if you don’t want to commit to any intense form of exercise everyday, just going on a walk is better than nothing. Just be realistic with your goals. You’re not going to develop six pack abs for example, if walking is your fitness solution. Not that there’s anything wrong with walks, but be realistic with the goals you expect from the work you’re willing to put in. You wouldn’t expect to learn about astrophysics reading books on poetry, even though both involve reading, nor should you expect big fitness results without big commitments and big intensity in your workouts.
8. Track your workouts and track your food intake! This is another tips I’ve brought up before, but it’s so important, especially if you’re new to the fitness world. Many people think that they’re doing the right things, but don’t realize where they may be sabotaging themselves (I only have 1 or 2 small snacks a day!) recording what you put into your mouth via a food diary, or better still an app like MyFitnessPal will erase all doubt and give you real control over your diet. It seems either impossibly difficult, or just plain silly, until you try it for a week. It’s like balancing your checkbook, seeing where everything is going is extremely empowering! The same logic applies to your workouts. You can easily go to the home gym, do some curls and presses, and think that you had a great workout, but how much did you lift? how many repetitions did you do? Why does it matter? Well, how many should you do next time? How much should you lift next time? these answers are CRITICAL if you want to see results. Write it down!
7. Get proper sleep. This is another critical element to seeing results! One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was about sleep, because I used to be one of the biggest offenders of this rule. Sleep provides so many positive benefits for the body, including helping you to recover from your workouts and balancing out hormones that influence things like appetite.
6. Do workouts that you actually like. This is critical. You need to take a serious look at what you’re doing and ask yourself if you enjoy it? You don’t need to answer an emphatic “Oh my god YES!!!!” – unless you really feel that way, in which case good for you! But seriously, if you DREAD your workouts, then you’re not going to stick with them, and even if you do, then you’re likely going to half-ass them and not get the full benefit you could from them. There are LOTS of ways to workout, try any that even seem remotely interesting, even if you think they’re probably not for you. Hate weight training? Try crossfit, boxing, or boot camp style workouts. Hate running? Try a martial art, a dance class, rowing, a spin class, or cycling. You get the point – get creative with options! When you find something you love, you’ll look forward to working out, and because of that, you’ll commit to it, and guess what? You’ll see results.
5. Master your workouts. Especially if you’re working out with a streaming service or DVD, the first few times you tackle a workout, take your time, take advantage of the pause button. Take breaks and rewind, study the exercises and movements and make sure that you completely understand not only what you’re doing, but how to do it safely. Don’t worry as much about keeping up with the trainer or the gym rats working out with them. They’re all pro’s, and they are following a scripted workout that they already know. You’re not, but you will be. If you take your time, and learn the workout and how to do it safely. Trust me, nothing will kill your results as fast as an injury. Master the moves FIRST.
4. Meal Prep. Seriously, you’d plan your vacation, so plan your nutrition. If you plan what you’ll be fueling your body with (and that’s how you SHOULD be looking at food, because that’s what food really is) in advance, and then spend some time preparing your meals and snacks for the week (Sundays are great for this) then you’ll have a MUCH better chance of sticking to your diet and avoiding cheats. Sticking to your diet means you’ll be cutting your calories, and making sure that you’re giving your body all of the macronutrients it needs each day. Leave this to chance and there’s a good chance you’ll fail. Even seasoned athletes, bodybuilders and trainers stick to this rule, and they do it for a reason, remember in point #10 when I said that our society makes it very easy to make poor choices? Yeah, meal prepping makes it a LOT easier to make good choices. Give yourself this edge, it just may be the number one thing that contributes to your success in seeing results.
3. Develop a drinking problem. And by drinking problem, I mean a blinding commitment to water. I’ve posted about the benefits that water offers your body, it can help fuel your workouts and energy levels, and also help to mitigate your appetite. so make sure you’re getting the proper amount every day! It should be your go to drink of choice!
2. Avoid empty calories. This speaks a little bit to what we talked about in point ten. Too many simple carbohydrates in your diet – like candy, pastries or sodas will quickly rack up your daily caloric intake. These are some examples of the calorie dense foods I mentioned there. One of the problems with these foods, is they’re very calorie dense, but they’re not very filling, so it’s easy to eat most of the daily calories your body needs for energy with these foods. This doesn’t leave room for the foods that your body needs in order to stay healthy and build the lean muscle you’re looking for from a diet or exercise plan. Most of you are going to hate this one, but that goes for alcohol as well. The rule is a little bit goes a long way, so try to avoid these empty calories as mush as possible.
Avoiding these calories will also help you to feel “full” more on any diet you’re on. think of it this way, there are around 260 calories in the average glazed doughnut that’s equal to around 1.7 pounds of broccoli. Knowing that, could you eat 1.7 POUNDS of broccoli before feeling full? How about a single doughnut? How about 3 doughnuts (if you were really feeling naughty!) Three doughnuts would be 5+ pounds of broccoli – that’s an obscene amount of food. I’ll lay off the broccoli, but you get the point. Not a fan of broccoli? do your own math with a food that’s healthy that you like, you’ll find similar parallels. Choose what you’re filling up on, and pick thing that your body can actually use for more than brief bouts of energy.
1. Remember why you started and never lose that focus. I harp on this a lot on this blog, but seriously, remembering WHY you’re doing all of this can be an immeasurable psychological help on days where you’re just not feeling it. This focus can help you push yourself to work harder on the sets that are tough, or the things that you know you should do to achieve your goal, but just really don’t want to do. Even if that means choosing Broccoli over doughnuts!
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