#1 You must go all out, balls out, every single workout.
Working out, as in just getting to the gym, lifting things, and breaking a sweat is a fantastic accomplishment for a lot of folks. Not everyone is able to push themselves to a crazy-high level of physical intensity so if you can good for you! However, you don’t have to, and you probably should not go balls to the wall every single day. That’s how burnout happens, and if you keep going at that 110% intensity without ever giving your body time to recover (by utilizing rest days, varying the intensity of your workouts, etc.), you’ll find yourself regressing rather than progressing. Remember, stimulation happens during exercise but change happens during recovery. Also, can we agree that puking in the middle of a workout is not a badge of honor? If it happens; however, move on and learn from it (and, you know, clean up). There is nothing to be ashamed of if your breakfast has never made an encore during a workout.
#2 More is better.
If working out is good, then working out more is better, right? Not necessarily. Keep in mind that the law of diminishing returns applies to exercise, and after a certain point, increasing the number of workouts each week or the duration of each workout will have a negative effect on your health. Like we went over in #1, change happens during recovery. For beginners, it is certainly a good idea to gradually build up training frequency, volume, and intensity. If you can eventually build up to working out for an hour five or six days per week without any negative effects on your health and you truly enjoy it, go for it! Otherwise, pay close attention while you ramp it up and scale it back, adjusting again and again, and eventually you’ll find your sweet spot.
(The exception to this rule is coffee. More coffee is always better.)
#3 To be healthy, you have to [fill in the blank: run distance, do Crossfit, lift really heavy, do yoga, etc.]
There are so many fitness trends these days (endurance events, Crossfit, adventure races, yoga, etc.) that people become fanatical about. It’s terrific that fitness is becoming “mainstream” and that more and more exercise methodologies are being accepted but things turn ugly when people start equating these activities with health and fitness. Don’t force yourself to do one kind of exercise just because you think it’s the epitome of fitness! You can be fantastically fit without running marathons, doing Crossfit WODs, or getting your downward-dog on. Every workout comes with unique risks and rewards, and the great thing is, there is no one particular workout required for health. Experiment, find the things you love and where your strengths lie, and cultivate your own unique fitness regime from there. No single form of exercise is ideal all across the board. Workouts that make you miserable are not worth it so find something that challenges you and invigorates you. And then do it, and enjoy it!
#4 Hiring a personal trainer will help you take your fitness to the next level.
Many, if not most, trainers you find in commercial gyms are not worth the cost of training. Some don’t know what they’re doing, some don’t put in the effort to make quality programs, and some just don’t care. If getting to the gym is the biggest hurdle for you, find a friend who will work out with you, and keep you accountable. Putting $5 per workout completed into a “reward fund” (so after 20 workouts, you have $100 of money to spend on yourself) is another idea. If you need guidance for how to reach your fitness goals, you’d probably be better off either consulting with a reputable health expert and utilizing their input in putting together your fitness plan, or (if you already have a bit of background in fitness) dedicating your own time to doing quite a bit of research and designing your own program. The most important key to training is that you are committed to your health, driven to achieve your goals, and that you take responsibility for your training and your fitness. However, if you can find a trainer who knows what they’re doing, is passionate about their field, and is a good match for you in terms of personality and training-style, your money will be well spent.
#5 Exercise leads to weight loss.
So, exercise is great. You know that. The good Lord didn’t make us to sit at desks all the live long day, and we need to move and use our bodies. This is where exercise (and “NEAT” – non-exercise activity thermogenesis – or “an active lifestyle” or “more standing/walking than laying on the couch watching New Girl reruns”) comes in.
Here’s the thing though. Exercise alone won’t make you skinny. It boils down to this: Exercise promotes fitness, diet promotes weight loss/gain (“diet,” of course, being your consistent food choices, not a restrictive short-term program). The old “you can’t out-train a bad diet” cliché is true. You can exercise obsessively, to a point of exercise bulimia, trying to lose weight but only put in 70% effort into your diet. However, once you start choosing foods that support your health and your goals, you will start to “lean” out. Exercise, particularly strength/resistance training, will shape your body, building the muscles that create a “toned” look with curves in the right places. It’s a proper diet that will gradually zap away excess body fat and bring you to a level of leanness that allows those hard-earned muscles to be seen! What you eat is such a personal thing, and there are so many different schools of thought on which foods are healthful and which are harmful.
Just like with your workouts, remember that you don’t have to eat foods you hate just because people say it’s healthy. You need to take responsibility, do your own research, and stay committed.
Tip of the Day
Enjoy ‘some’ dessert! A little goes a long way. How much of your favorite dessert do you really eat? When it comes to sweets, don’t deny yourself a treat, just keep it small. A little bit of your favorite treat can go a long way when you use smaller bowls and plates, share a candy bar, or split a large cupcake. Keep treats out of sight and in higher places to avoid the temptation of eating too many.