You’re practically a Nike athlete on the verge of greatness. You like to work out and everyone on your Facebook page knows it! You train with the gym’s best personal trainer and you go to so many fitness classes you could teach them yourself!
But what if behind the hype, you notice that your weight actually hasn’t budged in months? Or what happens when you’ve figured out you’re no stronger than you were this time last year? There may be more to this mystery than meets the eye.
Upon that realization starts the blame game.
“Lifting heavy weights is making me bulky!”
“These jeans just need to be air-dried.”
Or, “That spin instructor’s music isn’t upbeat enough so I can’t work out as hard!”
So you decide to switch trainers, go to different classes and maybe even change gyms altogether.
“It must be their fault I can’t lose weight because I’m doing everything right!”
Sound like you?
Stop pointing fingers. Yes, we’ve all been to fitness classes that weren’t quite for us or maybe you’ve had a trainer whose program you didn’t connect with. But, really it is a team effort. Rather than outright blaming someone else for your lack of success, first try to communicate your issues openly with your current fitness professionals. Expressing your concerns does not make you needy. It makes you an active participant in your health program. Along with that initiation, also try taking a step back and considering ALL steps to success. There’s definitley more than one path to fit. So, take a look at these first six of ten other possibilites to help get you started!
1) Have a Specific Goal(s):
Exercising without goals is like getting a goody bag at a party without the goodies. Think about what the single most important goal you have is. Is it to lose eight pounds? Is it to have more energy and stop needing to take naps in the middle of the day? The more specific you are the more accountable you’ll be. Even if you have ten goals, narrow it down to one or two of your most important at first. If you don’t, you’ll be spreading your energy out over ten things and slowing down your progress. Not only is that exhausting, but you can lose track of what’s working and what isn’t.
2) Write and Analyze a Weekly Food Diary
Ever buy a label-less bag of chocolate or only eat chips when they’re in a bowl? You can eat and eat because-hey, without a nutrition label it’s see no evil, hear no evil. Right? Ambivalence will not lead you to success. Write down every single thing you eat and drink for one week. Everything. Then calculate your weekly caloric, sugar, protein, fiber and carbohydrate intake. Websites like thcaloriecounter.com and myfitnesspal.com make doing calculations easy. Also note what times of the day you eat, how you feel before and after you eat and if you’re getting a healthy balance of fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. It’s not as simple as intake outtake. Simply taking the time to analyze your own food diary can show you the difference between 100 and 500 calories and the difference between a snack and a meal. Need more info? Take it to an expert nutritionist or dietician for a one-on-one consult.
3) Monitor Your True Intensity
You’re sweating so you must be working hard, right? Sweat is not a true indicator of one’s exercise intensity. Sweat is an internal action that begins at the onset of your raised core temperature. This could happen on a hot sunny day sitting in the sun or in a hot yoga class. Neither indicate you’ve worked out your whole body.
The best way to get a proper gauge of how hard you’re working is to use the “Talk Test” or an actual heart rate monitor. The “Talk Test” says that if you can talk endlessly you are a light intensity. If you can talk but can only get out broken sentences, you are at moderate intensity. If you can maybe get a word or two out, you are working vigorously and if you can’t talk you are anaerobic and likely going on glucose empty. Staying between moderate and vigorous 2-3 times a week for up to 45 minutes is ideal.
However, if you’re a numbers person you might want to purchase a heart rate monitor. Staying within 55-85% of your target heart rate is ideal for beginners and 65-85% is ideal for gym regulars. Calculate your target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Then multiply that number by .55 and .85 (.65 and .85) and you have your ideal heart rate range.
4) Be Consistent
The dog had to go the vet. You needed to get your hair colored. The guys needed you to help out with your Fantasy Football spread. It’s raining. Yeah, if you’ve ever been busy you know that things come up and sometimes that means no workout. But really, how hard were you trying to get that workout in amongst that jam-packed schedule? If you can simply get up even half an hour early to workout, you’ve done more for your day than that gorgeously refreshed hair-do. Staying consistent is KEY to be successful. Life will always be as busy as you let it. Working out is your time and YOUR choice. If you designate your workout time like you do everything else, you will find balance. Without your workout, you are essentially going through your day without eating every meal. All are vital to your health.
5) Take Recovery Days
Working out for two hours a day is the best way to lose weight. True or False? Listen, yes it is important for you
to stay active every single day. That does not mean doing vigorous activity seven days a week. What happens when you do endless amounts of endurance cardio is that you stop increasing or maintaining your muscle mass. You start burning off muscle along with fat. It’s a lot of work and it’s highly retroactive. Working out like this will also cause you to become prone to injury or chronic inflammation due to the lack of rest and recovery.
Recovery days are there to repair your body. When you strength train you are making small tears in your muscles. Resting gives them time to bond and get stronger. If you don’t rest, you are never repairing only tearing. Suggested weekly workout program should consist of 3-5 days a week. On your days off, you can still be active, just take it down a notch. Go for a long walk, take some yoga or better yet, take time to stretch and foam roll! Self care is mandatory so that you can work out for as long as you are alive!
No, this is not about the latest juice cleanse. This is about what essential vitamins you are putting into your body. It’s important to get most of your nutrients from your food, however some people may require additional supplementation. First consult your doctor for the proper testing, diagnosis and supplement recommendation. But on your own, you can start monitoring your energy levels, skin condition, sleep cycles, stress levels, digestion, or if you bruise easily, have achy joints, or painful periods. Write down anything unusual for one to three weeks. These can affect your workouts and overall quality of life.
Most doctors recommend taking at least a daily multi-vitamin but they may also suggest some of the following: Fish oil is great to combat inflammation and achy joints as well as help with dry skin. Melatonin is a natural sleep remedy. Probiotics provide a healthy does of bacterial cultures that aid in digestion and keeping a healthy immune system. Vitamin D and B vitamins can help with energy. Calcium pills support bone health and magnesium is great for painful cramps.
One more thing, if you are suffering from food sensitivities, allergies or intolerances you might want to try digestive enzymes. They help your body process and digest foods you have issues with. People who suffer from food issues hold on to added inflammation which can also lead to weight gain, depression, insomnia and other medical issues.
7) Manage Stress
You know, you know! You’re stressed and need to relax. But what does that mean in the literal, everyday sense? We all have life’s stressors, some good and some bad. However it’s how we deal with these little monsters that can affect the whole cycle of balance. If you’re overworked and maybe had a disastrous meeting, your stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline kick in. This could set off a craving for feel-good foods like those with quick (yet temporary) energy-aka: carbohydrates or sugars. This can spike your insulin levels, causing an energy rollercoaster and then have you craving more quick-energy foods. This up and down can reek havoc on the quality of your sleep and starting the whole cycle over again.
Easy ways to banish the stress beasts are to find things you find enjoyable to counteract the stressful things you can’t control. If you’re having a hard time remembering, make a wish list. Think things like taking a walk, reading, dancing, yoga, coffee with friends, window-shopping, meditation, talk-therapy, snuggling with a pet or loved one, journaling or taking a good old fashioned vacation. Play time MATTERS. Your down time is just as important as any business meeting. The key to balance is to not put all your energy into only one or two areas of your life. Doing so will have a Titantic affect and next thing you know, you’re sick, sad and searching for a way out!
8) Sleep Soundly
Do you live in the city with the hourly fire truck drive by? A home in the suburbs with the clanking of the furnace or kids jumping into bed? Or maybe you just can’t stop the treadmill of racing thoughts in your head. Sleep is actually a very personal thing. Some 30 million people suffer from insomnia in the U.S.
Sleeplessness can cause everything from forgetfulness to irritability to more serious conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and overall breakdown of your immune system.
Start by going over my sleep-full check-list and see if there’s anything you can do to get a more restful night’s sleep.
- Set the room temperature for a slightly cooler setting. Keeping it too warm can cause night sweats and mild dehydration. If you are dehydrated, your heart rate will speed up making it hard to get shut eye. This also happens after a few too many evening cocktails.
- Stop drinking anything one to two hours before you go to bed.
- Turn off all cell phones, computers, ipads and ipods one to two hours before you go to bed. The light from these electronics can keep you awake. Also, keeping them on will encourage you to check your emails and texts when you should be resting. It can wait.
- If your room is decorated in bright colors it may be time to get a bedroom makeover. Bright colors can keep your senses more alert than with more neutral tones. Set the stage for a calm night’s sleep with shades of blue, green or beige.
- Make a to-do list before you go to bed. That way your mind won’t be busy thinking about all that you have to do the next day.
- Spray a little lavender or vanilla on your pillow.
- Try sleeping with your pets in another room. As much as we love the company, we tend to wake up or stir when are pets are in bed.
- Invest in eye shades or better yet, black out blinds.
- Deep breathe. Inhale for eight and exhale for eight.
- Daydream. Imagine you are a UFC fighter, an SNL cast member or maybe even an opera singer. Doing so will make for an easy transition into dreaming in your sleep.
Considering 70% of your body is made up of water, it’s hard to believe so many of us walk around dehydrated. The 8-10 glasses of water your supposed to get a day is vital to keeping your body functioning properly. Steady digestion, stress-relief, immunity and metabolic functioning are just some of the reasons you should stay hydrated. But did you know that dehydration can also lead to false hunger signals? If you find you have low energy, dry skin, constipation or are hungry even after eating, you might simply need to add in a few more glasses of water to your day. Tune in to your senses before munching on mindless snacks!
10) Assess and Reassess
Depending on how you look at it, this could be good news or bad news. But my number ten encourages you to look past ten. When you find the system you have is no longer working-you’re falling back out of shape or visiting your doctor more frequently, it’s time to reassess. Your body should be changing positively every 4-6 weeks if you’re in sync with all of the above and then some. Just going to the gym will not do the trick. It’s an all encompassing lifestyle change that will lead you to success. Balance in all things will keep your strong and savvy!