I have been running into two conversations A LOT lately, and I figured it was time to put my thoughts on paper.
- I don’t have a specific body, so I need to workout more, and eat cleaner.
- I see other people accomplishing this goal, so why am I not doing it? (i.e. running races, Crossfitting, Powerlifting, etc).
There are a lot of misconceptions about what the best type of workout is, and the best way to reach goals. As a society, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be the very best. And when we cannot be, we give up. Not everyone, but I see a general “all or nothing” trend among many people.
I think we have this tendency in our society today to want to prescribe one solution across the board, and that’s not how it works. We all have different goals, and different bodies, which means there are different ways to reach those goals. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to fat loss, I believe I have put together an extremely efficient program for that; however, if your goals are more elaborate than simple fat loss, there are many methods to do that. I think weight lifting is extremely empowering. I also think that running a new distance, or a faster pace is extremely empowering. I think learning how to eat to fuel your body is empowering.
It isn’t that a runner’s body is better than a lifters body, or vice verse. Different ways of exercising yield different results. Most of my clients are seeking fat loss. They are looking for that toned look. In that case, long bouts of cardio isn’t the answer (contrary to popular belief); however, doing something you truly enjoy and love will always bring you a better place mentally and physically. If you love it, it is a sustainable lifestyle. If it is something you are doing for a quick-fix or because you think it’s what you are “supposed” to do, you will not be able to sustain that.
I think it’s great to have different goals, and for them to change. Why not focus on what our body is capable of doing, and challenging it, instead of focusing solely on how it looks? We can stop chasing those six-pack abs!
Can you retain muscle and tone while training for distance races? Absolutely. It takes a lot of time and dedication though. Some people are able to prioritize that. Others simply cannot. It’s just not a priority for me right now. It is possible to race train, and lift, and be on top of your nutrition enough to have the energy for both; however, that takes up more time than I am willing to commit right now. THAT’S OK! And if you are someone who is willing to commit the time to both THAT’S OK TOO! One choice does not have to be better than the other across the board. One choice has to be the best for YOU and YOUR NEEDS.
In addition to putting an unreasonable pressure on ourselves to reach goals, I find a lot of times people want to take the easy way out. I don’t even think it’s usually intentional. I remember a time in my life when I would have a tough circuit put together and think to myself, “eh, I’m so tired. I think I’ll just hit the arc trainer for 90-minutes instead.” A) This is NOT effective. B) How CRAZY to pass up a 20-30 minute workout for a 90-minute workout with the justification that since it is longer it will probably do more. I knew that it wouldn’t. I knew that doing the tough circuit would be WAY MORE effective. When you work harder, as you do when lifting heavy weights, or getting your heart rate up in a circuit, your body works harder to recover, burning MORE calories after the workout is over. When you do a moderate paced activity, you burn calories only during that workout. Further, if you don’t change the way of doing this moderate workout, you will burn even less calories during the workout, because your body no longer has to work as hard during the workout. It adapts to the workout.
Because of my profession, many people who want to see a change in their body and their health approach me. They want it, but many do not want it bad enough. They want some secret answer that includes not changing much of what they are doing, but managing to see results. The saying “If you do what you always did you will get what you always got”, is a cliché for a reason. If you want to change you HAVE to change SOMETHING! It does not have to be huge to begin, but small steps can lead to huge results. Change is scary, but so is spending your energy on self-loathing.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take 20 minutes out of your day three days per week to workout; but if you legitimately don’t have the time and cannot prioritize it, then it’s not a priority. Just accept that right now fitness is not a priority in your life and stop stressing over it. Honestly, just be real with yourself. If you want to make it a priority, find 20 minutes three days per week to take care of yourself, or just stop stressing over it.
My point is, I think it is time we start managing our expectations better. If you want to lift weights and build muscle, then lift weights and build muscle– but manage your expectations. If you have never lifted before, you cannot expect to walk into a weight room and know how to use everything and be able to lift heavy from the beginning. Research. Find a lifting plan. Watch videos on YouTube. Go in with some knowledge and start light so you don’t get injured. Work your way up in weight. If you want to run, then do it – but manage your expectations. If you have never run before, you can’t expect that you can go out and just run whatever distance you want. That is a completely unreasonable expectation. Even if you survive it, you will likely get injured or spend an undue amount of time recovering. Instead, start with a couch-to-5K plan, or beginner running plan. If fat loss is your goal, then do it. Really put the effort into your workout. Change your nutrition to ensure you are eating ENOUGH. Find food that nourishes your body and focus on the nutrients you are providing your body instead of what is “bad”. Whatever you do, just be real with yourself. Don’t set your expectations based on what other people are doing. Make goals that are in line with what you actually want & enjoy. Make goals that suit you, not what you see other people doing. And reach those goals by managing your expectations and beginning at YOUR starting point, not where you see other people.