Beginning to workout, or adapt a new diet can be extremely challenging. Often times, people run into "deal-breakers," or things that trigger negative feelings. Other times, people stay completely loyal to one routine for its specified given duration and see no results. This results in people feeling like a failure, and tend to give up.
Why do exercise and diet plans fail?
First and foremost, the #1 reason why plans fail is because they are considered "plans," meaning temporary. In order to actually make a change in one's life, a lifestyle change must be implemented. But what does this mean? It means permanent, consistent changes for the better must be implemented in daily life. Better stated: you never stop changing! There are a million ways someone can improve their life but it cannot all be done at once. This leads to my next point. The ability to progress over time.
The only reason a lifestyle change would not work is due to too much change at once. When creating a workout plan, it's important to slowly implement it into your daily life. Automatically switching your lifestyle from sedentary to working out 5-6x a week will result in many downfalls.
1. Physically - You are pushing your body too hard, too fast. You will be extremely sore & your body is in a state of shock. At this point, some give up due to needing excessive rest, therefore making it hard to get back at it again. Others may push through it and become extremely susceptible to injury. Both lead to downward spirals of pain and stress.
2. Psychologically - At the beginning, your priorities are not completely managed. You may be used to working longer hours, or watching more Netflix & YouTube. Working out takes time out of your day that you not used to. This leads to you flooding your body with emotional stress ON TOP of the physical stress put on the body. On a day that you may not have planned properly to workout, or even just did not get around to it leads to emotional stress. Feelings of guilt and shame fill your body and sequentially your body. This is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Focus on SLOWLY, and I repeat, SLOWLY, getting into a workout routine. Assess your week's schedule ahead of time, planning which days may work best getting into the gym or out for a run. Start with 2-3 days a week, after a few weeks add a fourth day. From there you can assess if you need to add more or if this feels right. Always listen to your body, find the balance between your work life, your social life, and your personal life.
This idea happens with diets as well. If you completely change your diet instantly rather than over a progressive period of time, you will experience physical and psychological challenges that may lead to unwanted adverse effects. Instead, focus on the "baby steps" as I like to say.
Things that have helped me transition into a better nutritional diet include:
1. Substituting a more nutritional side option to my meals. (i.e. veggies or fruits instead of fries/chips/hash browns)
2. Substituting a more nutritional alternative to a part of my meals (i.e. lettuce wrap to burgers, salt & pepper instead of drenched in sauce)
3. Changing the cooking technique of foods I like (i.e. grilling or baking instead of frying chicken)
These baby steps have allowed me to make better progressive changes overtime. By definition a healthy lifestyle is "the steps, actions and strategies one puts in place to achieve optimum health." It does not describe one food being "healthier" than the other. If you are adding stress to your mind by limiting foods or expecting yourself to workout excessively, you are living unhealthily. Remember, you cannot become a bodybuilder after one workout, nor can you shrink your waist size by one meal. Consistency and progression is KEY.
"Deal-Breakers" - Emphasis on the Quotations
When your body is starting to adapt to these lifestyle changes, it undergoes numerous physical changes itself. Often times, people do not see the desired results as immediately as they want and decide it is time to toss the rag and quit. These are some frequent "deal-breakers" myself and friends have experienced.
1. "My goal is to lose weight, why am I gaining weight initially? Must be the wrong routine for me."
I sigh at this one in particular because I see too many people quit too early. Here are the facts. Glucose, or sugar is stored in your muscles for fuel. Every 1 gram of sugar uses 2.7 grams of water to properly metabolize. (Side note: this is where the name carbohydrate comes from. Carbo = sugar, includes carbon molecules, Hydrate = water). Before you start working out, your body stores less sugar in the muscles because your body is efficient. It only stores what it KNOWS it will use. But, as you start to work out, you need more fuel in your muscles. You body then loads up the muscles with more sugar, and sequentially, more water. This will initially add weight to your body. On the scale you notice an increase in weight, but it is necessary weight for your body to work properly. As you continue to workout, your body will start to metabolize fats to be used as energy sources. You will start to see results as long as you are consistent with working out and maintaining a nutritional diet.
2. "My goal is to lose weight. I lost a large amount of weight at the beginning, and now I am starting to gain. It must be muscle."
This correlates to what I just explained, yet adds another dimension. If you lose plenty of weight in a short period of time (i.e. 7 lbs in one week) it is not necessarily a good thing. Actually, if you lose more than 2-3 lbs a week you are losing more than just fat, but muscle, and water. This is a result of not eating enough. I know plenty of people may think its a great thing to lose that much so fast, especially if they are getting ready for vacation or a wedding, but this weight is added back almost instantly. If you are not eating enough, your body starts to catabolize, meaning tear down muscle tissue. It does this to grab carbon in order to make more glucose for fuel. This is working backwards. The goal should be to maintain muscle and tear down fat. This is why it is so important to allow your body to make slow progressions. Otherwise you will be in a constant cycle of gaining/losing weight instead of progressively losing fat.
3. "My goal is to gain weight. I want to be shredded with muscle, yet I am constantly dropping numbers on the scale. What's up?"
At this point, can we just use the scale as a frisbee and toss it out of the window? Scales only tell you one thing. It does not tell you about all the other changes happening in your body. Many other factors including water, fat, and lean muscle are ALWAYS changing in your body. When going into the gym with the goal of gaining weight in mind, one must consider the type of weight they want to gain. Lean body muscle is often the #1 choice, yet it takes an extremely long time to do naturally. 1lb of muscle is equivalent to about 3500 calories. Therefore, one must up their calorie intake in order to help build the new muscle mass. Yet, when you are at the gym you are burning calories, on top of the calories used up by your daily metabolism. In order to properly gain muscle, one must consume more nutritional calories than the ones they are burning. It is a constant battle of consuming enough, which is why you may see fluctuations in the scale.
4. "My goal is to tone out my muscles. I run or cycle for 60 minutes 3x every week but I am not getting defined muscles."
This deal-breaker often occurs in women more than men. Reason being, in order to tone out your muscles, it is important to include resistance or weight training in your routine. The idea of weights may be frightening to women because they are scared of getting bulky or adding too much heavy muscle. Well I am here to tell you ladies that is NOT the case. In order to gain heavy muscle, one must contain higher levels of testosterone, a growth hormone. Science tells us that women do not have high levels of testosterone, but men do. Lifting weights breaks down muscle tissue and allows our body to regain more, filling the tears with new fibers made from a mixture of fat, carb, and protein. It allows you to maximize the caloric expenditure by constantly burning calories for up to 72 hours after one session. When completing an aerobic exercise, such as running for distance or long duration, you are still burning calories. Yet, the burning of calories nearly stops after completing the exercise.
5. "When I am working out in the gym, often times I am sore in my joints rather than my muscles. I don't think this is good for me."
Well, you are not wrong by stating your joints are in more pain than your muscles, but most of these pains come down to form. When people see an exercise completed on Instagram or any other social media outlet, they think they should try it out for themselves! This is great to include variation in your routine, yet without mastering the form or proper technique, the exercise can lead to discomfort in joints such as knees, elbows, shoulders, ankles, and wrists. Another point I should add, is that not everyone on Instagram knows what they are doing, their form may be wrong, and if you follow their form to the tee, you may still be off. It is always advised to have a professional help you perfect the form to prevent injury and protect your health.
Completely Devoted to a Plan, Still Not Noticing Any Change
Another aspect of fitness that I see fail is when a plan is being followed, yet there is no change. Or quite possibly, the wrong change. This happens often when people are quick to buy a celebrity's fitness regime, they are on a 'detox' program, or they download an app that promised to be unique and fit for you. The problem is, these are all general programs created. They may work for some, but they are not developed for all. Workout regimes and lifestyle changes are not a "one size fits all" program, so why force it to be?
If you are experiencing this, you may want to contact a trainer, or other health care professional (HEY, I AM HERE TO HELP, WINK WINK). These people will help create a program that is specific to you and your specific goals. Just remember - it is a long term progression, there is no "quick fix."