Making a commitment to fitness is a big deal. After all, you are improving yourself. If you’re anything like me, you go into new situations with preconceived ideas and high expectations of success.
Talk about pressure. Getting fit is hard enough without putting unnecessary stress on ourselves.
While I can’t promise an easier workout, I can promise the following tips will help ease some of that self-inflicted pressure.
1. It’s Not a Race
A fit lifestyle quickly becomes overwhelming if you expect results right now. There’s no one standing on the sidelines with a stopwatch. The only one timing you is you.
Maybe your weight loss is taking longer than you thought it would. Are you trying to take the weight off and it’s not happening fast enough, or not at all? If so, take a minute and really look at your situation.
How long did it take you to get in the shape you’re in now? The answer is probably years. So then why are you expecting to make drastic changes to your body in just weeks or months?
Often we give up on something too soon, before realizing just how much time we’ve put into it. Sometimes it seems you’ve been working toward something for a while when, really, you haven’t.
When I tried calorie counting for the first time, I reached a point where it felt like I was getting nowhere. It was frustrating keeping track of my calories and weighing out my servings, and not seeing the scale move. Then I took a step back, looked at the calendar in my calorie counting app, and saw that I’d reduced my calories only a week or so before. That’s not very long at all when it comes to weight loss.
Before I looked at that calendar, it felt like I had been on those reduced calories for longer than a week. But seeing the evidence on the computer screen in front of me made me realize I needed to be a little more patient. Had I not taken the time to slow down and reassess the situation, I might very well have just given up, thinking the calorie counting thing was bogus. Guess what? A week later the numbers on the scale were moving in a southerly direction, and continued to do so.
The point is, we can become so focused on getting to our goal now, that we end up sabotaging ourselves instead. This is why so many people hop from diet to diet. We don’t see results fast enough, motivation drops off, and it’s on to the next.
If you commit to making the changes you want, acknowledge that it takes time, and show a little patience in the process, there’s no reason you can’t be successful.
2. Set Goals
Buckling in for a long ride doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. Having a tangible goal to work toward is motivating. Without direction, interest in what you’re doing fades much faster than it normally would.
The cool thing is you have a ton of goals to choose from in this fitness thing. There’s plenty to keep you busy and motivated. You can focus on a weight loss goal, learn a new exercise, or strive to hit a new personal record on your squat, deadlift, bench, etc.
You might find you want to achieve many goals, but instead of working toward all of them at once, list them out in order of priority. This way nothing gets lost in the shuffle, and you don’t become overwhelmed.
Doing too much at once can also leave you spinning your wheels. For instance, trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, while it is possible, happens at a snail’s pace.
However, picking just one of these goals and focusing on it will yield visible results sooner. We are results-driven beings. If we don’t see progress, we tend to give up, remember?
3. You Can’t Spot-Reduce
We all have nagging problem areas that we hate. It would be fantastic if we could just lose fat from those areas simply by focusing all our efforts there. But, unfortunately, a thousand ab crunches will not make belly fat go away faster.
The only thing that will make stubborn belly fat disappear is a calorie deficit. Focus on the overall weight loss and eventually those problem areas will improve. Patience is truly a virtue here.
What How Much You Eat
If you are having trouble losing weight, it is very possible you are eating too many calories. Just because you’re eating healthy foods, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook where weight gain is concerned.
The truth is, from a caloric standpoint, your body doesn’t care if you eat 2500 calories a day in Twinkies or 2500 cals of chicken breast. Most people will gain weight no matter what at those calories.
The same goes for losing weight. Say your goal is 1500 calories a day for weight loss. Again, you can eat 1500 calories in Twinkies or 1500 cals of chicken breast. You will lose weight no matter what.
Definitely continue to eat nutritious foods, but be aware, if you’re not seeing weight loss you should take a look at how much you’re eating in a day.
5. Rest Days are Your Friends
When you first start getting in shape, the initial changes you see and the way you feel drives you to want to hit the gym every day. More is better. Right?
It would seem so, but not really. Asking your body to perform at peak levels every day is asking too much. Taking a few days off from the gym per week allows your body to recover from the stress placed on it during your grueling workouts.
If your body never had a day off, your performance in the gym would suffer. Your joints and muscles need rest if you’re going to demand the best from them every workout.
Not only will your body get a well-deserved break, but with rest also comes muscle repair, and muscle growth. Growth? Yes, growth. Don’t run away just yet. Contrary to what some folks think, women who lift weights do NOT end up with huge muscles. Lifting weights will not leave you looking bulky. In fact, lifting weights will add curves and aid in weight loss.
Heading to the gym every day is a sign of a dedicated person, yes. But you don’t need to hit the gym every day to be dedicated to your fitness.
Take your much-needed days off where you can get them. And remain dedicated to them.
6. Which Comes First, Weight Training or Cardio?
This seems to be a popular question online. And the short answer is, weight train first, save your cardio for last. You can always separate the two completely, however, and do them on different days if that’s better for you.
Whether your focus is on gaining muscle or losing fat, you’ll want to dedicate more energy to the weights. Weight training will help preserve valuable muscle mass while in a calorie deficit. Muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat, so doing anything in your power to preserve that muscle will help you burn more calories while keeping the dreaded skinny-fat at bay.
Doing cardio at the beginning of your workout burns valuable energy. Energy that could be used to really maximize your weight training session.
7. Be Consistent
Perhaps the most important of the bunch, consistency is key. While, yes, you should take rest days, you must still be consistent in your workouts. Don’t take too many days away from the gym, or your motivation could take a nosedive.
Stay consistent by picking a workout program and sticking to it. Goals will take longer to meet if you’re constantly program-hopping, and it’s harder to track your progress when you change up exercises all the time. Measurable progress is motivating.
Easy Mode: Engage
I’ve faced all of the above throughout my fitness journey. Some of it has been frustrating, and a lot of it wasted so much of my time.
No, there is no way to make your actual workouts easy because you get what you give. Give it everything you have plus some, and you will go far.
And if you keep these 7 tips in mind, you might just save yourself a lot of time and frustration.