What do you see when you head to your gym and work out? The same people, in the same shape, doing the same workouts time after time, right? Isn’t the whole idea of going to a gym to see a change in your body? Either in the way your body looks or how it performs. If you don’t change, then what’s the point. If you don’t change, then what’s going wrong?
Here are the three worst fitness time-sucks. See if you’re guilty of doing these and learn how to avoid them:
1. You want to lose body fat but you eat right before your workout and fill up afterwards too.
Among the worst things women do that wastes time in their workouts is to eat before working out. If your goal is to lose body fat, then the workout should be done on an empty stomach to allow the body to burn the stored glycogen in the muscles and liver. Once those stores are used up, your body uses body fat for energy. Eating before a workout will make the body burn food energy instead of stored body fat.
When should you eat before your workout? When you are working out for longer than about 45-60 minutes at higher intensity and your goal is not to lose fat, but to increase performance, such as lift heavier weights or run faster than usually. To have enough energy, you want to eat some easily-digested carbs about an hour before your workout, such as 1/2 cup of oatmeal or a slice of bread with a little cottage cheese or drink a sports drink (coconut water). The body will then use the carbs as fuel.
What about after your workouts? If you want to get lean and lose body fat, there is no need to refuel with lots of carbs. Eat lots of veggies and lean proteins instead of going overboard on starches and sugar. Those would fill up your glycogen stores in the muscles and liver, so you would be basically right back to where you were before you started your workout. Just because you work out, doesn’t mean you should eat more!
2. Thinking that heavy weights will make you bulky, so you lift baby weights:
Does this woman look bulky to you? Certainly not. She’s a fitness model (Jennifer Nicole Lee), lifts heavy weights and her diet is clean. The result: Lean muscle, low body fat.
Lifting light weights (anything less than 5 lbs) and performing more than 12 reps is a waste of time. The only way a muscle will get stronger and leaner is by challenging the muscle to perform more than it normally does. A heavy weight that stresses the muscle enough and creates microscopic tears is necessary to stimulate muscle repair. Instead of doing 50 reps with a 3-lb dumbbell, pick up 8 lb weights and try to lift it 6-12 times. With every time you work out, you’ll notice your strength increase and the shape of your body change much faster. It’s not about the number of reps as it is about how much you engage and stress your muscle.
Also, pay attention to your level of muscle fatigue. Your muscles adapt over time. Take our Slim & Strong participants who start the month with little to no strength. Over the course of 4 weeks they go from barely being able to do a single full-body push-up to cranking out up to 50 in sets of 10. How is that possible? By progressively challenging your muscle to do more than in the last workout. Use proper form, pay attention to adequate fatigue levels and push beyond your comfort zone. Your body will change 10x faster than if you were to use baby dumbbells, no matter what Tracy Anderson says…
3. You want to burn calories and change your body’s shape but you’re doing the same cardio routine:
Doing steady-state cardio on the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike is the biggest waste of time. If you have been training your body with cardio for more than one month, make sure you incorporate sprints and high intensity intervals. If you perform the same routine day after day without changing it up, your body will get used to the routine and burn fewer and fewer calories with each workout. Try a new class or take your run outside instead of running on the treadmill while watching TV. Your body will get used to anything, no matter the intensity. Even though I work out intensely for 2 hours on most days, my body has become so used to this level of intensity, that it has adapted to it and doesn’t change anymore because of it. I have to lift heavy weights to stimulate muscle growth and get in lots of variety in the cardio department. Change is good!