More and more I see people becoming concerned with health as they take steps to improve their nutrition and fitness. Although this is great, a lack of basic knowledge can sometimes hurt more than help. When people enthusiastically share their proud achievements, I am always happy that they are realising the importance of taking care of their health. However, there are a few things that sometimes make me worry, but I do not want to come across as discouraging so I decided to list some of the common misconceptions. I’ve also included a few tips that seem to have helped clients, friends and family get on track.
(Please take note that I am not referring to people that are chasing physique or strength goals, but more health and fitness. Of course with health and fitness in check, the aesthetic results are icing on the cake. How far someone takes their aesthetic goals is their personal choice and will have a much different lifestyle than the one I am discussing here. )
Running for their life
A typical approach to fitness is to spend hours jogging your life away. Don’t get me wrong, jogging is a great form of cardio, but if the focus is fat loss and fitness, it is not the most efficient exercise.
When you have a hectic work life or a family to care for, extended cardio is an extremely time consuming method of fat loss. Switch out some of your jogging sessions for HIIT or resistance training and you will find improvements in fitness and physique coming along much easier.
Believing everything you read on the internet
With the abundance of fitness and health magazines, websites, YouTube Channels, etc., information can be extremely overwhelming. There’s always a new article about the next best training routine or diet. However, trying to keep up with all the trends doesn’t do anyone much good. There is never a one-size-fits-all training and nutrition program. It takes time to find your personal recipe for fitness.
A lot of the information out there also tends to be “bro-science”. Techniques that are not tested or proven, with a lack of scientific backing. Make sure that you are getting your information from a credible source and not someone that is simply marketing the latest protein shake or acting “expert” behind a computer screen.
Unless you are trying to achieve and maintain low body fat levels (Men <10% Women <18%), advice about how you MUST work out like a fitness professional to be “healthy” is also false. No, you don’t have to be in the gym 3-4 hours a day every day of the week for the rest of your life to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to cook every meal for yourself and carry lunch boxes around everywhere. Getting enough sleep or having a rest day is also not a crime.
People who live in high stress environments can usually blame some form of hormone imbalance for feeling “unfit”. The typical fat around the belly, unsatisfying sleep and food cravings are just a few symptoms of hormone imbalance. A range of stressors can cause hormone imbalance and could be anything from dietary and mental stressors or even light pollution. The last thing you want to do is negatively stress your body as it can crash your system.
Proper nutrition and exercise are great solutions to this imbalance but a big mistake for those working hard to increase fitness is that they do too much, too fast. Adding the wrong type of stressors through extreme exercise and dieting can cause health to worsen. The mentality of “exercise more and eat less” is not always appropriate for all. If your main reason to get fit is to feel and look healthier, then make sure you begin your new lifestyle at a pace that your body is comfortable with.
Weighing scales tend to have great power over what we think of ourselves. I used to be one of those people who stepped on a scale EVERYDAY and got upset when I wasn’t at my ideal weight yet, or worse, I had put on weight. It’s funny how one silly machine can make us feel disappointed, discouraged and depressed all at the same time. This was a hard habit to break, even though I knew muscle weighed more than fat. The thought about not getting lighter is not the easiest concept to accept, especially for females. However, when you put the scale aside and focus on how you look and feel, you will find that you aren’t as hard on yourself and the process is much more enjoyable and full of many surprises!
Tips for Those New to Fitness
Build your support team
There’s a big difference in outcome when someone tries to keep their fitness goals a secret from everyone around them and when they express them. If the people you spend most your time with (friends, family, and colleagues) do not understand what you are trying to accomplish, they are not going to help keep you from straying from your fitness plan.
Explain your goals to them and ask for their support explaining how important it is for you. There may be a little resistance at first but soon they will be keeping you from “cheating”. Even better, they may just decide to join you after seeing the hard work you are putting in! Why go through it alone when you can have your very own support team rooting for you.
Don’t rush into things
Pace yourself. You aren’t expected to become a pro bodybuilder overnight. Understand what your goal is and find the appropriate help. Find a fitness routine that aids in reducing your stress, not add to it, be it yoga or powerlifting. If you aren’t sure what I mean, hire a professional to help you.
Training can take a toll on your body so make sure you are doing some release work or going for a good massage now and then to work out your knots. Try your best to feed your body well so that it can keep up with the exercise you are doing and aid in recovery. An increase in exercise will also mean that you may need a little more sleep than usual, don’t deprive yourself of rest.
Balance is key when it comes to health and wellbeing. When you find that balance, staying fit and healthy is easily sustainable.
Enjoy the process
Enjoy the workouts and the nutrition. Don’t keep searching for your washboard abs every morning, they will come. Enjoying the process ensures that the healthy lifestyle is one you will want to keep. Don’t focus on not reaching your big goal, focus on hitting small daily goals like getting a good workout in for the day. Before you know it, you’ll be right where you want to be!
Focus on yourself
Don’t compare your results to anyone else’s. Every individual’s body responds differently to training and diet. Just because it comes a little slower for you doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard or doing a good job.
The fitness models you see on magazines and online go through extremely strict diets and lifestyles to maintain their shape. If certain aspects of social life are not something you are ready to give up, then understand that you cannot compare your body to theirs. Know what you want and be happy with what you have achieved!
Find your balance
Between work, family, health and fitness. Find a routine that allows you to be at peak performance for your lifestyle as a whole. When everything is in line you will be surprised at the physique you can achieve. Of course this is much easier said than done. Our environment is constantly changing which calls for readjustments to our lifestyles but we are only human and can only try our best.
Keep it Simple and Sustainable
If you aren’t ready for counting macros and tracking calories for meal prep, then just keep it simple. Eat as healthy as you can and take note of your proportions. A simple way to measure your food is to use your hand. Your palm is roughly the size of your protein portion, a fist is the amount of vegetables, a cupped hand is your starchy carbohydrate portion and your thumb is your fats portion.
If fitting a workout in at the gym seems impossible with your schedule, then start with a bodyweight workout at home. The larger we make the task, the bigger the reason we have for shying away from it. If we shrink the task then attacking it won’t seem too overwhelming. Keep things simple till you are ready to take a step up in fitness.
With much love,
Author: Cari Li
The Co-Founder of The Good Curves and Owner of CoachCariLi.com, an online Lifestyle Coaching company focused in women’s fat loss solutions. She has a huge passion for enabling women to find ways to live their happiest and healthiest life through simple lifestyle changes. Her love for travel has allowed her to gain a special perspective on life that she enjoys sharing with the many women she meets along the way as she strives to improve the lives of women everywhere.