Turns out that you actually have to move more and eat less to lose weight … who knew, right? Okay, I bet you did.
You're probably one of those fitness "freaks" - and I say that with deep admiration - lacing up your shoes and hitting the gym 5-to-7 days per week. That means you're producing the results you want, doesn't it?
Unless you're not. Do you routinely find yourself saying, "I just don't have the genetics to build muscle," or "I can't lose weight because I have a slow metabolism?"
The fact is that to get in the best shape of your life you have to do more than just show up at the gym. At this point you have to ask yourself, "Am I putting my time to good use, or am I just spinning my wheels?"
Don't get me wrong - any gym time is time well spent. However, if you're tired of spending countless hours working out without seeing significant results, you might need to reassess your plan.
There are four critical mistakes people make when they're in the gym. It happens every day! People, you might be your own worst enemy when it comes to your fitness goals. Below are the mistakes you must stop making right now and four challenges that can help you get the body of your dreams.
You Don't Have a Plan of Attack OR You Don't Attack Your Plan
The simple and oft-repeated truth to this mistake is that if you fail to prepare for your fitness goals, you should prepare to fail. Preparation is the skeleton key to life; any door can be unlocked with it, even the one leading to you being in the best shape of your life.
Would you think of packing your parachute only as you're falling out of the plane and plunging toward the ground? If you believe that you possess more common sense than that, then why are you walking into the gym without a plan of attack for your workout? And what's more - you haven't committed to a scheduled workout and diet plan? Tsk, tsk, my friends. If your schedule, workouts and diet are sporadic, your results will be equally incomplete and unsatisfactory.
Does this hit close to home? You may think you have zero extra time to make a plan and that flexibility is what will really get you results. But that means that this challenge will be tough, because it's all about time management and accountability.
The PLAN OF ATTACK Challenge:
Every Sunday, cook an entire week's worth of healthy meals, including breakfast, lunch, mini-meals and dinner.
Not as hard as it seems - here are some quick tips to accomplish this:
Use convenient food containers like Tupperware or plastic baggies to separate meals. Store your Monday-through-Wednesday meals in the refrigerator. Put Thursday-through-Saturday meals in the freezer. Take the second half of your meals out of the freezer on Wednesday evening to thaw.
Write down or print out your workouts for every day you will be in the gym. That includes choosing a workout split like full-body, upper and lower body or separate muscle groups. Choose each exercise you are going to do for each day and perform what you put on paper.
To stay accountable, have a punishment in place if you skip a workout or if you forget to prepare. For example, force yourself to do 100 up-downs, and you'll never forget again!
Work out at the same time for at least three days a week.
You Do 10 Times More Cardio Than Strength Training
Whether you're overweight and hoping to lose that spare tire once and for all, or you can't seem to put on muscle regardless of how much healthy food you eat, excessive cardio performed for significant periods of time may be hindering your progress.
People tend to gravitate toward the treadmill if they want to shed pounds. However, you should really be splitting your time between cardio equipment and weights or even spending a bit more time with the good ol' iron.
Doing a majority of cardio won't give you the muscle tone and overall "fit" look you desire. Even if you think you want to lose fat and then build muscle, your brain is set backward.
Rather than spending all your time in the gym workin' the treadmill, incorporate a circuit-training program that will build muscle while burning fat. Circuit training routines can be found on Bodybuilding.com, but the basic idea is to move from one strength training exercise to the next with little rest in between. This results in a fast-paced workout and elevated heart rate. It is a great way to prime your body to burn fat while also constructing stronger lean muscle tissue.
On the other hand, if you're already in lean shape but have a hard time putting on muscle, scale your cardio back even more. You especially should focus on strength training and a few low-intensity cardio sessions each week.
Of course, some cardio is a necessity for anyone and everyone, regardless of your fitness goals. The benefits of elevating your heart rate are nearly endless. Not only is it great for cardiovascular function, but it's also really the primary way to condition your body for fat loss.
The DO LESS CARDIO, MORE STRENGTH TRAINING Challenge:
Put more emphasis on strength training than cardio.
Here's how you can mold your strength/cardio workouts depending on your goal:
If you're trying to lose a significant amount of body fat while building muscle, then focus on high-intensity circuit training.
If you're trying to maintain a lean physique while building a significant amount of muscle over time, then focus a majority of your time on heavy weight training and incorporate 3-to-5 low intensity cardio sessions per week.
Your cardio sessions shouldn't be longer than 20-30 minutes each. How do you know if you're overdoing the cardio? If you are so short of breath that you cannot hold a conversation, ease up.
Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition Isn't Hitting The Mark
Fake NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby of Talladega Nights wouldn't dream of starting a race with an empty tank. Even a tank full of less-than-premium fuel would be a hideous catastrophe. So when it comes to your body and training, why would you walk into the gym without being properly fueled?
Nutrition is the most important factor in transforming your body and maintaining your health. Sadly, it's also the most overlooked and disregarded fitness factor. Go ahead and live in the gym and take an arsenal of expensive supplements, but if you're not eating right, all your efforts and cash will amount to zero changes to your health.
What are the two most important meals of the day? The two surrounding your workout. To get the best workout possible, you should have energy stores that are easily accessible to your body when it's being taxed. Both the amount of fuel and the quality of fuel will determine how hard your body will be able to work and how well it will respond to the stress from the workload. Let's get into some detail so you see why these meals are the most important and what exactly you need to eat.
Your pre-workout meal should be complex and nutritionally dense, including a protein and a complex carbohydrate. Carbohydrates play an important role pre-workout because your body prefers them as an energy source over all other nutrients. So top off your energy stores with premium fuel that you can burn off at the gym by eating carbs before your workout.
If your body doesn't have that energy supply on hand, it's forced to tap into a secondary reserve of "dirty" energy. The body must utilize energy from fat as it's burned in order to muster up enough fumes to survive the hard times. The quality of this form of energy is extremely low. You may notice that when you're hungry during a workout you feel extremely weak with low energy. You probably missed your pre-workout meal, didn't you? Shame.
If you're within 30-to-60 minutes of your workout and haven't fueled up yet, eat only a light snack that includes a piece of fruit. Fruit is a fast-acting energy source because of a high amount of simple carbs. It'll keep you going until the complex carbs kick in.
Your post-workout nutrition can be as simple as drinking a protein shake. But just because it's simple doesn't make it less important. After wearing down your muscles and depleting your body of energy and some nutrients, you must shuttle those nutrients back into your system ASAP.
Remember, muscles are not built in the gym; they're built during the recovery process. By book-ending your workouts with high quality food for energy and recovery you'll be more productive in the gym and recover faster afterward.
Here's the condensed version: taking care of pre- and post-workout nutrition means you'll reach your fitness goals faster!
The Pre- and Post-Workout Meals Challenge:
Eat a healthy meal or snack before your workout, and within an hour after you workout drink a protein shake.
Your Ego Calls the Shots at the Gym
It's easy to let your competitive nature take over when you're at the gym. Maybe the guy next to you is curling 55-pound dumbbells while you're holding 35-pounders. Next thing you know, you're strolling over and grabbing the heavier weights and thinking, "If he can lift those, I'm sure I can go heavier."
Really, who likes being shown up? We all have egos, and we all want to be the fastest, strongest, fittest versions of ourselves. Unfortunately, if you don't check your ego at the door, you're likely to try exceed your natural capabilities, which could lead to injury and stall your progress.
Nor can you accomplish much with bad exercise form. Bad form happens when you force your body to lift a weight that's too heavy. You often swing around your body and make other muscles compensate.
Keep the weight manageable and isolate the correct muscles. Then you know you have efficiently and completely torn that muscle down. Would you want less than maximum benefit from any exercise?
Don't forget to ask for a spotter when you need one. Don't think you need one? Well, excuse me for being crude, but that's "bass-ackwards." The process of building new muscle depends on exhausting existing muscle fibers, a.k.a. "going to failure." If you don't have someone behind you pushing you to the final rep then you're missing out on real, positive gains.
And please, for the love of Arnold, stop trying to impress the opposite sex. If you can't curl 55 pounds when you're alone, then you probably can't lift it to impress a girl when she walks by.
If any of this applies to you, then your ego is keeping you small! Instead, focus on effective weight training and good form. At the end of the day, you'll look and feel better for it and people will take notice. Knowing that you've accomplished your goals is a huge ego boost.
Shape Up Your Exercise Form Challenge:
Find out how to perform every exercise you've decided to do for every workout. If you think you know, check again. Next, test yourself at the gym. If you start to break form, then drop the weight and focus on the contraction of the particular muscle you are working. Practice perfect form for every exercise you do.
(Bonus: By practicing perfect form, you'll really impress your gym crush. I promise.)
Work out with a friend or find a spotter for your heavier sets. You'll be surprised how willing people are to help out, even strangers. And, who knows, you might even make some new friends.
Get Out of Your Own Way and Into the Best Shape of Your Life
If you can start following a training and nutrition plan, balance your training between cardio and strength, get correct pre- and post-workout nutrition, and lift with perfect form ... well, there won't be much standing in your way.
Sometimes we really are our own worst enemies - but with a few simple changes we can accomplish greatness. Good luck!