Biggest Workout Mistakes
The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop next to two girls catching up, and I couldn't help but overhear part of their convo. They were talking about fitness routines and one of the girls said,
"Well I go to the gym 4-5 days a week, but I'm not getting anywhere. I think I'm just one of those girls whose body doesn't really respond to anything."
I silently disagreed with her, but it also got me a little bummed that she has this belief about herself.
Barring a medical restriction, I believe that anyone can get stronger, lose fat (if that is the goal), and feel better from working out when done correctly.
But I actually hear this sentence all the time, especially from women. And it's usually coming from ladies who go to the gym consistently (I mean if you work out twice a month and eat whatever you feel like every weekend... you probably already have a good idea of why you aren't getting the results you want). But it can be extremely disheartening to put a lot of effort and have little to no results to show for it.
Over the years as I've dug into the details, I've noticed some repeated patterns and key mistakes that are hindering results and goals. If you are feeling frustrated with your current process, make sure you aren't doing one of these things.
1. Avoiding resistance training.
The weight-room can be a scary place, both because of the annoying guys that sometime permeate the dumbbell rack, and also because it can be intimidating to get started. What weight do you select? Which exercise should you do first? What if you do something wrong and either hurt yourself or look like an idiot? I get it, there's a lot going on. But resistance is not only the most effective way to burn fat and tone up, it's also proven to help slow down the development of osteoporosis and bone loss as we age. This is particularity important for naturally thin women. One of my favorite things about first time weight lifters (and by weight lifters I mean someone who picks up something weighted), is that they will see results quickly. And it's fun! Seriously, being able to causally lift a barbell makes you fee like a badass. Need help with this? Scroll to the bottom, I got you!
2. Only doing cardio (such a spin, dance classes, or running).
This goes along with point number 1. Cardio is great and necessary, but it is not the most efficient way to burn fat (your body is pretty smart and adapts to sustained levels of activity). So adding another hour on the treadmill every day won't actually help to speed up your metabolism. Try rotating in 2 days of cross-training with weights. Not only will you burn unwanted fat more efficiently, you will decrease your risk for injury by getting stronger in other movement patterns.
3. Not paying attention to fat calories.
You can't out-train a bad diet (you know this), but extra fat calories are EVERYWHERE, even in "healthy" food (and especially present if you rely on takeout for 1-2 meals a day... or 3, I've been there). Most women should have about a thumb-sized portion of fat with eat meal, so be sure to look at how things are prepared (often it's with lots of oil), what dressings are being added, and what little extras are included that may add up (like a salad with almonds + craisins + cheese + avocado = potentially too much fat, and that's without taking into account the dressing). Just start taking note this week, you may be surprised how much you are unwittingly eating.
4. Unrealistic timeframes for expected results.
Achieving dramatic results (or even just the "last 5 pounds") can take a while. This time-frame is different for each person, and some people may have to work harder than others to achieve a similar result (annoying, I know). But be patient! More than likely you did not gain 20 pounds all at once, it probably happened slowly over the course of many years. So you can't expect to lose it all in 8 weeks (or even 12-24!). Our bodies are also highly adaptive and it will always take the path of least resistance. So if you are trying to lose weight, it will fight you to stay where you are because it's easier on the system. Slow and steady always wins the race. I would also highly recommend tracking non-scale progress each month (weight is not a great benchmark of progress). Track your measurements or simply document yourself in the same pose and similar outfit each month, you will be surprised how much you'll change if you stay consistent (even if you feel like you should be further along).
5. Taking cheat day a little too seriously.
I actually don't even like the term "cheat day", because it implies that there are "good" foods and "bad" foods. This is false, there is just food, and it will either help you move towards your goals or move away from your goals. That said, I'm also all about living life and enjoying yourself occasionally, especially when it involves quality time with friends (for example this weekend I had a good friend from NY visiting and we ate a huge steak dinner on Saturday, brunch on Sunday, breakfast burritos on Monday, and donuts today... it was all amazing!). But we also went hiking, surfing, worked out everyday, and ate strategically around our "splurge" meals. Treating yourself is one thing, throwing all caution to the wind and going crazy all weekend is where you will start to hinder all the work you put in Monday - Friday. Choose your indulgent foods wisely and double down on water, protein and veggie intake for the rest of the day.
6. Doing the same routine every week.
Over time the body will adapt to whatever stimulus you subject it to. If you run 3 miles a day, at the beginning it will feel hard and you might be tired afterwards. But over time your body adjusts and you'll be able to breeze through it no problem (which is great! It's fun to get better at something). But as you become more conditioned, the amount of fuel required to complete it also diminishes. So if you never change the speed, distance, or conditions of the run, you will quickly plateau and progress will stall. Keep the body guessing by mixing up your routine and try different weights/distances/speeds.
7. Only having a goal of weight-loss.
I have a love-hate relationship with "weight-loss" as a number on a scale. While it can be a useful barometer to gauge if you are generally headed in the right direction, it can be very easy to become obsessed with it (and also upset when it doesn't change in your favor every day). Our weight fluctuates through-out the day, and for women it will change depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. So if you weigh yourself every day, you aren't always comparing apples to apples physiologically speaking. It also makes working out and eating healthy a real chore, and for most people this means they will inevitably crash and burn into a sleeve of oreos. Try signing up for a race, or pick a habit (I recommend only one at a time) to track and improve on.
8. Working out without a plan.
You've probably heard the adage, "failing to plan is planning to fail" before, but it's so important for achieving your health and fitness goals (or with basically every aspect of life). If you wanted to run a marathon for example and you'd never completed a mile, you wouldn't start with a 10k run. You'd start with a mile and work your way up from there. The same is true for strength and weight-loss goals. Showing up to the gym is certainly the first step, but what you do with your time will dictate your results. If you wonder from machine to machine doing as many reps as you are in the mood for that day, it probably won't propel your results in the direction you want (or at least not very efficiently). Get a plan and stick to it! (Pssst! Need help with this? Keep scrolling!)
9. Not eating enough protein.
I'm certainly guilty of this one (wait, toast for dinner isn't enough!?). It is so important to properly fuel your body if you want to perform your best in the gym, and also get optimal results from your workout. Whether you want to get stronger, or lose weight and tone up, protein is the star of the show that will help you get there. Aim to eat one palm sized serving at every meal. Just changing this alone is enough for some people to start shedding weight.
10. Ignoring rest and recovery days.
This is hugely over-looked by most people, and it's easy to feel "guilty" about taking a day off, especially if you have a lofty goal you are working towards. But if you ignore this your body will shut down at some point. It needs time off to repair and rebuild before being able to progress. Take at least one day a week completely off and rest, relax, and chill, your body will thank you!
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