Did you set a New Year’s resolution to lose weight this year feeling that this was actually going to be your year to reach that goal? Did you start a new exercise routine with a ton of excitement? Have you gotten discouraged because you are not seeing your results?
I am sitting here, as I write this, taking a trip down memory lane. I have had a yes answer to all of these questions for many years. Beginning a new weight loss journey is exciting, you have a feeling of flying high and one that tells you this is definitely going to be the year!
I know this because I have had the very same experience. I had such high hopes for myself. I would get so excited about the year ahead and all the weight I was going to lose. I would start planning my exercise routine thinking about everything I had been told by those I love, and by those exercise gurus out there. I knew I was set because it would be so easy to plan the exercise routine, do the exercises, lose the weight, and within just a few weeks I would begin looking at a new, sexy me.
This is when I would collide with that wall! Are you colliding with that wall now? The one where you begin to realize that you are not at your goal weight, even though you are doing everything right. The one where you are standing there deciding not to do your workout because it is hard, and it was supposed to get easier. The one where you just know that you have been doing everything right so it must be your body and you are not meant to be skinny.
Let me help you get back on track with your weight loss goals. You can change your life forever by achieving the goal you have set for yourself. You can lose the weight once you bust through some myths and learn some truths about exercise.
I am going to tell you right now, most of what you have heard about exercise: what counts as exercise, how much exercise you need, and how the exercise benefits you IS WRONG! Here are 8 facts you need to know about exercise to help you continue on with your weight loss program and get you out of that rut!
#1: Working out does not get easier, it will always feel hard. Yes, exercise needs to be work. It needs to elevate your heart rate, make you breathless and cause your muscles to burn. Sometimes it even needs to be tiring, or even exhausting. Why, then do people tell you it will get easier? Well, exercise does get “easier” over time as you learn how to do it and train your body; however it will never be “easy”. If it were to get “easy” it would not be considered exercise any longer.
Exercise is meant to challenge you beyond your comfort zone to condition your heart, lungs, and muscles. Getting your body moving is GREAT, but it will only get you so far. Yes, it will become easier to do the exercises but once that happens you need to push yourself more to challenge your body. You will have to work harder as you get fitter. Think of it as continually challenging yourself to improve on what you just accomplished.
#2: Every activity does not count as exercise. It is true that all movement is good for you (fidgeting, waking across the office, taking the stairs instead of the elevator), especially when you are just starting out, but that does not mean that it is exercise. An activity only counts as true exercise when it fits into certain parameters. The two biggest and most important being:
- You must do the activity for at least 10 consecutive minutes.
- The activity must elevate you heart rate to that of an aerobic level (pumping much faster than normal).
You are only providing yourself with the short end of the stick when you count every activity you do every day as a workout. The end result being that it hurts your weight loss efforts.
#3: You need to do more than one workout to undo your sedentary lifestyle. Simply exercising for your normal 10, 30, or 60+ minutes a day is not necessarily going to reverse the effects of your otherwise sedentary life. Research is showing that you need to remain active throughout your day rather than becoming a couch potato after your workout is over.
Activities like sitting, driving, working on a computer, and sleeping make up the majority of most people’s days and the longer you do these activities the worse the effects on your health. What really helps your health and longevity is getting up and doing smaller activities throughout the day. This is where those “other” activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking across the office, and fidgeting do matter. They are not true workouts, but they do have good benefits for your overall health.
#4: You are burning fewer calories than you think. Many times we hear phrases like “Burn up to 800 calories an hour!” on TV, workout DVDs, group classes, or fitness product advertisements. This becomes very misleading as most of the time these numbers are extremely inflated. An average person will not burn a fraction of those calories. This is also true when it comes to treadmills and cardio machines that include a “calorie burn” screen. These amounts can be off by as much as 30% or more since they are only estimates.
You are better off assuming that you are burning fewer calories than what any tracker or machine tells you when it comes to weight loss. The best way to gauge your calorie burn is to wear a heart rate monitor. While a machine can tell you that you have burned 600 calories, your heart rate monitor (which uses your gender, weight, and more precise heart rate) may only show 400 calories burned. This is a huge difference when you are trying to lose weight.
#5: Exercise is not a free pass to eat whatever you want. Rewarding yourself with food is detrimental to your weight loss efforts. Going for a walk or completing that workout class does not mean it is okay to indulge with a huge chocolate peanut butter brownie or an extra large bowl of ice cream.
When you keep in mind that you do not really burn as many calories as you think you are during a workout, that one splurge can truly offset your weight loss efforts. Even an extreme workout cannot fix a day of splurging. Avoid justifying your food choices with “I worked out today” as much as possible. When weight loss is your goal, you need to keep those cheat meals in check or you will be fighting a constant battle and never get anywhere.
#6: You will not change your body with exercise alone. Over the years you have been lead to believe that exercising more, exercising harder, or using some “magical” combination will get you six pack abs, defined arms and toned legs. It is out of my respect for you that I have to tell you that this IS NOT TRUE!
Exercise will not change your body that much if you are not lowering your calorie intake as well. To really see the defined arms and solid abs you need to watch your diet and overall food intake. Your daily diet should consist of fewer calories than you burn during the day, and your exercise needs to consist of both cardio and strength training.
You need to have fat loss around the areas that you want to see definition in, to actually see that definition. This is why you need to combine a healthy, balanced diet along with exercise.
#7: Exercise is forever. Most people do not like to exercise, but they do it anyway to see the weight loss. The unfortunate side of this is that they stop as soon as they reach their weight loss goal. They may not stop immediately but they begin to use reaching their goal as a reason not to exercise daily, eventually leading them to losing the habit completely.
The only way you are going to keep that weight off, keep yourself in good health, keep that sexy look, or simply continue to feel good is to keep exercise as part of your daily routine. You may be able to cut back to just 3-4 days a week, but you need to maintain an exercise program.
When you stop exercising the benefits are quickly lost. This is why consistency is important, as well as finding a routine that you enjoy and can stick with for the long run. You can actually lose your strength and endurance more quickly than you can build it up. After just 2 weeks off from strength training you can begin to lose muscle, and after just 2 days of no cardio your cardiovascular endurance starts to diminish.
#8: Weight loss hates routine exercise. Having the same exercise routine for more than 2-4 weeks can cause you to stop losing weight. You will become bored and your weight loss will reach the dreaded “plateau”. The best weight loss results come from change. Change your workouts every 2-4 weeks or even weekly if you prefer.
Those of you who are creatures of habit or feel you lack in the creativity department will find this to be quite challenging; however there are a ton of ways that you can mix up your routines without spending all of your time in the gym. You can change from walking to jogging, from 10 reps to 12 reps, from dumbbells to resistance bands, or any other switch that you can think up. This only needs to be a small switch within your normal routine. You could make a more drastic switch by going from biking to kickboxing or from karate to pilates. The important thing is that you switch it up. Keep your workouts fresh and don’t let them become stale. Lifelong exercisers are always looking for something new to try. It is a fun challenge for your body that helps to keep it fit.
I know some of these truths are hard to swallow, or hard to change your focus on. After all, we have been told that there is only one way to lose weight for so long, and now we need to learn something new. Learning new things adds spice to your life and allows you the opportunity to explore and push your own boundaries. Where are you in your exercise journey? Are you just starting out, or are you looking for a change? What are you going to try?