This week begins the first of our weekly guest blogs from health professionals.
With the holiday season passing, many of us are resolving to shed pounds, reclaim our health, or be more active. Gyms and fitness equipment companies are basking in their busy season, and most people embarking on this journey are on fire, a fire that if not fueled, will fizzle out by mid-February. I have been guilty of this, for years, I would race out of the gate January 1st weighing in in the mid-250s. I would go hard and strong for a bit, not be at my goal, and give up. It took years to realize a few things that are essential in starting and maintaining an exercise habit. Through doing this, I tossed aside over 100 pounds along the way, but better yet, I became healthy and physically capable.
Consistency is key
I’ve heard it only takes three weeks to form a habit, after learning more, I have learned it takes three weeks for something to not feel unnatural to do in your daily life. It actually takes about six to nine months for a ritual to feel abnormal if not performed. So, it may be hard to get into the groove of exercising regularly and easy to skip once it doesn’t seem so unappealing because you think you can pick it back up “tomorrow”, but this new habit can slip away quickly. I make the commitment to myself that even if exercising sounds less appealing than having my fingernails pulled out one by one, I WILL walk into the gym and exercise for at least 10 minutes. If I am still not feeling it after 10 minutes, I can go home guilt free. Usually what happens is I do a full workout. If I don’t, I at least did SOMETHING, and did my part to maintain my habit.
Use correct form
You may need to leave your ego at the door with this one. As a trainer, there were times I would see people perform lifts with horrific form so they could tote a little extra weight. Proper form is a must, it keeps the weight and force on your muscle and off of your joints and spine. One bad decision can cause permanent damage. There is no shame in using less weight in order to keep proper form, you look much better without a neck or back brace.
Listen to your body
Even if you are certain you are using proper form, if it hurts (and I mean painful, like a stabbing or sharp pain), STOP immediately! Everyone’s body structure is different. Your body sends you pain signals because something is wrong.
It used to only be cardio and strength. Balance and flexibility are equally important too. Plus working on balance and flexibility helps strengthen your muscles too. BOOM
Learn about your body
When strength training, you should train the opposing muscles as well. If you aren’t balancing the muscles you are working and only work one but not the opposite ones, it can create muscle imbalances, which can cause joint problems, injury, and chronic pain later on. If you don’t have time to learn about your body, employ professional help to either teach you or design your workouts for you
People were healthy and fit well before the existence of gyms. You can get adequate physical activity and exercise without dedicated cardio and strength training. You want to make sure that you are using your body, both your cardiovascular system and your muscular system on a regular, consistent basis. If you don’t get your heart rate up 3-5 times a week and if you aren’t challenging all of your muscles 2-3 times a week, dedicated exercise time is needed to supplement what you aren’t getting in your daily life. This is especially true for those of us who have sit at a desk all day. During the summer, I am outdoors doing much more physically challenging activities than the winter, so I spend less time doing dedicated workouts. Which leads to…
Avoid over training
You are on fire, you are excited, you want results and you want them now. So the more you do, the faster you’ll see results right? Not necessarily. Your body becomes less efficient and more prone to injury and illness when you get too much exercise. Give yourself rest between workouts. If you feel the itch for another workout after you killed it at the gym earlier, resist, maybe go for a walk instead. This isn’t permission to slack off, but remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.
You may miss a day or even a week or two. You will not be perfect. That is ok. The more you are able to let go of the all or nothing attitude, the more successful you will be. No matter what your goal is. DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. If you save $10 dollars a day for a year, even if you miss two whole months, you will still end up with $3050. The point is every little thing you do adds up, no matter how little it seems. Progress is progress, period.
Set SMARTE goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely, and Enjoyable. You should do this with everything in life. Decide WHY you are exercising, what is it that you want to accomplish? Why is this important to you? The “E” is important, how are you going to make this not only bearable, but enjoyable? Let’s be honest, no one is going to stick to anything that is just plain torturous! Plus, the more direction you have, the better your chances of success.
The biggest secret to success that I have found when it comes to exercise: DO IT. Yep, it is that simple. There are ways to enhance your results, nit pic the details, and plan every detail, but in reality the best thing you can do is be safe and not over think it.
*NASM-CPT certified, ACE-CPT certified, NCSF-CPT certified, Specialized training in TRX, Specialized training in YogaFit Level 1, IFA Nutritionist certified, CPR/AED certified
Ashlie is a personal trainer and is currently attending The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in the September 2013 class…in addition to that, she is THCG’s “right hand woman”!