February has been called “the month of love.” I find that ironic. February is also the month in which most people forget how much they were going to love themselves in 2019. There’s something special about a simple calendar change on January 1 that gives you a new faith, hope, and love for yourself. And even though every year I see the majority of people give up on themselves and their fitness goals, I believe that their initial faith, hope, and love is 100% sincere.
Why is it so difficult to keep that January 1st freshness, ambition, and expectation? I propose that the reason is as simple as your reality not meeting your expectation. This is probably very similar to the reasons you broke things off with your past “Valentines”. This month, let’s try to get your expectations and your reality a little closer to each other. Start by eliminating these common fitness mistakes:
1) You expect quick results. Although you are now in your 20s, 30, 40, 50s, and it has taken you this long to get to where you are, you still expect the dramatically fast results you see in commercials. I always disliked the hit TV show “The Biggest Loser”. The contestants losing 10-20 pounds a week set a highly unrealistic expectancy for people wanting to be thinner. The conditions on that show are not real-life. No one gets to starve themselves with medical supervision while working out all day with personal trainers. The reports are that when those people left that unrealistic setting, most of the contestants gained all their weight back—or even more. MY RECOMMENDATION: Lose an average of 1-2 pounds per week. If you need to lose 50 pounds, then that should take you 25-50 weeks of smart work and dieting. At first, you will lose more than 2 pounds per week. But that will slow down drastically. As long as you average 1-2 pounds over the long term, you are doing great! As you get closer to your goal, you will have to work harder. But that is totally OK because you will be in much better shape. And for those that complain that 50 weeks is way too long, remember that you made this same commitment one year ago. You would have been at your goal already if you had only stuck with it.
2) You don’t have a plan. I’ve used this analogy before: you don’t go to college and just take random classes and hope to earn your degree in 4 years. Instead, you go talk to a counselor that asks you what you are majoring in, then tells you what classes to take in each of your 4 college years. Start with basics, take some electives, and move on to the advanced stuff towards the end. It’s very similar in the gym. MY RECOMMENDATION: Get with a fitness trainer to develop a plan for yourself. State your goal and together figure out how long it will take to reach that goal. Do not just go jump from machine to machine in the gym. Get guidance with a program that will take you from Point A to Point B. Master the basics, do some fun “elective” stuff along the way (like a 5K race, a mud run, some hiking, etc.), then when you are ready, perhaps take on some of the more advanced stuff.
3) You go overboard. This goes for both cardio and diet. Many people make the mistake of doing too much cardio at first. Remember that your body may not be conditioned for all that wear and tear. Injury is a very common reason to leave the fitness routine and eventually work it out of your schedule. In addition, no one, no matter how lean they get, can ever truly enjoy starving all the time. That is unsustainable. Don’t set yourself up for failure like that. MY RECOMMENDATION:Take a long-term approach. Start with getting 20-30 minutes of cardio a day for 3-5 days a week. “Cardio” means that you should work your heart. You should reach your target heart rate before time starts counting. (220 minus your age is your maximal heart rate). Shoot for 70-90% of your maximal heart rate. If you are 40 years old, your maximal heart rate is 220 – 40 = 180 beats per minute (bpm). 70-90% of that is 126 to 162 bpm. So start counting your 20-30 minutes of cardio when your heart rate reaches 126. You should also start your “diet” with simply eliminating what you probably already know is bad. Download the MyFitnessPal application on your smartphone. This will help you learn about different foods and how they affect your body. You’ll also see how most restaurant foods are just not worth the crazy high calories. More importantly, you will learn how to build a diet program you can actually stick to this time.
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