The term no good deed goes unpunished certainly applies in the fitness world. Most of the biggest mistakes you make when trying to lose weight, build muscle, improve your health markers, or do anything else related to improving your health come out of the best intentions. No one starts a gym membership or nutrition plan looking to not get results! However, if you're struggling to get the results you're after, it is very likely you're making one of these mistakes. I know I have.
Sorry, I really couldn't resist the most obvious of musical references. The first mistake most people make when they want to achieve a fitness goal is taking on too much, too fast. This is what happens when you go from not working out at all to exercising with intensity every single day. While this certainly can spike some near term weight loss, most people become burned out or discouraged quickly.
Another example is when you couple a brand new exercise program with a completely different nutrition plan - both huge changes to your routine. For example, if you've never done intense exercise and then you begin doing high intensity interval training, coupled with a low carb or Paleo style diet, you're going to feel extremely tired and eventually it will feel like too much change and you will quit. No matter how great your willpower is, this will happen.
The key to long term progress is consistency, not taking on everything at once.
If results happened in five days, everyone would be fit and healthy. Unfortunately, real results take much longer than this, and in order to see them at all you really need a plan. One of the main reasons to join a gym or begin an online paid program is to have someone telling you exactly what to do on each day that you workout.
Most of the time when you aren't seeing results it is because you're going off plan. Instead of following along with the workouts written, you end up choosing only your favorite ones and fill in the gaps with other workouts you see on Instagram. Often this means you are working even harder than you have to be, yet not seeing the pay off.
Stick to a plan for an absolute minimum of 12 weeks before you evaluate the effectiveness in the long term.
This mistake goes right in tandem with the point about not following a plan, but instead of exercise this focuses on nutrition. Even more common than jumping around on exercise plans is changing your diet every time you see a new, intriguing diet.
Over the last year, the best example of this is the ketogenic diet, which prioritizes a very high amount of fat, moderate amount of protein, and extremely low carb. It has been very successful for many people, and is deserving of attention. This doesn't mean it is right for every situation.
Just like exercise, your nutrition plan only works when you follow it with consistency. You don't have to be perfect, but you need to follow the plan for a period of time before you make decisions to jump ship or continue. Don't be swayed by the latest ideas from social media influencers (they got paid for that post anyway).
It is 11:00 pm and you've had a few beers with your family or close friends, and now you're a bit hungry and in front of the pantry. You know you should have a piece of fruit and a bit of protein to aid against the effects of alcohol on your recovery, but instead you reach for the cookies. You tell yourself just one cookie, but then one becomes two. Now you want something salty. The chips come out. Then back to the sweets.
You've snowballed, and you're not alone. We all have been there, eating things we don't even really want with no clear understanding as to why. The core message you tell yourself as this happens is, "I already had this bad thing, so I may as well just have more."
Wrong. Your health is not a clear picture of good and bad. It is a constant gray scale. Some foods need to be consumed in smaller quantities and less frequently than others. But having a treat food in an acceptable quantity once in awhile does not negate your progress. Learning to control these moments of big binges is a huge moment, and it is an entirely mental game.
Hear me out. Your body doesn't get more fit during exercise. In fact, you actually break down your muscles a ton when you're doing intense exercise.
You actually see those improvements during recovery and rest when your body builds back stronger than it was before in anticipation of the next time you ask it to do hard work again. They call this "super-compensation" in fitness circles.
If you workout hard every single day, you will not see this improvement. You need to be including at least one rest day in your week. You don't have to sit around and be a couch potato, but get out of the gym and give your muscles and mind a rest from the intensity. Go for a walk, play some yard games like corn hole, or take your dog to a park. You can still be active without doing real exercise.
To wrap up, remember that you control the results you're after. You have the choice to follow your coach's guidance, stick to a plan, and make good decisions when it comes to nutrition. It will never be easy! But it is worth it. Not for the looks or the comments, but for your own self-pride about sticking through something and getting the reward.