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How to decide what workouts you should be doing?
There are SO many moving parts when it comes to deciding what type of workouts you should be doing. The main factors to consider are your goals, where you are in your fitness journey, and the strategy required to get you to where you want to be.
Let’s take a deeper look.
“Fitness” goals and ability vary DRASTICALLY from one person to the next, and so should the workout style…
You may be working out to improve health markers (lower cholesterol, get type II diabetes under control), to finally get that six-pack, or be anywhere in between. The actual goal doesn’t matter, so long as you know what it is, because different goals typically require entirely different approaches.
Many unproductive dieters can attribute years of failed fat loss attempts to either having no specific goal (i.e. “getting in shape”) or expecting one workout style (i.e. running) to accomplish multiple –often opposing– goals (i.e. lose fat AND gain muscle/build strength AND increase endurance).
If the goal is to get stronger for example, a circuit-heavy routine just won’t cut it. Many people looking to get “toned” would be hard pressed to define muscles they’ve never taken the time to build. Increasing your mileage on the treadmill (or pounding the pavement) may be the absolute best way to increase your endurance for that Rock’n Roll marathon – but could seriously work against your efforts to chisel out that firm, muscular, lean physique you’ve been striving for. Even if your daily run has become a significant part of what keeps you sane – strength/muscle gains (and even fat loss!) will not come from simply doing more of the same, just because you love it.
Accomplishing any goal will only come from incorporating the behaviors conducive to that particular goal. Whether you “love” the required behaviors or not.
Understanding the various stages of the journey, and where YOU are in it, is the next critical piece to this puzzle.
Regardless of what inspires you to begin the journey (doctor’s recommendations, desire to change, etc.), a person who has never really worked out before will need an entirely different workout plan than a seasoned veteran.
Beginning stages will consist mainly of learning, experimenting, and focusing on consistency (vs being completely derailed by details that simply don’t matter…yet). Your first year or two of starting a fitness regimen is a great time test out a wide variety of exercise styles, as you’ll likely get the same results regardless of what type of activity you choose – especially in the first six months. Because your body has not yet had time to adapt to your new habit of movement, progress (i.e. “newbie gains”) will come rather easily.
Take FULL advantage of this season of the journey (don’t rush it!), because when it’s over, it’s over.
A year or two into your fitness journey, you will have to start being more systematic in your approach. What “worked” in the beginning stages will slowly stop producing the results that it has been, and progress will come to a screeching halt.
This stage of the journey is where strategy becomes essential.
Just as college courses start off general, and become more specific as you close in on your degree – your workouts should become more goal-dependent, and increasingly strategic as your journey progresses.
They key to seeing continual changes to your body (or increasing progress toward whatever YOUR goal is) is to consistently introduce deliberate challenge, rather than seeking THE one-size-fits-all solution.
Notice the keyword: deliberate. This means that each workout session/style/phase builds on the one before it, compounding toward the end goal. This is not the same as randomly changing things up, or “trying something new.” Signing up for random classes at your local gym, gathering free workouts from the internet, or having unwavering devotion to whatever on-demand workout service is currently trending does not guarantee specific “results” any more than signing up for random classes at your local university could guarantee a specific degree.
Without a strategy, even seemingly productive actions can become glorified wheel-spinning, leaving you with little to no progress to show for the time you’ve put in, and putting you no closer to your actual goal than when you first started.
**Side note: Strategy and a systematic approach to your fitness journey isn’t just about ditching the workouts you love to do, while suffering through workouts you may not enjoy, but rather finding a way to incorporate the behaviors your goals require into a lifestyle that still includes the things you do enjoy. **
Bye-bye comfort zone
Once you understand your goal, the strategy that it requires, and where you are on the journey – it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror. Whether you’re just starting out, or a veteran to working out, know that you will constantly have to challenge yourself in order to keep seeing change. Be patient with yourself, and grateful for ANY results that come as you build consistency in the beginning, yet open-minded and willing to alter the approach as your journey progresses and the newbie gains dwindle.
Ok. It's officially time to stop avoiding this one. Yeah…I'm talking to YOU.
You've tried just counting calories. It didn't work for long. Now you're stuck. You have taken your stab at high carb, low carb, paleo, weight watchers, intermittent fasting, clean eating, more cardio, less cardio, more lifting, no lifting…and that was just last month. You have probably tried EVERY trick in the book, but progress is a no-go.
How do I know? Because I am you. Not being the biggest protein fan, I've struggled most of my fit-seeking life trying to find any way of eating that would get me results…without having to establish the one habit I needed most: eating enough protein.
Protein tends to be one of the often ignored elements – the one that most of us have heard about, but keep downplaying. Protein is the cornerstone to the most successful diets, and is one of the most agreed upon proponents of fat loss, muscle gain AND a healthy metabolism. It's a total no brainer, yet many of us totally dismiss its importance – in our constant pursuit of shiny (and quick!).
Those of us who have accepted it, still shrug off the concept thinking that we probably eat “enough” protein already. Maybe. Maybe not. I fooled myself for years thinking that I was eating enough for my goals…even though hitting 100g on a good day was tough for me. I thought that having some protein at every meal was sufficient. As I hit the research a bit harder, I discovered that despite all that I'd accomplished, I wasn't even coming close. Finally accepting, and attempting to truly step up my game has been a game changer.
My clients now know that before tackling ANY other area (including lowering cals), they must exhibit the ability to hit their protein goals consistently. I tell them plainly, that if they can't hit the protein goal eating at maintenance, there's no way they'll be able to eat enough with even less calories. Since protein needs increase as calories decrease, skipping this step is devastating to progress.
The 7-Day Protein CHALLENGE
I learned a few tricks along the way, that can help ANY carb queen (or king) become a Macro Master (title claimed by my hubs when I taught him these same tactics). I've picked the top seven and turned them into a 7-day challenge that you can do as many times as you like, until the habits form. Habits that will ultimately catapult you to the next level. The challenge also includes a 16-page guide to help you nail your goals any time, anywhere. The goal: to get to the point where you are applying ALL of the tips effortlessly as a part of your new lifestyle.
Eating a higher protein diet is a huge key to the FAT (vs WEIGHT) loss puzzle.
Many of you have already signed up and stepped up to this challenge. The rest of you…what are you waiting for? If you find it impossible to even consider eating 1g per pound of bodyweight (150+ pounds and still struggling to get in 100g? Not gonna work), this challenge is for you.
If you think that you need implement multiple changes, I encourage you to first get yourself to the point where you are hitting your protein goals every week (based on your weekly average) for at least 6-8 weeks straight. Then if you need to change something else, go for it (but keep the protein at that level).
Until then, come join us!
We'll be using the hashtag #em2wlproteinchallenge to share and hold each other accountable. Come on…you can do anything for 7 days!
Although it's common at the start of our journey, overcomplicating the process can stop us from progressing at all.
Overcomplicating the Basics
Overcomplicating is a procrastination tool for many of us – a way to avoid doing what we know we should be doing. Although society seems to place entirely too much value on more complicated tools, systems, and tactics for reaching goals, we tend to miss the obvious downside to having such values…
If the process is too confusing, we risk giving up before even starting. We spin our wheels, knowing what needs to be done, but refusing to actually start until we have “all the steps.” The ability to call yourself out when overcomplicating is crucial. In most cases, it's not a matter of doing everything we need to, it is a matter of doing the first thing we need to do… starting now.
Instead of trying to envision exactly how everything will look when you can execute each step perfectly, put whatever step you CAN do, into action – now.
For instance, many dieters will refuse to begin a workout routine because they have no gym membership. Or they will say a focus on protein is impossible because of their budget. Or that they need to research and read every little detail before knowing what to do.
Right now. With the information you have. The ability to just BEGIN lies with you. Work with what you have right now, rather than spend another month worrying about every possible piece of the puzzle that you can't control in this moment. You do not need a gym membership to be active. An extra $100 in your grocery budget to eat more protein is not mandatory. You do not need to read every last article on building muscle. Do not allow analysis paralysis to cripple you from moving forward. Walk in the direction you want to go in, with the info you have in this moment.
Allow the inevitable blindspots to reveal themselves along the way, not in advance.
Call yourself out when you let too many thoughts take over.
Stop overcomplicating things that don't need to be complicated.
Concentrate on mastering the basics and being consistent in them. Work on getting your calories up, getting your protein up and moving your body more. Any progress forward in these areas are a projection forward. Increasing protein by just 15 grams a day is progress. Using bodyweight exercises, exercise videos, or get a set of dumbbells/barbells to workout at home until you can get that gym membership. Look for the little things you can add to help propel you forward. The time will pass anyway – so let it pass while you keep moving forward, making each day a success in it's own right.
Allow yourself to be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. You do not need to have every little detail worked out before you start. Just Start!
When used correctly, food tracking tools like MyFitnessPal, or Lose It can help you to reach your physique and/or performance goals (or troubleshoot why you aren't reaching them). For EM2WL fam, these tools are also useful to ensure that you're eating enough calories, and getting in enough of the micro/macronutrients that tend to left behind when dieting. But even the most “accurate” of these tools leaves room for a margin of error.
For many, this margin becomes the focus, rather than the original reason they began tracking: the overall trend/big picture. Once focused on minutiae, tracking food can become a slippery slope, leading to obsession for so many people. Ironically, overly-obsessing about the numbers actually makes success harder to achieve.
Perfection when tracking can be hard to get away from. Getting wrapped up in the numbers can lead to an obsession with ALL numbers needing to be perfect. This includes numbers from your Fitbit, heart rate monitor, cardio machines, your body fat %, your scale number etc. ALL numbers are estimations and come with a large degree of variability, so learn how things work in the real world, rather than relying solely on how they should work on paper. It's not about you being perfect, it's about being consistent.
Use tracking tools responsibly, AND hit your goals – #likeaboss
There are ways to track without being obsessive. Start by tracking what you are already eating for a 1-2 week period and change nothing. This let's you see whether you are maintaining, gaining or losing weight. Then a decision can be made for your next course of action. Tracking allows you to see any patterns that might be taking shape in your habits. This can include not eating breakfast or eating too much at a certain time of day.
When you know your baseline, check our online calculator to find your TDEE level. Then you can see if this number needs to be higher or lower than what you are currently consuming. If your number is lower than your TDEE, consider diving into a metabolism reset. If the number is higher than it should be, then your reduction in calories is lower than maybe you thought it should be. (More food FTW!!)
For most, this approach takes away a lot of the obsessive tracking tendencies. It's much easier to focus on the small changes needed to increase or decrease your caloric level, without getting obsessed by the numbers. Tracking allows you to have an understanding of what kinds of food you like and what will help you reach your macro goals.
Regardless of where you start, tracking can be a very powerful tool in your fat loss efforts. When used as a tool and not as a crutch, you will be able to move away from tracking all together and enjoy your life tracker free.
When dieters first discover Eat More 2 Weigh Less, it's usually after years of caloric restriction that has hindered fat loss efforts. It can take a little bit of research and trust, but eventually reality sets in that perpetually eating less is NOT the answer. They buckle in, and after a full metabolism reset, re-enter the fat loss ring with renewed mental and physical strength. This is not an overnight breakthrough, however. Fat loss with EM2WL often occurs in at least five stages, or “a-ha moments,” being uncovered as the journey progresses. Some will go through the stages randomly, while most tend to handle them in order that follows. In the end, if does not matter which order they are taken in, but rather that they are all learned.
The first stage for fat loss is almost always finding out you need to eat more. Generally anyone coming from a 1200 calories diet plan, or 21 day fixes or anything that restricts the amount of energy you take in, will quickly realize that you were duped into thinking “Eat Less, Move More.” It is simply not true.
Our bodies are like an engine and they require energy in order to function correctly. Without the right amount of energy, the engine begins to wear down. So when we starve on 1200 calorie diets, it is not getting enough fuel to function properly and fat loss is hindered.
The realization that more food = more energy comes quick to most. For others, its a longer process to accept that yes, we need more food. When the connection has been made, almost immediately the outward signs of under eating start to dissipate. Nails start to grow, hair stops falling out, sleep is better quality, moods change for the better and general energy levels increase ten fold.
Eating more consistently
Right after the realization that we need more calories in our day, most of us will begin to place a focus on eating more calories consistently. This stage can tend to take a bit longer to uncover. It means hitting whatever target number you are supposed to be hitting, more than 80% of the time.
If calories change as little as 100-300, it can make a huge impact on our body's ability to function correctly. Eating more can have an impact on things like sleep, hair and moods. But it can still be hindering inward changes if the amount is not high enough. It can be the difference in eating 400 calories more than you used to, but not eating at your maintenance (TDEE) level.
Paying attention to macros
Once it becomes easier to consistently hit that calorie number, the next focus shifts to hitting your macros. Macronutrients such as protein, fat and carbohydrates are the main three your focus should be on. Fiber is also a consideration especially when it comes to your carbs. In the beginning, your focus is just getting your calories up to your proper amount. But eventually the shift needs to change to focus on hitting these macros in order to get the right balance of nutrients needed to sustain fat loss.
It is easier to focus on hitting these numbers when your calorie level is high, making it easier to keep hitting them when you cut your calories.
In the beginning, it is easy to just workout with whatever program or cardio class you enjoy doing. Going from couch to 4 days a week will certainly help you to see fat loss happen, but soon the results slow down or stop all together. This is when the realization that lifting weights is now needed in order to continue seeing that fat loss happen. It might be something you had heard about earlier in your journey, but this blind spot tends to hide until you are ready to fully commit to a strength training program.
Lift heavier weights
The final stage to fat loss is understanding that lifting weights is not just lifting a certain amount and stopping. It is constantly and consistently working on increasing the amount you lift. As you adjust to the weight level you lift, this becomes normal to your body. Therefore the benefits stall out and you plateau. By consistently challenging your muscles with heavier weights, it will always be working overtime to benefit from these levels.
While these stages can happen in any order to an individual, most uncover them in order – at their own pace. As a new “blindspot” is revealed to you, lean in…don't rush it, or attempt to avoid it. Truly understand what each stage means to you and spend the time needed in each one before working through the next.
Diet mentality has pushed the boundaries of how long fat loss should take in the journey. It has forced us to believe that quick fixes, instant results and massive scale losses are required almost immediately for us to consider ourselves a success. Believing this, dieters tend to feel like they have failed if they don't attain a drastic transformation in unrealistic time frames.
Love where you are right now
Easy thought, right? Dieters frequently go on quick fixes in order to achieve a look from their past (or in their head). They believe that happiness lies in when they could wear a size 6 instead of a 14. However, many forget just how hard it was to be that size 6, or how unhappy and critical they were of themselves at that time. When we take a look back, sometimes the struggles are forgotten. What was eliminated from your life in order to be a size 6? Where you really happy back then, or were you still looking further into the past for happiness?
The need for quick fixes or the crash diets is a red flag that you're struggling with the diet mentality (DM), making it nearly impossible to love yourself in THIS moment. DM makes you believe that you have to be a certain size in order to be happy with yourself – therefore we find ourselves “rushing” the process (read: quick fixing) to get to the happier times.
For many of us, loving yourself where you are right now comes way too late in life. Think about how many times you've skipped doing something, because you felt you had to be smaller or thinner.
How many parties have you chosen not go to because you're larger than before?
How many pictures did you not allow to be taken because you didn't want this reminder of what you looked like?
How often have you stared in the mirror and hated the woman looking back at you every morning?
At some point, you have to realize that what you are seeking, has nothing to do with how you look, but rather how you want to feel about yourself. When that blindspot is finally uncovered and the mental shift takes place, we can start to move forward and enjoy who we are right now, even if we aren't the size we originally wanted to be. That's when the rest just comes to you, and you can really work on what is important.
Your body can't go where your mind won't go
DM is obsessed with a time frame. Time is something we feel like we can control, yet it's speed that kills our progress every single time. This is not a fast journey and it takes time to allow the natural progression of things to happen. By allowing the longer journey, you can slowly uncover what it is you are really looking for in your life and chances are it has nothing to do with what pant size you wear.
You can be happy with yourself as you are now, and still be a work in progress.