LESS IS MORE
Guilty as charged, m’lud. I live, breathe and let’s face it, eat exercise and pretty much like it any way it comes. Just as well. That said, one thing I have learnt is that doing more doesn’t necessarily equate to getting quicker or better results. In fact, it can dish up quite the opposite: that dreaded word, “plateau”. In order to avoid stagnating or worse atrophy (muscle loss, nooooooooooo!), make sure you regularly take a week off from your regular routine. This doesn’t have to mean doing nothing but it is a good opportunity to back off the intensity and maybe explore some alternative options such as yoga or Pilates, walking as opposed to running or bodyweight exercises as opposed to hefting a car’s worth of metal over your head. This will allow your body some much needed restorative time to give not just your hard-working muscles a break but also enable your central nervous system, adrenal glands, ligaments, tendons and all-or-nothing mindset a chance to recover before you set off again, re-invigorated, for your next phase and that all important progress.
MORE IS…..EVEN BETTER
Let’s face it, much as people say they want to feel fitter, healthier and more toned, the fact of the matter is most people want to be leaner. We know that the simple, but far from easy, equation needs to be more energy out than in. However, it is unwise, unsustainable and unrealistic to expect people to remain evermore in a deficit. Apart from life being no fun, it can play havoc with your head, reduce the quality and enjoyment of your workouts and threaten to derail your progress.
Here’s the good bit – permission to eat more! Bingo dongo! Our body does everything it can to restore homeostasis, ie balance. If you have been stressing it for a while from dieting it will start to retaliate and hold onto your fat stores thinking it is a time of famine. This is less than ideal for obvious reasons. In order to keep your weight loss on track it is important both physically and mentally to take time out from a calorie deficit. Now, I dislike the term re-feed as, to me, it conjures up images of factory animals being force fed in order to become plump and desirable ready for the swish of the slaughterman’s blade. See that tactic…?! I led you down the garden path towards a tasty picnic full of mouth-watering delights and then pulled the rug out from underneath you with an image of poor, mass produced meat. See, the thing is, if you wish to stay on track towards your weight loss goals, the time spent eating more needs to be realistic, ie an additional 400-500 calories a day, not a week of all you can eat buffet bingeing.
We fear it and fight it with every fibre of our being only to then trumpet, “it was the best thing that could have happened” once we have negotiated our way through its maze and gotten used to it. Such creatures of habit. It jumbles up that blissful, easy, autopilot approach to life.
Ask yourself this, are you truly working towards your strength, fitness, weight loss target or are you merely maintaining by following a vague diet and still doing the same workout you were doing months, or worse years ago. Do you eat the same breakfast day in, day out, drive to the gym to walk or run on the treadmill and then do the same leg exercises because “Tuesday is leg day”? Look around your local gym and I would wager 9 out of 10 people in there are merely maintaining their current shape and level of fitness and health. Brutal perhaps, but true. If you’re happy with that, stick with it. If not, then my advice is simple: go in, go hard and go home. Gyms are lovely social places and this is a good thing. Save the chit chat for before and after your workout but get uncomfortable, really hard-to-hold-a-conversation uncomfortable during it.
Depending on what you are wanting to achieve from the training program you currently do, focus on every movement and make a conscious link between the exercise and the muscles you are using. All of them. If, for example, you are running, focus on the heel strike and the lift of the knee. Lift your chest and head and look up so your abs are working harder, your back is protected and you can breathe easily. If you are working on your squats, focus on the front and back of the legs, the lift of the chest and the pulling in of your abdominals sitting deep enough to really fire the gluts and then drive up to standing purposefully ensuring you maximise every rep.
The same applies to what and how you eat. If you feel you’ve lost your way a bit with your eating habits, the best thing is to bring them sharply back into focus, write it all down are be honest about what you know you could be doing and what you currently are doing. Narrow the gap and you could suddenly find yourself where you want to be a whole lot quicker and the changes you are truly seeking will happen and feel fantastic.
So, assess where you’re currently standing and be brutally honest. Could you be doing something different?
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Photo credits: Womenshealthaus, Skeeze, Geralt, Andreas, Ritchie Lee, Mrs Brown, Jalandos 0