Happy New Year. It’s been a couple of years since I wrote the article ‘10 Truths I’ve Learned About Exercise and losing bodyfat’ where I attempted to centralize the advice New Year’s resolution-makers were seeking from me at the time.
At the end of that article I stated there are other truths I’ve learned but the ones listed were enough. Well, I’ve changed my mind. Taking my education and experience into the personal training world and fielding more questions, I’m back with more truths to hopefully help those struggling with or looking to start their body recomposition journey.
Without further ado here is my list of MORE truths I’ve Learned.
1. Everyone should have goals. This may sound like a “duh” statement and you’re thinking ‘Anybody that decides to take on an exercise program and diet has a goal of some sort. The problem is most people have the wrong goals. They are either obscure such as to lose weight, get stronger, build muscle, or set goals that will take a long time to achieve causing them to lose interest along the way.
Having a long-term goal is good but we need short-term attainable goals that get you to the big goal. Losing 20lbs in a month is a short-term goal but is NOT attainable. Do not set a specific weight to lose as a goal. Instead buy a pair of pants a couple sizes smaller than what you wear with the goal to fit into them. For the reason I don’t like a specific number of pounds to lose. See truth number nine in the previous article.
Some good examples of short-term goals are; not to miss a workout for an entire month, increase your bench press by 10lbs in two-weeks, not straying from the diet for a whole month, etc.
Set a reward that you will give yourself when a goal is achieved. This helps with the drive and determination to keep you working towards your goal. On the other side of that coin, you can use the motivator what the experts call pain avoidance. Instead of a reward for achieving a goal set yourself a punishment for NOT following through towards your goal. An example someone told me was how he owed his training partner $100 if he missed a workout. That’s a pretty strong motivator to get your keister into the gym. If you do this make a very strong punishment. giving your workout partner $5 isn’t painful enough. This can also be incorporated into the diet. Set a punishment every time you have an unhealthy snack or cheat meal.
2. Consistency is the name of the game. This simple statement shouldn’t need an explanation, but I’ll give you one anyhow. Whether your talking about exercise or diet you will fail to make any gains toward your goal being sporadic with the program. If your exercise routine is to work out X amount of days a week, DO IT! If you miss a day, make it up. Let’s say you plan to workout Mon, Wed, Fri and due to obligations you can’t get it done Friday, well get your ass up early on Saturday and go.
I get it that life happens and workouts get missed with no option of making it up. The problem comes in when it becomes habitual. Missing one workout easily becomes missing two and it snowballs from there. By doing your best to make up those missed workouts you set a pattern of a good habit.
3. Everything works. There are literally thousands of workout routines available for free on the internet and hundreds of diet ideologies. Here is a little secret… They ALL work! Within reason of course. Common sense should tell you the M&M diet is a load of crap. There is no such thing as the perfect diet or exercise plan so stop looking for it. Just jump in and get to work already. Make adjustments as you experiment and grow your knowledge.
Of course, it all comes down to how much work and dedication you put into the program. Get help if you need it! Not everybody has the time or wants to bother with educating themself on exercise and diet selection or knows how to make the adjustments to reach a goal.
4. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Modern weight training has been around for several decades now. Every “new exercise” is just a variation of something developed long ago. I’ve seen my share of ‘weirdness’ at the gym… People doing exercises or using machines in a manner of which no one has ever witnessed before. Listen… There are dozens of exercises for just about every muscle group that are considered gym staples or basics. If you don’t know what those are, look them up on the internet, sign out a book at the library or hire a personal trainer to work with several times a week or just once to show you exercises to do on your own.
Regardless of your goals someone, just like you, has ‘been there done that’ so just copy what they did… With one caveat. If their results appear too good to be true, IT IS! Don’t buy into their claims of grandeur, especially if they are selling something. Call BS and move on.
5. Don’t confuse a plateau in progress with adapting to a program. A plateau is a temporary stagnation while adapting means little to no progress remains and it’s time to move on. The ugly truth with body recomposition is that plateaus happen and sometimes feel like things are going backward despite doing everything right.
A plateau is a temporary state and your body will catch up, just give it a chance. Many people get inpatient and interpret a plateau as adapting and a need to find the next best thing. There is a term for this and it’s called program hopping. People will program hop even when they are getting results thinking the program they are NOT doing will get them faster results.
Experienced lifters know plateaus happen and ride out them out knowing results will soon continue again. They just stay the course.
Experience will also tell you nothing works forever. The need to switch up and get into something new does happen. Unfortunately, there is no timeline to say when adapting happens and its time to switch. Keep in mind, Don’t bail on a program too soon. If you decide it is time to move on there is no need to go fancier. As I said previously… Stick with the basics, just incorporate different basics.
Tracking your workouts over time will give you a good insight into how the program is working and when it’s time to change, which leads to the next truth.
6. A logbook is your best exercise tool. I read a quote that said, ‘the best exercise book ever written is your own logbook’. I could not agree with that statement more. I’ve kept a log of every single workout since giving up running for weight training nearly 12 years ago. Not only is every single exercise logged with the number of reps, sets and amount of resistance, but I also track how easy/difficult the exercise was and how long I rested between sets.
A log of my exercises comes in handy in many different ways. The most effective is refreshing my memory of a previous workout. Many times I’ve looked back and forgotten that I increased the resistance of an exercise. The logbook keeps me honest and progressing.
If you have been a member of a gym you may notice very few people like myself carrying a logbook and writing in it after every set. It’s true a lot of people don’t bother with logging their exercises and that’s a shame. I do however know several guys that log everything after their workout at home or in the locker room. My memory is not that good. Just because you don’t see many doing it, don’t get the idea it’s not cool or vital.
7. A Calorie deficit is what causes weight loss. This is another one of those DUHH! statements. Everyone knows that when you take in fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. There is a reason for bringing this up, so hear me out.
First, notice I said ‘weight loss’ not ‘fat loss’. Fat loss is certainly the desired effect but muscle loss can and does happen too with a calorie deficit. So for this discussion, I’m going to stick with the words weight loss.
Too many people treat this, ‘calories in vs calories out’ like a bank making deposits and withdrawals. I sure wish it was that easy to calculate calories like money going in and out of the bank. Ignore the calories burned calculator on the treadmill. That machine knows absolutely nothing about you. You have a better chance of coming up with winning lottery numbers than your body actually burning the number of calories it says you did.
Those that know me will be inclined to say I have a fast metabolism due to my body type. But is it really about metabolism? Could it be I’m just habitually more active and make better food choices than those who are “not blessed with good genes”?
A couple of examples for my claim of being more active being the driver, I rarely sit and watch TV. When given the choice of using an escalator or stairs, I’m on the stairs taking two at a time, often I pass many open parking spots and park further away from the store door. Yes, people that ride with me think I’m crazy. A common phrase heard in my car “There’s a spot right there”.
Let me add too that most of my adult life included some exercise and my idea of fun is doing something physical, such as biking, hiking, dancing, paddle boarding, kayaking, the list goes on and on. Even the jobs I’ve held kept on me on my feet and moving.
Even if you want to call my activity over metabolism observation bunk, I don’t think anyone can argue with the claim that making different choices and adding more activity to one’s life will result in more calories burned throughout a day. All of those little things all day add up, making a smaller waistline easier to achieve and maintain. Take the damn stairs.
8. Adequate water intake is important. I know, I know. You’ve heard it all the time about how much water you should drink in a day. Yada, Yada, Yada. I’m not going to harp on the subject other than to say I’ve learned first hand how important adequate water intake is.
So what is adequate water intake? Honestly, I don’t know. There are formulas online to guide you, but here is a sample of what I typically take in daily; 16-20 oz. first thing in the morning, then I go through 2-3 fills of a 30 oz. Yeti cup throughout a workday and another 16-20 oz. or more after I get home for the evening. This doesn’t count the water I’m getting mixed into my protein shakes or during a workout. Let’s just say I can feel it when I’m not getting enough water.
Here are some of the things science says are the benefits of adequate water intake, and can attest to some first hand. Water; reduces headaches, helps fight infection, improves brain function, helps exercise performance, keeps you regular, helps with weight loss, clears your skin.
That’s enough of truths I’ve learned. As I continue to learn and gain experience through trial and error, another list may come in the future. We’ll see.
“Eat Pizza fast enough, your Fitbit will think you’re jogging.” Author unknown.
Click here to read the next installment: Truths About Exercise And Losing Body Fat – Part 3