In this podcast episode I spoke a little bit about my relationship with the gym*. It really is just a tool to help me become more disciplined on this journey to a healthier lifestyle.
*gym in this article also refers to a home gym setup, really any kind of exercise
I have been through many cycles with the gym.
In the very first – I depended on it a bit too much. I can’t even recall changing my diet but I was burning so many calories in the gym (I was in full beast mode); but then as soon as I missed a few days, which turned into weeks, I gained all the weight back in 2 seconds!
In the next round I decided to stop going to the gym, and instead focusing on changing my diet (pretty drastically – but slowly removing foods so it didn’t shock my system too much). During this time I did Shaun T’s Insanity (this is amazing by the way) and I lost quite a bit of weight. I felt great!
Then, I decided I wanted to get into running. So, my husband (who was my boyfriend at that time) decided to run with me. I was feeling on top of the world – I was doing something I never thought I could do. In the midst of all this … I broke my ankle.
Isn’t the universe just telling me that I’ll never be fit?
I eventually went back to the gym and now we have an on again/off again relationship. The sweet spot is really finding that complimentary combination of exercises and dieting strategies that help you get to your goal. After years of success and failure I think I have finally found it. I think.
Everything comes down to calories – losing calories (through exercise) or consuming less calories (through changing your diet). Sometimes we become so fixated on this that we push so hard (maybe too hard) in the gym to burn calories. My husband has always said if you overextend and you’re in horrible pain everyday you won’t want to return. You don’t need to live in the gym, and you don’t have to push yourself to the point of exhaustion everyday.
You need to focus on activities/exercises you enjoy and then slowly include those less desirable ones.
A few things I discovered after hours of research (mostly listening to podcasts and reading fitness blogs)
- cardio serves you better at the end of a workout than at the beginning.
- weight training is perhaps the most effective way of losing fat and gaining (and keeping) muscle
- stretching is more important than those extra reps
- a full body workout 3-4 times a week is more effective than working specific body parts on certain days (e.g.: Monday is leg day)
- diet is more about portion control than eliminating foods
The first and second points really surprised me, because even my trainers told me to do cardio before a workout (at one point I was doing a whole hour of cardio). It’s also another myth that you need a million hours of cardio. You probably need 15-30 minutes. When you focus too much on cardio, the moment you reduce your cardio time is the exact moment weight gain and muscle loss begins.
Weight training (which I was terrified of) is really the only sustainable way to lose weight (and maintain weight loss); and gain (and keep) muscle.
I thought this was just ridiculous until I tried it; and even after being out of the gym for months (and gaining weight) my frame pretty much remained the same and the second I went back into the gym those muscles woke up!
Men especially, tend to overextend themselves in the gym. Remember it’s not about how many reps you do, it’s about having the right form so you’re working the right muscles and not hurting yourself.
Just like anything else, if we don’t have a positive experience at the gym it will be harder to motivate ourselves to go back. Most gyms offer member tours and demos of the equipment. Go around and read the instructions on each machine and check which muscles they activate and create your own fun routine.
I want you to take four things from this article
- Proper form is more important than reps
- If you don’t have fun in the gym, you won’t be motivated to return
- Don’t be afraid of weight training
- Remember your diet needs to match your commitments to the gym
It’s okay if you have a rocky relationship with the gym; in the meantime, you can do some pretty great at home exercises with so many fitness experts on YouTube or even on Instagram (Angoswede is my favourite).
When you decide to head back to the gym, It may be helpful to start a different routine that builds in intensity (to get you back to where you were). The Ideal Shape Up Challenge is perfect for this. I use this challenge to help me build back up to the weight and intensity I could manage before my gym hiatus.
We got this!
P.S.: One of the fitness coaches that I have learned so much from is Sal Di Stefano.