As 2008 makes its exit, many of us will be scrambling to get ready for the holiday’s. If you’re like most folks, you’ve started and stopped more fitness programs than you care to count. You may even have had some success, only to slip back into old habits as time goes by and the stress of everyday living takes its toll. For too many of us, long-term success remains an elusive goal. Instead of feeling better we end up defeated, discouraged, and several pounds heavier than we were when we started. Not to worry! Avoiding these five fatal fitness flaws will put you on the fast track to the body of your dreams!
Fatal Flaw #5: Underestimating the importance of sleep.
In a 24-hour society, sleep has become an expendable commodity (or so we think!). Responsibilities of job, family, shift work, and the pursuit of quality “down time” have created a nation of chronically sleep-deprived individuals. Sleep is a vitally important ingredient in the recipe for weight loss success. Obviously, the more rested you are the more energy you have to work out, but sleep deprivation also disrupts the delicate hormonal balance that keeps your metabolism humming. The notion that muscles are developed by lifting weights is a common misconception. Resistance training causes small tears, called micro trauma, in muscle the tissue. This is the first step to building muscle- but it’s only the beginning. Hormonally, all the processes that are needed to repair and develop new muscle are optimized during sleep when growth hormone and testosterone levels reach their peak. Conversely, sleep deprivation prevents these helpful hormones from doing their job and creates an excess of the stress hormone, cortisol, which causes your body to break down muscle tissue- slowing your metabolism!
Fatal flaw #4: Not drinking enough water.
Did you know that as little as a 3% drop in normal fluid levels could make you lethargic, hungry, and irritable? How about constipated or forgetful? Adequate hydration is essential for good health, and the majority of us are closer to that 3% dehydration level than we think! Water supports optimal energy levels, controls appetite, lubricates joints and organs, aids in digestion and elimination, and helps to regulate body temperature. Unless you have a medical condition that requires fluid restriction, you should be consuming oz of water per pound of bodyweight per day. If you regularly consume caffeinated beverages, you need to drink a bit more to counteract their diuretic effect. Popular fads notwithstanding, bottled or so-called “designer” water is unnecessary. If you’re concerned about chemical contamination or taste, a filter on your tap at home will do the job. And don’t rely on thirst to let you know when to drink. By the time you get thirsty dehydration has already begun!
Fatal flaw #3: Focusing too heavily on aerobic activity.
Assuming they actually make it to the gym, what’s the first thing you see people do? Probably hop on a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine for a long, boring workout. Don’t get me wrong, cardiovascular exercise is an essential part of your fitness program, but it plays a smaller part than most people realize. Aerobic activity, or “cardio” as it is commonly called, gained popularity in the 1970’s, largely due to research out of the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas. However, even Dr. Cooper recently issued a statement saying that cardiovascular exercise alone is an insufficient means of ensuring optimal health.
Although cardio is important for a healthy heart, it does nothing to enhance your overall metabolism. In fact, excessive cardio causes our old friend cortisol to rear its ugly head and steal muscle tissue to fuel aerobic activity.
So, if cardio is not the secret weapon in our battle of the bulge, what is? Strength training! Strength training builds muscle; and muscle literally is your metabolism. You don’t need Arnold sized biceps to do the trick, either! A firm little curve here and there will bump you into metabolic overdrive 24/7!
Fatal flaw #2: Falling for Nutritional Marketing Hype
Let’s face it; none of us are perfect when it comes to nutrition. Fortunately, perfection isn’t a requirement- education is the key! We usually know when a food is blatantly incompatible with our fitness goals, but occasionally the indiscretion is not so obvious. There are numerous ways in which the American public is nutritionally victimized, but I’ll limit myself to one of the worst: fat free foods. Let’s use a bottle of fat free cooking spray as an example. Look at the ingredient list. The first and often only ingredient is oil (i.e. fat). I’ll save the discussion of healthy vs. unhealthy fat for another day. For now I’ll focus on how something whose only ingredient is fat can be legally labeled as fat free. The answer lies in creative marketing and a small loophole in FDA regulations.
According to the FDA, if a food contains less than 0.5 gm of fat per serving, it can legally be labeled fat free. Okay, now check out that bottle of cooking spray again. This time look at the serving size- about 1/3 second spray!! How many servings per can are there? Yikes- 526!!
Remember that loophole? While the FDA limits the amount of fat in a serving of fat free food, it does NOT regulate how large a serving size is. The label is completely legal and completely misleading! Your can of fat/calorie free cooking spray contains roughly 240 fat grams and 2200 calories! This is a great example of how the little things you don’t know add up to that big thing hanging over your belt!
Fatal flaw #1: Failing to plan!
Have you heard the old adage if you fail to plan you plan to fail? Planning is the intelligent application of fatal fitness flaws two through five. A well thought out strategy will have you loving your reflection and feeling better in a matter of weeks. Don’t rely on newsstand muscle mags or even the best selling diet book to point you in the right direction. Look for information from respected professionals in university settings where cutting edge research takes place or the experts….fat loss pros, bodybuilders.
If you don’t have the time or desire to sift through all of this information yourself, consider hiring a fitness professional to design a program for you. A careful investment up front will save you a fortune in misdirected spending on the latest fitness “miracle”.
When spring and summer 2009 rolls around, many people will still be searching for the fitness truth. Don’t be a victim of these five fatal fitness flaws! Follow these guidelines and stay on track so you never need to dread another swimsuit season again!