Many people trying to get into fitness (or back into it, as it were), try to make things as simplified and fuss-free as possible. “Healthy food” on the go, quick and easy workouts. If this sounds like a crock, congrats: Your B.S. detector is fully functional.
We’ve heard doozies when it comes to shortcuts people try to take to get in shape, and this week we’re showing you five of the best (worst?) that simply won’t get you the results you want. You HAVE to eat clean, and you HAVE to train hard if you want to get results — period.
We’re counting down throughout the week. Stay tuned…
5. “I DON’T NEED A GYM MEMBERSHIP.” Somewhere along the line, it was determined that exercise was a chore and training was too time-consuming to fit into everyone’s everyday schedule, as if an hour out of the day spent bettering oneself was just unattainable. Because of this, we’ve seen countless people try to squeeze their fitness into their schedules with shortcuts: Home exercises, half-hearted training plans and, the worst, “I”ll just jog around my block a few times a day.”
Are all those things better than nothing? Absolutely. But they’re not real training. Unless you have a fully adjustable squat rack, Olympic bar and row of dumbbells at home, your home gym won’t cut it. Yes, you can get in better shape with body-weight exercises at home than you would if did nothing at all. Duh. But it’s not the most efficient use of your time. Forty-five minutes of intense, challenging resistance training is exponentially better.
And then there’s the mental aspect of the gym you just cannot emulate in the comfort of your own home. Just as you shouldn’t eat or watch TV in bed because your brain will stop associating it with sleep, you should have a specific time and place set for your exercise. Your living room is not where you will get in a mentally sound state of mind to get stronger — too many distractions abound, not least of all the subconscious feeling of “comfort.” Being at a place specifically designated for your training, with strangers and other like-minded people, can help put you in the proper mental zone. And hey, you might even make a friend.
4. “I’VE EATEN CLEAN FOR THREE DAYS. CHEAT MEAL TIME!” Nobody’s perfect, and in fact, we’d be a little suspicious to meet someone who never indulged with a sweet treat or calorie bomb every now and then. But it should be just that — every now and then. Far too many people reward themselves with cheat meals (or cheat days, or cheat weekends) for several days of clean eating, when really it’s a lifestyle change that should be implemented.
Think of healthy eating as saving money, and then think of unhealthy eating as non-essential spending. Are you saving up to last a lifetime and protect your future, or are you just biding your time until the next paycheck so you can make a splashy, unnecessary purchase that won’t do anything in the long run? Don’t eat “paycheck to paycheck.” Build your health wealth, so to speak, and at the end of the week, celebrate a job well done with a (reasonable) treat.
How often should you have a cheat meal? In most cases, where you’re eating six times a day and making sure your macronutrient levels are on-point, the answer is one: one cheat meal a week, that you should enjoy wholeheartedly.
3. “7-MINUTE WORKOUTS.” We’re all for efficiency. There’s no reason most people should spend three hours in the gym to get a good workout in. But if that end of the spectrum is bad for being overkill, the other end is much worse for being lazy and, possibly more offensive, unrealistic.
Legitimate fitness training takes commitment, and the one often hardest to cope with is time. You can jolt up the intensity to get more bang for your buck. You can really shorten your rest periods, increase your work rate and hammer out the fastest sets possible while keeping good form, and these things will save you some time. But a sub-10-minute workout? Come on. One set of most exercises, done correctly with even mediocre rest periods, will take 4-5 minutes.
Countless money-grabbing programs and tapes have touted quick, easy workouts over the years (remember those terrible 8-Minute Abs/Buns commercials?). Again, they’re better than doing nothing. But the level of results you can expect from short, low-intensity workouts is commensurate to the time you spend. There’s no golden number of minutes a workout should last — some like to go long at the gym, socializing and taking their time beyond an hour. Others, like the author of this article, believe it’s possible to leave the gym wobbling with the sweet ache of a great workout in 45 minutes or less (and, in some cases, 30). But the micro-workouts have to go. There’s simply not enough time under tension to make them worthwhile.
2. SACRIFICING FORM. Squats are easier when you don’t go parallel to the floor. Bench press is easier when you don’t lower the bar to your chest. And you can do a lot more pull-ups when you don’t go through a full range of motion. None of these shortcuts actually will help you improve, though.
If you’ve decided something is worth doing, there is no point in doing it if you’re not going to do it right. You might think you’re saving yourself time, and in the short term, sure — you could leave the gym 5 minutes earlier than you would have otherwise if you’d taken the time to make sure your form was perfect, your range of motion full. In the long run, the number of so-so workouts you will have done will add up, and you’ll see the real waste of time was all that which you spent half-assing it.
Simply put, the failure to focus consistently on proper form isn’t a shortcut at all — it’s a dead end. Exercises are designed to work specific muscles in a specific manner; to do them otherwise is not only to risk injury, but to waste the opportunity to get results.
1. CRASH DIETS. The road to fitness is not a short one. It’s not always smooth. And the idea that one can accelerate through it solely with drastic calorie deficits is bogus. Do not think of the food you eat (or don’t) as a quick fix; it’s a lifestyle change that will help promote your health and fitness. The reason the quick cleanses and gadget diets are so popular is because they sound easy — drink nothing but lemon juice and syrup for three days? Replace breakfast with carrot juice? Pill meal replacements? Come on.
You can’t completely transform an unhealthy body to a healthy one overnight. It takes weeks, months, years of consistent, sound food decisions and training. That’s it. If you’re searching for an easy, tried-and-true formula, that’s the whole thing. You can’t cut corners; you can’t fudge the numbers, so to speak. Eat breakfast. Eat every few hours and make sure there’s some actual sustaining nutrients in the meal. Recognize a fad diet when you see it: If it says you will get results “in days,” be wary.