I love this article, written by Beachbody’s Blog writer, Julie Stewart. I especially love mistake #2. I have often wondered why I see so many in gyms with that hunched posture. Lifting weights, when done properly, should IMPROVE your posture!
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been working out for a week or a decade—odds are you’re making a handful of common mistakes that are holding you back. We’re also willing to bet that most of them aren’t your fault—gyms, exercise communities, and even some popular fitness programs are rife with well-intended advice that’s rooted more in bro-science than real-world research. That ends today. Purge the following mistakes from your training program to accelerate your gains and squeeze out of every rep.
Mistake #1: You stick to a routine
The rapid gains you enjoy at the beginning of a training program will eventually taper if you keep doing the same workouts month after month (or year after year). “The body adapts to new stresses quickly,” says Yunus Barisik, C.S.C.S., author of the blog Next Level Athletics. Your job—and the goal of any good exercise plan—is to make sure that adaptation (also known as muscle growth) never stops. “And the way to do that is by regularly varying what you do,” says Barisik.
The fix: If you’re a beginner, mix things up every two to three months. If you’re a veteran, you’ll need to do so even sooner. “Those changes don’t have to be major,” says Barisik. Occasionally swapping new exercises into your workouts (or trying a completely new workout program) is a smart idea. “But even minor tweaks—changing your grip, lifting pace, foot position, or rest periods—can lead to big gains by not only working muscles you normally miss, but also working the muscles you normally target in new ways,” says Barisk.
Mistake #2: You forget about your back
In their pursuit of head turning muscle, many people focus only on those they can see in the mirror—pecs, shoulders, arms, and abs. “And that’s a problem,” says Barisik. “Overemphasizing the front side of your body can lead to muscular imbalances, a hunched posture, and an increased risk of injury.” Since most people are already “anterior dominant”—meaning they more frequently use the muscles on the front of their bodies—such one-sided training often worsens existing postural and performance issues.
The fix: Stop using a mirror to gauge your progress—it’s the muscles you can’t see that you should focus on. To balance your upper body, perform two pulling exercises (chinup, row) for every pushing exercise, such as the overhead press or bench press, says Barisik. To balance your lower body, perform two sets of hamstring-dominant exercises, like the deadlift or kettlebell swing, for every set of a quad-dominant exercise, like the squat or lunge. After a few months (read: once your posture and musculature balance out), you can switch to one-to-one ratios, says Barisik.
Mistake #3: You train too hard (or not hard enough)
More isn’t always better when it comes to building strength and losing fat. “Most people don’t know how to safely push their limits,” says Michael Wood, C.S.C.S., Chief Fitness Officer of Koko FitClub. “You might think you’re working out efficiently, but few people actually optimize their training stimulus.” While you need to challenge your muscles to make them grow, you never want to push them to the point where you inhibit their ability to repair themselves. Why? Because when it comes to muscle, repair equals growth. On the other hand, if you don’t push your muscles hard enough, you won’t trigger growth at all. Your goal: To hit the intensity sweet spot where you maximize results without compromising recovery.
The Fix: If you’re lifting weights, always stop two reps short of in your last set of an exercise. Those reps provide no additional growth stimulus, and might actually slow muscle growth by extending the time needed for recovery. That said, you shouldn’t have more than two reps left in you, as that’s a sign you aren’t pushing hard enough. If you’re doing intervals or circuits, use a heart rate monitor to fine-tune effort and rest. Determine your max HR by multiplying your age by .7 and subtracting that number from 208. During work periods, build up your intensity to 75 to 85 percent of your max, says Wood. During rest periods, let it fall to 65 percent of your max HR before beginning your next round.
Mistake #4: You don’t dial in your diet
You’ve likely heard the adage “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” It’s true, so heed it. If your eating habits aren’t aligned with your fitness goals, you’ll never hit them. “Many active people eat too many carbs—especially simple carbs like sugar—and don’t pay nearly enough attention to fat and protein,” says Bob Seebohar, M.S., R.D., CSSD, C.S.C.S., a sport dietitian and owner and founder of eNRG Performance.
The fix: Step one in upgrading your diet is to reduce your consumption of added sugar (according to the government’s new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, such foods should comprise no more than 10 percent of your diet). Eat at least two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables a day. “And make sure every meal contains a balance of protein, fat, and fiber,” says Seebohar. “Neglecting these suggestions will yield poor blood sugar control, higher insulin levels, increased fat storage, and decreased fat burning.” Increasing your protein intake is particularly important. In a study by the U.S. Military Nutrition Division, people who ate twice the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein—1.6 grams instead of .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight—preserved more muscle as they lost weight than those who stuck to the RDA. If you weigh 150 pounds, your daily protein quota is 109 grams.”
Do you want more energy?
No, NOT this kind!!!
Often when people start a new fitness regime, they complain of fatigue. This causes them to stop their new fitness program before they reach the point of GAINING energy from being more fit. There are several things to keep in mind when starting a new fitness routine. You need to fuel your body for the increased demands you are asking of it. You may also need extra sleep in order to repair and recover from the demands
you are putting on your body. Also, if you’re under a lot of stress and add the physical stress (yes your body can sense your new routine as stress), this may make you feel tired and fatigued as well. I love the following article that Tony Horton, creator of P90X, wrote a few years ago. This applies not only to P90X but to any fitness routine. ENJOY!
Have More Energy by Tony Horton
So you bought P90X off the tube and you’re all pumped up to kick some butt. Do you remember that shift in ENERGY the day you picked up the phone and started dialing? Any number of thoughts could’ve been racing through your mind at the time—fear, doubt, excitement, hope, anticipation—you name it.
Then the DVDs arrived. Some of you ripped the package open, read all the material, and got started that day. Some of you looked at the box as if it were filled with anthrax—keeping it sealed and placed on a shelf for some future investigation. You’re all at different stages of the program: newbies, start-agains, and even round 5-ers. I’d like to reveal four key components for success with P90X, and quite possibly other aspects of your life.
Have you ever noticed that some days just flow? Even on days when you have tons of things to do, you seem to have all the ENERGY in the world to handle anything. Yet other days feel like you live on Saturn. The weight of the world feels 10 times heavier than normal. It comes down to the amount of ENERGY you have on any given day. Your ENERGY always dictates your REALITY. When you’re filled with ENERGY, you’re sharp, ready, enthusiastic, and willing. When you’re pooped . . . forget about it! Organizing a sock drawer feels like climbing Mt. Everest.
So what causes these shifts? The big four are:
1. Food and supplementation
I know, I know. Here I go again. Hold on to your hats! There’s no way on God’s earth you can maintain a consistent level of ENERGY and enthusiasm for any 90-day program by eating the same old crap. You must . . . you have to . . . you need to make “The Change.” Proper ENERGY levels only come from eating the right food the right way at the right time of day. If you don’t know what that means, then you haven’t read the material and you’re doing this program the wrong way.
You are what you eat! If you eat the same old tired food that put you in this mess in the first place, that’s just what you’ll get. Tired and old before your time. You know what to do, so do it! It’s not Atkins® or Slim-Fast® or fast food or soft drinks or fried food or candy bars or doughnuts or liquid diets or any panoply of misleading ways of consuming food. Get your mind right about what goes in your mouth or continue to live in the land of the wannabes!
This probably seems like the most obvious and simple component of the four. But it’s often the most abused. Recent statistics have shown that the leading cause of traffic accidents in this country is NOT alcohol, but sleep deprivation. If we don’t have enough ENERGY to stay awake while driving a car, how will we have enough ENERGY for a 6-day-a-week workout program?
We’re not sleeping enough hours at night, and even when we do, they’re often filled with so much mind chatter that we don’t get the proper rest we need. My new Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “sleep” as follows: “the natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored.” In Taoist philosophy, there’s the yin (not ying) and the yang. These are opposing ENERGIES that create balance. P90X is yang ENERGY. Sleep and rest are yin ENERGY. There must be proper balance between vim and vigor (yang) and inward calm (yin). If you don’t get enough sleep and rest, your body will not receive the proper restoration it needs to complete or succeed with this program, or anything else in life, for that matter.
3. Stress management
Do you realize that if you took the fear, worry, and anxiety out of every “stressful” situation in your life, the end result of that situation would still occur? You can panic and freak out all you want, but time will still pass and the end of that moment will still happen, whether you freak out or not. So why not choose something different? When do fear, worry, and anxiety ever really help a situation?
So what is stress? It’s the inability to move through a situation logically, peacefully, positively, productively, and gracefully. To be stressed out takes lots of ENERGY. Being stressed out can severely affect how well you’ll sleep at night. Stress is when you assess blame and don’t take responsibility. (“I’m stressed out because of______, and that’s why I can’t______.”) Don’t let stress be your scapegoat. There’s a story about 10 people in line at a bank when three armed robbers come flying in, screaming and yelling and pointing guns. They terrorize everyone and steal all their money. The moral of the story is that these 10 people will be affected by this experience in 10 different ways. The two extremes range from one having a wild story to tell at work the next day to another being severely traumatized for the rest of his or her life. Where would you fall in that spectrum?
There’s a saying that there are three kinds of business: “God’s business”—things that happen in this world that are out of my control; “their business”—the choices other people make based on their life experiences so far; and “my business”—the choices I make that shape my life. If I focus on what I have to do to make my life the best it can be, and NOT on God’s and everyone else’s business, I will have less stress, which in turn will give me the ENERGY to live the life I’ve always wanted.
Don’t waste your time on gossip, ridicule, envy, self-pity, anger, guilt, arrogance, need, impatience, regret, manipulation, jealousy, fear, worry, and anxiety, because they’ll zap your ENERGY and cause you stress!
Choose understanding, truth, clarity, patience, devotion, gratitude, vulnerability, acceptance, wisdom, hope, forgiveness, empathy, discipline, perseverance, community, and peace. Because if you do, you will gladly kiss stress goodbye and say hello to all the ENERGY you’ll need.
Purpose is the driving force to get you from here to there. If you don’t have purpose, all the best food, supplementation, sleep, and stress-free days won’t help you one bit. You have to have a powerful burning desire to want it. My dictionary tells me that “purpose” is “seeking resolution.” Searching for answers to solve a problem. An intention. This all goes to the core of . . . why? Why do I want to spend the next 90 days turning my life upside down, maybe even for the second or third time, or more?
You’re looking for resolution. You’re searching for answers to help solve this problem. And most importantly, you must be clear about your intention. No one ever does anything just for the heck of it. There’s always some intention behind everything we do. Different kinds of behavior have different levels of intention and purpose. Eating fast food and leaving the DVDs on the shelf is one level. Following the program the way it was designed is another. I know I’ve said this before, but if your intention and purpose are based exclusively on esthetics and bragging rights, you miss the whole point of P90X. If your intention and purpose are based on good health, quality of life, athleticism, flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance, you’re doing P90X for all the right reasons. If your intention and purpose are based on lifestyle, you will have plenty of ENERGY to succeed with and complete P90X. You will also have the ENERGY to be everything you always knew you could be.
May the Energy Revolution begin!
I hate being between workout programs. If you give me a schedule, I will follow it. Without a schedule, I’m left with that big question each morning, “What workout shall I do today?”
One fantastic tip I’ve read recently is that each decision takes energy. Today we make more decisions than ever! We need to automate everything we can, so that we can give the energy to decisions that require it. Without that workout schedule, I tend to go easy and avoid those challenging workouts! It’s that daily struggle of does my body really need to take it easy or does my mind just want to take it easy? I think when you suffer from any illness or injury, it can be easy to fall into not pushing yourself. I still do not know what workout I will choose today. Maybe I should write the names on the back of a deck of cards, shuffle the deck, and choose one! I will definitely be looking through the workout schedules at Team Beachbody to find a nice hybrid. Maybe that is what I need! Some variety each day but a set schedule!
What do you do to motivate yourself when you’re not quite feeling that challenging workout?
I just started reading the book Spark – the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain by John J. Ratey, MD. I will be posting tidbits from the book over the coming weeks. I was happy to see the following study, One Twin Exercises, the Other Doesn’t, reported in the NYTimes that corroborates what I’m reading in SPARK. In this study, 10 sets of identical twins were studied in which their fitness activities had diverged in the prior 3 years. You had one active twin and one inactive twin. I was shocked by the statement the twins diets were quite similar. I would have thought diet played a larger role.
“It turned out that these genetically identical twins looked surprisingly different beneath the skin and skull. The sedentary twins had lower endurance capacities, higher body fat percentages, and signs of insulin resistance, signaling the onset of metabolic problems. (Interestingly, the twins tended to have very similar diets, whatever their workout routines, so food choices were unlikely to have contributed to health differences.)
The twins’ brains also were unalike. The active twins had significantly more grey matter than the sedentary twins, especially in areas of the brain involved in motor control and coordination.
Presumably, all of these differences in the young men’s bodies and brains had developed during their few, brief years of divergent workouts, underscoring how rapidly and robustly exercising — or not — can affect health, said Dr. Urho Kujala, a professor of sports and exercise medicine at the University of Jyvaskyla who oversaw the study.”
While this is a very small study, it does show that it is never too late to have a huge impact on how your body functions, even your brain.