Friday, January 15, 2010

Reaching your Fitness Resolution

We're halfway through January and already about half of the Americans who resolved to live healthier and be fit have drifted away from their plans by now!

What's worse, in just 2 more weeks fully 93.8% (according to a Johns Hopkins University study) will have abandoned their fitness programs!

What's going on here!?!

Well, it's not an exact science, that's for sure, but a big part of it is the lack of results. Or, more accurately, I should say it's the lack of measurable results. Indeed, one of the most critical errors people make in January is to monitor their progress with the bathroom scale. While that might be right for some people at some point, it's flat out wrong for most people starting a fitness program in January.

Here's why. Exercising forces the body to adapt. In fact, the less fit you are the more dramatic the adaption. Your body creates new and more efficient neurological pathways. You add mineral content to your bones increasing its density. Blood volume increases. And yes, you both increase the size of, and add muscle fibers to your frame.

All of this blood, nerve tissue, bone, and muscle is lean body mass.

And adding lean body mass is
a healthy way to make you stronger, live longer, and is one of the keys to weight loss!

Each ounce of additional lean body mass is living, 'breathing', calorie-consuming tissue. Increased strength not only allows you to move more weight and burn more calories when you workout, but the additional lean body mass will also burn more calories when you're at rest.

You can think of muscle tissue as your primary fat 'burning' facility. The more muscle you have, the more fat you can burn!

The trouble is, all this lean body mass also adds to your overall body weight! So while all of that exercise is burning calories and reduces your body fat, that same exercise is offsetting the fat loss with an increase in lean mass! So the scale doesn't move. Or doesn't move much.

In an effort to get you back on track, my tip this week is simple:

Pick One and ONLY One Fitness Goal this Month! And make that goal anything other than weight loss.

Fitness Goals can be one of many things:
  • Cardiovascular Condition;
  • Muscular Strength;
  • Muscular Endurance;
  • Flexibility; and
  • Body Composition, which includes body fat.
What most people don't realize is that the most direct path to reducing body fat is usually found through initially improving the less interesting goals of improved Cardiovascular Condition, Muscular Strength, or Muscular Endurance.

So, make it easy on yourself, and pick one and only one non-composition related fitness goal to work on this month! If you haven't been getting the cardio in, make that job #1. And ignore the scale at this point. Your primary goal is to establish and maintain consistency with your program.

Improving Cardiovascular Condition helps both establish a consistent pattern of aerobic exercise, and lays the foundation for more intense cardio training to follow. In addition to the 10 minute warmup and 10 minute cool down prior to and following your strength training efforts, you should also be completing an additional 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 3 times per week.

Or take a strength or muscular endurance test at the beginning of the month and then again at the end of the month. Record the percentage improvement. Pushups to failure are a great muscular endurance test. Or, leg press twice your body weight to failure. Check with your trainer if unsure of how or what to test.

Next month, pick and focus on a different individual fitness element! In a few months, you'll discover that not only has your body composition improved along the way, but you'll also have a more complete appreciation of how a balanced fitness program keeps you motivated month after month, year after year, and decade after decade.

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