As a trainer, I see hundreds of people come in and out of gyms. Year after year, I see the same people, with the same goals and the same body. It seems, despite all of the hours spent in the gym, that many don't ever reach their goals. The reason for this is well-rooted in a couple of popular, but possibly misleading, ideas on how to eat and exercise. The following will show you how to avoid some common practices that can hinder your progress and give you tips to greatly increase the likelihood of reaching a weight loss goal.
Pitfall #1 - Dieting
I'm going to say something potentially inconvenient and controversial: diets do not work. They never have and they never will. The reason being that the term itself is sold as a short-term modification of nutrition meant to cause a permanent effect on the body. Thinks about this description - we don't expect to put in a small amount of effort at work and then have our bosses never expect us to work again, so it goes that we shouldn't expect the same things from our bodies.
In order to cause a permanent effect upon the body, one must make permanent changes to nutrition. There is no way around it - anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell something.
Pitfall #2 - Focusing Too Much on Cardio
Cardiovascular training is very important for one's health and well-being and should be a staple in every person's training regimen. That being said, as with anything else, moderation is the key. Frequent cardiovascular training that is long in duration with a constant intensity can result in a negative effect on the body. Studies show that it can greatly increase risk for impact injuries, decreases muscle mass and elevates serum cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone responsible for fat gain and muscle wasting, both things that no one I have ever worked with has listed as one of their goals.
A good solution to this is to make 1-2 cardiovascular sessions per week of the "high intensity" variety. This means reducing the time you are exercising, and increasing the effort exerted. A good example supporting this is comparing a marathon runner to a sprinter. Marathon runners typically have low muscle mass, and more body fat than one would expect, considering their volume of exercise. Sprinters on the other hand, typically have good muscle tone and low body fat.
Pitfall #3 - Trying to Go It Alone
I know this sounds self-promoting, but hiring a knowledgeable and reliable personal trainer can be the difference between reaching a goal and not. A personal trainer will monitor exercises so that progressions occur safely and consistently. Secondly, a trainer will challenge beyond what one is typically able to self-generate, especially on days when motivation and energy are low. Lastly, a personal trainer will help keep clients accountable for diet and exercise outside of the gym. This is the top investment one can make when attempting to make positive diet and exercise changes.
Avoiding these weight loss pitfalls by stopping the diet fads, mixing up your cardio and hiring a good personal trainer give you the greatest odds for long-term, sustained success.
Jake Monroe CSCS, WKC