Everyone wants the best possible progress when it comes to fitness. Once we take those initial tough steps of committing to a new program, we expect that the results will soon follow. Our motivation and our efforts are high and we want the changes and the new body to get here as fast a possible. But fast results are not always what is best for the body. Trying to force it to work beyond what it can comfortably do will cause it to resist your efforts. You don’t want to get positive results only to give them right back. You don’t want to only lease your new physique and have to turn it in before you really get to drive it!
A big mistake people often make when starting a new fitness program is being overly aggressive. They cut their calories too much and/or start off at too high of an exercise volume. While this may feel satisfying and lead you to believe that it will give you better results, the truth is that the body can only change so fast. It can only lose body fat so fast, gain muscle so fast, and transform so quickly. Our body doesn’t care if we want to look like Greek gods and goddesses, it’s main focus is on survival. Being overly aggressive at the start can make the scale move faster initially, but often it’s only a mirage. It’s not actually body fat that you’re losing.
In the long run, if you reduce your calories too much at once, instead of losing faster your body will start to conserve energy and even try to store calories. The more weight you lose, the more it will fight to slow the loss. If you exercise too much, the body will adapt faster to make the exercise (particularly steady state cardio) less effective. You’ll get slower results for doing more work, not to mention it will again try to conserve energy to compensate for the energy drain. The body “conserves energy” by slowing your metabolic rate which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to make (and keep) progress for the long term. Yes, diet and exercise can give you incredible results. But if you push either of them too aggressively, especially in the beginning, you will stall out your progress well before you reach your goal and probably severely dampen your enthusiasm.
This is the time of year when a lot of people are either getting back into fitness or starting a new program. Transformation competitions are popular and people are excited to see results. But care needs to be taken in terms of how you go about attaining those results. If your goals are reached in the wrong way you simply will not be able to keep them. You may even do long-term harm to your system that can effect your ability to get results for years. If the “after” picture is attained in the wrong way, you will very soon look just like the “before” picture again (or worse!). I’ve seen this happen more times than I can count and it’s always a tough thing to watch someone go through. It’s an even tougher thing for someone to have to deal with, especially since it’s completely avoidable. Don’t let this be you!
When starting a new program, you only need to make enough changes in your training and diet so that you’re getting results and moving in the right direction. There’s no need to go from doing nothing to trying to do everything. Remember, your body can only change so fast. As you progress, continue to make only gradual changes and adjustments. Modify just the amount you need to keep yourself progressing at a sensible rate. Faster isn’t better if it means that you won’t reach your personal finish line. You have to work at a pace that you can sustain in terms of your efforts, and that your body can sustain in terms of results. Don’t compromise your long terms success for temporary progress. Don’t risk burning yourself out mentally, physically, and/or emotionally because you went too hard, too fast. Taper your enthusiasm for the long run and focus on consistency and sustainability. The progress you make over days and weeks can never match the progress you can make over months and ultimately years. Be patient and positive. Try to enjoy the lifestyle and the journey. Fitness is not a race that you want to end as fast a possible. Fitness is a place you want to be able to stay for a long time!
Photo: Terry Goodlad