In my adventures as a trainer and in visiting a variety of weight loss forums, I’ve come to realize a perception that plagues many trainees. For many, exercise is either performed per a rigid set of rules and parameters or it isn’t done at all. There’s no in between. Keep in mind I’m talking about your average individual who is interested in simply losing the spare tire or extra jiggle they’ve accumulated throughout the numerous beer-drinking, wing-eating football seasons. If you want to get ridiculously lean, you need to dig a bit deeper. However, a sturdy house can’t be built without a foundation.
The problem with The Rigid Program mentality, as I see it, is it tends to trip people up more than anything else. They worry about the minutia long before they identify the root of the problem. In our never-ending quest for the best diet or exercise program in existence (which doesn’t exist), we forget about the core tenets weight loss is built upon. Losing fat is a function of, to put it beyond simply, eating less and moving more.
Traditional, structured exercise routines are fantastic and I’m not suggesting you ditch them. They are the catalyst to most people’s success in terms of fat loss when coupled with progression, consistency and fatigue management.
The point I want to convey is the calories you expend doing yard work, going for a walk with your spouse, walking around the city instead of taking the bus, walking the dog, hiking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, not playing bumper cars with a stranger simply for the sake of parking two steps away from the store, and the million other ways you can be flexibly active are exactly the same as the calories you expend doing traditional, structured exercise.
Being more active in a general sense can’t be forgotten. The calories expended doing simple, daily things add up quick and act as a buffer for those ‘bumps’ and ‘slips’ that will invariably come about with your traditional exercise routine and diet. We can’t be perfect so if we’re to maintain consistency, we must be flexible and dynamic in our approach.
The typical dieter has become fat by way of moving less and less with each passing year. What is deemed important this day and age most often has people moving very little. The people who really get themselves into trouble are the ones who eat more and more with each passing year too. Either way you slice it, each year is accompanied by a larger and larger calorie surplus. Most of us know what our bodies do with surpluses… store it for later in the form of fat!
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the positives of being more active in a general sense.
I was thinking about this while I went for a hike at the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey this past weekend. The Gap is a popular tourist destination for outdoor activities so I saw many people.
Comparing the sample of people I found on my hike with those I’d typically find at the local grocery store contrast quite a bit. I thought about all my clients, friends and family who struggle with weight problems. In almost all cases, said individuals don’t move much. Even clients… they move when they’re paying a trainer a few hours per week, but that’s only because they feel as if they have to. Three hours out of 168 each week aren’t very meaningful.
Sure, being active in a general sense is a very simple concept. Depending on the person though, it can be very profound too. Now might be a good time to analyze what you spend your time doing when you aren’t going to the gym. Many of my clients have found it helpful to actually log their activity each day for a week or so. It can be quite eye-opening when you realize just how little you move each week.
Once identified, you can start finding ways to develop more balance and bring more energy expenditure into your life.
Be creative and adventurous. Spontaneous walks with your spouse are not only good for your health, but also your marriage. Buy a bicycle. Take up gardening. Devote some time researching what activities exist locally that require movement. A quick search last weekend brought me to a dozen websites that highlighted amazing hiking trails with beautiful scenery and sights in Pennsylvania that most people don’t even know exist. This planet offers up some phenomenal, natural beauty. Get off your booty and start exploring.
Time is one of the most valuable resources we have and far too much of it is wasted on things that matter little. Make sure you’re spending your time wisely.