Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Too many beers, too many late nights, summer patio celebrations, all-inclusive vacations, kids off for the summer and no time for the gym? Late nights, early mornings, weddings, bachelorette parties…..and the list goes on.
The “Summer Post-Patio-Pooch” syndrome is a typical sentiment found by many once September rolls around. It is a time of year that invites new beginnings, habits, routines and change to go along with the season that can touch on all areas of our lives, including health and fitness. Unfortunately too many people are interested in the “quick fix” or instant gratification of “7 pounds in 7 days” or the “3 day detox” to get there. The problem with the quick fixes are that they are not sustainable, therefore any weight loss (which is usually just water loss) is usually found again quite quickly; even before homecoming rolls around. These fast-loss solutions may actually be doing your metabolism more harm then you know. By restricting your caloric intake to a very low number or “drinking” juice or smoothies alone for days on end makes your “fat-burning-body” and digestive system more sluggish post fad diet then it was before. Your goal is to have a body that can ingest the most amount of calories possible while maintaining your body composition. That way when it comes time to lose some weight, very small changes need to be made. For example, if Person A is eating a mere 1000 calories a day and maintaining their weight, and has decided to shape up for their upcoming high school reunion (CHH anyone??), then they would have to increase their output (aka exercise) or decrease their caloric consumption (900 calories). On the other hand, if person B can maintain their weight with 2000 calories a day and eating McDonalds 3 nights a week, then they would merely have to cut back to once a week drive-thru visits to see some change. Now I am not suggesting that eating McDonald’s is the way to go, I am simply showing you an example of how slashing calories drastically will cause stress to your body, disrupt hormone balance, and in many cases make your body go into starvation mode by holding on to the fat- especially in the mid section.
Here are a few strategies that will work for you long term whether you need help getting back into a routine or if you are just getting started.
Find an activity you enjoy
I suggest you find an physical activity that you can enjoy for the long haul. Hate spinning?? Then don’t do it. You will most likely not get past class 3 if it is something you hate. Setting up goals with activities that you don’t enjoy is just setting yourself up for failure. Love to dance? then try out the newest dance class where you are sure to burn hundreds of calories while having fun. Are you more of a low key person? Try out some hot yoga- not only will you be doing your body good, but it is a great practice to centre your mind and soul as well. My favourite activity? Good old resistance training. There is nothing like “pumping some iron” to make my endorphins come out and make me feel on top of the world!
When starting up a routine again (or for the first time)- accountability is definitely paramount to success. Whether you are in the weight room, cardio floor, yoga mat or cross-fit gym, having a partner to to go with you or call you up and pull you away from the latest season of “The Bachelor”, is always a great idea. I like to train with a friend a few times a week to keep the session interesting and catch up at the same time. Be aware however, that if you are working alone with a partner, make sure you both have similar athletic abilities (beginner, intermediate advanced) and similar goals. It will make your time together more productive. Working out with a friend can also create some healthy competition!
Don’t Become the “Weekend Warrior”
Many people start a new routine with a lot of drive, determination and energy. The problem is, they usually start out so hard, that they run out of steam the first week. Instead of trying to give it “all or nothing” week 1, ease your way into your new routine; whether it be with food or fitness. Start week 1 with a weekly goal- if you never get to the gym, then get there 2 times and use 3/4 of your perceived rate of exertion- don’t go all out, the only thing that may happen is a risk for injury. Remember point 1? Any NEW change will produce results, so don’y worry about 100% effort at this point. Also keep in mind that hopefully now that you have bought into this new lifestyle ( or re-bought back into it), you are in it for life. Week 2 you can set up more goals, maybe adding in a 3rd day, or setting up a food goal; i.e. I will start eating breakfast daily and remove all processed sugars from my diet. By week 3 you will be working out 3 days a week, have removed sugar, be eating a healthy breakfast and be ready for a new goal. I find this method works for most people, although there still are some people who prefer the All or Nothing approach.
Cardio or Weights?
One of the most popular questions I receive on a daily basis: “Coach Catolino, if I am strapped for time, and only have 30 minutes to workout, should I focus on cardio or weights?”. I’m hoping the cardio craze of the 90’s has slowly made way to the resistance era- fingers crossed. There are a lot of deciding factors in this question including; body composition, age and goals. But…. the answer is almost always weights. This doesn’t have to mean 200pound olympic bar squats for 6 reps and a resting period of 2 min. (that would be fun for 30 min). It could mean a metabolic circuit where you are working on conditioning, core and muscle all at the same time. It could be a body-specific workout where you are training shoulders only in that time frame. When training with weights (or other forms of resistance- i.e bodyweight, bands, balls, bells, yoga, bars), you are allowing your body to further fuel your metabolism, make body composition changes (higher, tighter A$$ anyone?), and burning more calories in the 24 hour post-training window then you do with cardiovascular training alone. I think that list speaks for itself!
Give yourself some time this Fall to “FALL” into fitness. Create some short-term and long-term goals, find an activity and friend to hold you accountable and most importantly, take it one bite, one rep and one step at a time.