In the battle against the bulge, everyone wants to drop fat fast and everyone knows that working out really helps to accelerate weight loss. However, I constantly hear complaints from both men and women about how weight loss “just isn’t happening” for them or that they find that they’re getting diminishing returns from their workouts.
Many years ago, when I was on the path to losing weight off my 107kg body, I also faced many of the problems that I hear coming from people I speak with today.
While exercise and diet were both responsible for getting me down to my current 68kg bodyweight, I learnt the hard way that it was the little things that really allowed me to keep up a consistent level of physical activity.
On top of a complete change in my nutritional intake, adjusting my lifestyle and fitness mindset towards the correction of the following 10 workout mistakes really helped me to start shedding weight safely and effectively.
1. Allowing distractions to derail workouts
If you’re the type of person that lives and breathes Social Media, know that your phone will be a KEY impediment towards maximising your workout. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve seen people bring their phones into the gym, crank out one set then get up to stare at their phones for the next five minutes.
Other harmful distractions include: chatting with friends during runs, checking out girls in the gym and trying to make work calls while on a run.
If you’re serious about weight loss, leave the phone in the locker and arrange for dinner with your friend. Take that 30 minutes out of your day and make it a point to remember that this time is for yourself. Cut out all distractions and focus on putting in maximum effort within that 30 to 45 minute workout.
2. Forgetting that Quantity is not Quality
What burns more calories during activity:
2 minutes of Intense Sprints daily or 30 minutes of jogging?
Researchers from Colorado State University found that short, intense sprint workouts burned 200 calories during 2.5 minutes of workout. What’s more, the International journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism published a study showing that a sustained, two-minute high intensity workout would boost metabolism over the next day.
Why is this information useful? Well, not all of us have the free time to go for an hour long workout. However, this doesn’t mean that exercise cannot happen when we’re busy. As long as you have two minutes, you can work out. Seriously, who doesn’t have two minutes in their day to workout?
3. Not watching your form
As much as workouts are about intensity and time, exercise is also about form. When I say form, I mean the shape and posture taken by the body and its different muscle groups during a particular exercise. For each and every exercise, there is a particular form to be taken by the body and it is vital that we remember to take that form during exercise.
Why? Well, two things can happen if you don’t look out for your form:
Firstly, you risk injury. An example would be when you perform squats. If you rush through multiple squats without keeping to proper posture, you could end up hurting your back. This injury will delay future workouts and derail your weight loss plan!
Secondly, you may be energy inefficient. A good example of poor form sapping precious energy away would be keeping poor running posture during uphill sprints. Conventional running may require that we keep our backs straight and arms pumping by our sides as we run. However, uphill sprints requires the person to bend forward slightly while sprinting up an incline in order to use gravity in an advantageous manner.
Keeping an upright posture during uphill sprints would actually cause gravity to work against the runner during an uphill sprint, causing him or her to perform less sprints for the same amount of energy expended.
4. Skipping meals
If you’re trying to lose weight, the last thing you should try doing is exercising and skipping meals at the same time.
The important thing to remember is that the body is a machine that depends on food to function. Every muscle group requires energy in order to function properly and you can only get it through proper nutrition.
If you push through a workout after skipping a meal, you’ll definitely see a decrease in performance during the workout. That means less energy expended than you would have if you were fully fuelled. However, that’s not the worst part. The most detrimental thing about skipping meals regularly is that your body’s metabolism will lower, so you’ll actually burn less calories over a 24-hour period than you would if you actually ate regularly.
5. Focusing on Cardio
I’m very guilty of this one, mainly because I do love the feeling of running.
I see plenty of people, especially ladies, walk into the gym and hit the treadmill for 30 minutes before leaving. I admit that cardio is a good way to get metabolism up and get those endorphins flowing, however, it really shouldn’t be the only thing anyone should be doing.
Many girls I speak to balk at the idea of even lifting light weights, worried that they would somehow “bulk up” and get too muscled. Truth is, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you would have to develop fat-shredding lean muscle, which is the key to sustained fat loss and preventing future weight gain.
If you don’t go to the gym, fret not! Body weight exercises are just as effective in engaging muscles for growth. In fact, I would recommend that you do a mix of cardio followed by bodyweight exercises to maximise your workout. I love bodyweight exercises because they can be done anywhere. Here’s a list of bodyweight exercises to get you started!
6. Doing the “Rinse and Repeat”
Workout routines are the one thing where we cannot apply the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Many people fall off the bandwagon because they get bored of their workouts. They get sick of running that distance every few days or going to the gym three times a week and doing the same exercises again and again. They fall into the “rinse and repeat” trap.
The key to getting out of that rut is to give yourself that chance to change up one workout a week. I understand that everyone has a staple, “go-to” type of workout that may get stale. So, break the monotony of your five-kilometre run with a 30-minute swim or go to the gym for some weight training if you’re sick of bodyweight exercises.
The other thing you need to do is to vary the exercises within your routine. Instead of just doing normal push-ups, change to elevated push-ups or wide-arm push-ups to confuse your muscles. This principle of muscle confusion forces your body to break out of a plateau, allowing you to grow fat-shredding lean muscle at a faster rate.
7. Not getting sufficient sleep
Sleep is actually a key factor in weight loss, especially if you’re on a serious workout calendar. Lack of sleep impacts your body’s appetite hormone levels. Ghrelin, the hormone that signals your brain to eat, is produced more abundantly when you are sleep deprived. Conversely, insufficient sleep will lower production of leptin, the hormone that signals fullness.
Additionally, you need to sleep early to promote muscle recovery if you’ve had a hard workout. Muscle repair and recovery is maximised when the body has seven to nine hours of sleep, so hit the sack early to avoid a draggy recovery period.
8. Not scheduling rest days
In the weight loss game, consistency truly is the key to success. That’s why you need to consistently schedule rest days into your workout plans. A typical amateur weight loss mistake would be to work out six days a week and give up after two weeks.
When you begin your weight loss journey, your body will get sore quickly and muscle inflammation would be at an all-time high. Your metabolism goes into overdrive to cope with the new activity levels and you’ll still be figuring out your physical limits. This can lower your immunity and cause sickness, which will delay your weight loss plans by at least one week.
This is the time for you to cut yourself some slack. Give your body time to recover properly before your begin. I would recommend two to three days of workout, followed by one day of complete rest for some muscle recovery.
9. Treating yourself after a workout
It’s completely normal to feel ravenous after a hard workout. Your body has used up its glucose reserves and is crying out for some carbohydrates. At this point, I must remind you: DO NOT HIT THE PRATA STALL! That prata and teh tarik will completely undo your workout.
When you start exercising, you will begin to feel hungry through the day. That’s your body’s metablism revving up and burning everything you put into your body. View your body as a pristine machine: if you put in clean fuel, it works better. Put in lousy fuel and it just won’t run as well.
With that in mind, counter your hunger with clean foods. A tip would be to bring a bag of walnuts, raisins or cut fruits along with you for a post-workout meal. If you work in an office, remember to keep a stash of pine nuts or protein bars in the office so that you can fuel your body when you start to get hungry.
10. Educate yourself
As you can probably tell by now, the choices you make before and after your workouts matter as much as the workouts themselves. I came to learn about all these things on my workout journey because I constantly read up on the topic.
The field of sports nutrition and exercise is a constantly evolving one, so the only way to make the right choices is to always read up on the latest fitness news. I buy a copy of Men’s Health once in a while, and follow various fitness websites to get new exercises and nutritional knowledge. Here’s also a very comprehensive list of calisthenics exercises you can use as a guide.
I know this article is quite a long read, and I hope I’ve helped you learn a little more about what you should be looking out for on your weight loss journey. Until next time, be safe, be healthy and work hard!