Do you know someone who constantly works out and is constantly on a diet, yet his or her body never changes? Maybe this person is you. Most of my clients, who are woman over 50, come to me with the same complaint; I joined a gym, and I go about 3 or 4 times a week, I eat healthy but nothing is happening. What am I doing wrong?
It’s not that you are necessarily doing anything wrong, it’s that you aren’t doing it right. What? When you first began eating right and working out, you probably saw a drop in your weight on the scale, or you started to feel stronger because you were building some muscle. Maybe you even had an increase in energy as you began eating nutrient dense foods.
What’s missing are a few steps that you need to ensure you will continue to get results. First and foremost, you need to track what you are doing in order to know what to do next. You see our bodies are amazingly adaptable machines. As soon as it gets used to what you are doing, it adjusts and learns to live, or maintain itself, at that caloric intake and energy output level.
START TRACKING YOUR NUTRITION
I know, tracking your food is boring and can become quite tedious after a while. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know what to change, and if what you change is working. Let’s say you are eating 1800 calories a day and 600 calories of that is protein, 600 calories are from carbohydrates and 400 calories from fat. Since you began eating like this, and you know you are because you are logging your food each day, you have been losing 2 pounds per week. Then for one or two weeks your weight stays the same. This means your body has gotten used to that particular caloric intake and breakdown of macronutrients. There are a couple of things you can do. First, you could change the macronutrient percentages; increase protein and decrease carbs or increase fat and decrease carbs, or you may need to decrease the calories. In some cases an increase in calories may be called for. Whatever it is you change, be consistent and do this for a couple of weeks to see if that is what your body needs.
It’s a bit complicated in the beginning but through this process you learn so much about your body. You’ll also be able to gradually increase your calories as you put on muscle and continue to get leaner. I’ve taken one client from eating 1,000 calories per day to over 1,800 calories while lowering her body fat. What you walk away with is the knowledge of not only how to eat, but how to adjust your calories or macronutrients based on how your body not some random diet you read about promising you the world. Our bodies are constantly changing every day, our energy needs fluctuate depending on our activity level and you need to know how your body responds in order to maintain the lean, healthy physique you want to keep. Will you have to measure your foods for the rest of your life? Absolutely not, you’ll be able to tell what you can and can’t have depending on what your current goals are as well as be able to adapt to every situation. No more worrying about not being able to go out to eat because it’s not on your meal plan.
MAKE SURE YOUR WORKOUTS ARE PROGRESSIVE
The other half of the equation would be your workouts. Just like nutrition, you body will get very used to the physical demands you place on it. The key is progressive overload. What does that mean? Basically, that each week you will increase the weight, the repetitions, the sets, or the level of difficulty of the exercise so that you are continually stressing and surprising the muscles. The same holds true for your cardio workouts. You can’t hop on the treadmill for 30 minutes at an incline of 2% and a speed of 5.5 mph day after day and expect your body to change. It just doesn’t work that way. What you want to watch out for is what I call “chaos training”. Although you are changing things up constantly, you need to do this in a way that each progression is building on the previous.
For example, one progression for lunges could look like this:
1. Alternate Lunges
2. Alternate Lunges with dumbbells
3. Alternate Reverse Lunges
4. Alternate Reverse Lunge with a Twist
5. Alternate Lunge onto a Bosu
6. Alternate lunges with dumbbells but at a higher weight than the first time (#2).
This progression could take you through 12 – 15 weeks of workouts.
an exercise plan is key to getting results
An experienced trainer should easily be able to build you a progressive plan that will keep you getting results that bring you step by step to your goal through a well thought out weekly or monthly plan. They should then teach you how to maintain your new body. If he or she can’t, find another trainer.
This may all sound confusing, and in the beginning it is, but what you end up with is the knowledge to keep your own body in great condition through flexible dieting and workouts that are customized to your individual goals and current condition. Do this and I guarantee you won’t be spinning your wheels any longer.
Lisa Swanson is an ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Orthopedic Exercise Specialist as well as a certified AASDN and PN level 1 nutritionist. With over 35 years experience helping people turn their lives around, she is on a mission to provide relevant and useful knowledge to help women in midlife reach their goals.
Check out my interview with the Magnificent Midlife podcast on staying fit and healthy long-term.