Would it surprise you to learn I was once an unfit mess? Not that I am perfect today, but about 14 years ago I started a journey to fitness and a quest to reclaim my life and health.
I was a poor college student who didn’t even know what a personal trainer was, much less had the spare cash to afford one. I started with a very inexpensive gym membership and two books: Weight Training for Dummies and Body For Life. Both are great books and I still recommend them today. But they leave a lot of room for interpretation, especially for someone as headstrong as I am.
Needless to say, I made quiet a few mistakes in the beginning of my journey. Let me share a few examples of my early missteps in hopes of saving you the time I wasted and the frustration I experienced.
1. Lifting weights like a guy. I had no idea how to train for fat loss vs. muscle gain. There is nothing wrong with a body part or upper/lower split, like the workout plan in Body for Life, it just isn’t the most effective for ladies trying to lose fat. This is especially true in the beginning. It took me quite a while to learn the value of a well-designed full body workout full of multi-joint compound movements like push ups and squats.
2. Being the vegetarian who didn’t eat vegetables. Body for Life emphasized eating a protein and carb at each meal. A veggie dog and a bun meet those criteria, right? Somehow I missed the part of the book where you were supposed to eat vegetables. I lost weight by managing my portions, but my energy and health didn’t improve drastically. Adding a rainbow of veggies to my diet and pulling out processed junk is what made me feel better.
3. Cardio meant sitting on the recumbent bike reading a magazine. For years I couldn’t do cardio without a magazine. I rode the recumbent bike (yes, I said recumbent) for what seemed like hours in my “fat burning” zone. Cardio was boring and painful but a necessary part of the process. Then one day I read about this amazing thing called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I left my magazines at home and traded the recumbent bike for the stationary bike or elliptical.
4. A good workout had to happen at the gym. After all they have all the machines, right? It took me a while to figure out I could do a workout at home with my body, dumbbells and a bench. I learned that my own body was an effective tool, for both strength and cardio. It gave me freedom and I let go of the excuses about time to workout.
5. I consistently sabotaged myself with the Free Day. My husband and I had a good laugh reminiscing about Sundays past and our Free Day rituals. On the Free Day, if you follow the plan laid out in Body For Life, you can eat anything you want. And eat we did. Sundays were eagerly anticipated, becoming a free for all of donuts, soft pretzels, pizza and popcorn. Feeling bloated and sluggish, Monday would bring us back to reality and our protein/carb combos. When I stopped seeing progress I realized that I was undoing my hard work with Free Day gluttony. Gradually the Free Day was reined in, still allowing myself a little treat but staying closer to my regular clean weekday eating.
I’m not perfect. I still eat too much on vacation and some days I don’t want to work out (but I still do). I still consider myself a work in progress. However, one of my goals as a personal trainer and health coach is to help you not make the early mistakes I made. If I can save you some of the frustration and make your process move a little faster than I say mission accomplished.