After 30 years in the fitness industry, you start to notice some pretty distinct patterns in people’s health and wellness behaviours — from a religious fervour for all things sedentary to daily toil under an oppressive squat rack.
More relevant than these two extremes, perhaps, is the cohort of frustrated resolutionists who wrestle with daily weight-loss struggles — treadmill vs. couch, salad vs. cheeseburger.
As you trip over your gym bag, take solace in the fact that many share a seat on the same boat.
Take a look at the patterns below and see if you can relate. Then check out the recommendation that just may push you to the next level.
The Bystander. The Bystander hangs out poolside (gymside) in their jeans and T-shirt watching everyone swim. They know exercise is good for them, but they’re afraid to take the next step. What if the water is too cold? What if people look at me? What if I drown? All reasonable concerns.
The Bystander often buys a membership or registers for a class, but finds a reason to cancel.
There’s a big hurdle facing the Bystander — fear of the unknown. Joining a gym or attending a fitness class may not be the most appropriate course of action. Yes, it’s a good physiological solution, but it may not be the best psychological solution.
Recommendation: If you’re a nervous Bystander, it’s important to avoid anything that could be perceived by your brain as negative. Be awash in happy thoughts to cultivate a repeat performance. That means keeping away from the deep end (free weights, killer spin class, etc.).
Go easy! Your goal should be participation, not exercise. Walk on the track. Sit on a bike. Watch the TV on the Cross Trainer. Show up, be invisible and observe. Avoid well-meaning trainers and friends who prompt you into the deep end. They already know how to swim and they can’t relate to your situation.
The Inspired Participant. The Inspired participant has notched some workouts on their weight belt. “My energy level is up! I feel more optimistic! I even passed on cake at the last staff meeting. The pounds are just melting … Hey, I weigh more than I did before I started exercising!”
Recommendations: It’s normal for the scale to stare back at you, unimpressed by the efforts of your new exercise regime, especially in the first few months. Expect the weight gain and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t happen. The key to seeing results for any new exerciser is staying the course and turning up the heat when and where appropriate.
Winter Doldrums. Treadmill lineups that start on Jan. 1 disperse quickly under sunny skies (and it’s probably a safe bet that everyone hasn’t simply moved their exercise routine outdoors).
Many who got into exercise on a whim have become distracted. “This working out stuff is hard … Oh, look, a hotdog stand!”
Recommendation: Don’t throw away weeks of commitment because you’re bored, frustrated or distracted. It may be time to spice up your workout. Change that scares off many beginners can be a great boost for more experienced exercisers. Try a class or hop on a different cardo machine. The change triggers growth in mind and body.
Hey, I can see a muscle! Ah, the light at the end of the tunnel — better known as hope and possibility. Exercisers who see tangible results often double down on commitment. They train harder and eat better. Even if life gets in the way, they seem to find the time for a workout.
Recommendation: People who have made it to this stage are well on their way to reaching their goals.
If showing up is half the battle, doing things properly is the other half.
Consider hiring a trainer to ensure you are spending time efficiently and effectively. I hate to be a downer, but most people aren’t, and that’s why results stall.
The other day, we made a minor tweak to a new client’s routine. We exchanged the typical, all-too-common treadmill runs to short intervals on the bike. As a result, the scale flinched and he lost five pounds in a few weeks — and saved a lot of time.
Remember, throwing darts at a personal trainer roster on Google or having one assigned by the gym is risky. Look for a proven track record and always check their rating.
To those wrestling with fitness goals, be patient. There are many in the same boat who have uncovered the secrets and made it to the other side.