Staying “True” to a Workout That Works for You

Staying “True” to a Workout That Works for You

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  1. A classic line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is “This above all: To thine own self be true.”

    Truth is important when beginning or resuming a fitness plan. When we’re honest about 1) where we are with our physical conditioning; 2) what we can realistically do; and 3) what we actually do, we have a better chance of accomplishing fitness goals. 

    If you’ve been around a gym, you’ve seen him: the new guy who’s running on the treadmill, huffing and puffing, holding on for dear life − not because he’s conditioned to do so. He’s trying to keep up with Joneses, a clear sign of not being honest about where we are or what we can realistically do.

    When that happens:

    * We cheat ourselves out of the real benefit of the exercise. In the case of the treadmill, holding on doesn’t build core strength or an efficient running stride. I’ve never been in a race where a giant set of handrails drop from the sky to assist me to the finish. So, we have to lower the speed (exercise intensity), let go of the handrails and let go of competing with others. The same is true for machines or free weights. Too heavy a weight often results in “reps” that do not stress the muscle through its full range of motion, again, cheating us out of the full benefit of the exercise. 

    * We do less than we set out to do. When we’re trying to run faster than the next gal, more than likely we’ll shortchange the workout because we fatigue too quickly. Daily, I have to remind myself in my hour-plus runs not to “allow” others to shortchange my workout because I’m trying to compete with the guy who just jumped on the treadmill and won’t last more than 20 minutes. In my mind I repeat, “solid and steady to reach the end.” The fix: Walk into the gym with a plan, know what you want to accomplish and stick with it.

    * We get injured. In the weight room, particularly among guys, there’s the tendency to overload the weight stack to try to impress others. The result most often is poor form and injury. In an online profile, one gentleman at my gym boasted that he could squat 400+ pounds. At best, when I saw him, he was doing what looked like ballerina dips – stressing his adductors and knees, but certainly not the large muscles of the gluteus and quads of a solid squat. The fix: Lower the weight, focus on good form and move through a full range of motion.  

    * We attempt to fool ourselves. When we don’t stick with a plan and shortchange the workout because we’re fatigued from “competing” with others, we sometimes overestimate just how much we’ve done. Sadly, though, no matter how much we inflate our 12-minute cardio workout to a 30-minute routine when we recount our effort to friends and family, we can’t fool ourselves. The same tomfoolery happens in reporting what we eat. A 2011 Consumer Reports Health poll, for example, found that more than 90 percent of Americans say they eat “somewhat, very or extremely healthy.” Those numbers, however, don’t align with the reality that nearly two of three U.S. adults are overweight and nearly one in three is obese.

    In fitness, finishing begins with truth. That means being realistic about where we are in our conditioning, what we can do successfully in the gym and what we actually accomplish when we’re there.

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