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August 27, 2014

5 Tools to Ensure You Actually *Do* the Exercise You Know You’re Supposed To

If you’re a personal trainer, or you are an exercise buff or if you’ve even taken a general health or exercise 101 class in college, you have probably heard of the F.I.T.T. Model for how to create workouts. F.I.T.T. stands for frequency, intensity, time (or duration) and type.

This is a simple starting point for putting together a workout routine on your own. For example, “I will exercise 3 days a week at moderate-intensity for 30 minutes on the elliptical machine.” Great. Go for it. Or, “I will exercise 4 days a week at a high-intensity for 30 minutes lifting weights.” Awesome. I love it.

Now go DO it.

But wait … I don’t know about you, but for me, there a huge gap between knowing and doing. 

Honestly, knowing what to do is simple. Anyone and their grandmother can use F.I.T.T. to create the most beautiful workout program on earth. But what about implementation? What about consistency? And what about taking YOU into consideration?

These things are what matter for results.

Sure, hire a coach to give you the most beautiful workout program ever but make sure that you can actually implement it regularly AND that you are also getting results.

Because being the proud owner of a workout plan is not enough.

It doesn’t help you get out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t take into account your nutritional habits. It doesn’t say anything about your metabolism or psychology or personal preferences. A workout plan alone does not get results. Consistent implementation does, and that a few more considerations and detective work.

So here, are my top 5 ways to actually DO the workouts you know you should be doing:

1) Take YOU into consideration.

You ever drive down the street and see someone out jogging on the road who looks like mayyyyybe they shouldn’t be out there jogging? You get the sense they woke up this morning and decided to “get in shape” so they strapped on 2 old knee braces and off they went because when the average person thinks about losing weight, for whatever reason, they think they have to JOG to get results.

If you are savvy, you know this is not the case, but HOW PAINFUL DOES THIS JOGGING SOMETIMES LOOK? Sometimes I want to just pull over and tell the person they really, REALLY don’t have to jog to get in shape, there are a bazillion other ways to do it.

Taking YOU into consideration is key, and pain is an example of doing just that. Because exercise, for a lot of people is straight-up PAINFUL. It doesn’t feel good until you find the right modality for you and once you begin to build your base a little bit. Then, you can get the the point of liking it, or at least liking the way it feels after :) Pain leads to an unenjoyable experience and soon you’ll dread exercise. How is that helping you stay more consistent?

(As a side note, I just don’t think I’ll ever jog on a main road simply because as a passerby, I know that every single person who drives by is judging the hell out of me–my gait, how graceful versus messed up I look or simply just how flat out in pain I look! Ha!)

Other ways to take YOU into account:

  • Enjoyment (a little different than pain) – maybe you love to run or do Zumba or spinning whatever. Exercise you love is exercise you will do.
  • Schedule considerations – how much time can you realistically carve out for exercise and put wishful thinking aside and ask, when do I have my best chance of getting there? Know yourself. And know your routine.
  • Gym versus at-home – putting together a simple at-home gym with 2 sets of dumbbells and a bench will suffice if you just know that you will not get to the gym or because you hate the idea of exercising in front of other people (the JillFit Total Training Experience includes both at-home and gym workouts ;))
  • Time efficiency – the idea that you have to do an hour a day to get benefit is short-sighted. Even 10 minutes a day of intense exercise using weights can suffice for muscle maintenance if done correctly and consistently. Think realistically what you can actually commit to. Don’t overextend yourself.

2) Use Rest-Based Training (RBT).

This is Metabolic Effect‘s signature exercise methodology and it’s based on the idea that people can push their intensity higher in their workouts if they have permission to rest anytime.

In RBT, rest is actually the goal, and to rest many times, as often and for as long as is needed to push again with high intensity.

You start by pushing as hard as you can–whether you are lifting a heavy weight or doing some piece of cardio–until you have to rest (i.e. breathless, burning or failure) and then you rest until you can go again, however long that takes.

This approach is different than traditional interval training or HIIT because with RBT, there are no predetermined rest periods. You don’t say, “Push for 30s and then rest for 60s.” You say, “Push until you can’t and rest until you can.” That’s it.

So you can see how someone who is super fit can do this workout right alongside someone who is out of shape or a beginner. Because they’re each in control of their own rest. The elite exercise will rest less, while the beginner will rest more. But relatively speaking, both exercisers will experience an intense workout, it’s just that their individual intensity is just right for them.

Rest-based training uses reverse psychology to get people to push harder than they normally would by giving them autonomy over their rest periods. This discourages pacing and gives the reigns over to the exerciser. It works like a charm and I have been doing it for 10 years and I will never train any other way.

Not only does this keep the workout super safe because people can rest whenever they need to (there is no “pushing through” with bad form just to complete a set–you can rest during sets), but it increases the volume of the workout, too. Because there’s no structured rests, one is able to get more reps in a given amount of time. 20-30 minute workouts using RBT are totally sufficient for results.

3) Match your nutrition to your training volume.

Usually it’s the reverse. We say, “Oh mannnn, I ate a shitload of crap over the weekend, I have to get to the gym to BURN IT ALL OFF.” And so we let our eating determine our exercise.

But this approach can be a trap for several reasons. One, it perpetuates the “bad dieter”/”good dieter” mentality where you are either “on” or “off” THE PLAN. It makes you feel like exercise is pence for overindulgence or you have to “earn” your treats by burning tons of cals. Mentally, this isn’t a healthy relationship. And second, there is only so much exercise you can do in a day, so when you feel like you have to “burn off” sweets and treats, you’ll end up doing more and more exercise to accomplish it. Then, as we know (and see #4 below), more exercise leads to even more hunger and cravings, so we end up EATING more as a result, only to come back around and try to exercise more to burn it off. This is a negative cycle of eating and exercising and it blows.

INSTEAD, could you let your activity level determine your eating?

I talked about this concept here and here as it relates to traveling because oftentimes, we don’t exercise as much while on the road, so in order to maintain our weight, we have to down regulate our food intake too. Same thing as if you were at home and taking it easy on your workouts.

This approach is simple: evaluate your level of activity on a daily basis and match your nutrition to that. E.g. “I know I am going to be killing it in the gym today and then doing sprints and leisure walking.” <–This warrants a bigger eating day. On days when you don’t exercise at all, you adjust nutrition down as well. This adjustment happens daily.

This approach helps balance intake with output so that you are not way off balance either way any day. Are you someone who “lives to eat” and enjoys burgers and pizza? Great, you’ll want to make sure you get in that tough weight workout before hand.

For me, I am someone who doesn’t want to think about food at all that much, so for me, I typically keep my workouts short and 3-4 days a week. I normally eat less as a result. And you know what? It’s actually not hard because my appetite has also regulated from doing less exercise.

When I was competing and doing 2 hours of cardio a day, it was all I could do to not dive into chocolate 24/7, I was battling cravings around the clock. Now, I’m more in control of my eating simply because the way I train (and volume) is less.

It’s up to you what you do. But regardless, adjust your nutrition to match your activity on a daily basis for best results.

4) Watch compensatory responses like hunger and cravings.

Bumping your exercise volume and/or intensity is not benign. It affects other areas of your life and experience, like your mood, motivation, hunger, cravings, energy, sleep, stress, thinking patterns, etc.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m adding more and more exercise to my weekly regimen, I start to resent it and it starts taking over my life. My cravings and hunger start to become out of whack. My mood sucks–I become more irritable, impatient and sometimes even feel like a zombie (especially if I am going low-carb at the same time). My libido suffers, my sleep sucks and body is under a whole lot of stress that I’m unable to manage. Alas, it’s been YEARS since I’ve had that feeling, but it is EASY to get caught up in the Cardio Cycle where you need to keep adding more and more exercise to your routine in order to continue seeing results or even just maintain your weight.

But here’s the thing: it’s possible to reach a point of diminishing returns with exercise.

Like Jade says, “More is not better, better is better.” Quality and intensity always trump duration when it comes to results, and the key is keeping your HEC (hunger, energy and cravings) in check.

Metabolic Effect’s HEC acronym is key for creating a sustainable approach to both exercise and nutrition. If you HEC is out of check (i.e. ravenous hunger, insatiable cravings and unbalanced energy), do you even have a prayer of staying on that regimen??? No, of course not.

So beware of the compensatory responses of the exercise that you choose and work hard to minimize the negative effects. This requires you learn to understand your body better and listen to it: How’s your mood? How your sleep? Stress? Energy? etc.

These are signals to you that your current plan is doing you right or not. And if not, take some time to make adjustments. You might have to back off on volume for a time (and then do #3 above) or you might have to adjust your carbs or your eating frequency or add more protein and veggies to satiate, etc. Become the detective when it comes to your own body. No one else can do that for you.

5) Be consistent as a mofo with literally ANYTHING.

A body in motion stays in motion. Doesn’t it?

I know that for me, if I take off a few weeks of moving, it’s that much harder to get going again. So instead of that, choose ONE THING–I don’t care how minimal or “useless” it feels–AND JUST DO THAT. 5 minutes of stretching at night? Great. 20 minute walk at lunch? Perfect. 1 minute of squat jumps upon waking. Awesome.

Why is consistency the most important thing for results? Because it keeps you involved in the process and one foot in the exercise HABIT. And over time, 5 minutes of stretching becomes a yoga class once a week. And then that turns into a couple of spin classes. And that becomes a few days of weight training, etc: A BODY IN MOTION STAYS IN MOTION. Your habits are way easier to maintain then they are to break or re-start.

So now that you know that consistency is key, and the leanest people aren’t the ones jumping from program to program constantly, I want you to realistically create the workout regimen that you can ACTUALLY keep up with.

Go ahead and think of your “ideal” workout week. Write it down. Ok, perfect. But I want you to cut that in half. Great. THAT is the amount you should be getting consistently. Actions are easier to implement when our perception is that it’s the EASIEST thing on earth. When I ask you if 2 days a week of weight training seems feasible or how confident that you can do it, I want you answering with a “Hell Yes!” An 8 or 9 on an easy scale.

I remember when I was growing up, my dad (Hi, Dad!) would have times when he would be more into fitness and other times when he would be less into it. I remember him, when we was getting ready to ramp up again, he’d say, old-school as he was, “Oh, it’ll fine, I’ll just hit the gym twice a day, always does the trick!”

Though I love the enthusiasm, going from no days to 14 trips a week is not smart strategy. And remember, I didn’t doubt my dad’s drive and determination, but like all of us, we have built-in willpower ceilings, which is why adding things onto our plates slowly over time rather than going balls-to-the-wall, is critical.

Consistency is everything. And the ones getting results and sustaining those results are the ones doing a few key things well day after day, year after year.

What you think? Ready to take the long view? Me too!


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