1. Doing 100s of… well, pretty much anything
It seems logical: if 10 situps are good, then 100 situps are better! Sorry to break it to you guys— but this is faulty logic. The fact is, there are very few exercises which you should be doing 100s of. When it comes to exercises, in general, completing 6-8 reps targets hypertrophy, 10-12 reps targets strength, and anything more than 15 reps targets cardio endurance. It all boils down to this: if you can do THAT many of a certain exercise, it’s way too easy for you to be doing.
I see this all the time with crunches and situps; people come to me complaining “but I’m doing 100s of crunches every day and I still don’t have a six pack!” Well, therein lies the problem. These exercises (crunches and situps), first and foremost, are two of THE MOST ineffective ab exercises out there, so it isn’t any surprise that even those without developed core muscles can so easily do 100s of them. The remedy? Switch to a more difficult exercise that challenges you enough that you can only complete 6-15 reps of, such as Russian twists, hanging leg lifts, or weighted otis ups.
If your goal is to build muscle or to increase strength, then doing 100s of anything will NOT get you there— since your rep range is targeting cardio endurance. And if your goal just so happens to be to lose fat by targeting cardio endurance, then completing 100s of reps of something is ridiculously inefficient anyway. High calorie burning cardio activities include running, biking, swimming, and lots more, whereas completing 100s of push ups, situps, etc. burns substantially fewer calories. That’s not to say it’s a total waste of your time— but would you rather bike for 20 minutes or do push ups for well over 60 minutes? Enough said.
My real problem with this is simple: it discourages people so easily. When you’re clearly working so hard doing 100s of this, that, and the other thing— yet you’re still not getting the body you want— its exceptionally easy to get discouraged, become frustrated, and give up. This is my qualm with a lot of the “daily challenges” floating around out there; people download these silly “squat challenges” and do squats into infinity– when, truth be told, any fitness professional could tell them that 3 sets of 6-15 barbell squats is what’s really going to get them that ‘squat booty’ they’re lusting after.
The Fix: Ditch the 100s of reps. If your goal is to burn fat, then switch to a more effective form of cardio. If your goal is to build muscle or to increase strength, then switch to exercises that challenge you within the 6-15 rep range. Ideally, you’re going to want to include BOTH— cardio and muscle mass/true strength— in an optimal fitness regimen.
2. Going “no carb”
When someone tells me they’ve gone “no carb,” I can’t help but chuckle a little bit inside. Why? Well, I’m not going delve into the “are carbs good or bad?” debate here— but, the fact is, a “no carb diet” DOES NOT exist! Regardless of whether you’re pro-low-carb or not, it’s scientifically undeniable that there is no such thing as a no carb diet.
Carbs are in pretty much everything: fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and more. So, unless you’re eating nothing but egg whites all day every day— yes, carbs are, in fact, in your diet. While you may be low carb, you certainly aren’t no carb. And if you WERE no carb? I simply shutter to think of the nutritional deficiencies of a diet completely devoid of fruits, no veggies, nada.
The Fix: Do your research on carbs. Make your choices accordingly. My professional opinion? A diet full of healthy carbs— in a ratio appropriate to your personal metabolic type— is ideal (questions about what this means? email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!).
3. Trying to make the unhealthy healthy
Chances are you’ve seen it before. Maybe you’ve even given it a shot. A “healthy” pizza recipe, a “paleo” ice cream recipe, a “clean eating” brownie recipe. It’s not the worst thing in the world. You’re trying to make healthier choices. But… you still kinda want that pizza, am I right? Yeah, you know I’m right.
We’ve all been there. I’ve done it too (and posted many recipes like this on my blog!). We’re trying to make the unhealthy healthy— “have our cake and eat it too.” This is NOT necessarily a bad thing in and of itself!
But it is dangerous… very dangerous. You’re craving oeey-goeey, creamy, cheesy, homemade macaroni and cheese. So you pop on Pinterest and you snag a recipe for “clean mac n cheese.” Zoodles instead of pasta, butternut sauce instead of cheese… hmmm, should do the trick, right?
Only you try it, eat it, and while it’s good… it’s not what you really wanted. It doesn’t do the trick. You still want that macaroni and cheese, and that craving hasn’t been satisfied. So you wind up eating some macaroni and cheese anyway, then probably binging on a few other items while you’re at it, because— hey— you tried so hard to stick to your plan and now it’s all mucked up so to hell with the whole darn thing. Sound familiar? You know it does…
The Fix: Tread carefully with “healthified” foods. Sometimes it’s a better game plan to allow yourself to indulge in a small amount of a food you’re craving in order to prevent a total binge. And if you do cave and go off-diet? Remember that you’re only human and it doesn’t need to lead to a binge.
4. Skipping the weight section of the gym
Women have come a long way, but we’ve still got a ways to go. 5 years ago, seeing a woman in the weight section of the gym was almost unheard of. Nowadays, more and more women are doing their fitness research and realizing that strong bodies are fit bodies. But— the fact remains— the phobia surrounding the weight section still remains.
Typically, people who want to lose weight can’t fathom the need for hitting the weights. This is especially true for women who mistakenly believe that lifting weights will make you “bulky (it doesn’t— it just makes you awesome).” If you just want to lose weight, then you should only be doing cardio… duh! Wrong. Cardio is essential for burning calories, but building strength is JUST as critical as well.
Lifting weights builds muscle mass, and muscle burns more calories than fat. In fact, research shows that those who lift weights burn 40% more fat at rest. So, by not hitting the weights, you’re losing out on countless calories you could be burning throughout the day. Not smart! Really, who says “no thanks, I would like to NOT boost my metabolism?!”
And none of this even mentions that weight lifting sculpts the body, increases bone density, improves balance, lowers blood pressure, and all other sorts of healthy-body goodness.
The Fix: Incorporate weight training at least 3 times a week into your current training plan.
5. Giving in to the gimmicks
I’m always surprised at the number of smart people that fall for fitness gimmicks— supplements, fad diets, superfood crazes, and worse.
For marketers of these gimmicks, it really is like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course everyone wants to be healthier, look better, and feel better. We’re all easy marks in their eyes. But— the undeniable truth is— the ONLY way to achieve that is through hard work: diet and exercise. It’s the one thing that’s been proven, time and time again, to truly work.
But… people want an easy way out. So they buy weight loss shakes. They try that silly saran-wrap thingy. They think acai berries will change their life. At the end of the day, people get fooled into believing these things work simply because they WANT them to work— anything to avoid the reality that hard work is what it’s going to take.
To top it all off, even smart people can be suckers for these gimmicks. We can’t be experts on everything, and whenever we aren’t an expert on something, it’s only natural to defer to the experts. So when we see a doctor, dietician, or someone that seems reputable endorsing something— well, we can be easily fooled. Especially when these “experts” tout some pretty convincing pseudo-science as evidence.
The Fix: Accept that hard work, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are the ONLY ways to reach your goals.
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