Fitness best practices can run the gamut from trustworthy to the eye roll-inducing depending on where you look.
The New Year is rapidly approaching, and it’s very possible you’re considering adding a fitness routine or modifying your current one.
As a weightlifting coach and holistic nutritionist, I’ve seen it all. My mission is to add another voice to the trustworthy camp…
…so you can be successful this coming year.
Consistent Action > Flash-in-the-Pan Effort
These fitness best practices aren’t anything revolutionary or trendy. There’s no secret squirrel stuff here.
If you’re incorporating exercise for fat loss, the biggest factor in your success is consistent action over a long period of time.
It’s not about going so hard for a short period of time that you burn out.
It’s not about using exercise as punishment or to make up for your “dietary sins.”
And, it’s not about perfection.
If you’re currently sedentary, these fitness best practices will help you get started in the right direction.
And if you’re using exercise as a control mechanism – ex: fear of gaining weight – you can use the advice here to start finding a healthy middle ground.
7 Fitness Best Practices
Tip #1: Move more.
Notice I didn’t say “exercise more.” We need to stop thinking about traditional exercise or working out as the only piece of the fitness pie.
What, exactly, does fitness mean? Look up any dictionary definition, and you’ll see mention of health, robustness, strength, athleticism, and longevity just to name a few.
It’s pretty easy to see that fitness in multifactorial. It’s not just how much you can squat or how far you can run.
The best thing you can do for yourself is just to move more.
It sounds painfully obvious, but consider that amongst people who spend 30 to 60+ minutes a day exercising, many are absolutely sedentary when not working out.
Moving more throughout the day by standing at work, walking when you could drive, etc. is the easiest way to increase the number of calories burned without exercising.
Other ideas: Do light housework, get up from your desk often, and park farther away from stores (safety permitting).
Tip #2: Exercise smarter.
When it comes to fitness best practices, think about exercising efficiently, not exercising more.
In other words, if fat loss is your primary goal, think about getting the most fat-burning bang for your time & effort buck.
Nothing can touch strength training when it comes to efficiency. You get the most muscle-building potential and therefore fat-burning effect from the least time spent.
No more slogging on the elliptical or treadmill for hours every single day.
High-intensity interval training may work for some, but it’s not appropriate for all.
See #3 for more on that. And cardio can’t hold a candle to strength training when it efficiency…
…primarily because long slow distance cardio causes muscle to break down.
Two to four strength training days a week are all you really need to see great strength improvements, fat loss, and a huge boost in confidence.
Tip #3: Do what’s right for your body.
Look, exercise trends come and go. The more sexy and “hardcore” the workout looks, the more appealing it seems to be. (Seriously, where did this notion of exercise being something you have to loathe or something that has to hurt come from?)
Bootcamp, CrossFit, super hot yoga – hey, I’ve done CrossFit and spent many hours in a Bikram studio, so I’m not hating – and all other manner of “no pain, no gain” workouts are de rigueur.
In fact, I stopped competitive CrossFit training a few months into starting my own business in 2013 because the stress load was something I couldn’t handle.
But the disturbing trend I see with many of my clients – especially my fat loss clients – is stress overload. And yes, their exercise routines are a contributing factor.
Working out, especially if intense, long, or a combination of those, is a stressor. There are benefits to said stressor if the recovery is adequate enough…which it often isn’t.
However, I often see people who are already struggling with underlying health issues, autoimmune flares, adrenal dysfunction, and dealing with high-stress lives push themselves into intense exercise routines.
They’ve been lead to believe that just because something’s popular, everyone should be doing it. (Fitness “gurus” don’t usually talk about shit like that because it’s not sexy.)
I strongly urge you to do what’s right for your body.
Tip #4: Do what you enjoy.
I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s something that’s often ignored.
Let me draw a parallel to dieting. A 2016 study by Baylor researchers determined that people who focused on eating healthy foods they actually liked were more likely to be successful at sticking to a diet.
I call this the additive approach.
In my coaching experience, I’ve seen the same thing…and you’ve probably felt it, too.
If you dread every moment leading up to, during, and after your workout, you’re not going to be very motivated to go back.
And you’re less likely to follow through long term.
Aside: I’ve had many women tell me they were really against strength training because they just didn’t understand it or know where to begin. See my related article 4 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Strength Training for more.
For an intermediate strength training plan, check out Dynamic Dumbbells.
Tip #5: Get to the reason why.
I’ll cut to the chase here: So many people use exercise as a means of punishment or because they’re afraid of something like…
- gaining weight,
- not looking attractive enough,
- or not appearing disciplined.
People don’t often get called out for using exercise as a bandage to cover up deeper troubles. It’s all, “Wow, you’re so dedicated!”
Approaching exercise from a mindset of fear is never healthy. Fitness should be an expression of your beautiful, capable human body, and a celebration of what it can accomplish…
…not a way to prove your worth.
Getting to the heart of your motivations is one of the most overlooked fitness best practices. Write it down, and keep asking why.
Tip #6: Keep it simple.
This fitness best practice is often overlooked because people have been lead to believe that they have to do it all and be perfect in order to achieve results.
Sadly, this flies in the face of lots of habit research…
…which demonstrates that focusing on one main habit at a time breeds success. (Read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg for more on habits.)
If you’re new to fitness or you’re struggling to get back on track, pick one habit to focus on. It could be packing your gym bag the night before, leaving your walking shoes by the front door, or even scheduling your workouts into your calendar.
Success will improve confidence which acts as positive feedback, spurring you on to change another habit and another over time.
Less successful people try to do too much or rely on willpower to gut it out. When their energy flags, they fall off the wagon, and the cycle perpetuates.
Tip #7: Keep it in perspective.
I get it. I’m a competitive athlete. I know several elite, world-class athletes.
I see the lengths some people will go to to achieve excellence in sport, including the sacrifices to mind, body, and relationships.
It’s easy to let yourself spend a lot of time, money, and energy thinking – or worrying – about exercise.
Whether you’re exercising for fat loss or to be stronger or to challenge yourself, I urge you to keep it all in perspective.
This is probably one of the most crucial fitness best practices.
If you’re not competing, are you spending a “healthy” amount of energy on fitness? Is it adding value to your life? Or has it become something that you spend a boatload of time obsessing about?
If you are competing, are you sure you want to? What’s your motivation? Is what you’re sacrificing really worth it?
Only you can answer these questions for yourself.
But you’ve got to figure out if you’re actually living into this healthier life you’re crafting for yourself…
…or if you’re spending too much time on the sidelines.
To Sum it Up
Fitness best practices are rarely those that look trendy, shiny, or sexy. Good old-fashioned hard work coupled with plenty of recovery and consistency is the key to sustainable fitness and fat loss.
- Move more. Being sedentary all day even if you exercise will make it harder to reach your goals.
- Exercise smarter. Strength training 2-4 times a week coupled with low intensity activities like walking is a great starting point for most busy people especially if the goal is fat loss.
- Do what’s right for your body. Just because a workout is trendy or popular doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.
- Do what you enjoy. You shouldn’t dread work outs. For the best shot at long-term success, pick something you like.
- Get to the reason why. Understanding your fitness motivations can have a huge impact on success.
- Keep it simple. Only focus on changing one main fitness habit at a time.
- Keep it in perspective. At the end of the day, it is just a workout. If you’re exercising for better health and quality of life, be sure you’re actually living it!