Posts Tagged ‘Muscle Confusion’

Ah, the new year is upon us, which means the gym is flooded with new year’s resolution people. Most regular gym goers hate this time of year because the gyms are crowded, but know it will be short-lived. I get inspired by more people trying to become healthier.

One of the main reasons I think people quit coming to the gym is that it seems so complicated. But here’s the secret: It isn’t.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me to go with them to the gym and learn how to weight lift. I go, and the main question I get afterward is, “That’s it? That seems to simple.” Yep, it does, and it is.

So why does it seem so complicated?

  • Trainers make it that way. I’ve blogged about this before, trainers are salespeople. Their job performance at most gyms is based on how many of their clients they get to renew their training packages. So think about it, their goal is convince you that you need them, and one of their favorite ways to do this is to make things look so complicated that you couldn’t possibly do it on your own.
  • Gym regulars get bored. So they try new things. Or, they haven’t realized yet that muscle confusion is (mostly) a myth. This is one of the reasons why you see the regulars doing crazy, complicated things. But you don’t need to. After a couple of years, if you get bored, sure, go ahead, try something fancy now and then, but when you are just getting started, you don’t need to make your workouts complicated.
  • Gym regulars have different goals. Yes, professional athletes and bodybuilders do more complicated things. That’s because they have vastly different goals than most people. Unless your goal is to become one of them, you don’t need to do fancy stuff.
  • The fitness industry tries to hook you with “new” things. This isn’t necessarily bad, I like trying new classes and such. But, as someone who has been an athlete since age 4, I can tell you that “new” is actually “repackaged.” For example, High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) looks suspiciously like the old lactate training I did in high school swimming.

Recommendations for the average person and general gym-goer

Unless you are planning to become a professional athlete or fitness competitor, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Focus mostly on diet. This is, by far, more important than the gym. If you want to hire a professional, I recommend a registered dietician vs. a trainer.
  • You don’t need to do more than an hour per day at the gym, 5-6 days per week. I plan to do a whole post about this someday, but seriously, no more than an hour per day, I don’t care what the gym regulars or trainers tell you.
  • You should enjoy your cardio workouts. I personally like to learn a new skill through cardio (such as dancing, karate, etc.). I can’t stand to watch the bored people on the cardio machines at the gym. Unless you genuinely enjoy that, don’t be one of them. Find something you enjoy and…
  • Know your target heart rate and make sure you’re in it during all cardio sessions.
  • Weight training should be straight-forward and simple. There are two books I recommend (pick one, then when you get bored, go to the other) to get started:
    • Body Sculpting Bible (the link is for the women’s version, but there’s one for men too).  I used to carry this book to the gym with me everyday I was on the program. I used it so much over a couple of years that I destroyed the binding! I love that it shows pictures, and comes with a DVD to show you how to do every exercise.
    • Body for Life. Ridiculously simple weight-lifting and cardio program.

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For a while now, I’ve been working on a quiz, based on all of the information I read about health, to help people (including me) figure out why they aren’t losing weight. Take the quiz, see your results, and let me know what you think!


1. I exercise (elevated heart rate for 30 minutes)…

1) Never-2 days per week

2) 3-4 days per week

3) 5+ days per week

2. If I opened my refrigerator and freezer RIGHT NOW and assessed the entire contents (including drinks)…

a1) The majority of its contents would be considered processed foods (drinks other than juice, milk, and plain water; condiments, ready-to-eat meals, etc.)

a2) There’s hardly anything in my fridge and freezer.

b)  About half of the contents are processed foods

c) A large percentage of the foods are not processed

3. Right now I am trying to lose weight and I am…

a) Not keeping a food log

b) Keeping a loose running total of what I am eating and the caloric, fat, etc. content

c) Keeping a meticulous food log of everything that goes in my mouth

4. If I’m watching TV and decide I want something to snack on (such as pretzels)…

a) I take the entire bag on the couch with me and don’t know how many I ate.

b) I grab what I want and take that to the couch with me.

b2) I portion out only what I’m supposed to eat, but go back for more

c) I portion out what I’m supposed to eat and only have that much.

5. I strength train for at least 30 minutes (lifting weights or extensive body weight exercises such as Pilates)…

1) Never

2) 1-2 days per week

3) 3+ days per week

 6. My exercise routine….

1) Is always the same or mostly the same

2) I have a couple of things I rotate between

3) I am constantly changing-up my exercise routine

7. I had a really great day at the office!….

a) I deserve (insert your favorite junk food here)

b) A nice meal or my fave snack would be great, but I think I’ll just celebrate by calling a friend

c) Food is not part of my consideration for rewarding myself

8. I drink alcohol…

a) All the time!

b) A lot or quite frequently.

c) Sometimes, but only a few.

9. When selecting a new workout to do…

1) I always modify it by making it easier (less reps, more rest, etc.) and keep it that way

2) I can always do the entire thing right away

3) I can’t do the entire thing right away, but work up to it within a few weeks

10. I eat…

a)  1-2 times per day

b) 3-5 times per day

c) every couple of hours (about 6-7 times per day)

11. I use measuring cups to measure the portions of my food…

a) Never

b) I’ve read what portion sizes look like and eyeball them

c) Multiple times per day


Although other factors matter, diet and exercise are the most effective ways to help with your weight loss. So…

Any question that has a, b, or c as an answer is dietary-related. Any a’s that you circled are MAJOR culprits that are preventing you from losing weight. Any b’s that you circled are also an issue. They may not be the main culprit in why you aren’t able to lose weight, but they aren’t helping for sure. And, a few b’s can add up to a major issue. C answers are what you are looking for. Anything other than a c is something you need to work on to help you lose weight.


Any question that has a, b, or c as an answer is exercise-related. Any 1’s that you circled are MAJOR culprits that are preventing you from losing weight. Any 2’s that you circled are also an issue. They may not be the main culprit in why you aren’t able to lose weight, but they aren’t helping for sure. And, a few 2’s can add up to a major issue. 3 answers are what you are looking for. Anything other than a 3 is something you need to work on to help you lose weight.

Why are each of these a factor in losing weight?

  • Frequency of exercise: Regular exercise is a key factor in weight loss and maintaining your weight once you’ve lost all you want to lose.
  • Consumption of processed foods. Processed foods are a MAJOR problem. Even if you are ok calorically, processed foods include a lot of added ingredients that can hinder your weight loss goals. For example, most processed foods are very high in sodium, which will make you retain water and make it very difficult to lose weight.
  • Mindless snacking. Not portioning your food and not being aware of how much you are eating can cause you to consume a lot more calories than you realize.
  • Keeping a food log. A food log can help you become aware of exactly what you are putting in your body every day. For example, you might not think about the coffee creamer and sugar as a significant caloric bomb, but that’s 100 or more calories per day! Also, you might not realize that the “little sweet” you had is actually 400 calories and 15 grams of fat until you have to look it up and write it down.
  • Strength training. Most people just walk or do some other form of cardio and that’s great, but there are SO MANY reasons to strength train. For the purposes of this quiz, strength training helps you burn calories ALL THE TIME. Even while you are sleeping, you will burn more calories because of the muscle, which will help you lose weight and/or maintain your current weight. And, ladies, don’t worry about getting big. I actually WENT DOWN two sizes when I started taking my weight training seriously.
  • Changing up your exercise routine. The more you do the same exercise, the more your body gets used to it and the less effective it is. And, you are working the same muscles each time. Think about if you do something, such as play a physical game, that you normally don’t do. You exhaust easily and you are really sore the next day. THAT’S  A GOOD THING!
  • Alcohol. Alcohol is ok, but keep in mind that alcohol is empty calories. Three glasses of wine=300+ calories added to your day!
  • Food rewards. Food should never be a reward for doing something. If it is, you are associating extreme pleasure with food. Yes, I love a good meal from time to time, but if you are using food as a reward, you won’t lose weight.
  • Exercise challenge.  Choosing workouts that challenge you and that you have to improve to do is the way to go to lose weight. See “changing up your exercise routine” to see why.
  • Eating frequency.  Small meals throughout the day will keep your body from thinking it is starving (and thus, store fat) and keep you from binging.
  • Portion size. Portion sizes, especially in the U.S. are too large. Most people don’t consider how much they really need or eyeball way too much. The easiest way to fix this is to measure the food prior to putting it on your plate.

Other valuable posts:

Outline of a Hypoglycemic Diet

Travel tips for hypoglycemics and healthy eaters

How I lost the weight (and keep it off)!

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