You may be surprised to hear this from the owner of a fitness studio, but I feel strongly that your workout goal should NOT be weight loss. Since this goes against everything you see in the media and is used as the main marketing tagline in all the hottest fitness trends across the country, why would I say this?
Emotions can cloud your decisions
Over the course of my extensive career as a trainer, as well as navigating my own health and fitness journey, I’ve learned that when weight loss is our primary motivation to work out, our relationship with exercise becomes emotionally charged. This can cloud our common sense, resulting in decisions that actually go against improving our health and fitness. For example, when our goal of exercise is to lose weight (or to prevent gaining body fat) we don’t take time off when our body needs it. We push past pain and injury and continue to exercise when our bodies are telling us we shouldn’t, all while thinking we’re doing the right thing. But this not only increases our likelihood for injury, it also decreases our bodies’ longevity of optimal, pain-free function.
An unhealthy relationship between exercise and food
If your goal is weight loss, then hands down the most important factor to achieve this goal is modifying your nutrition habits, as your diet truly makes up about 80% of weight loss progress. Instead, many people use high intensity workouts to make up for a bad diet, or for eating too much. They use exercise as punishment for being “bad,” or eat unhealthy food as a “reward” for a punishing workout. Both of these behaviors are harmful psychological strategies that create unhealthy relationships with both food and exercise.
You need time to recover
Additionally, you need time between high intensity exercise in order to recover. The reason high intensity exercise is effective is because the body is being pushed to its limit, which requires time for your muscles to recover and build up before the next workout breaks them down again. Without adequate recovery, the body becomes susceptible to injury. When weight loss is your goal you may be tempted to push yourself when you should be recovering.
Instead of viewing your exercise program as a weight loss plan, focus your motivation on these many OTHER benefits that only exercise provides. Harvard Medical School provides a great explanation of these benefits:
Memory & Brain Health
Lean Body Mass
Mood, Energy & Vitality
Balance & Coordination
Fat loss is an added bonus of regular exercise
There’s no question that exercise has many benefits, and ultimately fat loss will be an added bonus of long-term, regular exercise. The best way to achieve all of these health benefits of exercise is to have a smart, well-rounded program.
Create your ideal fitness program
Remember, first ensure that your body moves properly, so that you don’t cause injury to yourself from working out. Once you have determined a proper physical baseline, either on your own or by getting a professional fitness assessment with a skilled trainer, you can begin a high intensity strength and interval training program. Be sure not to exceed three times a week, as recovery is essential to gain strength benefits, and will also significantly diminish your risk of injury. Complement these workouts with low intensity cardio like cycling, swimming and hiking, and add in mobility and stability techniques like yoga and Pilates.
Good luck and till next time!