Having worked in the fitness industry for over 10 years now, what I’ve learned from watching the trends is that one particular trend or “guru” will claim that their way is the only way to get fit or achieve your fitness goals. Even if that means you MUST supplement with some plant extract or completely eliminate grains and any thing that looks like a carb from your diet, the ONLY way to achieve fitness superstardom is by following a straight, linear path.
I love fitness, but it’s not a religion. You aren’t always going to walk the straight and narrow, and nor do you have to. It’s perfectly fine to do a mix of low intensity and high-intensity cardiovascular work, for instance. Not every single workout requires interval training, high-intensity interval training, tabatas, and the like. If your body wants to crank out some moderate steady state cardiovascular activity without dripping buckets of sweat, you’re still doing a whole lot better than if you had done absolutely nothing.
Along the same lines, not every workout in the weight room needs to translate into the requisite day-after (or two days-after) muscle soreness. Bodybuilders popularized workout splits that might have them in the gym 6 days a week, but beginner trainees can see results with as little as 2 to 3 times per week full body workouts.
And sometimes, an “easy” workout is appropriate. Though they’re not always my favorite, every once in a while, I have one. Maybe I slept poorly because a certain toddler had a nightmare, maybe I’m stressed, or maybe I simply am getting older, but I’ve had workouts where I feel like I’ve made little progress (e.g., not progressing in terms of weight). Nevertheless, I got it my workout in, took some time for myself, and did something other than complain that I’m stressed or just don’t have the time.
Just like exercise should not equal suffering, weight loss needn’t be an exercise in total deprivation. If you’ve packed on the weight and need to lose it in an absolute hurry to fit in your bridal dress or make weight for some athletic competition, that’s one thing. Perhaps a rapid approach to fat loss or slashing carbs might be a way for you to lose weight (and water weight) in a hurry. But just because you’ve heard that diet works super-fast does not mean it’s best for you. Most of my client success stories feature people that have lost the weight (and more importantly, kept the weight off) because their overall approach was more reasonable. How? By using baby steps, incremental changes, persistence, dedication, forming better habits, lifting weights, and adding in moderate amounts of cardiovascular activity. Their approach was somewhere in the middle.
Here’s my point; you don’t need to kill yourself in the gym, slog through daily hour long cardio sessions, or avoid every single gram of carbohydrate to improve your strength, shed some fat, and improve your figure. The face of health and fitness is changing. I see more and more elderly trainees, post-natal moms, first-time lifters in their 40s and above, and other beginners making serious gains and progress by keeping their approach moderate and their goals long-term.
And while your progress may not always be dramatic on the scale, your shirt soaking wet, or your muscles rippled and hard, the changes that are going on are undeniable. The middle of the road approach might not be exciting but it’s reasonable, doable, and achievable—and might be the road for you.
Sumi Singh is an Austin-based personal trainer with nearly 2 decades of experience in fitness. She holds specializations in pre-and post natal fitness, group fitness, and sports nutrition. She’s the author of Stay at Home Strong, a complete workout program for new moms. She’s also an online diet coach, a busy single mom, has set various world, National and state records as a powerlifter, and holds an BSc from Tufts, and a Masters from Duke University.