Training for Aesthetics VS Training for Performance

I’m embarrassed to admit that for close to two years I was the girl who wanted to lose 20 pounds and then followed an exercise program designed to help me lift more weight.

At first glance, you might not see anything wrong with that.  In fact, there is definitely a method to that madness.  Lifting weights is an absolutely crucial part of a well rounded fitness program, and is especially important for women.  Increasing muscle mass is a good thing, as more muscle equals more calories burned at rest and a faster metabolism.

So then why didn’t I ever lose those 20 pounds?  Why didn’t my thighs ever get smaller?  Why didn’t my booty get bigger?  Why didn’t my body magically look how I wanted it to?  Why?

Here’s the deal.  We’re all setting goals for 2015 and since changing my programming just under six months ago, I came to an interesting conclusion.  One that is, by the way, backed by all kinds of science.  If you want the smart version, feel free to google it, but here’s my dumbed down two cents.

If you have a goal, you kinda need to train for it.

So if you want to be a faster runner, it makes sense to follow a program designed to *gasp* make you run faster.

If you want to lift big weights and be super strong and max your squat this year, again, follow a lifting program.

But if what you actually want, like I did, is to reshape your body, then you’re going to need a plan to do that.  At the moment, I don’t do a lot of Olympic movements, and yeah I admit it, I do biceps curls, but it’s because my goal right now is to actually achieve a specific look.  Looking a certain way is more important to me than how fast I ride my bike, or how much I can squat.

Sure, those numbers might improve as I cut body fat and train for aesthetics, but they also might not.  And as much as I hate to “lose” any of my fitness or strength, I have to be ok with that because my aesthetic goals are more important.

So here’s the moral of the story kittens.  Set your goals for 2015, but do yourself a favor and be really honest with yourself.  If your goals don’t support each other (i.e., run my fastest 5k and put on 20 lbs of muscle, or lose 20 lbs and increase my back squat), decide which you want more and train for it.

And don’t misunderstand me.  Regardless of your goals, there is a place for cardio, strength training, and mobility in your fitness routine.  How much and what types of each, however, will vary depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

Trust me, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you haven’t reached any of your goals or like you aren’t making any progress.  And it’s really not fun when you realize it’s because you’re doing things that are counterintuitive to what you really want.

We can’t have it all.  But if we decide what is really, truly important to us and work daily to achieve it, we can have the things we really want.

So get after it.  And tell me, what are you goals for 2015?

5 Rut-Busting Workout Changes

We’ve all been there.  You start a new exercise program and you see amazing results.  Your pants are looser, the number on the scale is ticking down, you have lots of energy and you see consistent improvements week after week.  Eventually, those gains (or losses) slow down, and while you still love exercise and activity, you’re not seeing the results you once were.

All too often this lack of progress causes even the most die hard fitness fanatic to consider quitting all together.  Luckily, for every fitness plateau there is a quick and easy fix to help push you to the next level.  These are my top 5 favorite ways to change up a workout, and get back to seeing great results fast!

1.  Change up your cardio

We are all guilty of it.  If you’re a runner, when it comes to cardio, you run.  If you’re a cyclist, you bike.  When left to our own devices we will always do our favorite form of cardio at an intensity that is comfortable and rarely will we reach outside of our comfort zone to really challenge ourselves, and really see results.

If your fitness and progress has reached a plateau, try changing up your cardio.  Either change up the intensity or duration of your favorite form, or try something entirely new.  Are you a runner?  Try a hill interval workout.  Cyclist?  Try riding with a faster pace group, or joining a cycling class at the gym.

If you’re feeling adventurous jump into a different form of cardio all together.  The step mill, elliptical and rower are all great equipment choices to offer challenging cardio choices.

Incorporate new forms of cardio for four weeks and watch your results kick into high gear!

2.  Tinker with your strength training

By now we all know that every well rounded fitness program includes an element of strength training.  Lean muscle is the foundation of every physique, and scientific studies have proven that muscle burns more calories at rest than fat.

It’s important to regularly change up your strength training to continue to build muscle, burn calories, and see improvements.  If you find yourself stuck in your progress, try tinkering with your strength routine.

This can be as simple as changing up your rep scheme and the weight you’re using for each exercise.  For example, if you typically do sets of 10, try doing sets of 6 but using 20-30% more weight.   Keep your form perfect, but push your muscles to move more.

Alternately try changing up your exercises to target the same muscles in a different way.  If you typically use the leg press machine, try doing a barbell squat instead.  If lunges are your jam, try doing them walking or back wards to activate different muscle fibers and increase the burn.

3.  Play with new equipment 

New equipment creates a new challenge
New equipment creates a new challenge

Fitness should never be boring.  With so many exercises to chose from, it’s easy to put together a routine that incorporates all of your major muscle groups and helps you reach your goals.

If you find yourself in a rut, try the simple change of using a different piece of equipment while going through your routine.

If you usually use dumbbells for an exercise, try switching to kettle bells instead.   Hanging leg raises?  Try doing them hanging from a pull up bar by your hands, rather than laying on the floor or from the Roman Chair.

By changing one little pice of your movement your body will be forced to recruit different muscles and burn even more calories during your workouts.

4.  Take a class

There’s no better way to get new ideas, make new friends, or push extra hard in a workout than in a group setting.  Sometimes everyone needs a little extra inspiration, and taking a class is a great way to get it.

Regardless of what aspect of your fitness you are hoping to improve, there is a class out there for you.

Flexibility?  Try Yoga or Pilates.  Need a good cardio burn?  Try Cycling or a Les Mills BODYATTACK class.  Want to throw around heavy weights?  Drop into a Crossfit box.  Check out your local area for specialty classes like Bikram Yoga, Barre Classes, Soul Cycle, Arial Yoga, Pole Dancing and more.

Sometimes all it takes is one class to give you new ideas and a push for your future workouts.  And you never know, you might love it so much that you end up incorporating the class into your regular routine.

5.  Talk to a trainer or coach

Having a professional resource take a look at your fitness goals, your progress, and your slump, can be the key to moving on successfully.  At many fitness facilities trainers will do an initial consultation for a minimal fee, and give you great feedback on ways you can improve.

Be sure to do some research on your trainer to ensure they are certified and have a background that appeals to you.  Sometimes, having a little expert advice is all you need to push you to the next level.

 

What easy tips do you have for pushing through a plateau?  What has worked for you?