There are tons of opinions about the best way to get in shape. How do you know what recommendations you should follow? The advice that resonates with you is the best to heed. If you haven’t found the right path to improve your fitness, here are a few things you may need to read:
1. You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to stick with an exercise plan.
The reality is that the best time to work out is the time you’ll actually do it! While there are benefits to working out in the morning (one study showed that morning exercisers may sleep better), exercising in the evening can have its benefits, too. Another study revealed that between two groups of cyclists, those who worked out at 6 p.m. had higher power outputs than those who pedaled at 8 a.m.
What’s more important isn’t necessarily the timing but rather the consistency of your workouts.
2. You don’t have to do a ton of cardio to lose weight.
You’ll lose more weight more quickly by doing a combination of aerobics and strength training, not just a ton of cardio. Including resistance training in your plan means your body will have better shape and definition, too. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that among three groups of participants — one group performed only resistance training, one group completed only aerobics and one group did a combo of both — those assigned to aerobic training and aerobics plus resistance training lost more weight than those who did just resistance training.
While most forms of cardiovascular exercise can help you burn calories faster than resistance training, a combo of both can help you get the fastest, longest-lasting results.
3. You don’t have to suffer through your workouts.
Forget the idea that if you aren’t in pain, your workout isn’t effective! That’s ridiculous. I’ve seen too many clients come to me with knee injuries, shoulder issues and back pain because their workouts were too intense for their current fitness level and ability.
If your exercise plan leaves you feeling downright awful afterward, you could be doing more harm than good when it comes to seeing results. If your workout leaves you exhausted, you may burn fewer calories during the rest of your day. Plus, you may be setting yourself up for injury, which could potentially sideline you from all exercise for a while.
Finding the right fit with fitness means discovering movement that motivates and challenges you to the appropriate degree. Some muscle soreness is normal; being unable to walk the next day is not. A workout that is enjoyable and becomes something you look forward to is much easier to stick with over the long term, and this is the key to getting — and keeping — results.
4. You don’t have to look like a fitness model to be healthy, fit and energized.
Don’t let all of those “fitspo” images out there featuring rock-hard abs, chiseled arms and shelf-like buns convince you that if you don’t look like that, you aren’t healthy or in shape. I’ve known many models who looked amazing but were destroying their bodies with unhealthy dieting or obsessive exercising. Now, that’s not to say that having six-pack abs automatically means you aren’t healthy (there are plenty of healthy fitness models out there, too); it just shouldn’t be the standard by which we judge whether someone is “fit” or not.
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Originally appeared on MyFitnessPal.