March 4, 2012 by Darlene McC
It’s two months into 2012: check yourself. How’re you doing on those goals you spent the first weeks of the year mapping out? (if you didn’t bother, go back and do it punk ass!)
Feel like you’re not reaching your full potential? Well, maybe you’re doing some things to sabotage yourself and you don’t even realize it. Here are 5 simple things you might be doing wrong that could pay off. Big time.
1: Not getting enough sleep
“Gata get 8” was a mantra among my closest in college; meaning gata get 8 hours. Okay, maybe your body doesn’t need 8, maybe you only need 7. But if you’re waking up and struggling through a three-stroke cycle of the snooze then you’re not getting enough zzzs, and that matters for a lot more than just your brain. Why? I’ll tell you:
Most people don’t realize that adaption happens while we’re sleeping. Why do you care about adaption? Think about it: we work out to stimulate our bodies. No matter what you’re goal is: bigger, faster, stronger, leaner, more toned you want to change your body. What does adapt mean? CHANGE! The actual chemical processes required to break down old tissue and rebuild new ones (not to mention repair torn up ones) happens when we are at full rest. Read: while asleep. If you’re not getting enough zzzs you’re not getting full recovery.
Want more? More and more research is stacking up to support the idea that self-control is an exhaustible resource in the brain. When does this resource regenerate? Bingo! While we’re zonked out; so if your goal involves habit change (losing weight, working out more, not texting your ex) then you need to get enough sleep or you are setting yourself up for failure.
(One more reason: when you’re under-slept you’re a lot more likely to eat CRAP!)
2: Eating out or getting takeout
I will admit it now: I am often guilty of this. Being a trainer means working odd hours and never having time at home during normal meal times…but honestly, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t cook when I have down time and bring a box with me – I’m just lazy, right? Well, that means I’m not hitting my full potential!
Eating out means bigger portions and a serious lack of control about what is going into your food. Even with these new “healthier” quick dining options, unless you know the guy who works in the kitchen (and, honestly, the guy who runs the distribution system) you really have no way of knowing for sure what the hell you’re putting in your can. A fine example is the salad dressing dilemma: what kind of dressing do you put on that carefully crafted salad that you’re patting yourself on the back for? ‘Cause I’ll bet you my left pinky toe that its got processed or artificial sweeteners in it…and there’s no label for you to read to be sure.
One of the hands down best things you can do to change your habits and help reach your goals is make your own food. Do it for a month. A month! Honestly, who can’t just cook for one month? And just like masturbating, drinking, and drugs, cooking is more fun when you have a friend or two. Invite people over; start a recipe swap; spend time with your spouse. Just learn to freakin’ cook.
3. Think about what goes in your face after you workout
We all know the drill. You go hard and after the steam and shower you’re starving. You walk out of your gym and: a) stop at the juice spot for a smoothie, b) pop into the bodega for one of those protein bar things, c) chug some post-workout powdered crap, d) eat junk. You know what sucks about all these options? They all have high calories and lots of processed junk. Have you ever really thought about what’s in one of those post workout powders or bars? How about the 4 pumps of agave they put in your smoothie?
If it’s more than 300 calories it’s probably a meal; and that includes all of the above. Post workout what you need most is a little bit of high quality protein and long-string complex carbs. Best thing I can recommend? An apple and peanut butter. (You’re going to start hearing that phrase a lot from me I bet… I say it constantly to my clients because it’s true.) It’s also a great thing to have about 40 minutes before a workout because it provides you with a lot of available energy with out a huge sugar rush and provides high quality protein ready to go when you wrap your workout.
4. Learn how to track your heart rate (and work at the right range)
No, you do not need to get a fancy heart rate monitor; though it will certainly help improve your performance. Unless you’re confident in your cardio training (and if you’re not sure if you are, the answer is no) it’s very likely you’re not working hard enough at your cardio. There are lots of scales to choose from; a few examples are the talk test, karvonen ranges, or perceived rates of exertion. All are valid and helpful, just figure out which one works for you.
The trick is pushing yourself. If you aren’t pushing you wont adapt (remember when we talked about that above?), and if you’re not adapting then you aren’t hitting your goals.
5. Lifting too light (or with crappy form)
Ever feel like you hit the end of a set and you could do 5 more? 10 more? 20? Then you’re not lifting enough weight! Whether the program you’re working on calls for 6 reps or 15, I don’t care; if you get to that last rep and don’t feel like you could only do 1 or maybe 2 more then you’ve got to either add more weight or find another way to make that exercise more challenging for your body.
Now, rewind that last part again: “add more weight or find another way to make that exercise more challenging for your body.” Did you catch the “or” and everything that came after it? Adding more weight is not the only way to up the stakes. What about bringing your feet closer together? Are you moving through a full range of motion.
Form is a big part in all this. If you’re not moving properly you’re asking for injury; especially if you’re also adding a ton of load to the mess. Your gym probably offers you a complementary training session or fitness consultation…USE IT. And tell the trainer you’d like to fix your: squat/ deadlift/ power clean/ split squat/ curl to press/ whatever! Check ’em all! Can’t hurt; might make you better.