Sunday, March 16

Beach Body Shortcuts

2011 Kaua'i: Mom & Kylie
It's that time of year again. The snow is melting, the weather is warming up and the days are longer. Spring is among us (sorry, Chicago) and by extension Summer is just around the corner. This means people are coming out of hibernation, shaking off the cobwebs and ramping up their workouts to achieve that beach body (or "poolside body", for all my fellow Texans nowhere near a decent body of water).

Social Media is buzzing more about workouts now than they were after New Year's Day. Gyms appear to be more crowded, and biking and running trails are packed with folks wanting to burn calories and enjoy the nicer climate. I'm in the same boat. I took a pseudo-hiatus and joined the hibernation of many after the Houston Marathon. But now the sun and fresh air have made me more motivated than ever to get back out there.

Some of the efforts of folks are valiant. Many I've seen have a strict diet and an even stricter workout regimen. And while I certainly applaud this effort, or any other effort to safely achieve better health, I want to bring up a few reminders.

You can't out-run (or bike, or weight-lift, or swim) a poor diet.

Every time I hear someone say "Oh, I'll just burn that off" I cringe. It's as if food and calories are tokens you insert into your body and for each mile, rep or set you complete a token gets used up. If only it were that simple. 

Consider this example borrowed from Tim Ferriss in the Four Hour Body: If a 220lb male consumed half of an Oreo cookie, he would need to climb about 27 flights of stairs to burn it off. 

Of course that illustration isn't 100% accurate, but the underlying point is undeniable: it takes way more effort than you'd think to "burn off" poor food choices. (There's plenty to read on this topic, including this article here.)

And why is it that we talk about "burning off" foods only when it pertains to a guilty indulgence such as an Oreo Cookie, Snickers or ice cream bar? Seldom do you hear people espouse the need to "sweat off" any sort of over-consumption of carrots or healthier food options. If a calorie is a calorie, then this appears to be a double-standard. For more on this, see this speech I gave, or read this post on calories and hormones.

You can't out-diet poor sleep and stress.

During our last Whole30, a few folks reached out unhappy with their progress. I inquired about their diet for a bit, and then moved on to other lifestyle habits. Turns out both were sleeping about four hours per night due to stress from work. Yikes. The science of sleep regarding weight regulation is outside the scope of this post, but for now, know this: being in a continual state of stress and experiencing inadequate sleep (quality + quantity) contribute to weight gain by a variety of mechanisms. 

Bottom line: no matter how perfect your exercise and diet regimens are, forgoing quality sleep isn't without its consequences. More on this in a subsequent post.

Following a decent plan is better than abandoning the perfect one.

I've been hearing a lot of people setting aggressive goals and parameters for their beach body physique. "I'm not going to eat any carbohydrates Monday through Friday." "I'm doing two workouts per day." "I'm not drinking until this date."

Again, I think their hearts are in the right place; I admire the ambition. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel better. But that ambition teeters on being overzealous. My recommendation is to be realistic with how you execute your goals. A friend of mine has said before: "There's no such thing as crazy goals, only crazy commitments." Don't set yourself up for failure by handcuffing yourself from the start. Be realistic with your expectations. Try baby-stepping your way into a protocol that works for you. 

Getting back into swimming has been difficult for me as I've been so focused on running the past couple of years. I have a desire to begin competing in triathlon again which obviously involves getting in the pool for swim workouts. If, at the beginning, I were to have said I was going to swim every day for an hour, I would have made it a few days, got burnt out and stopped. Knowing this, my plan has been different. My coach has helped slowly re-introduce feasible swim workouts I've been able to complete. Is it the perfect plan? No. Admittedly, I'd become a better swimmer if I was in the pool more often. But this assumes I'd actually follow the prescribed workouts of a lot more swimming (which I wouldn't!). So in essence, following a decent plan is actually my perfect plan.

Consistency over time is key.

Those that have read my posts over the years know that this philosophy is at the heart of what I believe and implement in most all facets of my life. Take three minutes to read the article if you have time.

If your goal is a crash-course to rid yourself of some belly fat and show some definition in your arms just in time for Summer, then all the power to you. But allow me to pose the same question I wrote two and a half years ago: what happens after? In other words, wouldn't you want to at least entertain the idea of adopting a more sustainable model? One that allows you to indulge but still maintain that beach body?

Jessie and I are firm believers in maintaining an upward trajectory of overall health throughout life. The slope may deviate as life happens and we get off course, but as long as the net change is positive over time, we're happy. The idea, as we've said countless times before, is to thrive, not just survive. Or put another way, we'd like to "age gracefully," feeling good and looking good -- Beach Bodies and all. 

No comments :

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...