I’m a personal trainer who spends roughly 50 hours a week in a big commercial gym that resembles Globo Gym from the movie Dodgeball. This leads to seeing a lot of people do a whole lot of shit wrong that makes me cringe. I inevitably hear chatter around the water fountain, from clients, or at the smoothie bar of things people are doing outside the gym to help them lose weight.
I’m here to set the record straight. Here are six ways people are doing fitness wrong:
1. Eating every three hours.
Somehow people got the idea that eating smaller meals every three hours was good to make your metabolism burn like a fire. This is freaking ridiculous. The human metabolism isn’t a fire, and eating every three hours gets really damn old. What matters more than anything else is how many calories we eat and that those calories come from whole food sources. When you eat those calories isn’t actually as big of a deal as we like to think. Just don’t eat too many, and eat when you’re hungry. Plain and simple.
2. Spending too much time on the elliptical or treadmill to lose weight.
Ladies, I’m talking to you here. Ladies are notorious for spending hours upon hours on cardio equipment to slim down, mainly because they’re afraid to get bulky. This causes more harm than good. Women need muscle maybe even more than men do, and the only way to get it is to build it through resistance training like lifting weights. Muscle is good because it actually helps burn more calories just by sitting on your body than fat does. It also keeps you from having the dreaded “skinny fat” look. More calories burned thanks to muscle = looking better naked.
3. Not eating before bed.
This one just pisses me off. All because this is what Ryan Reynolds did to get ripped for Blade Trinity we’ve decided we can’t eat before bed. Your body doesn’t have a special clock that says it’s time to store everything as fat. It doesn’t work that way. You burn just as many calories over the course of a night than you do in a day. In fact, if you’re working out hard, eating before you go to sleep will help you recover.
4. Using light weights and high reps to “tone.”
Here’s a little secret: Toning is bullshit. Thank you Tracy Anderson for scaring people, specifically women, away from learning what it feels like to be strong. Challenging yourself with heavier weights won’t actually turn you into the Hulk. It takes years of work and some pharmaceutical help to look grossly huge. Lifting heavier weights might teach you that you’re capable of much more than you thought, and that’s fucking awesome. You should do more of that.
5. Trying every new diet they hear about.
This is my biggest pet peeve. All diets work if you follow them. Every diet argues three main points: Eat plenty of colorful veggies, don’t eat carbs that come in boxes or bags, and don’t eat foods that are made in a lab. It won’t do you any good to jump from Atkins to paleo to vegan to the Zone. Pick a diet that you think you can practice for the long term, and stick to that. You’ll save a ton of headaches and a ton of money.
6. Worrying about what everyone else is thinking of them at the gym.
If your biggest fear is what people will think of you at the gym, you’re not alone. People are so damned vain that they will hardly notice you. The average gym-goer is far too concerned with what they see in the mirror than paying attention to what you’re doing. That may either be disheartening or the best news you’ve ever heard. The regulars notice new and familiar faces, and the more they see a face, the more likely they are to say “hi” rather than judge you. If anything, you’ll probably get complimented on all the hard work you’ve been putting in.