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  • Writer's pictureJackie

5 Flawed Fitness "Mistakes"

Have you accused yourself of these? Rethink them.

Being fit requires so much effort and focus, why waste any energy? We often do, though, when we accuse ourselves of mistakes that are off-base. Each of us can already easily find areas of improvement related to food & exercise—tweaks that are grounded in research and will serve us well. But beating ourselves up for transgressions that are untrue or misguided only wastes precious energy.

Ever “accused” yourself of these 5 common flawed fitness “mistakes?”

1. The time you put into a workout was “really not enough.”

How many times have you told yourself a 20-minute walk “didn’t count” because a “real workout” means 60 minutes of blood, sweat & tears? There’s a reason that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to read, “Some physical activity is better than none.” It sounds like a no-brainer, maybe even a low ball approach, but this obvious truth needs to be impressed upon each of us. So many people are sitting so much that, as you know, health risks connected with sedentary lifestyle have been skyrocketing. So, 20 minutes of activity is a bunch of steps in the RIGHT direction and should be valued as such. In terms of improving fitness further, 20 minutes serves as an excellent starting point. And we all know that, if we don’t start—or worse, stop because we think our current efforts are too wimpy—we’ll never have a chance to succeed. No one begins a fitness journey by running a marathon. Embrace a little humility while embracing whatever effort you were able to make today. Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel inspired to do 25 minutes. And so on.

2. One “bad” food choice ruined an entire day.

We so often plunk foods into “good” and “bad” baskets that the minute we eat chocolate or chips, we feel like failures. Eating seems straightforward, but it’s a complicated process. Falling prey to this good/bad dichotomy is an example of just how much of a rabbit hole the process can become. When we eat something we think we weren’t “supposed to,” we might…

stop trying to make healthier choices for the rest of the day, sometimes the entire week or weekend. (And yes, making healthy choices is different than eating only “good” foods. For example, having a cupcake at a birthday party can be a solid choice when you know that skipping it could mean social discomfort & sadness while the rest of the crowd celebrates and/or could lead to eating three by yourself that evening.)

slip into negative self-talk that’s way out of proportion to the snack we grabbed and that will seriously undermine our overall efforts.

reinforce current eating habits that aren’t serving us well and even perhaps recurring cravings for sugar, salt, and/or fat.

create a subconscious excuse to never really get started on a healthy eating plan we’re yearning to adopt. (In this case, it’s really important to assess whether or not you’re actually ready for major change. There’s no shame if not. Experts actually define three stages that come BEFORE a behavior change: precontemplation, or not even thinking about it; contemplation, or mulling it over; and preparation, or gathering info and getting your ducks in a row before you jump in & take action.)

3. You based your fitness on body image and/or a scale.

For ages, images in magazines & videos (now via pins, posts, & streams) have falsely defined our images of fitness. Generally, we’re allowed to call ourselves fit if we’re quite thin, very ripped (or at least, toned), an established athlete of some sort, or some combo thereof. Oh, also probably on the younger side and most likely tan. The truth is (having supported many and being one myself), fit people come in all shapes, sizes, abilities, and ages. A number on a scale does not necessarily reflect someone’s ability to swim for an hour. Noticeable muscle mass tells you nothing about a person’s heart health. And nowadays, many older adults maintain health that matches or surpasses that of younger & middle aged folks. While the mirror can potentially tell you some things about your health, it doesn’t reveal the full story, especially when the images we demand from it are driven by such narrow parameters. Best to talk with your doctor or even health coach about the most accurate ways to assess your fitness.

4. Because you’re not sore, you believed yesterday’s workout was a flop.

It’s very true that an effective workout MAY trigger muscle soreness, but it’s not at all true that, if you’re not sore, your workout was ineffective. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) happens 24-48 hours after a strenuous workout. Tenderness sets in due to microscopic tears in muscle, which heal, in theory building stronger muscles. New exercisers almost always experience some DOMS as their bodies adjust to new demands. But as you can see, because DOMS means your body incurred a bunch of teeny-tiny injuries, you shouldn’t AIM for this state after every workout because you’ll set yourself up for a bigger injury. If you ask your body to exercise regularly (without going ridiculously easy on it or pummeling it every time), then your body will make gains aerobically & muscularly.

5. Your stomach wasn’t growling throughout the day, so you called it a diet “fail.”

So many things to unpack here. First, expecting to be hungry all the time is a red flag that you are indeed dieting and not establishing lifelong, sustainable eating patterns. (It’s actually sad to me that so many of us strive to be hungry when so many of us in society have no choice but to go hungry.) Yes, a growling stomach that’s practically forming sentences will indicate that it’s time to eat. In reality, it’s probably way PAST time to eat. You’ll likely deal with headaches, irritability, fatigue, an inability to concentrate and more. Creating such physical discomfort makes it impossible to stick with a plan and likely that this approach will end in a big, ol’ binge. It makes more sense to refuel yourself every 3-4 hours or to use a hunger scale, eating when you’ve hit a “6” or so out of “10” (meaning, red alert, famished!).

So, toss these supposed screw-ups aside. After all, we have plenty of REAL mistakes to learn from as we navigate this wily process of building great health. I make them regularly—and like everyone, I make some of them repeatedly! My wish for us all: May our errors be few but teach us a ton.


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