The #1 Reason Your Weight-Loss Program Stinks

The New Year is upon us and so begins the task of attempting to lose “weight” (or FAT as I prefer) for so many. There are just so many reasons why the failure rate is so high.  Well, actually I wouldn’t call it a failure rate, the “stop trying” rate is so much more accurate.

I would guess that treadmills get more mileage put on them between January 1st and March 31, than the rest of the year combined.  Year after year the mad rush to treadmills and elliptical trainers begins somewhere in the first week of January and ends around the 4th week.  I am not quite sure when the misconception that “running” or walking on the treadmill for an extended period time became “the best way” to lose weight, but it’s not!  I mean it is a way but I sure as heck don’t think it’s “the best way”.

It’s very common to hear people who clearly put some weight on say “I really gotta get on the treadmill more often”.  How about “I have to stop eating so much crap!”  That’s actually what they should be saying.  If I had to guess why so many people choose the low intensity, long duration run or walk as their preferred method of  weight loss, I would probably have to say it has something to do with the fact that most competitive distance runners are skinny.  Yes, you heard me,  skinny.  Not lean, not in great shape…skinny!

I apologize to the “runners” who actually are in great shape.  I don’t think “great shape” necessarily means that you can run for many miles without stopping.  When I think of “great shape” I think of someone who is pretty lean, (this means that you have a reasonably low body fat and a pretty good amount of muscle) not just “skinny”.   Here are a few more indicators that you’re in “great shape”(in my opinion); you can do a few chin-ups if you’re a woman and a whole bunch if you’re a guy.  You should be able to blast out 20 beautiful push-ups, deadlift your body weight and run a 5k in under 30 minutes.  I’m not saying that these are all a must to be in good shape, I am saying great shape!

I don’t want to sit here and bash distance running altogether.  Obviously there are a lot of people who use this method exclusively to lose weight, and it works.  It has it’s place in the competitive world as well as the fitness/fat-loss world.  Do I think it’s at the top of the list?  Absolutely NOT!  It definitely can be an effective way to get in shape and lose weight but I personally think there are better ways if you’re looking for a lean, strong, all around fit body.  What I am trying to say here is there are just so many methods you can be utilizing to achieve “weight loss” but what I encourage is “fat-loss”.  Some methods are much better than others at reducing body-fat and maintaining your lean body mass rather than just “losing weight”.

I do know that if you do not change your eating habits you can forget about getting good results, regardless of the program.  If we are going to talk about fat-loss we MUST talk about nutrition and the type of strategy that will work best for your particular lifestyle and body-type.  Truthfully, your dietary choices can determine up to 80% of your fat-loss results.  That is probably the #1 reason your program stinks but what I am going to talk about is your fitness program, not nutrition.  That’s also another topic I will save for later.  That’s all I am going to say about that!

The real reason your weight-loss or fat-loss program stinks is because you are just so damn focused on how much weight you need to lose and you’re not actually focused on how effective your training program is.

I would imagine that come January many fat-loss programs look something like this; you wake up every morning and you get on that scale hoping for some kind of miracle to take place.  Like it’s going to change dramatically from 24 hours ago!  Then you go “to the gym” and get on the treadmill for an hour.  Maybe you want to stay in the “fat-burning zone” so you make sure that you’re not working too hard because then you won’t be burning fat, right?  What a croc! Then you’ll get on the floor for some serious  “ab work” for another hour because everybody knows that if you want to get lean, rock hard abs you have to do a million crunches everyday.  Man, it kills me that so many people are doing this daily.  So many people go aimlessly about their workout with pretty much one thing in mind…time.  How long you were on the treadmill doesn’t constitute for a productive weight loss strategy.   Neither does a million crunches.  Crunches may be the most wasteful use of time at the gym as  part of a weight-loss program.  How much energy do you think you expend laying on your back and flexing your spine 6 different ways  for god knows how long?  I can think of a million other things you could be doing that are much more conducive to an effective weight loss strategy.

Here is a little suggestion that could go a long way when developing your plan for a weight-loss program for the New Year.  Instead of focusing on the scale and the amount of time you are in “your fat-burning zone” focus your attention on performance enhancement.  What you need is a program that focuses on your ability to make regular performance improvements.  This can be done with many training variables but basically you should be able to measure your improvements somehow.  I of course have some favorites; strength training can be a huge asset in a weight loss program and it can be easily measured.  For instance, if you did 3 sets of 10 reps of squats with 80 pounds and on your next session you did 85 pounds for 3 sets of 10, you have made a nice performance improvement.

Here is anther idea if your weight-loss program incorporates the treadmill.  I do prefer interval training as opposed to steady-state “cardio”, but again, it has its place just as long as you’re pushing the intensity and not just focused on time.  If you did 3 miles on the treadmill in 30 minutes at a 3% incline and the next  time you kicked it up a notch and got your time down to 28 minutes, you have improved your performance. Imagine what kind of performance improvements you could make over a 6 month period.  If your diet is on point It would be almost impossible not to see results.

This might be an oversimplification of some training ideas but your program can be just as simple yet so very effective.  However, you must continually make improvements in many areas, depending on your training program.  In order to gauge your progress you MUST keep a journal of each and every workout.  This way you know exactly what you did and when.  You need this information if you are going to add 5 pounds to your deadlift, you’re going to beat you’re previous best 5k or increase the intensity of your sprints.

There are so many ways of training for fat-loss but the most effective program will have you pushing yourself to make constant improvements on your fitness level.  Make a commitment to yourself to change your approach to weight-loss to a performance based program and watch your body change more dramatically than ever before.

Hiring a fitness coach is n excellent strategy if you are not too familiar with developing a progressive, performance based fitness program.  There are just so many variables that can be manipulated to fit your goals and needs, a great coach can get you going in the right direction.

Strength For Life,

Jim O’Hagan

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