Getting in shape seems simple: Exercise, eat healthy, keep at it for an undisclosed period of time, and at some point you see the results.
This does not happen the same for everyone. While genetics, coaching, past exercise or sports experience, and your life outside the gym all play a role, there are some facts that usually are not discussed when someone is looking to get in shape.
Here are six of the lesser-known facts about getting fit that may surprise you:
1. Sweat is not indication of effort
Two people completing the same workout will find that one may sweat profusely while the other may barely glisten, though both may be working out with the same intensity.
Very fit people tend to sweat faster because they’re able to hit higher workout intensities sooner. But some unfit people also sweat a lot, so there’s no hard and fast rule. Your hydration level, temperature of the gym, humidity level, and even genetics also play a role. Either way, how much you sweat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working hard or vice versa.
2. Your recovery is just as important as your exercise
Your body does not become stronger when you exercise, it becomes stronger when it recovers from exercising. Proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, and muscular/soft tissue massage (or lack thereof) can all impact your results. Plan on a minimum of one day completely off. As we age it may take longer than one full day to recover, so take an extra day if you feel you need it.
Your body needs recovery time, pushing your body every day or doing too many high-intensity interval training workouts can result in injury or overtraining, which will keep you from reaching your goals.
3. You may not feel sore until two days after your workout
The enthusiasm of starting a new program and wanting to see results causes many people to push too hard initially. It’s better to start with less repetitions and/or weight and progressing gradually as your body changes. You will most likely feel sore when start a new workout, but the brunt of muscle soreness may not hit you until two days after your workout. DOMS, short for delayed onset muscle soreness, is believed to occur as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers during exercise.
DOMS most likely occurs when force is applied to the muscle during its lengthening (eccentric) phase. Examples would be the lowering phase of a bicep curl or even jogging, since the thigh muscles lengthen while the leg brakes against your body’s momentum. A light workout or foam rolling helps loosen up and increase blood flow and can ease DOMS.
It’s a misconception that the soreness is due to lactic acid build-up. Lactic acid is out of your body an hour after exercise, which is also why it’s a good idea to do a cool-down when you’re done, to help get out the lactic acid.
4. Exercise machines do not fit everyone
Exercise machines fit roughly 70% of the population. Using an exercise machine without adjusting for your body size can lead to reduced results and the increased risk of injury.
You have to adjust the machine to fit your body size in order to achieve the results.
You want to line up the machine so your joints coincide with pivot points of the machine (usually indicated by a red dot), your feet are flat on the floor (if you are seated) and the pads rest comfortably against your body. Charts can be found on most gym equipment illustrating proper positioning.
If you’re unsure of yourself, elicit the help of a certified fitness professional to make sure you are using the equipment properly. Improper use, including incorrect positioning of a seat, padding, platform, bar or weight that is too heavy can all lead to injury.
5. It takes time to see changes
The first 4-6 weeks of an exercise program will cause neuromuscular changes to happen that will see your body become stronger without physical changes to your appearance. This the initial stage of training is where your nervous system adjusts to the new demands placed on it with exercise. After the initial stage of training the body will start to make physiological changes to continue to adapt to the workout program.
Unfortunately, many people give up in the first 2 months of a program, right before they’d see results they want. Make sure to commit to at least 3 months of an exercise program so that you can see your body change.
6. You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet
Some people will tell you that exercising alone is enough to make a significant difference in your body. However, it is too easy to consume far more calories than you could ever burn off in the course of a day. Expecting to see results when you’re eating too much or too much of the wrong foods such as fast food, is not likely to happen. If you want to lose weight and see results, you must get your diet under control.
Unhealthy food choices not only make you less likely to lose weight, but you may also feel sluggish and less motivated to stick to your exercise goals.
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