THE BLOG

Optimizing Your Workouts, or the Sweat Doesn't Mean a Thing if Your Workout Ain't Got That Zing

06/30/2014 05:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 30, 2014
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I've spent the better part of a quarter of a century (more than half my life) dedicated to health, fitness and wellness. In that time, the most frequently asked question would have to be: Why isn't my workout plan working? There isn't just one simple answer. There are several things that help determine whether your training regimen will succeed or fail. The following suggestions are those that I have shared with clients, followers, friends and family alike to great success:

• Workouts often start and fail in the planning (or lack thereof) stage. Therefore, before you hit the Lululemon store and get the latest and greatest cross-training shoes, ask yourself the "what, why and for whom" do you want to accomplish this for. Simply put, for a wellness (diet and exercise) program to be successful, one needs a specific goal (lose weight, tone up, etc.) and a clear course of action (the right program) to fit their lifestyle and budget. Last, but not least, MAKE SURE YOU ARE DOING THIS FOR YOURSELF, and not someone else (be that your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend). Doing it for someone else will leave you feeling resentful and unfulfilled and ultimately sabotage and undermine the possibility of realizing your wellness goals. So, once you've satisfactorily answered the "what, why and for whom," you need to set a realistic goal and timeline to accomplish that goal.

• One of my biggest gym pet peeves is watching someone execute an exercise improperly or, worst yet, watching someone performing an exercise that isn't appropriate for their body type and/or objectives. It takes every bit of self-restraint not to walk up to someone doing a squat or a lunge with their knees extended far past their toes and say WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You're going to destroy your knees and your back AND not getting any of the benefits of the exercise. Additionally, if you were looking to reduce size in your butt and thighs, I would caution you to avoid doing traditional weighted squats, as this can add size to your thighs and butt and not reduce them. I've seen the simplest exercises executed really badly (from push up to lat pull down, to name a few). No two people are exactly alike. Therefore, what may work for me in the gym won't necessarily work for you. EXERCISE IS NOT ONE SIZE FITS ALL! What doesn't change is correct form! I am and always have been a stickler for correct form. Do it right and you feel and see the difference!

• STAY IN THE MOMENT -- In my book Sound Mind Sound Body, I advised you to take time out of your day to "honor" yourself. This was the time of day that you would dedicate to your wellness. Gone is the day when I have two hours to spend exercising in the gym. I've realized that this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as my workouts have become very focused, cardio-sculpting circuit workouts. Whether you spend two hours in the gym or try one of my 10-minute express workouts, make every moment count. When you leave the office, try to leave the office behind. Leave your cell phone in your locker. There is a reason that many health clubs forbid the use of cell phones on the workout floor. Now, full disclosure -- I take my phone onto the workout floor. As a single father, I need to be connected at all times of the day. However (save the crazy emergency) I try to avoid looking at it. As I am always "running against the clock," my workout time is very precious to me. Workout time is not the time to socialize, catch up on your soap operas or Google Chat with your friends.

• PUT YOUR BRAIN IN YOUR BUTT! -- I coined this phrase several years ago to make people think about "engaging their brain" while they worked out and connecting it to that part of your body that you are training. For example, if you are doing squats and lunges, your focus should be in your legs, anchoring in your heels to emphasize the blast in your butt. Mindful training will help insure against injury and accelerate your desired results.

I just finished reading an SOS email from a good client of mine. "HELP! I have all this equipment and I don't know what to do with it. I want to get started but don't want to injure myself." She did everything right to prepare herself for a healthy, fit summer. She trained hard at my club and (mostly) followed my nutrition recommendations. She even went and followed the suggestions I made for purchasing exercise equipment for her house at the beach. It takes me back to junior high school algebra -- not one of my favorite courses. I'd spend hours being tutored by my Uncle Joel, who lived down the block. I'd swear I understood it all as I bolted out the door. By the time I got home (two minutes later), I had already forgotten all that I had been taught. Many years later, I understand that what was missing was the "mind connection." I definitely left my uncle's house thinking I understood what he was explaining to me. Clearly, my wires weren't connected and fully engaged. My client has all of the necessary tools -- knowledge, equipment and desire. The trick is utilizing the lessons I taught her, finding the motivation, and last but not least, connecting mind and body. Too often I see people "walking through" their workouts, which can lead to injury, unrealized goals, and ultimately complete dissatisfaction with one's training routine. To make the most out of your workouts, stay focused, engage your brain and visualize the body you were meant to have. WANT IT, WILL IT, MAKE IT HAPPEN!

• Physiological -- The most perfect workout plan will fail if you don't:

  • Get enough sleep -- failure to get adequate sleep will among other things leave you feeling depleted mentally and physically and sabotages your hard earned workout gains. It can elevate your cortisol levels, which can lead to weight gain. Lastly, poor eating habits and sleeps deprivation usually go hand in hand. When people are tired, they often make bad food choices (e.g., comfort food).
  • Adequate fuel -- I like to say EAT TO LIVE -- starving your body will only serve to upend your fitness/wellness transformation. You need a balanced diet -- making sure to fuel up on fruits, vegetables, grains, lean sources of protein, legumes, nuts and seeds. Small, abundant healthful meals throughout the day will keep you optimally fueled and keep your brain, organs and body working efficiently.

In closing, everyone should strive to be the best that they can be. This is attainable if you follow the above guidelines. Sound Mind Sound Body is just around the corner.