Five Signs Your Fitness Program Sucks

by Lisa Rhea

FullSizeRender-8It’s a week into the New Year and let me guess, that lofty resolution you had to get fit doesn’t sound so fabulous anymore, does it?  Sure, the first few days you were motivated and probably even joined a gym, started a new diet or bought in to a program promising results.  And now, after the newness has worn off, it suddenly doesn’t seem worth it anymore.

You may be beating yourself up, asking “what’s wrong with me?” You WANT to be in better shape. You’re frustrated with your current conditioning. You’re sick of feeling uncomfortable in your clothes. Yet you can’t seem to make it through even a solid week of your program.

What is the problem? Is it just you? It could be, let’s admit it, there are some unmotivated, lazy people in this world. But if you recognize it’s going to take work, are willing to make an honest effort, but just can’t seem to make it click, then most likely you haven’t found the right program to meet your needs. You’re not succeeding because you don’t know how, and what you’re trying is not the answer.

Most likely, your fitness program sucks.

There, I said it. I’m not one to go around criticizing anyone’s effort to get fit, but there are some really crappy fitness programs, diets, and fitness gurus out there. I have lived and learned over the past decade in the fitness community, from figure competitions and completely screwing up my metabolism to finding balance and learning how to live a well-rounded, fit life. So today, I want to share with you the red flags to look for as you seek out your fitness solution.

Top Five Signs Your Fitness Program Sucks

1) They Sell Supplements

A pyramid scheme is not necessary for weight loss, nor are supplements. Amazingly enough, real food is the best dietary supplement and is a heck of a lot cheaper, although no one makes a commission off of bananas.

Your fitness program should focus on eating whole foods and physical activity, not pills or shakes.

Your fitness program should focus on eating whole foods and physical activity, not pills or shakes.

You do not NEED any special pill, shake or supplement to lose weight.  Period. And anyone trying to sell you a supplement, even if it’s in tandem with a “wholesome” meal plan, is just trying to make a buck off of you. None of those special supercharged supplements are better for you than real food, and if they claim to detox you or speed up your weight loss…well, don’t even get me started.

If a fitness program rests on purchasing a special shake, or even worse, a combination of products, run (or if you’re new to fitness, speedwalk) in the other direction. Seemingly the only people still seeing success on these programs years later are the ones making a paycheck off of them. Long-term, sustainable results come from moderate eating day-in and day-out, not a cookie-cutter diet mixed with chemical cocktail supplements. Save your money. Buy more bananas.

2) There are Black and White Diet Rules to Follow

Just like banning books, foods shouldn’t be banned either. There should be no need to hide in a closet reading or eating. And yes, that includes carbs and alcohol.

Foods should not be labeled “bad” and “off limits.” Everything in moderation is okay to be included in your eating program. The key is moderation. Yes, even candy and alcohol and such sinful things.  And carbs!  Carbohydrates are energy and in no way evil, and in fact, they should make up the majority of your calorie intake, not the minority.

There is only one reason to be eating a meal of all protein -- you're in a foreign country and can't read the menu, like my husband here in Argentina.

There is only one reason to be eating a meal of all protein — you’re in a foreign country and can’t read the menu, like my husband here in Argentina.

If your guru or program is telling you that you should never include these items, or they can only be the very occasional exception to your program, there’s your sign it’s crap. If you cannot fathom living the rest of your life on the diet your fitness program provides, it’s not going to work. You’ll eventually get sick and tired of the same boring chicken and broccoli, and those salacious “banned” foods will become items of your obsession.

It’s important to realize, you shouldn’t be “on plan” or “off plan” – you need to find a way of eating you can sustain year-round, for life, or you will always be yo-yo-ing. You don’t train for a marathon once, then go back to lounging on the couch everyday, yet still sustain the ability to run 26 miles for the rest of your life. Likewise, you don’t lose weight once and then go back to eating whatever you want and keep that weight off.

3) They Promise Quick Results

Easy go, easy come back, and usually with added baggage. Yay, you lost 10 pounds in two weeks…are you going to brag about the 15 you put on when you went back to your normal way of life?

Sure, it’s great to look at the six-week before and after pictures and think “that could be me!” But where are the one-year after pictures? Anyone can drop weight fast with a restrictive diet.  Heck, cutting carbs alone can have you dropping five pounds in a day, all water weight of course. But what good is that weight loss if you just gain it all back after the three-week challenge is over?

If you want to see a key example of how extreme weight loss efforts fail in the long-run, just look at The Biggest Loser follow-ups. Or see how bodybuilding and fitness competitors rebound in their “off season.” Quick weight loss comes from dramatic changes, and dramatic changes are not easy to sustain in the long term. It’s much better for you to make lasting lifestyle changes, to lose the weight slowly and steadily, and learn to live in a way that allows you to keep the weight off.

4) You’re Doing More Cardio Than Marathoners

Unless you’re training for an endurance event, there is no reason to be spending hours a week doing cardio. If you’re at the gym enough to qualify for their employee benefits program, it’s a sign you’re doing too much.

Even at a competitive level, I never needed to be in the gym more than an hour a day.

Even at a competitive level, I never needed to be in the gym more than an hour a day and my diet regularly contained “sinful” treats, just in moderate amounts.

Spending hours upon hours in the gym does not make you a badass. Sorry, no matter how much you post about your two-a-day workouts on Facebook, no one is envious of the time you commit to “earning” your thin physique. Unless you’re training for a performance-based athletic endeavor, there is no reason you should be clocking more hours than the staff at your local gym.

The only reason you would need to train for hours upon hours a week to get thin is because you’ve turned your body into an extremely inefficient fat-burning machine. Basically, you have destroyed your metabolism and now require a much higher level of activity to see the same results.

When it comes to fat-loss, less is more. You want your body to respond to the least amount of calorie deprivation and exercise, not train it to sustain itself on low calories and hours upon hours of cardio. If your fitness program prescribes hours of cardio a week right out of the gates, it sucks and is poorly designed. Run for the hills.

5) Everyone Has to Know About Your Program

If your program is so restrictive, and/or so time consuming that you cannot function in normal settings without announcing to everyone that you’re dieting or have to pass on social engagements to go to the gym, it’s not sustainable. Not to mention, you’re annoying.

This comes back to moderation. Don’t get me wrong, having a support system is key and your close friends will likely be aware of your commitment to healthy eating and fitness. But if you can’t function on a day-to-day basis without everyone around you knowing that you’re on a diet, most likely your diet sucks. A sound nutrition plan will offer a give and take for social gatherings and should have you maintaining a healthy life balance.

IMG_8685Likewise, if you’re missing out on social engagements because you can’t fit in your workout, then you aren’t likely to have a long-lasting fitness life. Or you’ll just lose your social life. A solid fitness program will allow for a balance of both. If your fitness program has you constantly putting others on notice, then it most likely sucks. Or you’re an attention monger. Either way, both are annoying.

The Takeaway
After reading this, either you’ll be nodding your head in agreement, reevaluating your current fitness program or writing me off as misguided. In the case of the latter, I’m not concerned. I’ll check back with you in six-months and see where you and your current fitness program stand.

I know all of these red flags because I have experienced all of the above, lived and learned. Well, except for the supplement one, and that’s just because I’m far too cheap to buy into that crap. But all the others, yep, I’ve been there. And now I know better.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Find a plan or a coach that guides you to sustainable moderation in both exercise and nutrition and start rocking that fit life.

6 thoughts on “Five Signs Your Fitness Program Sucks

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