Pella Chronicle

June 8, 2012

Taking fitness to the extreme

Barry Westerkamp
Pella Anytime Fitness

Pella — Have you ever been sitting on your couch watching The Biggest Loser or another reality weight loss show and think “It’s time to get my butt in shape!”?  Or maybe all of those excess calories over the years have caused your waistline to stick out a little too far, so you finally decide it’s time to do something about it.

I call those an “Ah Ha!” moment, when it finally dawns on you that your health is important, and it’s time to do something about it.  Unfortunately, too many of us start a health and fitness journey with an all or nothing attitude.  We are impatient people.  We want the quick fix.  We want results yesterday, so we take an extreme approach to fitness.

The two most common extreme approaches out there are starvation diets and hardcore exercise programs.  If you are a beginner, I would caution you to avoid both.

There are many hardcore exercise programs on the market, but the two most common ones you’ve probably heard of are P90X and Insanity.  If you haven’t heard of those – good.  Now don’t get me wrong, you can obviously get in shape doing those programs.  However, I don’t believe it makes sense to start out with such an extreme program.

Let’s say you are 50 pounds overweight and you decide it’s time to get in shape.  You were flipping through the channels and you come across Shaun T with his shirt off working out some already in-shape fitness models as he tries to sell you the Insanity program in a 30-minute infomercial.  If they can look like that, then so can you, so you place your order and in a week you can start watching the DVDs and begin the program.

What you soon find out is that these workout programs are super-high intensity and take exercising to the extreme.  For the next 60 days you will probably feel sore all over, curse yourself every time you pop in the DVD, and potentially set yourself up for an exercise-related injury.  Feeling sore might feel good initially because you will be able to “feel” those muscles you haven’t used for awhile.  But anything lasting longer than a few days will make it harder for you to want to continue.  Who wants to start out feeling sore every day?  To get results, you have to be consistent with exercise – not go pedal to the metal and then burn out because “it’s just too hard”.

The same can be said for starvation diets.  Sure they might help you drop pounds off the scale initially.  Eating 800 calories a day tends to have that effect.  But who can sustain that long term?  The classic yo-yo dieter wants to shed weight fast so they cut their calories to the extreme, then they get sick of eating next to nothing, they start eating everything in sight, then decide they’re getting too heavy again so they start the process all over.

Drastically cutting your calories will also promote a loss of lean muscle, which is perhaps one of the worst things that can happen.  When you lose muscle it will slow down your metabolism, which negatively affects your long-term weight loss goals.

The key to becoming more fit is consistency.  Extreme workouts are not where beginners should start.  Yes, you need to work hard and push yourself out of your comfort zone when it comes to your workouts, but doing something that can possibly have a negative effect on your body doesn’t make sense.  It’s a lot harder to train when you are injured.  Extreme dieting or starvation diets also negatively affect your body because they promote a loss of muscle.  Muscle burns a ton more calories than fat, so it’s in our best interest to keep as much of it as we can!

So if you are thinking about getting in shape and starting a fitness program, take caution if you are thinking of going to the extreme.  If you need help with a plan, call Anytime Fitness and ask about our 30-day starter program available to anyone who mentions they read this column.

Long-lasting results come from a commitment to being consistent.  Your goal is to keep the weight off and make sure it never comes back!