don't focus on fat loss as gyms reopenYou can listen to this article: Use the player below, download the MP3, or use iTunes.

It began the moment gyms were forced to close their doors: People became concerned that they would lose the results they worked so hard to achieve since they could no longer adhere to their normal workout routine.

Many don’t have the luxury of a home gym (those of us who do were, perhaps, more grateful than ever for our at-home setup) or they can’t get “in the zone” for at-home workouts because they get easily distracted by something (or someone?) else.

Those who had difficulty adapting to working out at home, or had more pressing matters to be concerned with other than figuring out how to execute an at-home workout plan, may have abandoned their workout routine entirely or occasionally squeaked out short, minimalist workouts. As a result, many — too many — are lamenting the weeks of missed workouts; the workout hiatus may have also been combined with less-than-ideal eating habits, making the situation feel much worse.

And so, people are itching with excitement to get back to their preferred workout regimen. This excitement may be mixed with a touch of anxiety that could result from any perceived results that have diminished over the weeks: weight that has been gained, strength that’s been lost, or the growing frustration from getting out of a hard-fought routine that had been established.

Are you concerned you lost some of your hard-earned strength, muscle-building, or fat-loss results?

Many people are. And I know what this means for numerous individuals as they return to the gym …

They will have a hell-bent focus on fat loss. “I have to lose the weight I gained during quarantine!” they’ll think. Are you thinking that way too?

If your mind is in a similar place as you go back to the gym or revamp your at-home workout regimen, I ask you to consider taking a different path. Most women have more than enough experience with the fat-loss-matters-most approach. We know what it’s like to view the food we eat through a fat loss lens (“Will this help me lose fat?”; “Will this inhibit my fat loss efforts?”; “What diet should I try next to help me shrink down?”). We have used workouts as punishment for overeating, or performed extra challenging workouts to “earn” the right to eat dessert.

Forget about shedding fat. Forget about the number on the scale. Forget about trying to burn as many calories as possible. Forget about trying to “undo” damage from weeks of missed workouts.

Don’t focus on fat loss as gyms reopen. Why not try a new, perhaps refreshing, approach? Something that, you know, makes you feel good about yourself. Choose instead to:

Build, or reestablish, habits. Maybe you deviated from your usual health and fitness routine due to the massive interruption to your schedule, and life. Focus on performing the necessary actions that define the lifestyle you want. (Make a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast, carve out time for yourself each day to alleviate stress, eat plenty of fruits and veggies each day.) Though it may feel like your routine has been obliterated from the recent pandemic and accompanying challenges, you can start to rebuild it. Focus on the few, big actions you need to execute.

Make workouts about one thing, and one thing only: improving your performance when possible. Get stronger one rep, or even one pound, at a time. Try to do better than you did last time, in some way, when you can. Concern yourself solely with your workout performance over the next several weeks and months. Workouts should not be about getting as tired or sore as possible; those are not accurate indicators for what makes a successful workout. A consistent, gradual improvement as demonstrated in your workout journal is all you should focus on.

Improve your conditioning with your preferred cardio activities. Do you like running? Progressively cover a greater distance in the same time, or the same distance in less time. Or do something simpler and more relaxing, like go for a 30-minute walk several times per week. Maybe you can include one or two high-intensity interval training sessions into your weekly routine and gradually perform more intervals, or do them at a higher intensity. Again, the goal being to improve performance, not induce as much fatigue as possible.

Most importantly, do not think about trying to “undo” any perceived damage over the previous months. Don’t frantically try to shed any weight that may have accumulated during this crazy time. Don’t berate yourself for getting off track, or even giving up completely for a few weeks because you were overwhelmed from the circumstances.

Start again, but with a positive, different focus this time. And, remember, whether your goal is to discover how strong you can become, or you want to shed excess weight to improve your overall health, it’s the consistent practice of the necessary actions, like those above, that bring those goals to fruition. So focus on them, and them alone.


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