You would think that with so many strategies on how to lose weight, a plethora of certified dietitians, new hot diets coming out every month, countless tips in popular magazines, proliferation of “healthier” food and the number of companies selling all sorts of green coffee extracts and Garcinia Cambodia pills – we should have less overweight people. But, somehow, none of these seem to work. Even when people make a genuine and honest attempt to educate themselves on how to lose weight and proper dietary habits and stick to a specific plan – the majority usually fails miserably. The agony of a constant struggle with weight seems to be the quintessence of modern existence for men and women alike.
Losing weight is not all about willpower. In a desperate attempt to lose weight and look better, a lot of people are able to implement and stick to some brutal restrictions when it comes to what, how much or when they eat. Surely, you would think that all this effort MUST pay off in the end.
But more often than not – it doesn’t. We are still facing a sad reality with growing armies of obese people flipping through fitness and lifestyle magazines (that feature bad role models in a semi-anorexic state) and, in their wishful thinking, grasping at every opportunity (of which there seems to be an abundance) to try to lose weight, still wondering why the heck nothing works.
Why am I not progressing?
At some point in your training, hitting a plateau is virtually guaranteed. Whether you are training for strength, muscle mass, or endurance – this happens to the best (and virtually all) of us.
It has nothing to do with your athletic abilities, dedication or the intensity of your workouts. It is just a normal stage in you biological adaptation. Unfortunately, the increase in strength, endurance and improvement in body composition is non-linear – otherwise we could all just keep training and getting progressively better results forever. We could start training at a young age with lifting 50 pounds and, with persistent training, get to pushing 1250 pounds in 10 years. After all, this only means adding 10 pounds per month, which doesn’t seem too much, does it?
Remember Milo, a fellow from the Greek mythology, who carried a calf on his shoulders every day while the calf slowly grew into a full-sized bull? There are very similar fables in most cultures and… they represent a gross oversimplification, at best.
Throughout our lives, we accumulate a huge baggage of health-related tips and facts that we hear from our parents and grandparents, read in magazines, pick up from marketing materials or get forwarded on the internet by concerned friends and just accept as “common knowledge.” We rarely stop to think and question them, even though a lot of the tips and advice we take for granted and consider useful may actually be a collection of myths that just never die.
While falling prey to some of these myths may only mean a minor inconvenience, following some other bits of this common advice may have far reaching consequences. In today’s article we will look at just a few of those pseudo-facts and try to understand what they are really worth.
Any physical activity you perform involves using your muscles. The intensity doesn’t matter – if any of your body parts is moving, this movement is powered by contracting muscles. These muscle contractions, as we’ve discovered previously, trigger neural and biochemical adaptations that drive all sorts of positive things – strength development, muscle strengthening joints and ligaments, positive hormonal shifts, improved metabolism, better mood and stable blood pressure.
For most exercises, however, the strength required to overcome the resistance (free weights, your own body weight, exercise machine cable pull, etc.) – and, therefore, the degree of your muscles’ involvement – varies throughout the range of motion. Depending on the angle of your joints (knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders), the position of the weight relative to them and the length of a moment arm created, the force required to overcome such resistance will vary, because the resistance itself is different at different points. Consequently, in most exercises, the muscles’ involvement does not remain constant all the way through. Their contraction may be stronger or weaker at various points of the movement curve, depending on the resistance they are trying to counter.
Why is it that we are often so good at assigning fault for our own failures to somebody (or something) else and failing to accept responsibility for our actions? We keep blaming others for not getting things we feel we are entitled to and when assigning blame still doesn’t help us get them, we use some twisted logic to try to justify why being where we are is actually still OK. We, somehow, continue to feel good about ourselves even when we don’t achieve our goals and continue to be mediocre, at best.
Luckily for those who follow the approach of assigning blame, the targets are always abundant.
We teach our kids not to mind the scores during team games, citing potential discouragement and loss of interest if they feel it is a result of their own bad play and lack of effort. Participation is more important than winning, we tell them. After all, if they lose – it’s not their fault. The other team cheated. The weather was bad. The turf was unfamiliar. But that’s OK, it’s not their fault.