Menopause isn’t the first time in your life that fitness will be a priority, but the stakes are certainly raised. The quality of your life during menopause varies widely based on your overall health and fitness. And the cosmetic and functional reasons to be fit are all still there.
No matter your reasons for pursuing a fitness upgrade, it helps to be aware of the potential pitfalls. We all tend to start out with great intentions and ample motivation. Those things are the fuel that moves you forward. By avoiding these 5 fitness traps, you can make sure that you’re not just spinning your wheels.
#1. Setting The Wrong Goals
So often, when people talk about fitness, what they really mean is thinness. That’s a shame, because there’s so much more to health and fitness than what dress size you wear. If your goal is just to be a smaller person, you’re limiting yourself. There are plenty of thin people that aren’t very fit.
That’s not to say that weight loss is a poor goal. If you’re substantially overweight, seeing a smaller number on the scale should certainly be a priority. But without a well-rounded approach to your health, you’ll fail to fully realize the fruits of your effort.
To get the most out of your body, make sure that you’ve considered how you want to feel, in addition to how you want to look.
#2. Setting Vague/Unrealistic Goals
Goal setting is a crucial skill for self development. If you fail to set specific, attainable goals, then your progress is guaranteed to be hampered.
So where do you want to be physically? When do you want to be there?
Most of us think big picture. People want to lose 50 pounds or run a marathon. We picture ourselves at the end of the journey, seeing how great it will be. The problem is that these visions aren’t attainable in the short term. We may be motivated now, but will that vision be enough to take us to the finish? Probably not.
The key is to set small goals with tight timelines. Don’t just say you want to lose 50 pounds. Say you want to lose your first 5, and set a date.
Speaking of setting goal dates, make sure your specific small targets are also realistic. Give yourself goal dates that will push you to perform each day, but are also achievable. By hitting a series of goals, you’ll build momentum. The more that you prove to yourself that this is working, the easier it is to stick to your program. Temptations shrink when confidence grows.
Make sure that you know what’s reasonable to expect before you jump in. Weight loss goals in particular are often unrealistic. Shows like “The Biggest Loser” and gimmicky diet and exercise programs have made people think that this should all happen quickly.
For a person who is dieting and exercising regularly, you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week. There are variations, and 3-5 pounds is realistically possible for the first couple of weeks if change is significant. Set your weight loss goals accordingly.
#3. Neglecting Nutrition
People tend to think about diets solely in terms of restriction. That’s a problem for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s a total bummer. The second reason is that your relationship with food shouldn’t be adversarial.
Food is meant to strengthen and sustain us, to give us all of the nutrients and energy that we need. The problem is that we’ve been eating the wrong things. The modern diet consists of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. By turning that around, the way you approach food can also change.
The first step in setting up your diet should be the pursuit of foods that give you actual nutrition. Plan meals that include vegetables, lean meats, fruits, nuts, berries, and whole grains. Once you’ve identified the healthy, nutritious foods that you want in your life, set your diet plan.
By considering calorie consumption after seeking nutritious sources, you’ll find that staying under your calorie limit is easier too. The healthiest foods also tend to be the most low-calorie options.
#4. Sabotaging Your Metabolism
Stop eating, and you’ll lose weight. You won’t even have to work out. The weight loss will happen like magic… hungry, hungry magic.
But overdoing it with calorie deprivation means setting yourself up for failure. It isn’t necessary to stop eating altogether to feel these negative effects either. When we cut our consumption too low, our bodies adapt by slowing our metabolism to consume less energy. The result is a cycle of diminishing returns and misery.
This is one ride you don’t want to take. Cutting your food intake too low is tempting in the short term because it gets results. Avoid this temptation like the plague.
How important is a healthy functioning metabolism for weight loss?
An assessment of calorie usage can be instructive. A woman’s sedentary body typically burns 2,000-2,400 calories each day. That same woman stands to burn about 400 calories by jogging for an entire hour. That means that a healthy metabolism burns 5-6 times as many calories as a vigorous workout. It just doesn’t make sense to slow down our biggest weight management ally.
Instead of starving yourself, set realistic calorie limits that keep you at an overall deficit, but don’t grind your metabolism to a halt.
#5. Avoiding Strength Training
There’s a limit to how fit you can truly be without working on your strength. Women in particular neglect this crucial area of fitness because muscular development is commonly thought to be masculine.
But building lean muscle mass is one of the most effective ways to improve your fitness. The benefits of strength training are numerous, and farther reaching than most people realize.
Obviously, working your muscles builds physical strength, which makes the movements of every day life that much easier. What people may not realize is that muscular development is one of the most important tools for weight loss and bone health.
A lot of people think that cardio is the way to lose weight. But, while cardiovascular exercise should be a part of a complete fitness regimen, it’s actually strength training that is the more effective fat burner. The reason is that muscle needs energy to be maintained. So even at rest, muscle causes you to burn more calories. The more muscle mass you have, the greater your potential to burn fat.
Muscle building workouts also strengthen our bones. The natural strain on our bones that occurs during muscular exertion causes them to become more dense in response. This is a huge benefit, especially for women who are beginning to see declines in bone density following menopause.
Improving your fitness isn’t easy. It takes hard work and dedication. But if you’re smart about it, you can give yourself an advantage. Making sure to avoid these five mistakes is a great place to start.
Now you know some things to avoid, but how about some easy ways to be proactive? Click here to read "9 Low-Effort Ways to Get Healthy" in our library!