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How hard do you really need to work to reach your goals? I think there's a lot of confusion about how much effort a person needs to put into their health and fitness routine.

The truth is it all depends on their individual goal. The amount of work required for somebody to be completely shredded and ripped and ready to go on a bodybuilding stage is completely different than the amount of effort necessary for somebody to feel confident in a pair of jeans and have the energy to chase after their kids.

The degree of difficulty is infinitely different the more specific your goals are. I think it's important to get real about these different levels of effort. Many people seem to think that they need to put in either way too much effort for simple goals, or not nearly enough effort for some aggressive goals! The truth is it's got to be a comparable level of effort to a comparable goal level.

 

I see people that tend to fall into one of three buckets.

  1. General Fitness. Most people really want to just have a basic level of fitness, a basic level of body confidence and healthy body composition. This means feeling good about yourself, having enough energy to go about your life and reducing the risk of major health diseases. Typically, this will put folks into an average BMI range or an average body fat percentage range. You may have some strength, you may see just a little bit of muscle tone and shape to your body, but you're not about getting shredded or seeing extreme definition to all your muscles. The effort level to achieve this state is something that everybody should be able to achieve. It's moving for at least 30 minutes, 5 to 6 days per week. It involves incorporating strength training 3 days per week and also involves changing your lifestyle habits to get an adequate amount of sleep, hydration and balanced nutrition. Nothing too extreme, a little bit of room for moderation here and there of course. This tends to be the lifestyle goal of the majority of people we see come to the studio. And the beautiful thing is it's not that hard! This is totally attainable for any person.

2. Athletic Goals. The next level is what I would call athletic goals. These people have a specific performance goal in mind, such as running a 5k or competing in an athletic competition, or perhaps they want their body to have a little bit more muscle tone and a little less body fat so they look and feel like an athlete. This type of goal requires a little bit more effort, and a little bit more structure as well. To really have the body of an athlete, you need to train like an athlete. Simple. This means you're probably doing closer to an hour of exercise 6 days a week. Depending on the sport you may need more. For example, if triathlons are your sport of choice, you're probably going to be training twice per day and the overall volume and time required will be higher. Everything gets dialed up for somebody who wants to look, feel and perform like an athlete. Your workouts need to be not just showing up and moving, but structured intervals, a structured progression plan, appropriately timed rest phases, and more.

Nutrition needs to be improved as well. Macronutrient balance, meal timing, recovery nutrition, all these things come into play. Most athletes that we idolize consider their training as a full-time job. So, depending on your goal and how serious it is, you're going to need to devote an appropriate level of energy into your workouts and the rest of your lifestyle to accommodate this. It can be done but there's definitely less wiggle room. You can't skip workouts and expect to play catch-up and still perform at your best. You can't be undernourished either and expect to have the energy necessary to both compete and rebuild your muscles after heavy competition.

 

 3. Elite Physique The third group of people I will refer to as the body builders or 'elite physique' group for lack of a better definition. This is the group that takes body composition and anatomy to a science. These are the people you would define as ripped, shredded or muscled up. It's less about function here and more about the aesthetic. It's about achieving a very low body fat percentage ratio at exactly the right time, which is competition day. The aesthetic that people who compete in bodybuilding, bikini and fitness competitions are going for is not a sustainable aesthetic. Your body can't function forever at those low body fat percentage rates. It's all about timing. To accomplish this feat, is absolutely a scientific process. You will be strength training at least 6 days a week on very specialized muscle groups and very specialized exercises. You will be doing a prescribed amount of cardio that varies as you get closer and closer to the competition date. You will be eating a very limited diet and pre packing and planning every meal and carrying tupperware with you everywhere. Chicken breast and broccoli and oatmeal and protein shakes will be your new best friends. There is also a 'gains' phase where you will be gaining a lot of mass (both fat and muscle), before a 'cutting' phase to trim back down.

The level of effort it takes to get on stage for a bodybuilding or fitness competition is not what I would describe as a lifestyle. It is a full-on commitment. Your workouts and your nutrition come before everything else. There is zero wiggle room. In the weeks leading up to your competition, it gets even more strict. You carry around gallon jugs of water with your ounces marked on the sides. You're going to be tired, you're going to be hungry, you're going to be grumpy and you're doing it all for the sake of that moment of glory on stage. You push your body to the extreme. It can most definitely be done but you need to know what you're getting into.

 

I have so many people that come to our studio worried they're going to look like that bodybuilder person after putting in a basic level of effort. And the simple truth of the matter is it will never happen. So don't stress about all of a sudden growing big, beefy muscles if all you want is to be fit and healthy. Likewise, you'r not going to all of a sudden look like an athlete if you're just going through the motions at the gym.

As long as you match your level of effort to the specific goal that you have, you won't be steered wrong. You will get exactly as much (or as little) in results as you put into your program.



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