At Easter, much like Christmas, there tends to be a little increase in posts on social media telling you how much of a particular eggsercise you need to do in order to burn off whatever chocolate egg you eat. Do me a favour, ignore these messages and then block those who post them. They are only good for doing one thing, and that is helping you develop a nice big sense of guilt about what you eat.
Equating food, any food, with the amount of exercise you need to do in order to atone for eating it leads you down the road of disordered eating and builds a sense of guilt and shame about eating certain foods, creating a false dichotomy about what you eat.
Food isn’t good or bad, you don’t have to earn it, and you don’t have to punish yourself with exercise for your eating choices. And viewing exercise only as a tool to punish yourself with, or to be used to earn a food reward, creates a terrible relationship with, not only exercise, but with your body and self image too.
Exercise isn’t about calories burned, it’s actually pretty terrible at that, equating to about 5% of your weekly calorie burn if you train fairly hard 3 times a week. Even if you could train hard every day (which you can’t because you don’t have the time or opportunity to recover well enough), it might hit about 10% of your calorie burn for the week.
Instead, use exercise to celebrate what your body can do and to make it better, not just in the gym, but outside, handling your day to day tasks and activities. Build a little more strength, keep your lean mass as long as you can, improve your fitness and enjoy a creme egg or 2 now and again.
Training is often about managing tradeoffs.
You can train a lot of qualities at once but you’ll struggle to get great results in any of them. But focus on one or 2 at a time and you’ll make bigger strides forward. For example, if you want to add muscle mass, you’re going to have to say farewell to visible abs since you need to be in a calorie surplus to do it. If you manage that increase in cals properly then you can minimise how much weight you gain from fat, maximise muscle gain, and make it easier to get them back if you want to.
If you want to lose body fat, you may lose some lean mass and strength since you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit. But, again, if you manage the deficit in a sustainable way (a smaller drop in cals, keeping your protein high), then you can maximise your fat loss while retaining as much of the other 2 as possible.
It’s the same for any training goal.
You want to be a better distance runner? You’re going to lose top end strength.
You want to get shredded? You’ll lose strength, (and happiness, energy and you’ll be hungry all the time).
You want to be a strong as 5 bears? Bye bye abs.
You can minimise the drop offs by taking longer to get where you’re aiming for and managing the process more finely, but there’s always a tradeoff. You have to be willing to accept it.
With the gyms re-opening again (hopefully forever) in 3 weeks time, it’s tempting to go back in with all guns blazing. But, for many of us, 3 months of using bodyweight and resistance bands, taking a more reasonable approach for a week or two is probably adviseable.
The drop in strength and fitness happens pretty quickly, but it comes back quickly too. With strength levels returning in about half the time it originally took to gain them in the first place. Muscle mass is relatively easy to maintain, as long as you’re using it, it tends to mostly stick around. So taking a week or 2 to re-acclimatise to the movements, make sure your technique is where it needs to be and to be able to continue sitting on the toilet without letting out a squeal of pain everytime, is probably worth the time.
Keep an eye out for an updated version of my back to the gym plan coming out closer to the time. It’ll get you back into the swing of things in no time at all.
If you’ve not checked out this week’s podcast, you can do so below.
Have a great Easter Sunday,