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Your Fitness Transformation Will Take Time. And Why Shouldn't It?

Condition your mind not to expect results in the extreme short term and prepare for the long haul.

22/09/2017 17:07 SAST | Updated 22/09/2017 17:13 SAST

What I see as the never-ending problem with society is what many see as one of its biggest strengths: the desire to want things here and now. It's pushed as ambition, having drive and being motivated. But it's also a corrupting trait that can make one's mind more vulnerable to flimsy schemes that promise exactly that. It encourages logic to be thrown out the window in favour of the façade of temporary happiness that inevitably won't last.

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Infomercial training systems and trending fitness fads capitalize on this exact human weakness, usually quite successfully. The mass acceptance of the idea that you can reshape your body in six weeks of training is fortified even more when professional actors in Hollywood transform in what seems to be no time at all for a new role, and then to create more movie buzz, market that change as more drastic (and usually in a shorter time). Performance-enhancing drugs aside, it gives us laypeople a false hope for the impossible. And I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

How long did it take you to gain weight?

Let's apply a little common sense. The average individual who's unhappy with this physique and knows he has 15, 20, 30 or more pounds of body fat to lose, didn't get that way overnight. He or she may think back to his days in high school or college, when his athletic body was immune to poor recovery or bad nutrition. Fast forward 10 or 15 years, and it's just not the same anymore.

When you don't use muscles — and that means challenge them regularly — you gradually lose them. A classic office job, lack of real or consistent exercise, slower metabolism, elevated stress from life, and less than optimal diet will all play a role in making the body turn for the worse. But we all knew that already. What we don't want to admit to ourselves is that what took us a few solid years to "create" likely won't be reversed in a few short weeks of training — at least not healthily. Human physiology doesn't work that way.

Here's the truth: A lean and clean gain of 15 pounds of solid muscle will take a disciplined, natural trainee close to a year.

Sure, there will be a few outliers who get slightly faster results than others, due to their genetics or metabolism. But for 90 per cent of people, seeing results from the gym should and will be a long, slow and gradual process. It's time to accept the fact that we made our own beds. That's what will keep us motivated to see real and lasting change happen.

The numbers

Aggressive diet plans and workout systems will often show testimony from clients who have achieved extreme results, making it appear both healthy and possible, but there's nothing healthy about seeing a 35-pound weight reduction in a month.

Moreover, weight loss and fat loss are two different animals. As a trainer, I could easily tell my clients to eat 600 calories a day and use the elliptical for two hours, four days per week. I guarantee they'd lose weight from such a protocol. But chances are they've tapped into little body fat reduction, if any. Since losing fat is the usual primary concern with most people looking to get in shape, it's useful to realize initial results from a regime of proper weight training and diet are often accounted by a decrease in water retention (likely from better overall hydration and lower sodium levels, if you're anything like most people with poor nutrition), with fat loss coming around the corner. If your goal is to have results you hold on to, I'd raise an eyebrow if you're dropping more than three pounds per week in your quest for a leaner physique. That would make the 35-pound weight reduction mentioned above take three times as long, minimum, if you're doing everything right.

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And what about muscle? Get ready for this: naturally building muscle takes even longer. The media throws around the term like it can happen after a couple of short weeks, but there's more to it than meets the eye. If you're trying to get bigger, that's a matter of manipulating your diet — namely, eating more — and training for higher volume in the gym.

When you hear headlines of an NBA player putting on 15 pounds of muscle during his three-month off season, or a movie star gaining 40 pounds of muscle to nail an athletic movie role, it's mostly hype. Adding 15 pounds while training hard and eating lots of protein may distribute itself nicely, but it's not all muscle. If it was that easy, there would be many more monsters walking amongst us. You'll retain more water, and may store more intramuscular body fat, and you may even keep less body fat around the stomach, which is a key in looking more imposing. But rest assured, your weight gain doesn't comprise of pure muscle.

Here's the truth: A lean and clean gain of 15 pounds of solid muscle will take a disciplined, natural trainee close to a year. I'll give the men reading this a chance to swallow that pill; it's a tough one.

Why shouldn't it take a long time to change your body from years of disservice?

Remember, all of the above implies that everything is being done right. No hiccups, no long stretches of inconsistency, no major falloffs with diet.

The silver lining

But really, why should any of this be any different? Why shouldn't it take a long time to change your body from years of disservice? Comparatively speaking, is a year of hard work really that long from the perspective of someone who's spent maybe 25 years not focusing on doing that? Before this deters you from putting in the effort, and motivates you to join the scores of people who are misapplying the love your body/anti-fat shame movement instead, note the silver lining: once you do things the right way, condition your mind not to expect results in the extreme short term and prepare for the long haul, the physical and mental results you get by the end of it all will be results that last the test of time. Anything you get beyond that, you can consider a bonus.

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