After working with thousands in the health and fitness arena you can easily begin to make fairly accurate generalizations. One generalization that I can make is that many people have two common misperceptions. One being a misperception of one’s true appearance, and the other being a misperception of what an intense workout really feels like. This generalization I make was recently reinforced by a study that showed that 70% of obese people think that they eat healthy and 40% feel that they exercise intensely. The study went onto to confirm that most of the people did not realize that they were clinically obese and they obviously did not know what intense exercise was.
Have you ever seen someone obese and say “how could they let themselves get that way?” I have said that on many occasions, but it is now easier for me to understand after seeing hundreds of people who think they are a little overweight find out through a body mass index that they are actually clinically obese. The body mass index (BMI) is the accepted test for obesity by those in the medical community (there is a free BMI at sensiblefitness.com). I have broken the pride of many with a BMI test, it is often a unexpected reality check for people.
I can share many experiences of those with misperceptions of their appearance, from the very thin person who thinks they are fat, to the 180 woman (grade 2 obesity) who thought she “looked like a ballerina” after losing some weight. My point is that it is very easy for someone to look at themselves in the mirror with rose colored glasses on, especially when the weight creeps on slowly over a period of years. You simply get used to seeing the added weight and grow to accept it. That is when a BMI test can be quite the reality check, “Oh my God! I’m obese?!”
Ok, so your vision may be a little distorted, and very few friends or loved ones have the guts to tell you how you really look. So what do you do to get an accurate answer? Take the free BMI test….just Google it!
Another misperception that exists among people of all fitness levels is an inaccurate perception of high exertion. More often than not a person may feel as if they are really pushing themselves during a workout, when in fact they are nowhere close. This leads to limited results in weight loss and plateaus with muscle tone in both men and women.
For a muscle fiber to increase it’s firmness or tone, you must have a properly established program executed at the proper intensity level. Many veteran exercisers have come to Sensible Fitness to learn how to break through a fitness plateau and are astonished that they not only have been performing the wrong program for years but they also have not been pushing themselves hard enough, the latter of which happens easily when training alone.
As a physical therapy professional I have used 5-pound dumbbells to strengthen the frail elderly in nursing homes and yet fitness videos and group exercise classes still try to create the illusion that the young and middle-aged population can sculpt a fit and trim body with them. Give me a break! A 5-pound dumbbell might be challenging for a novice female performing exercises for her shoulders, but that is the only muscle group. Lifting these light weights for a high number of reps, as done with videos and classes, may help a little with muscular endurance but it will have very little or no affect on gaining muscle tone or sculpting.
Exercise is a science. It involves chemistry, physiology, kinesiology, and more. Too many people are establishing their workouts from fitness magazines, from “monkey see monkey do” at the gym, or from what they did in high school 20 years ago. Medical science has proven that the intensity of your workouts should be dictated by your fitness goal. A specific intensity (reps, sets, rest, and overall volume) is prescribed if your goals are to increase muscle mass, to increase muscle tone without gaining mass, to increase strength maximally, etc. The majority of people are not educated in the field of exercise science and are putting their blood, sweat, and tears into a misdirected workout. This leads to a misperception that one is exercising intensely, when actually they do not know the proper intensity level for their fitness goals.
To understand what a properly established workout “feels like”, it takes a personal visit to a knowledgeable trainer. It will cost you less than a round of golf or a trip to the hair stylist, but it will forever give you the education needed to give you the optimum results for your time spent exercising.