LUNDEN: Rewiring your idea of a reward is the key to getting, staying fit

September 13, 2013 

Lunden Souza

MIKE BYERLY — Merced Sun-Star

When it comes to fitness and health, there are a variety of rewards that come from dedication and hard work: weight loss, muscle development, better balance and core stability, increased endurance, more energy, less stress and improved cardiovascular health to name a few.

Those are all amazing rewards for your body and great things to work on to improve your overall health. What we need to steer away from is treating food as a reward for a hard workout.

One phrase I say a lot is: “You cannot out-train a bad diet.”

You can’t just workout all of the time, eat like crap and expect to see the amazing results that you always envisioned. You shouldn’t workout so that you can eat the food that you want, you should workout to benefit your muscles, your bones, your heart, your endurance, your energy and your confidence in your body. Don’t reward yourself with food.

Hiking is a really great form of exercise. I have a lot of clients that love to go on hikes with their significant other or with their friends in the evenings or on the weekends. One of my clients even monitored herself and found that she was burning 1,600 calories on her weekend hikes. How awesome is that?

What is not awesome is that she was using this caloric expenditure to justify a dinner of Mexican food, with tons of chips and salsa, and margaritas to wash it all down.

Why would you spoil an awesome workout by stuffing your face with food? This is a common occurrence, but it has to stop if you want to start seeing the results you want to see.

Instead of being excited and consuming a bunch of extra-greasy, high-calorie food after a great workout, focus on remembering that the workout is the reward.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t eat after you workout, but choose wisely and do not go overboard.

Rather than saying to yourself, “Oh, I just did an awesome workout so I can eat and drink alcohol tonight,” start rewiring your rewards. Instead, say “Wow, that was an awesome hike, and I burned a lot of calories. I will start doing this hike every week to really torch some fat.”

You will not get anywhere if your eating habits are poor.

I follow a lot of fitness professionals on different social media platforms to gain knowledge and motivation. There was one awesome post I saw that totally hit the nail on the head. You cannot play “cardio catch up” with your food.

Your diet should be clean enough that you can maintain your weight even when you are not working out.

Eventually, this cardio yo-yo style of working out will not work anymore. Your body needs a consistent, healthy reward system that deals with healthy food, restoration, recovery and results, not excuses and poor reasons that justifies pigging out as a reward.

This week, work on revamping your fitness reward system and choose rewards that will actually benefit your goals, like new athletic shoes, joining a new group fitness class, getting a relaxing massage, buying the tub of protein powder you thought was a little bit pricey, replacing your old yoga mat with a new one or getting a few new workout DVDs.

The reward is achieving your goal, not counteracting it with poor food choices. So work hard to change your mind-set and find real rewards that are going to get you where you want to be.

Lunden Souza, a Merced native, is a personal trainer, health and wellness coach and writer in Southern California. She can be reached at lifelikelunden@gmail.com.

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