What I Wish I Knew About Fitness as a Teenager
Fitness has always been a large part of my life, although there have been periods when it was beneficial and periods when it was destructive. My approach these days is more about pushing myself to accomplish new goals while also finding the balance that helps keep me sane.
If I had a chance to go back and tell myself what I know now, these are the things I wish I knew about fitness as a teenager.
Genetics plays a huge role
From the time I was a teenager all the way until post-college, I bought Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendars, plastered my computer desktop with pictures of models, and if I still cared about it today, would follow tons of fitness models on Instagram.
What I didn’t understand until much later was that genetically we are all built differently. Some of us are long and lean, some are more athletic (*waves*), and some of us are strong as hell without conforming to the images we see used in fitness articles. As hard as I tried, there was physically no way that I would resemble the women that I looked up to, but it took me a very long time and feeling like a failure for far too long to understand that.
Realize that each one of us is an individual and learn to love what makes you unique.
You need serious weight to make serious changes
I was never scared to use weights during my workouts, but those weights probably maxed out around 10 lbs. This was good to a point, until my body became used to that level of challenge and reached a strength plateau. I learned that in order to seriously make changes to my body, I needed to work with heavier weights. Once I started doing that, I noticed more and more changes in my body.
No matter how many bodyweight squats I was doing, nothing made a difference like heading to a squat rack and working up to 200 lbs. 🙂
Eat after rather than before
During high school, I assumed that I should eat food before I worked out (which isn’t wrong — just something small, not a whole meal) because anything I ate after a workout would just negate the work I just did. *insert face palm here* I remember eating a microwave dinner and going for a run in the middle of summer, then overheating and throwing it up not too long after starting. Foolishly, I also viewed this as fewer calories in and finished my run.
The body is in prime metabolism mode following exercise. You’re heated up, your muscles broken down, and your body needs fuel to help rebuild and recover. The best time to eat is following a workout, not before.
Headlines are 98% clickbait
Anything that promises quick results with little work is simply laughable, yet so many people, myself included, tend to fall for it. Workouts that focus on spot reduction should simply be ignored.
Sometimes when I’m looking for post inspiration, I will head to Pinterest or even just do some Google searches to see what’s going on in the fitness world. In short time, I will become so frustrated with the misinformation and blatant lies in post titles that I’ll end up writing some kind of reactionary post instead (like this one and this one). Most fitness posts are full of useless information and I wouldn’t waste my time on the “10 best exercises for a flat tummy TODAY.”
As a side note, are there any fitness topics that you’d be interested in a post on? If so, let me know in the comments.
It’s something to do as a lifestyle
I did have a pretty good grasp on this when I was younger, but I think what I lacked from that understanding was the patience that comes along with it. I knew that I couldn’t just exercise for a month and be done with it, but part of this was because I lived to chase results that were unrealistic. I tried and tried to achieve the results that I saw plastered on my refrigerator and telling me what day of the month it was, and I was discouraged over and over when it didn’t happen overnight.
Long lasting results take time.
More isn’t always better
As a teenager and into college, I felt that doing more meant faster changes. I would wake up at night and decide to do a workout video. The thought of inactivity and rest made my skin crawl. I would run 5 miles, then spend another 45 min lifting weights.
The less time you give your body to recover, the more likely it will be to break down. The older I get, the less easily I am able to bounce back from prolonged training and will periodically give my body an extended break in the form of complete rest or seriously modified workouts. Resting won’t cause you to get fat or lose everything you have accomplished, but will allow you to come back stronger and more refreshed.