Be a ‘track star’

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Certified Health Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center of St. Louis.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

As of early January, the Jewish Light and the JCC have once again teamed up to present the annual weight loss challenge, “Lighten Up”.  Having been a huge success in years past, there was a great demand for this program, and the results so far have been testimony to the dedication of these team members.

As with any such process, it is always suggested that participants keep a journal of foods eaten each day, as well as quantities and time of day of the meal consumption.  Only by tracking food intake can one truly identify “trigger” foods, moods associated with veering off one’s set plan, and what sorts of things were helpful in the journey towards wellness.  

Since the scale is merely one measure of progress, and not always an accurate one at that, this year’s theme is “Get Lean in 2015”.  This broadens the approach to include not only weight loss but also a reduction in the percentage of one’s body fat.  By restructuring one’s body composition, the development of lean muscle mass may weigh more than adipose tissue, a fact that deters many who just wish to see that number inch lower and lower on the scale.  The truth is, a body is healthier, more fit, and infinitely more metabolically active with the addition of lean muscle. 

If you are on a mission to improve your overall health, whether by engaging in a Lighten Up team or preferring to go solo, by this point in the year you are most likely developing a proficiency with regard to food/calorie tracking.  However, to truly be a “track star”, an equivalent amount of time and energy must be spent keeping tabs on progress in your resistance -training regimen.

Let’s face it: Strength training to build muscle is hard work.  Therefore, many recreational athletes find themselves entering a comfort zone after a few weeks of embarking on a resistance program.  Sure, it would be easier to continue engaging in the same exercises for the same body parts week after week; however, in the absence of challenging change, progress will soon come to a complete halt. 

How can this be remedied?  The answer lies in the same arena as keeping a food log.  Each time you work out, make note of how much weight you are able to lift/push/pull for each exercise.  Every week, resolve to challenge your muscles to a slight increase in the demand placed upon them.  Keep a notebook handy and jot down the numbers.  At the end of one month, track your progress in the gym.  I can virtually guarantee that you will have inched up in your strength abilities; this process, coupled with a prudent meal plan, will take you where you hope to go.

Tracking also serves to provide motivation on a day when you simply don’t feel up to the task of bench-pressing or bicep-curling.  By surveying your notebook, and reflecting back on where you were a week or two ago, the impetus to surge forward becomes automatic.

This needn’t be a daunting exercise; make it fun by eliciting the help of a training buddy and challenge each other to a desired goal.  When you start out on the stepping-stones to self-improvement, nothing helps more than positive support.  Surround yourself with like-minded friends, healthy food fans, a solid workout plan, and get busy becoming that track star!!!