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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Ustrzycki

5 Things They Never Told Me When I Started Working Out

We know that hindsight is always 20/20. I’ve been going to the gym and working out for over 10 years and I have learned a lot in that time. There’s a few things that I wish someone (anyone!) told me when I first started working out that would have saved me a heck of a lot of wasted time. I had to learn the hard way, but I hope that these tips can save you time and help you progress in your workouts as well.


1. You cannot out train a bad diet.

Someone people say nutrition and training is 80/20, or 70/30, or whatever other numerical combination you want to create. For me though, I truly believe it’s 100/100. Just like in a personal relationship, you cannot expect one to be pulling more weight than the other. I believe that you need to eat well (as in eat enough calories to fuel your body and in alignment with your goals) and you need to train hard (as in to build quality lean muscle mass and work towards burning away unwanted fat mass.) If your nutrition sucks, or at least if it’s not completely aligned with your training and overall goals, then it doesn’t matter how hard you workout, or if it’s more than once a day. Eat and train like it’s all you’ve got. Both have to be spot on, or progress is really going to be slowed down.

2. Stress negatively affects your body.

Stress is a seriously killer and it can totally mess with your physical progress. In simple terms, the more your body/mind is stressed, the more cortisol (stress-induced hormone) it produces. Cortisol comes out from your adrenal glands, which are the glands above your kidneys, right around your midsection. The more you stress, the more cortisol comes out, the more likely you will be gaining around your midsection. Even if you don’t physically feel stressed, if your body isn’t getting optimal sleep, nutrition, water or recovery, it’s going to feel stressed. Give it the love and attention that it needs. No stress, no problems.

3. Alcohol hinders fat metabolism.

Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits, liqueurs - anything with alcohol content on the label!) can greatly hinder your weight loss progress. Alcohol can reduce testosterone in males by up to 23%. When consumed, your body sees alcohol (converted into acetaldehyde and acetate by-products) as dangerous and will want to use them as fuel to rid them from your body. This means that your body will significantly blunt fat burning by up to 75% after just one drink, and also stop using carbs for energy. So although very little alcohol will be stored as fat, the fat and carbs that you do eat will have an increased chance of being stored as fat.

4. Sore does not equal a successful workout.

Just because you aren’t sore or exhausted after your workout does not mean your workout wasn’t effective. Some muscle soreness the next day might be a great feeling, but getting tired doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting better. Your body is always making changes. Whether you see them externally or not, something is always undergoing change inside your body. Think of the muscle fibres you tear after a strong workout, or the increase in blood flow to your heart and muscles. There is always something happening inside our body, and we need to focus on getting better at the gym, not just getting sore.

Getting better is what we want to achieve throughout proper strength training programming. This is how we get results. Lifting heavier weights, perfecting your form, or just wanting to improve your cardiovascular health. We want to focus on performance improvements over time, and we can achieve by adding more weight, completing more reps with the same weight, finishing the work in less time (usually with slightly less rest periods or just better efficiency) or modify the exercise and use a more challenging variation. As long as you’re using smart exercises and really focusing on improving your performance each and every rep, you will see the results you desire.

Improving your performance is a great tool to measure progress, because we know that the scale isn’t always the best indicator of that. There is a time and a place for high-intensity exhausting workout, but if you’re feeling absolutely worse at the end of your workout than when you first started, maybe we need to revisit your training program and make sure that it’s aligned with your long-term goals.

5. You cannot get toned without having enough muscle mass.

I hear women all the time telling me that they want to lose body fat and look more toned, and that’s great! But if we don’t have ‘enough’ lean mass on our bodies, when we do lose body fat, we just end up looking really thin/skinny. In order to achieve this toned, defined muscle look (I’m not talking like bodybuilding competitors! I mean like a really smooth but shapely look, like one of a bikini competitor) then we need

to spend time actually building long-lasting quality muscle. And that takes a lot of time, patience, trust, hard workouts and consistent caloric intake; usually all much more successful when you have a knowledgeable coach who can safely guide you through the progress of building muscle.

One of my recent posts (both a YouTube video and a podcast episode) talks more about knowing how to choose a timeline for programming, depending on your goals. I go into a little more detail about women who are looking to build muscle and lose body fat, but have done some kind of ‘diet’ (or caloric restriction) over the last 6 months. Not sure if you fall under this category? You can view any of these episodes (URLs below) and email me with more questions that you might have.

"How to Choose the Best Plan"

What can you relate most to? Is there something else that you wish you learned when you started working out? I would love to know! Email me and share your thoughts:

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