The Biggest Mistake That Derailed My Fitness Journey and How I Counteracted It

Zinnia Alexander
ILLUMINATION
Published in
4 min readJun 27, 2023

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Less is More

Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

It is a story as old as time itself. You find yourself unable to fit into your clothes. The stresses of life are in the way, leaving little time to hit the gym. Eventually, you summon the courage to step on the weighing scale.

That is not good. You have a good 20 pounds or so to lose. You dream of having that fit body you see in fashion magazines and are willing to work as hard as necessary to achieve it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean not focusing on your health. Joining the gym to get fitter and altering your eating habits should do the trick without relying on some magic solution.

That was my situation a few years ago when I decided to make some changes. I would take a 60 min strength training class in the morning, followed by another hour of cardio on the treadmill or the elliptical. I had done my research and believed doing both of them every day was perfect for building my strength while burning excess fat.

Initially, everything was wonderful. Despite my exhaustion, I was dedicated to reaching my goal weight and achieving the slim figure of my dreams. I was proud of my efforts and pushed through no matter what.

After a few weeks, however, the adrenaline rush wore off, and my body began to feel the pain from the exertion. Having gone from never exercising to working out for 2 hours a day, my knees and back struggled to adjust.

It led to a decrease in my stamina, and I was unable to keep up this rigorous routine. On top of that, my weight refused to budge.

There was no other way to describe it: I was burned out and resented the lack of results.

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

I began to hate exercise. There was no reason to push myself so hard if I was going to achieve nothing from it. I returned to indulging in my favorite desserts and stopped going to the gym. Of course, this only made things worse, and I ended up GAINING more weight!

What was I doing wrong?

I do not recall exactly what happened next. Somewhere, in between pitying myself and researching weight loss programs online, I came across a concept called the Minimum Effective Dose (MED).

In the book The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferris, the minimum effective dose is defined as “the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.” Essentially, consuming any amount higher than this dose will have little to no effect on the result.

Instantly, a lightbulb turned on inside my head. No wonder my routine wasn’t working for me! Exercising 2 hours a day was much higher than my Minimum Effective Dose, tiring out my body and making it harder to sustain this routine in the long run. I didn’t see results fast enough before exhaustion took over my body, and my resentment grew.

What I changed:

Instead of doing strength training and cardio back to back, I alternated my days between the two activities, exercising for no more than 45 min of exercise a day. This simple change made a huge difference.

Working out for a shorter duration meant I was less tired during the day and able to concentrate on my studies. I didn’t need to stay in the gym for so long, and my muscles stopped getting strained from switching between the two activities on the same day.

Best of all, my weight FINALLY started to shift downward, and I felt fitter and more toned. It was a win-win!

Important note:

Following my new routine went against the common wisdom that working out for longer periods helps you lose weight faster. I was initially skeptical that reducing time spent at the gym would work.

However, I have been able to keep up this routine for over six months now without too much effort. My weight loss is progressing steadily in the right direction, and I have more energy throughout the day.

That being said, getting fitter requires increasing the length or intensity of your workouts. While I currently manage 45 minutes per day, my minimum effective dose of exercise has increased because my routine has become too easy. I don’t have to work out for longer to meet this threshold. Instead, I simply increase the intensity, either by using heavier weights or sprinting faster on the treadmill.

I nearly gave up on my efforts to get back in shape before learning about the minimum effective dose concept. I hope this helps you achieve your goals faster than I did — without the resentment! :)

Reference:

https://gizmodo.com/4-hour-body-the-principle-of-the-minimum-effective-do-5709902

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Zinnia Alexander
ILLUMINATION

Lifelong reader, writer. Devoted learner. History fanatic, global citizen 🌎. I write about health, personal development, and the world.