Deliberate Practice to Reach Your Fitness and Health Goals

Written by: Callie Parry, Intern

The long standing rule has been that it takes an accumulation of 10,000 hours to be considered a master in something. In the premise of change, those 5 big zeros are daunting and discouraging. If only there was a way to cut down those hours even to just 1,000.

Recent findings have countered this statement by suggesting that quality trumps quantity. Those zeros can be cut back by focusing more on about how we are practicing rather than how long we are practicing. The type of practice I am speaking of is that of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice can be applied to all facets of life but is especially helpful in health and fitness related goals. Deliberate practice is utilizing mindfulness to ensure that workouts are all they can possibly be. It is a process-focused approach rather than outcome-focused. When individuals focus merely on the results they want they find themselves often getting discouraged because the results don’t come right away. By shifting ones attention to the method, progress is more quickly observed leaving people with a better sense of accomplishment. Practicing with intent and focus is not necessarily easy, it takes concentrated effort and commitment to work.

There are lots of ways to become more deliberate in one’s practice, but I would like to specifically touch on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness seems to be the new craze these days and it may be for good reason. Do not fret. I am not speaking of meditating for a half an hour every morning, although that is never a bad idea. I’m thinking more of being mindful and present in your daily health and fitness efforts. First, mindfulness comes from utilizing the breath. Taking deep breaths in and out during exercise and simply throughout the day will keep one capable of focusing on the moment.

After establishing breath, take time to engage all the senses. For example, when performing a weight training session notice the feeling of the weights in your hands and the contraction of your muscles. Pay close attention to your form and address any unwanted aches or pains. Staying present in the body is just as important as the breath and will help you get more out of your physical exertion.

The most effective way to stay mindful and present is to remove distractions. Those who practice deliberately hit the gym or the trail with the intention to do work. Their workout is more important than gossiping with their workout buddy or the movie on the screen. I’m not saying that working out with a partner or watching something while you workout is bad, but make sure that those aspects are not distracting you from the work you are aiming to perform.

Lastly, the best way to engage in deliberate practice and reap its rewards is to refrain from any trace of negativity in the dialogue that runs through your head. Letting negative thoughts about yourself and your journey only leads to discouragement and hinders your ability to put forth that hard work.

Now that you know how to step up your workout game, give it a try. Breathe, engage your senses, remove distractions and ward off negativity. Be deliberate in your practice no matter what it may be and you will be encouraged by the progress in the process.

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Weight Training during Caloric Restriction Enhances Lean Body Weight Maintenance

Weight training while restricting calories preserves muscle. In one study, dieting while weight training resulted in lean mass (muscle) gained, most fat lost and almost the most weight.

Keep in mind that the “weight training and dieting” group put on muscle weight which is why they didn’t lose as much total weight as the diet only group. But it’s a benefit to have more muscle.

The diet/caloric restriction only group lost muscle and didn’t lose as much fat as the “weight training and dieting” group.

  Control Diet Weight Training Weight Training & Diet
Weight (kg) -0.38 -4.47 0.45 -3.89
Fat (kg) -0.07 -3.56 -0.62 -4.32
Lean mass (kg) -0.31 -0.91 +1.07 +0.43

(8 week program, 40 obese women)



Ballor, D.L., Katch, V.L., Becque, M.D., Marks, C.R., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 47(1): 19-25, 1988.

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How Fast Does Fitness Level Drop?

Have you ever wondered how fast your fitness levels drop if you have to stop exercising for a while?

In general, the loss of aerobic capacity occurs more quickly than loss in muscle strength. Even two weeks of not training can lead to a reduction in cardio fitness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Not exercising for two to eight months leads to loss of almost all fitness gains. In addition to cardiovascular, fitness and strength losses, any improvements in increasing good blood cholesterol levels, decreases in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity can be lost in just one month.

How fast can you get it back? If your time off was long, it may take you nearly as long to retrain as it did to become fit originally. If you have to take some time off, rather than totally abandoning your workouts make them shorter yet effective by concentrating on doing interval training to maintain your fitness levels. For strength training, a shorter travel or at-home workout can be designed by an experienced trainer to aid in decreasing strength losses.

• Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases; Volume 24, Issue 7, Pages 792–798, July 2014

• Bajpeyi, S., Tanner, C., Slentz, C., Duscha, B.D., McCartney, J.S., Hickner, R.C. et al. Effect of exercise intensity and volume on persistence of insulin sensitivity during training cessation. J Appl Physiol. 2009; 106: 1079–1085

• Baynard, T., Carhart, R.L. Jr., Ploutz-Snyder, L.L., Weinstock, R.S., and Kanaley, J.A. Short-term training effects on diastolic function in obese persons with the metabolic syndrome. Obesity. 2008; 16: 1277–1283

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