Picture this, It’s a beautiful Sunday you wake up and have a whole list of things planned. Mow the lawn, clean the house, cook for the week, spend time outside. You sit down to eat breakfast and flip on your favorite TV show with the promise that you will only watch one episode, which turns into two, three, four, ok maybe five. Then you suddenly feel tired and take a nap. You pass out for an hour or so and before you know it your entire day is shot. So you say, hey I’ll just do it tomorrow. I feel like this vicious cycle happens to a lot of people with their fitness goals. Except unlike the lawn outside it usually doesn’t get taken care of the next day. It can be months, years, or even decades before people start taking their health seriously. A few pounds are gained, then a few more, then maybe a medical diagnosis of high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes. Maybe heart disease. Does this sound like an extreme example to you? Well, unfortunately it isn’t. Heart disease is responsible for 25% of deaths in the United States every year. Genetics definitely tip the scales of the a bit, but for the most part it is sad that the number one killer in our society is preventable or at least reducible. So let me throw another statistic in your direction. According to the CDC only 23% of US adults meet the minimum requirement of physical activity per week. So why is it despite skyrocketing levels of disease that more people aren’t getting up and moving more?
Because its FUCKING HARD! If you’re reading this “sorry mom”. If you’re not extremely passionate about fitness actually doing it can be quite challenging. For one, you’re pushing your body to do things its not used to doing. This can lead to days of soreness, especially in the beginning. You’re also putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Gyms can be an intimidating place. You’re in a room full of beautiful people while you look in the mirror and are unhappy. You then proceed to try and exercise off a plan you found online, having no idea if you’re even performing the movements properly. Then you feel more insecure and end up worrying more about what’s going on around you or who’s watching you than actually working out. It’s not easy. Unfortunately, it can feel like we live in an eat or be eaten kind of world. So if that first gym experience was enough to deter you and you made it through the period of major soreness then you start to get into a routine. But, then life happens. You have a kid. You start a more demanding job. Your significant other demands moire time with you. Usually, (and I can only speak from my own experience) the gym is one of the first things people “don’t have time for”. Then many fall off and dread the process of getting back into it. And the vicious cycle repeats itself.
But, let me ask you all a question. When was the last time you were in great shape? How did you feel when you were in that good of shape? Would you rather feel that way than you do now? For some of you reading this, right now could be the best shape of your life (and you will understand exactly what I am about to say). For others it could have been high school, college, before you had kids, before you became a high level management exec, or maybe you’ve never felt comfortable in your own skin. I am going to be 100% honest, real, and raw with you. Being comfortable in your own skin is the greatest feeling you will ever have in your entire life. Because you know that no one can take that away from you. You aren’t dependent on others for feeling good because deep down you feel good. I will tell you that the farther I go into fitness the better I feel. And I know from first hand experience what it’s like to hate the way you look and be unhealthy. Just look at the pictures on the accompanying pages of this website. It’s not even just liking the way you look. It’s a feeling of health. That you’re doing good for your body. That you are adding years onto your time on this earth. Years for more traveling and experiences. More years with your children. More years to enjoy thew body you live in.
Getting started is by far the hardest part of this journey. It always is. The first time you do anything new in life it is. But, the longer you do it, the easier it gets and the better it feels. Getting off the couch is hard. Driving to the gym is hard. Running down the street is hard. Doing that home workout off of Youtube is hard. It’s never going to be easy. Even now there are days I wake up and don’t want to go to the gym, or go to work, or even get out of bed. But, I do and I always feel better afterwards. Because I know that I am doing something for myself that no one can take away. And I love that I get to do that everyday for other people. You can see the look in people’s eyes, and the change in their demeanor when they start to get stronger and feel better. The first couple weeks I always get text messages about how sore my clients are. Then the following weeks, months, and years it’s all about how great they feel and how glad they are that they made the decision to take control of their health. I’m not saying that you have to get a personal trainer. I’m not saying that you have to lift weights. Take a yoga class, go for a walk, go swimming, hike a mountain, go running. Just get up and do it. It’s always hard to get started. But, I promise you wont look back. No one ever said to themselves “I regret that workout today”. Stay strong everyone.
Personally, I would love to train everyone. Working with clients is the best part of my life. You build a bond with someone, you watch them succeed, and then they refer more people that you can help. But, some people can’t afford trainers. Others may believe they don’t need a trainer. And, some may just prefer working alone. Whatever your reasoning is, you can still get results without a trainer or coach. I’m going to give you 5 tips that I have for people who train without a coach.
My biggest tip for being you own coach is knowing exactly what your goals are. If you don’t have a clear outlined goal then you cant develop a plan to work towards that goal. Most people who don’t have a plan go to the gym and do aimless workouts that they see on Instagram, or whatever they FEEL like doing that day. This is no way to make actual progress. Also, if you don’t have a goal you’re working towards odds are motivation will be lost and consistency will go out the window. This is exactly why you have to have a goal. When you’re setting you “goal” make sure it isn’t too vague. “I want to get big” isn’t really a good goal. My best advice would be to make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time sensitive). Once you have a SMART goal you’re ready to move on to step two.
The second thing you need to do when coaching yourself is do your research. Everyone who is at the top of their fitness game has hundreds of thousands of hours of research under their belt. I’m not saying you have to go to school and get a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science. But I do recommend surfing on amazon and picking up a few books at least once or twice a year. Even scrolling through some reputable articles on bodybuilding.com or google is a good way to get the information you need. However, I would recommend being specific in what you are looking for. If you want to get big arms don’t just search “how to get big arms” because you will be bombarded with thousands of articles, most of which are bull****. Instead I would search “fitness level”, “goal”, “reputable coach”. For example you could search “how to build you best deadlift by Layne Norton”. This is going to lead to much better information than just some bro-ey article written by no one. If you’re not sure if someone is a good coach, again DO YOUR RESEARCH.
After you have your goals outlined, and some useful fitness advice from good coaches it’s time to develop a plan. Developing a plan involves outlining how often you will work out, what types of exercises you will use, and what rep ranges you will be working in. If you do good enough research you can usually find pre made programs on bodybuilding.com, many of which work very well. But, if you’d like to build your own that’s ok too. But, have a plan, because if you don’t odds are you will end up doing random workouts that wont get you anywhere.
Now that you’ve made your plan using the good research you found built off the goal you picked it’s time to TRACK YOUR PROGRESS. Tracking your progress is imperative because there is no other way to know if you’re actually making progress. Progress can be tracked in a number of different ways, and whatever your goal is there will be different methods for tracking the progress you make. If you want to lose weight then you need to weigh yourself (I would also recommend tracking body fat because you want to make sure you’re losing the right “kind of weight”). If your goal is to build muscle then you need to measure your body with a tape measure and also track your body fat to make sure that the inches being added to your body aren’t just fat. If your goal is to get stronger then simply make sure you’re adding weight to the bar (with good form of course). Good form brings me to my next point.
When you are your own coach it is crucial that you workout with good form. One of the biggest things I Do for my clients is correct them when their form is off. Especially with big movements like the deadlift and squat because improper form can lead to major injuries down the road. There are two ways to go about this. One is, find a good training partner. A good training partner can be an extra set of eyes and if they know what they’re doing they can give you tips on how to improve. Two is, take videos of big movements. Taking videos may look douschey, but it’s actually a really smart way to train. How do you know if you’re doing something right if you cant see it? Even if a movement feels good there could be minute things that are off that can lead to problems down the road.
So, let’s go over what was talked about in this blog post. When you are coaching yourself always remember to: have a goal, do your research, develop a plan, track your progress, and monitor your form. If you follow these five rules you can see excellent results. Now, is everything going to be perfect. No, but thats life. If you hit a plateau just repeat the process. Check your goal, do your research as to what’s holding you back, research how to fix it, track your progress, and monitor your form. Its simple and effective. Thanks for reading everyone hope you enjoyed it. Now go crush your goals.
Fitness isn’t easy. Lots of people sell supplements, programs, and false promises all claiming to make changing the body easy. The truth is fitness isn’t and never will be an easy journey. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and there is one thing I can tell you that sets the successful apart from the unsuccessful: their mentality. Having a great mentality in my opinion is the one thing that will either make or break your fitness routine.
Before we get into the “facts” I want to talk about a client I met in my second year of being a certified trainer. This client was given to me by the establishment I was working at during that time and she had the goal of losing over 100lbs. A big goal, but definitely achievable. So, we got to work. She came and worked out with me twice a week every week and she would leave sweating and usually swearing at me for all the work I made her do. Yet, check in’s would come and her weight was unchanged. Now granted she was losing inches, but it was a very slow process. It wasn’t until our 5th month together that she saw any actual change in the scale. 5 MONTHS! 5 months is not a long time. Most people would have been so discouraged at that point that they would have given up. But, she had a great mentality and she didn’t give up. She learned from her mistakes, whether it was eating too much or skipping her workouts outside of our sessions and she kept working. Fast forward 9 months and she had lost over 70lbs. If she had given up would she have lost that weight? Probably not. Now, this is an extreme example and I have never dealt with someone other than this person that didn’t see any weight loss for that long of a time period. But, the point I am trying to make is, mentality is what helped her succeed. Theres a few reason why mentality is important.
I know this may sound crazy, but if you don’t believe you can change your body then you never will change your body. I’m sure some of you are thinking what is this guy talking about? Allow me to explain what I mean. If you don’t believe that you can and will change your body then you will never take the steps necessary to do so. Let me give you some scenarios here. Let’s say person A is trying to lose weight and he’s working out and making his portion sizes smaller and all the sudden Friday night comes and his buddies invite him out for some beers. He accepts thinking he will stick to the plan and be good. But, he gets there and theres so many delicious foods on the menu calling his name. Now, if he really doesn’t think that he can lose weight and be successful at it then all those external pressures are going to make him cave. Then maybe he will get back on track. But, when temptation arises again if he doesn’t believe that he can be successful he will probably cave in again. Let’s now look at person B who wants to build muscle. This guy has been small all his life and has always wanted to be big so he decides to take up a weightlifting regimen. He starts hitting the gym, but then he realizes he has less time with his friends and he’s sore all the time. And it’s been a couple months and he really doesn’t look all that different. Thats where the mental toughness comes in. If he believes he can change his body, then he will push through that, but if he doesn’t odds are he’s going to give up on his journey. Now, these are extreme examples, but anyone who wants to do some serious work to their body has to believe that they can achieve what they set out to do. Believing is the first step, being tough when the going gets tough is the second.
Anyone who’s alive knows what it’s like to fail at something. Maybe when you were a kid you couldn’t throw a ball very well or maybe as an adult you didn’t get that job you really wanted. My point is, we’ve all failed. The process of changing your body is no different. Even dealing with the temptations I mentioned in the last paragraph, there are going to be times when you don’t win those battles. Or when you go into the gym and have a horrible workout. Or when you have a horrible day and can’t even imagine stepping foot inside a gym so you go home and skip your workout. The point is you’re going to fail. And you will never push past those failures if you don’t have a great mentality. Imagine going to the gym for months and not seeing gains in your strength or seeing gains in your muscle mass. Then trying a new program that you find just doesn’t work for you. Then being back at square one being more frustrated than you were in the first place. Well, the sad truth is that’s how fitness is sometimes. It’s a journey that you walk with yourself to improve yourself. And that is really not an easy thing. So yes, you’re going to fail sometimes. And you need to have a great mentality to break through those failures. You have to believe you can. Then you have to be tough when the going get’s tough. Once you’ve mastered those techniques then comes the most important step in your mental journey.
You have to constantly learn more about yourself day after day and year after year. You have to learn what your body responds to and when it doesn’t why it isn’t responding. You have to learn how to balance your food while maintaining a social life. You have to learn how to break through weight loss and muscle building plateaus. You have to learn how to train as you age. You have to learn how to train for your specific goals. You have to constantly learn. In my experience, once you figure something out, your body or your life will throw something new at you that you weren’t expecting. Maybe you’re shift changes at work, or maybe you get sick and can’t workout. Or maybe you just had a newborn and have less time to devote to your health. No matter what, you have to constantly learn, grow, and adapt to the new things that happen inside and outside of the gym. As I said before it’s not easy, but that’s why it requires a great mentality.
Mentality is everything when you’re trying to change yourself. It requires a complete shift in habits, choices, and thoughts about yourself. In my opinion changing your body is one of the hardest things to do from a mental standpoint. You have to believe that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself. You have to break through the walls that will be in your way to achieving those goals. And, you have to learn how to hit your goals and set new ones as your life changes. There was a time in my life before I knew much about fitness where I would go to the gym for hours on end every week and do what I thought were the “right” things. It was honestly at times demoralizing. I would ask myself: “why do I keep coming here?” Or “Is this even worth all the time I put into it”. And there were many times I failed and almost gave up. But, If I didn’t push through those barriers I would not be here writing this blog post to help out those who are struggling with the same things. I promise you that you can set out to do whatever you see for yourself. No matter how hard the journey, don’t give up it will all be worth it in the end.
I’ve been in the fitness industry for about three and a half years now. Over that time I have tried several approaches with new clients. When I was a brand new trainer I trained all my clients exactly like I trained myself with a split routine. I’ve had clients follow the OPT model developed by NASM focusing on balance work, then progressing to strength, followed by hypertrophy, and ending with maximum strength and power. Now, all of these methods “worked” per se. Also let me preface this blog post by saying that you can achieve results training a myriad of ways. But, in my experience, total body training reigns supreme for new lifters.
There are several reasons why I feel the way I do about total body training being useful in the infancy of fitness journeys. The main reason is, when you’re a new lifter you don’t need a lot of volume to grow. Going from being sedentary, or even active in a cardio sense, to strength training provides a completely new stimulus for the body. When the body receives a new stimulus it reacts to overcome it. It does this by recruiting more motor units from the brain (strength) and enlarging existing muscle fibers (growth). When you’re new you really don’t need to put your body through the wringer to get insane results. Even doing 1-3 sets of an exercise 2-3 times a week will yield both strength and size gains. Will this work forever? No, but it's definitely enough to get you through your first 3-12 months in the gym. Not needing a lot of volume leads me into my next point as to why total body training is the best for new lifters.
Your body simply can’t handle copious amounts of volume when you aren’t a seasoned lifter. The longer that you train, the more your body adapts to training. After a little while the volume or weight that got you results in the beginning will need to be increased to keep seeing results. But, that is because your body adapted to the volume. If I were to throw a high volume workout at my new clients that I use to build size they would leave the gym feeling awful, possibly get sick, and maybe never come back to training. When I have a new client and I make them perform a movement for their legs they usually complain to me about how sore they are for a week, sometimes more. Now imagine if I had thrown three workouts at them for that body part. You can probably guess that it would do more harm than good. Just enough volume to get better is all you should be aiming for, especially as a new lifter.
Excess volume will create unnecessary problems in everyday life as well. Too much volume can further trigger delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Have you ever gone to the gym for the first time in a long time, or even the first time ever and been sore for over a week? Yes, me too. It’s definitely not a good feeling. It basically makes the rest of your life harder for the next week. Now, total body training can alleviate this problem in a couple ways. One, it keeps the volume per body part per session lower which creates less muscle damage. As I said earlier in this post, the longer you train the more volume your body can handle, and also the quicker it can recover from it. When you are a seasoned lifter, you can handle 3-5 exercises per muscle per session and wake up the next day with little to no soreness. But, when your'e new your body has not adapted to recovering that quickly, so you will feel pretty sore for a few days even doing one exercise per body part. The second reason total body training helps with recovery is, when you return to the gym for your second or third session of the week your workout will bring blood to the whole body. Blood and movement help alleviate soreness and fix the initial muscle damage. This makes life a lot easier for the average person because they can get back to pain free normal activities quicker. Creating less damage and also aiding in recovery are two great benefits, but that’s not all that total body training can do.
Total body training will also help with adherence and success with a new workout plan. I’ve found this to be true for a few reasons. First off, when you’re new, working out is usually not the easiest thing. And I have found that if you can’t show people some kind of measurable success within the first few months, they will fall off the wagon. So, let’s say you’re following a split routine and you miss a workout one week. By the time you get around to training those body parts again it will have been two weeks. This creates a couple problems. One, you’re most likely going to get pretty sore again. Two, you will have a higher tendency to miss more workouts because in your mind you have already fallen off the plan. I know that sounds a little weird, but it's true. I cant tell you the amount of times I have heard someone say, “Well I already ate bad today so I’ll just get back on track tomorrow” as they continue to consume excess calories and push themselves farther away from their goals. It’s the same with working out, “Well I missed a workout for the week, it’’s an off week, I’ll get back on track next week. Total body shifts the focus of I missed a workout, to I got two workouts in and hit each body part twice! This leads into why total body training helps with success. When you miss a workout no part of your body misses out on work for that week. And, let’s face it we miss workouts sometimes because we’re human. In my experience, total body training can really make or break someones workout routine, especially in the beginning.
Total body workouts can also save you a ton of time. A lot of people seek out personal trainers because their life got busy, they gained some weight, and now they need to learn how to lose it. But, theres one thing that doesn’t change in that equation, how busy someone is. I’ve seen first hand people who can barely make it to the gym for our sessions because they are so busy. Total body workouts can get you in and out of the gym in 30 minutes. One of the main reasons these type of workouts allow for this is everything can be turned in to a circuit or multiple circuits. Let’s say you’re doing 1 exercise per major body part. You would have to complete 8 exercises in a workout. For a normal style workout with rest in between each set this could take 40 minutes or more depending on how much you rest. However, when you complete everything in a circuit it cuts that time in half. This is effective with total body training because while you’re working one muscle the other muscles are resting and stretching out. So, if you complete a circuit of 4 exercises by the time you get back to exercise 1 that body part has almost fully if not fully recovered. Also, total body training condenses the number of sessions you need to train per week. You can train your whole body in one session. While I would not recommend training once per week consistently if you are really trying to change your body, once is still better than nothing. And on a side note even working out once per week does yield health and longevity benefits. On a split routine you would have to get to the gym 4 to 5 times per week, but when you training everything together you can get similar results in 3 days. Time is something we could all “use more of” and total body workouts can make that happen.
As a fitness professional it is my job to create effective workouts for my clients. Being effective can be judged on several factors like results, enjoyment, adherence, etc. In my experience total body training will always come out on top for newer lifters. As a side note, I also feel this is the best method of training when returning to lifting after a long break. Total body training can get you great results, help you save time, help with adherence, and overall just make things more simple. Imagine working out and only having to learn 6 moves in the gym instead of 30. If you’re a new lifter and just getting started I highly recommend you start with total body training. Even if you’re someone who is just into general fitness total body workouts can work wonders for you as well. Try it out, if you do it right I promise you wont be disappointed with your results.
I think we live in one of the most challenging times when it comes to fitness and health.
A lot of people might disagree with me on this, but there is a reason I feel that way.
Today, there is so much information available that it is difficult to differentiate what’s
good advice and what simply, isn’t. I’ve been consistently lifting weights since I was 16
and it was only within the past few years that I really learned how to build a great body.
I will tell you it is a lot more simple than people make it out to be.
I’m sure all of you at one point or another have hopped on the internet and looked up
“best diet to lose body fat” or “best workout’s to tone or build muscle”. It’s simple
right? We have a question so we ask Google or Siri hoping to get a few good tidbits of
information that will set us on the right path. WRONG! What we get is bombarded with
article after article usually with contradicting methodologies. One website swears by
keto and intermittent fasting, while another swears by a low fat high carb approach.
Then the slew of workout programs all promising to add inches and definition while
sporting a highly paid fitness model at the top of the article. See my point, it isn’t easy
to differentiate the good information from the useless. And usually after a quick internet
search you leave more frustrated than when you began. Because now you have more
information floating around in your brain that may have even deterred you from the
current fitness path you were on.
So what should you do? Should you give up carbs for good or mound up the rice and
not even look at the jar of peanut butter sitting in your cupboard? Should you do
calisthenics or heavy barbell squats? The truth is...... They all work to a degree. Keto
works wonders assuming that you don’t have high cholesterol and can deal with the
fact that you wont be touching another piece of pasta for the next few months or years.
Calisthenics work great if you don’t have access to loads of gym equipment or if you
enjoy working out outdoors. Heavy barbell squats are awesome assuming you perform
them with good form and can handle the stress they place on the body. So how do you
build your best body from square one?
You have to decide what your goals are, and what the easiest way to achieve them is.
Once you have a goal you have to simply work on your progress toward that goal.
However, if you aren’t seeing measurable progress, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re in
the gym to get bigger and you aren’t getting stronger you’re doing it wrong. If you’re
following a meal plan but not losing inches or body fat, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re
doing boatloads of cardio, but aren’t gaining endurance, you’re doing it wrong. So, you
have to seek progress. It’s that simple. However, you can only see progress if you know
what you’re working towards.
So, let’s say you’re really new at this and you want to get a six pack. Well you need to
do a few things. Number one is set a timeline, that way you don’t have an excuse to
not work towards the goal. The second thing is you need to build up your core. The
third is you need to get your eating habits right. So how do you get your eating habits
right? Start using a food tracker like MyFitnessPal or your Fit Bit if you have one. The
app will tell you how much you need to eat. So let’s say you start at 18% body fat and
you set a goal to have a six pack in one year. Well a six pack would require you to be
somewhere in the 9-11% body fat range. So, basically if you haven’t lost at least 4-5%
body fat in six months you need to reassess and see why you aren’t on track. It works
this way for any goal you have, but you have to have a goal.
The moral of the story is building your best body is all about deciding what your
definition of your best body is. Once you have that you have to set goals to get you
closer to the big picture. Then you simply work towards the goal. Finally, you measure
your progress and assess how your journey is going. If you are making progress, great!
If not, you need to reassess and change whatever is holding you back from getting
towards your goal. Once you reassess or hit your goal then its time to set another one.
And the cycle begins again. Also, don’t be afraid of failure. Anyone who has been
successful in any endeavor in their lifetime has failed at something. I trained for years
and spun my tires until I eventually figured it out. But, you can get your best body as
long as you take it slow, work hard, and learn from your mistakes. Do what works for
you, and always try to get better. Stay strong everyone.
As I’ve said in almost every blog post I’ve put up, fitness is progressive. It would amaze
you the amount of people that come to me, especially this time of year, with these
larger than life goals they have for themselves. Something like I want to lose 100
pounds this year. Definitely a doable goal, but do you have any idea how hard a goal
like that is? That would mean over the year you would have to burn 350,000 calories.
You would have to lose an average of eight to nine pounds a month. And, you would
have to not hit any weight plateaus throughout the year. That’s including the months
that you have holidays and vacations, if you take those. These same people will be
down in body fat at monthly weigh ins, but when they see their scale weight has only
dropped three or four pounds they’re unhappy about it.
I’m going to be brutally honest with you. Fitness is hard. If it were easy I wouldn’t have
a job and you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. I think too many people negate the
fact that any forward movement is something you have to fight for. Let’s say you go
from doing absolutely no activity to working out two to three times a week. After a
couple months you step on the scale and you dropped ten pounds. Awesome! But,
think about all the activity you had to do to lose that ten pounds. If you are a 180
pound person you would have to run 250 miles to lose ten pounds at a twelve minute
pace, all while not overeating at all. Does that sound easy to you? Didn’t think so! Now
obviously no one is going out and running 250 miles in one trip, but you get my point.
Weight loss is HARD. Now, let me drop even more knowledge on you. According to the
energy gap theory every pound you lose causes you to. burn eight less calories a day.
So the next ten pounds you try to torch is going to burn even slower and you’re going
to have to work even harder. Don’t get too upset though there is a solution.
Be happy any and all progress that you make. Every minute you spend in the gym is
getting you closer to your goal. Every time you make a healthy meal choice you are
getting closer to your goal. Every time you lift a new weight you haven’t before, you are
getting closer to your goal. Every time you lose and inch or drop a pound you are
getting closer to your goal. The thing is, fitness is a journey, and it’s a very personal
journey. What the journey has in store for you is completely different than anyone else
around you. We all deal with different struggles. We all have different incomes. We all
have different amounts of time. We all have different levels of motivation. But, the
person who loses 100lbs in a year and the person who loses 100lbs in five years have
still both lost 100lbs. The destination is the same, but the journey is different.
So, basically what I’m saying is you have to look at every piece of forward progress as
a step closer to the goal you are working towards. I would rather have one small win
every day than one big win every month Even if you only lost a pound this month that’s
still one pound closer to your goal. There’s nothing wrong with big goals. Personally, i
think that big goals make you work harder. But, you also have to leave yourself some
room for being human. Work hard, enjoy life, and celebrate every win you have no
matter how small it may seem.
As a new trainer diving head first into the world of fitness coming from a background in bodybuilding I had a very rigid view on how to “get fit”. First you have to eat six meals a day and workout ten hours a week. Then you need to make sure you get your fasted cardio done in the morning and come back to the gym at night for your daily workout session. Now, when you get there remember today’s workout is all back focused and we will spend one and a half hours developing every single muscle in your physique.
Man, was I wrong. And for sure I had a rude awakening when I was dealing with clients coming to me for back problems, or knee pain, or being so afraid to be in a public gym setting because of their insecurity. So, as any good trainer does at some point in their career I asked myself “how can I help these people coming to me?” That ended up being more of a colossal question than I thought. But, it made me take a step back and really figure out how I could develop a plan to help everyone I came in contact with in this business.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering what the conclusion was that I came to. Well, it’s simple, the most important thing I can do as a trainer is improve the quality of life of the person in front of me. How do I improve quality of life in my clients? Well, it varies from person to person. When I sit down with a prospective client I ask them “what is your why?”. I really want to know why they want to see a personal trainer. For some people they want to get big so they can get girls. For some people they want to build the confidence to look in the mirror. For others it’s could be just being able to wake up pain free in the morning. Now, once I can understand why someone wants to see me I need to take into consideration how busy they are. Some people can only make it to the gym the one or two times a week they see me for a session. Others simply lack the motivation or confidence to workout on their own. There have even been certain people that I train who physically couldn’t work out on their own. So this presents a new challenge with every person that I see. But, I believe there is one universal concept in improving quality of life in every client that I have.
Making people STRONGER. For those guys who want to get built for the ladies? Building muscle is a slow and very delicate process. It takes a lot of time and dedication to build a physique. But, if I help these guys add thirty to forty pounds onto a big lift their confidence will shoot through the roof and it will make the process of building muscle seem a little easier. For the busy mom? As a trainer I can harp on people over and over about meal prep and eating healthy, but some people just lack the necessary time and energy to make their diet “perfect”. So even if that mom who is struggling to lose weight has an off month at least she can walk out of the gym still knowing she accomplished something because she got stronger. For the older client who is in a lot of pain? Strengthening the body is one of the only things that actually remedies pain. Cortisone shots might numb it. Heating pads may dissipate it. But, teaching your body to strengthen the areas that need work is the only thing that will eventually eliminate it. For the average person? Becoming strong is an extremely rewarding process. I’ve had a ton of clients who have been apprehensive to certain lifts in the gym. But, I’ve eventually talked them into doing them. And now they can’t wait to get in the gym and lift more weight than the last time. It’s amazing to see the confidence level change in these people just because I showed them that they were strong and that they could become even stronger. That is why my number one core value in training is to make people stronger.
So, let me sum this up so that it all makes sense. As a trainer I can only control one thing; how strong the person in front of me becomes. Outside of our sessions people may have a thousand obligations. Or they might lack the discipline or willpower to follow a healthy eating regimen or making it to the gym outside of our sessions. But, if I can show people that they can be strong. And I can reframe their perception on training. It really makes everything go a lot smoother. They get stronger and become more confident. Once they are more confident they are more likely to put more effort into getting even better than they already are. My philosophy is if the person that I’m training walks out of my studio feeling better than they did than when they came in then that session was a success. If you feel your best how much better of a husband, wife, mom, dad, brother, sister, worker, friend are you going to be? Life can get rough sometimes, but I love that I can go to work and show people that they’re strong enough to get through it. At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters.
I can’t tell you the amount of times people come to me frantic about some big event they have coming up that they need to “look their best for”. They say things like “oh my wedding is three weeks away” or “I need to look the best I’ve ever looked for this college reunion I have in three months”. These same people come to me with other crazy statements like “I already stopped eating” or “I’ve lost six pounds since yesterday”. Can you lose thirty pounds in three weeks? Yes absolutely. Can you squeeze into those jeans from high school by next week? Probably. But, you’re probably going to have to starve yourself to death. And as your starving your muscles shrivel up like raisins while you end up losing the same amount of lean mass as you do fat. All the while thinking you’re making progress losing all this weight. But, what happens? After you starve yourself you stare into the mirror wondering why does my body still not look the way I want it to? Or, why are my arms still flappy? Maybe even, where did my butt go? Unfortunately in fitness and in life there are no shortcuts to doing something right. So, I hate to break it to you, but you’re in it for the long haul.
Let me start by asking you this: why are you trying to get into shape? Is it for vanity or is it for your health? Are you trying to impress a bunch of people who don’t really matter or are you trying to take care of the one and only body that you have? And another thing, once you get fit, do you plan to stay that way? Or are you going to let all that hard work you just put in go to waste? If you read all those questions and still decided that you really want to be fit and be healthy then allow me to break some hard truths down for you. Whether you are looking to build muscle or lose fat there are certain things you can’t change. For example, the average person can not lose more than 1-3lbs a week of fat, unless you are extremely overweight or obese. And for those of you looking to build those huge arms here’s another one for you. The average person can put on about twelve pounds of muscle a YEAR. Still think you’re going to build that perfect beach body by next week? Think again.
I’m sure at this point a lot of you reading this are either discouraged or shocked. However, let me give you some peace of mind. You have TIME to make yourself fit, but you have to reframe your perception. If you try and rush the process you may see quick results, but you wont see long lasting results. Instead of focusing on trying to drop ten pounds this month for your wedding just to gain it back on your honeymoon. Try focusing on losing a pound a week and KEEP IT OFF. Because in the grand scheme of things being four pounds lighter for even a year is better than being ten pounds lighter for a week. Let’s look at it from an even bigger point of view. What happens when you starve your body to try and lose weight is your metabolism comes to a halt. Your metabolism is basically your body’s MPG (miles per gallon) or in other words how much energy you use every day to perform tasks. Now, your body is smart and it will adapt to what you put it through to a certain degree. As you begin to starve yourself your body will tap into your fat stores and your muscle mass for energy because it will try to get energy wherever it can since it is starving. This is what causes that initial big drop in weight at the beginning of an improper diet. However, once your body sees that it isn’t getting any more fuel any time soon (food) it will begin to hold on to everything. This causes a two fold disaster. On the one hand you have a loss of muscle mass which will equate to less total calories being burned every day. On the other hand you have your body in a state of starvation pushing any excess calories into your fat stores. So you may drop a few pounds, but if you take closer look at your body fat percentage you will likely see it hasn’t changed or it has even gone up.
What I’m trying to say here is, if you’re looking to get fit you have to take a progressive lasting approach. Instead of going at it all or nothing and jumping into a program that will burn your out. Try progressively adding activity into your life. You have to look at what you’re doing and ask “can I sustain this”, or “is this something I would be ok with doing for the rest of my life”. Some of the healthiest and happiest people I know spend no more than two to three hours a week in the gym. They simply live their life in a healthy way. Did they get that way overnight? Absolutely not. They slowly changed their habits and over time those changes led to them being a healthier, happier, better looking, and better feeling person. I promise you if you take this approach to fitness it won’t seem so overwhelming. Those looming deadlines and diet fad’s can really create a lot of stress in your life. So, take it slow. Enjoy the process. Once you change one thing it becomes easier to implement more changes, Then, before you know it you ended up looking and feeling exactly how you wanted to. All because you looked at fitness as a lifelong marathon and not a sprint.
What’s your opinion on keto? Have you tried Hebalife? What about Isagenix? I heard that stuff makes you ripped! Currently I’m intermittent fasting and I gotta tell you I’m already down 6 pounds in a day!
Any of this sound familiar to you? Seems like these days everyone is on some crazy fad diet they read about in a famous magazine. The thing is, all of these diets work to a degree. However, they are usually unsustainable. Keto makes you cut carbs completely out of your diet. Isagenix stuffs you so full of supplements and protein shakes you forget what real food actually tastes like. Herbalife can make you eat as low as 500 calories per day. Have people lost weight on these plans? Absolutely. So, in retrospect they work. But what percentage of people actually sticks to them? Also what happens if you fall off the wagon on one of these plans? I had a girl this week telling me she ate too many carbs after being in ketosis for a decent period of time and got so sick she had to call out of work. This happened to her multiple times. I used to date a girl who did Isagenix. She would lose fifteen to twenty pounds on it and the gain ten to fifteen back when she started eating real food again. All while spending hundreds of dollars a month on supplements. Herbalife is currently under lawsuit for some of the products they offer because they have caused serious health complications. Does any of this sound fun? Didn’t think so. Now don’t get me wrong results can be achieved through any diet as long as its done properly. But, what if there were an easier way? A way where you could eat normal food and shed the unwanted fat you’ve been carrying around trying so desperately to get rid of. Or maybe you want to add a couple inches to those arms so your shirts fit better. Well such a way exists. Let me teach you how.
The secret way to looking and feeling how you want is to slowly, and progressively change your lifelong eating habits. Why would you ever start a diet you didn’t plan to continuously follow for the rest of your life? If you do this you are setting yourself up for failure ninety percent of the time. It makes zero sense to start a diet to lose weight, to then discontinue the diet once you achieve your goal weight, to again gain the weight back in the first place because you never learned to control your daily habits and start all over. Or, to start a diet you absolutely hate that is unsustainable to any normal human fall off the wagon and gain more weight than you originally started with. Again, sound familiar? The best way to control your weight at all times is learning to have a good relationship with food. Food is a very simple thing. It’s fuel for your body just like gasoline is fuel for your car. We need food to fuel our bodies to do things everyday like go to work, or take a walk, or sit on the couch. Our bodies always require energy. However, unlike a car we can overfill our gas tanks. Which is something most of us do on a regular basis because we deserve that burger after a hard work week right? Well only if we want to regret putting on our pants in 5 months. Do we deserve that? No we have enough stress in our lives as it is. All food is fuel. Some fuel is better than others in cars as it is in food. Regardless we all need a certain amount of food to function every day. That being said, the more you do every day, the more fuel you will need. I’m sure it makes sense that the 200 pound weight lifter is going to need more energy than the 130 pound homebody. So if you’re trying to change your body you need to figure out what steps you need to take to achieve your goal. This means getting educated. Now, I’m not saying you have to take a thousand hour course in nutrition, but you will have to put some thought into it.
By now I’m sure you’re thinking well how do I figure out how much fuel I actually need? Well there’s a few ways. The first and probably simplest way is trial and error. Thousands, maybe even millions of people have lost weight without ever weighing a single piece of chicken breast. How did they do it? Well they tracked their progress and made smart decisions. Let’s say you want to lose fat. Get a scale, a body fat monitor (handheld can be bought on Amazon for $20) or use your gym’s, and get a tape measure. My best advice weigh, measure, and test your body fat every two weeks. If it’s not moving in the direction you want figure out what is going wrong. If your weight isn’t moving or is going up then you’re eating too much. If your weight is going down or staying the same but your body fat is going up you’re eating too little. Say you want to build muscle. The same three things are needed. If your weight is going up steadily and you are gaining inches in the areas you want you’re doing the right thing. However, if your weight is dramatically increasing or you’re gaining inches in areas you don’t want it’s time to back the portion sizing down a notch. Another way to do it is to use an app like MyFitnessPal. Apps like these have helped thousands of people achieve their weight loss goals and can definitely help people be more educated on their food decisions and nutrition label reading. MyFitnessPal will calculate how many calories you need every day and help you stay consistent with tracking your food. This process can get tedious, but I believe it’s a helpful tool for anyone looking to lose weight.
Now, this is the best part to both options I just mentioned. YOU GET TO EAT WHAT YOU WANT AND AVOID WHAT YOU DON’T, within reason. Obviously binge eating cakes will not really help you get anywhere. The most important part of this process is that you learn how to control the food in your life. A lot of people use crash diets as a crutch, and yes sometimes they work. But, all too often I have seen someone fluctuate in weight regularly getting on and off crash diets. So please, remove the word diet from your vocabulary,. Learn how your body works. And even enlist the help of someone more knowledgeable along the way. If you want continuous sustainable results, learn your body. Pay attention and be mindful of your food. If you indulge a bit here and there that’s perfectly fine. Being healthy is about enjoying your food and looking good. As a professional in the business I promise you that if you follow these guidelines you can look and feel the way you want without ever dramatically changing what you are used to eating and enjoy eating (again within reason). Stay strong guys and girls.
This is a very special post for me because for YEARS I worked out improperly. After years of doing it wrong I hired a personal trainer who helped me finally figure out how to get myself results. That being said I think anyone from seasoned athletes to brand new lifters who still use gloves can benefit from this post.
The first thing you need to do when building a workout program is set some goals. No, I’m not talking about “getting healthier”. I’m talking about clear goals. What does “getting healthier mean to you? Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to lose fat? Do you want to build muscle? Maybe you want all three. To be safe i would say set at least two goals. So, just to put some knowledge out there I’m going to cover all three goals.
1. Get stronger
Getting stronger is all about PROGRESSION. What does that mean? Well in basic terms it means overloading your body in small increments until the weight or exercises that you choose become easier. Now, let me break this down so you can understand it. Let’s say you want to get stronger on your bench press. There are a few ways you can overload your body progressively. One way is to add weight every two weeks. Once you can complete three sets of ten with a certain weight then you can increase the weight by five or ten pounds and drop the rep range to six or eight. Another way is to get stronger in complimenting exercises. The bench press uses the chest, shoulders, and triceps to press the bar off the chest. This means if you train all three body parts with different exercises the body will progressively get stronger. For your shoulders you could use military press and for the triceps you could use rope extensions. Another way to get stronger is to work out based on a rate of perceived exertion. For example; week one let’s say you lift 100lbs ten times at a rate of six (Assuming the scale of exertion is 1-10, one being the easiest, 10 being the hardest). Then week two you lift 120lbs eight times at a rate of eight. The following week you would lift 140lbs six times at a rate of ten. After this you would repeat the process adding five to ten pounds to each week (Week 1 105lbs x 10, Week 2 125lbs x 8, week 3 145lbs x 6). The last tip i have for this is to drop your rep ranges. Most people in the gym never venture out of the eight to fifteen range. Strength is best built in the one to five rep range. If you use one or all of these three methods you should see immediate results with your strength.
2. Build Muscle
So, this goes hand in hand with getting stronger. In order to build muscle you have to progressively lift more weight. But, there’s more to it than that. Building muscle also comes down to training volume. You can increase the volume of your training by adding sets and reps to your exercises. If you currently do three sets of ten you could change to doing four sets of twelve. Another way to increase the volume would be to use multiple exercises for the same muscle group. Going back to the previous example; if you currently use bench press for your chest you could add dips and incline dumbbell press to increase the volume. This brings me to my next point, hit the muscle from multiple angles. For the chest you could use a flat movement, a decline movement, and a fly movement. Last but not least, adding to the concept of volume is training whatever muscle group you want to focus on multiple times per week. For me personally arms was my hardest area to grow, which sucks because all guys want a nice set of guns. There was a time in my training that I was working them three times a week just to make them grow. Now, don’t misunderstand me. If you are a new lifter training arms three days a week is going to do more harm than good, but is a useful tip after you have some training experience under your belt.
3. Lose Fat
This is the big one. It is probably the reason most of you are reading this article. Everyone these days wants to “tone up” When it comes to fat loss you have to look at it two ways. One, how can I burn the most amount of calories in the shortest time. Two, how can I increase my metabolism so that my body will accelerate fat loss without having to insanely restrict my food intake. In my experience the answer to both of these questions is circuit training. Obviously circuit training is not the be all end all of fat loss. But, for the average person, it works the best in the shortest period of time. Circuit training has a two fold benefit. One, you are lifting weight so you are building muscle which will increase your metabolism. For every pound of muscle that you add your body will burn an extra 50 calories per day at rest. Two, circuit training keeps your body moving so you are burning extra calories by keeping your heart rate elevated. The higher your heart rate the more calories you burn. Yes, you can spend an hour on the treadmill, but you will only be burning calories not building muscle. So, for the average person circuit training allows you to burn a ton of calories while building muscle, and its fun. Let me be clear about this, fat loss comes from a total calorie deficit. You will never outwork an excessive calorie intake. Also as I said losing fat comes down to total activity and intake so it can be done without using circuits. But, in my opinion circuits will always reign superior for the average person. Another thing you can do to expedite the fat loss process is use compound exercises. Think about it squats burn moire calories than bicep curls because they are working several muscles instead of just one. Fat loss can also be achieved by simply doing more activity. If you are currently working out three times a week and your fat loss results have stalled try adding in another day of exercise. The most important thing to remember with fat loss is not to get stuck on the treadmill. A lot of people will run until their legs fall off only to realize that they aren’t getting the results that they want. Don’t get me wrong distance running burns a lot of calories, but once the workout is done your body returns to its normal state. Whereas lifting weights burns calories while you’re doing it and can even keep your metabolism elevated for two to three hours after a workout. Running also in the long term starts to slow the rate at which you burn calories during exercise. The reasons why this happens is when you run for long periods of time your body tries to become more efficient at using calories so it will hold on to them rather than use them. When you run for a long time your body becomes unsure how long the activity will continue so it adapts and burns less calories. This is why to any client that I have I always recommend weights first and then a small amount of cardio post workout.
So, now that you have all this useful information floating around in your head it’s time to put it all together. First, what are your goals? Once you have figured those out you can start building a program. Want to burn fat and build certain areas? Cool, use circuits that focus on total body movements but use more volume with the areas of your body that you want to target. Want to get stronger and lose fat? Cool, use circuit training with lower rep ranges and progression. Want to get stronger and build muscle? Awesome, use progression and volume. Train some days with low reps on the exercises you want to get stronger. Then train other days with more reps and sets for the body parts you want to build. Want to do all three? Split your training between circuits with low reps, and circuits with higher reps and more volume. Also add in some singular exercises for the areas you want to get stronger, and the areas you want to build muscle.
Well guys, i hope this helps at least a little bit. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to training, If anyone has anyone questions or wants to know more feel free to contact me. Stay strong guys.
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.