New Year’s Resolutions rarely stick, but I was dedicated to completing mine finishing a full marathon in 2011. I have had 2 knee surgeries, and had never been a runner, but the goal of finishing the December 2011 Honolulu Marathon was going to be a resolution completed. Chris and I were set up because he’s run a marathon, and that first session was the best blind date I’ve ever been on. I didn’t want to work with Chris to lose weight
Chris began training me in April 2010, and under his guidance I completed the Devil’s Challenge Triathlon in September 2010, and the Hot Chocolate 15k in November 2010. When we first began working together, I could not run a quarter mile. I had never run a mile in my life, and I was in terrible shape. During that first month of training, our workouts were long and somewhat hellish. But soon, I could feel myself getting stronger, my body getting leaner and more flexible,
I started working with Chris because my work outs were becoming very routine and I had hit a plateau. After working out 2 x 3 times a week on my own I decided to start sessions with Chris. That was in August. Because I’d never had a personal trainer I didn’t know what to expect and I was very surprised at how professional and methodical Chris approached my sessions. Right from the start he evaluated my level of fitness and designed a program to strengthen all areas that needed improvement.
I began training with Chris in October 2010. I had just signed up for my first marathon and was very apprehensive about whether I could complete the training required without getting injured in the process. I had never run a marathon or worked with a personal trainer before, but I had met Chris through a free PT session I earned from joining my gym. I followed up with him after and he was confident he could help me achieve my goals
Two years ago I decided it was time to get in shape. My main goal was to gain some muscle definition. I began working out with Chris and started to see results instantly. To This day I’m still progressing with Chris’ expertise and guidance. Not only have I grown stronger and obtained a better physical apearance but my self confidence has gotten a major boost as well. Training sessions with Chris have helped me to maintain consistant results and always give me that extra push I need to reach my greatest fitness goals.
For many years I dealt with constant back pain after getting up in the mornings, muscle soreness without doing any extrenuous activities. I would also be out of breath after going up the stairs to my 3rd floor apartment. Walking a couple of blocks would get me exhausted. So I was simply struggling with my every day life. In the past I have work with other personal trainers with no results other than guilt, more fatigue and the dissolution that I was not athletic at all.
Chris is an effective personal trainer. He is educated, certified and aligns my goals with the program that maximizes results. Chris is similar to the college professor; he notes my progress as I move through the circuits and shares my progress. He is conscientious of my health and injuries and has plenty of exercises in his toolbox should there be an issue with me being able to complete one of them. Chris pushes me to achieve results. I don’t trust anyone until they prove themselves to me.
I worked with Chris for about 8 months and man was it worth it! Not only did I see a change in the way I looked, but other people were noticing that I looked leaner and more toned too. I was already working out most days, but Chris helped me understand the best types of workouts for me (i.e., my moderate pace on the eliptical for an hour was not the most efficient way to exercise). I soon realized how much more effective my sessions with him were than the gym’s group classes too.
On the way to my long term goal of losing 120 pounds I hit a couple of serious plateaus, especially after i had lost 60lbs in the winter of 2007. I had seen chris work with other clients and noticed he tailored workout programs to meet each persons needs. I asked him to help me develop an exercise plan and give me some nutrition tips to help break this tough plateau. The plan he created was a great success. After i started working with Chris I broke my plateau and lost 30 pounds in 45 days.
Six moths ago I turned 25 and weighed 240 lbs. I needed a change. I decided to hire a personal trainer. That was the best decision of my life. As of today i have lost 32 lbs and 14 inches. I have gained new confidence and have an entire new outlook on life.
It is important to have a clear, specific, measurable goal. Such as: I will lose 15 pounds in the next 3 months. It is equally important to have process goals to go along with this. Such as: I will prep my meals each day; I will workout 3-5 days a week; I will drink 2-3 liters of water a day.
We talk a lot about process goals to help us achieve our outcome goal. Whether the outcome is losing weight, achieving better health, or having more time to spend with family, having process goals will hold you accountable and give you the structure to reach the outcome.
It is equally important to have a non-negotiable to help you stick to your process goals. Maybe your goal is to lose 10 pounds this month and you have a process goal of prepping meals for the week. A non negotiable would be: “At work I will only eat what I prepare for lunch each day. I will not eat junk that my company or co-workers bring in.” This will hold you accountable to stick with the process that will help you achieve your goal. Having 2-4 non-negotiables in place will help keep you on track and prevent you from slipping into bad habits.
At our last nutrition seminar a lot of our members brought up how challenging it is to stick to a plan when their company caters in low nutrient, high-calorie food like pizza or fried foods. These are the times you want to have the non-negotiable in place so you can stick to your plan. Think of it like dating. Would you settle for someone who smacks their lips every time they take a bite of food? If it drove you crazy I bet you wouldn’t. Think of your non-negotiable the same way. Don’t settle for less.
Many times people or events will tempt you to throw your non-negotiable to the wayside. These people may not mean you harm or they may not even understand that the actions they are asking you to take could damage your progress. It’s important to stay strong at these times. There will always be temptations out there that can sabotage you, deliberately intended to or not. Some people are jealous of success. Other people may be stuck in a rut, ashamed of their own situation and afraid to take action; they don’t want to see you succeed because what will that make them? It is important to realize that there will always be people and things that can get in the way of your progress. Stick to your goals and don’t let anyone negotiate with you on your non-negotiable.
You can develop a non-negotiable to become more productive and successful in any facet of life.
• “I want to be more productive at work.” Non-Negotiable: Turn off my cell phone between the hours of 10 and 4.
• “I want to spend more time with family.” Non-Negotiable: Schedule an hour when you get home to talk with loved ones free from distractions.
• “I want to eat more clean, whole foods.” Non-Negotiable: Every Sunday I will buy my groceries for the week. I’ll spend 5-10 min every night prepping my food for the next day.
The goal is not to become so rigid as to exclude new people and opportunities from your life. The goal is to establish a routine that will help you accomplish your goals, help you differentiate that which is essential to you. By declaring your outcome goal, defining the process goals that will help along the way and establishing a routine of non-negotiables you are choosing how to live your life so that you can become the best version of you that YOU CHOOSE.
I had two goals in mind when writing this blog. First, I wanted to dispel the myth/idealized concept that women should or need to look a certain way to feel attractive and confident. I also wanted to shed some light on how the right workout truly can help women look and feel better.
I had a conversation with a member this morning and she told me she has no desire to look like the celebrities she sees on TV. “I just want to be the best me that I can be,” she told me—which is coincidental because last night, when I was taking notes on how to write this blog, I wrote that the greatest goal is to be the best YOU that you can be.
We need to stop trying to look like celebrities we idolize or others in our lives that we envy. Be the best YOU that you can be. Stop trying to look like Kate Moss, or your skinny frienemy, or the tiniest woman on this season’s “The Bachelor,” or anyone else who will likely be the first to die in a time of famine.
This means it’s time to focus on moving better and without pain. Move well and treat exercises like the fundamental skills they are. Everyone should be able to squat without pain. Once proper form and movement patterns are established, you can focus on dropping body fat and building muscle.
I want to make an important distinction here that while you can drop fat and build muscle, your genetic potential doesn’t allow you to change the shape of your muscles. Much the same way it’s impossible to change how tall you are. When people say “I want arms like Cameron Diaz” or “I want abs like Brad Pitt,” that’s all well and good on some level. You can work on getting leaner and building muscle so you look similar to these people, but the reality is your muscles have a specific shape. While you can increase the size and density of your muscles, you can’t change their shape. The only way to look like your celebrity crush is to go back in time and switch parents before you are born!
Popular magazines love to throw out terms like tone, sculpt, lean and lengthen. These are all just overcomplicated ways of saying burn fat/build muscle. Toning is building muscle and sculpting pairs building muscle with burning fat. However, anyone who promises you long, lean muscles is full of it. I understand how women are attracted to the idea of long, lean muscles. I feel the same way and my eyes perk up whenever I hear promises of “huge guns!” But these are merely words someone is using to differentiate and sell whatever program he or she has designed. Does the program work? Maybe…maybe not. I can tell you that lifting 5-pound weights does not help anyone burn fat/build muscle or tone/sculpt/lean anything.
By this I mean lift like an athlete who is training for a sport, NOT like a meathead or an Olympic bodybuilder. It’s no wonder that many women are afraid to lift heavy weights, especially after seeing the way most dudes at big box-gyms lift: doing barbell curls in the squat rack at 6p.m. on a Monday, wearing a back brace and wrist wraps while he utters some guttural cry to show his dominance over the rest of the gym patrons, those who can’t maintain his lifestyle of eating 5 pounds of lean chicken breasts a day, all while drinking 3 gallons of water during a workout at the gym he’s living above (This way he can do his lifts at 6 a.m. and still fit in his cardio at 6 p.m.).
Yeah, no woman should want to lift like that—no man really should either. Instead, lift like someone who is training for a sporting event or athletic endeavor. To remain successful in your efforts to be the best YOU that you can be here are 4 training guidelines to keep in mind:
1. Focus on building fundamental patterns first. Progressively overload. Lift heavy weights with good form. Women shouldn’t be scared to go heavy. Try doing sets of 5-10 reps where you are struggling to get that last rep, but don’t go over 15 reps per set.
2. Stay away from cardio, and try interval training instead. It is much more efficient at burning body fat than steady state cardio. I won’t speak too much on this point as you can do a quick search and find countless literature to support this point.
3. Eat more veggies and avoid processed foods. Plus, make sure to eat protein with every meal. Aim for about 20 grams with each meal.
4. Recover. The key to getting leaner and stronger is to work at 100% and then recover 100% percent. This allows you to challenge your body in new ways and force it to adapt to the stimulus. If you are not fully recovered, you can’t workout at 100%. Here are my principals of recovery:
● Sleep/rest—Make sure you are getting quality sleep and letting your nervous system recover with leisure activity.
● Food—Use nutrition to help you recover. If you are working hard, you will need energy to fully recover and rebuild your body after breaking it down.
● Recovery workouts—Low or medium intensity workouts can help your body recover at a faster rate. The worst thing you can do after a tough workout is to sit at a desk for 8 hours. Try to incorporate a few light workouts to supplement/compliment the hard workouts you do each week.
● Self Care—Self myofascial release (SMR) or foam rolling can help break up adhesions in muscle fibers. It can also help shut off overactive muscles.
● Professional Care—Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and physical therapy. I swear by the effectiveness of all these methods and more. Don’t be afraid to try a new alternative. Most insurance programs cover all or a portion of these care methods. My general rule is that if it hurts for longer than 2 weeks, get it checked out. Seek professional guidance if it is needed.
Follow these guidelines and they will help you burn fat, build muscle, and feel more confident in your own skin. Most of the people I train are here because they want to feel better and they know that a proper training program can positively spill over into all aspects of life. Forget about those unattainable goals and impossible waistlines. It’s time to be the best YOU that you can be. Work hard and enjoy your recovery time. Personal fitness shouldn’t be about trying to look a certain way; it’s about feeling a certain way and letting that feeling enhance all aspects of your life and everything around you.
You’ve probably heard the term ‘muscle confusion’ tossed around by trainers. Some trainers are of the school of thought that routine is the enemy and that producing ‘muscle confusion’ through keeping workouts random is the way to go.
The problem here is that these trainers are full of shit.
Muscle confusion is a meathead term; random workouts produce random results. It’s kind of like taking your money to Vegas and then trying to rob the casino...you will end up with two broken legs and a sore back because your plan didn’t make any sense.
Now, I will say that you DO have to change your workout program. Keeping to one program works but it will only work for about 6 weeks. Having a strict routine doesn’t work for most people who have a life; keeping things random MIGHT work for a little while but there is no way to measure your progress effectively because it’s all random. And what will your long-term plan look like?
To get results and prevent injury, workouts should be thought of as part of a whole program, rather than a bunch of random activities strung together with a cavalier attitude. Most educated trainers will preach the benefits of a periodized program consisting of cycles. These cycles are designed to create specific adaptions to the stimulus and they have planned de-loading phases and recovery phases tailored to facilitate your goals whether that be toning, muscle building, fat loss, or strength and conditioning gains.
A general program can be broken down into 3 cycles:
1. Macro-cycle (pre-season, competition, post season, and transition periods between)
2. Meso-cycle (2-6 week training block focused on specific adaptions to occur during this 2-6 week period.)
3. Microcycle (1 week training blocks focused on specific set and rep ranges depending on the meso-cycle). Each Microcycle would contain 3-7 specific workouts based around the goal you wanted to accomplish.
The problem with this is that most people who are working out in a gym are not professional athletes and can’t always stick to a program 100% of the time. Pro athletes get paid based on performance and have every workout scheduled for them in advance. But most of us live in the real world and find that our programs can get disrupted: our kids gets sick, our extracurricular activities have already tired us out, or we’ve gotten a small injury that sets us back. The point is shit always comes up and we can’t just follow a strictly planned program perfectly.
Simple! Just follow these principles I outline here in this blog to create a Flexible Program that will still produce results.
1. Make strength training a priority.
The most important thing to help prevent plateauing is to focus on strength training. Think of how strong you are now as the base of a pyramid or the foundation of a house. The stronger the foundation the stronger you can build your house and the more stuff you can put into it. A stronger base will allow you to perform more work through the other layers. Interval training is important as well. Interval training can speed up the fat loss process by increasing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). But the stronger you are the harder/more work you will be able to perform during interval work. Aerobic work is less important if you are trying to build muscle/burn body fat/tone. Strength training should take precedent over other activities and anaerobic intervals should take precedent over aerobic activities. Nutrition and lifestyle will still be the largest factors but these can also be influenced by your workouts. For example, heavy strength training can help create a more optimal hormone level to promote fat loss and indirectly lead to different nutritional choices.
Focus on building yourself up so you can perform more activities. Long, slow cardio sessions burn fat but they also burn muscle (think skinny but flabby), slow your metabolism so you can’t enjoy as much food without increasing body fat, and make you more hungry. Focusing on strength training and building muscle gives you a bigger furnace to burn more fuel (calories). High intensity workouts (in the form of heavy loads or high tempo) will increase your EPOC so you are able to burn more calories even after you finish the workout. Strength training (along with proper nutrition) creates the optimal hormone balance for fat loss.
2. Make recovery a priority.
Your body makes progress in the response created by a stimulus and the recovery period that takes place after. If you are always working as hard as you can and not letting your body recover you will not only be slowing or preventing your own results you could injure yourself, which puts you even further from achieving your goals. The volume and intensity of a workout will dictate the amount of stress put upon your body. This means that with each increase in volume or intensity we also need to increase the time we spend doing recovery work. With any type of weight loss or performance enhancement program there is a StressRecoverAdapt protocol. You will put your body under an increased amount of stress (workout), then recover, then adapt and challenge your body in a new or harder way. This is how progress is made.
3. Focus on the intensity of workouts and manipulate the volume.
Intensity refers to how hard you are working or how heavy the load is that you are working with as compared to your 1-rep max and how many reps are performed. What is a 1-rep max? If you are doing reps of 1 it would be 100% as heavy as you can go, 5 reps would be around 80%. You want to match the load to the rep range. If you do 5 reps at a certain weight but could really do 10 it's not the same intensity level as your 1-rep max and you want to up the weight. Heavier weight and fewer reps implies higher intensity.
Intensity is very individualized. Several factors will affect the intensity of a certain workout. What is your starting level? Couch potato or former super bowl mvp? What is your experience with the subject matter you are dealing with? If you are a runner you may be very fit but not experienced with strength training. Even seasoned lifters will have a learning curve with nontraditional techniques such as sandbag training or kettle bells and therefore not get as intense of a workout as someone more experienced.
The intensity you put into the workout is the aspect that will give you the most bang for your buck, from a results standpoint. No matter what results you are seeking. It has been proven time and time again that better results are achieved (and in less time) from shorter, intense bouts of exercise with appropriate recovery after as compared to longer training sessions. The efficiency of a workout will decrease if it is much longer than 45 minutes.
Volume refers to the workload you are putting yourself through during any specific workout or any given workout program. The longer the workout and less rest you take (more sets and reps) the more time your muscles will be under tension and therefore, they are working longer. When we talk about training volume we want to think in terms of the volume or workload we put on our bodies during each workout and collectively over each cycle. The amount of volume you put into each workout as well as a collective cycle will have a huge impact on reaching your goal.
We want to slowly build on intensity first, and then add volume. At first you are going to step up the intensity of the workout. Once you are able to perform the lift well you will add volume, e.g., more sets/reps/load. We will also build in de-loading phases and recovery to allow for adaptions to occur.
A beginner, or any seasoned athlete who has taken some time off, should start with moderate intensity and low volume. As your fitness level becomes more advanced you will want to increase intensity and also increase the time spent in recovering from the intense sessions. Volume will increase exponentially during the course of your fitness journey as a natural result of demand for increased intensity as you adapt to exercise.
Avoid long, high-volume sessions in the beginning. If you become adapted to high-volume workouts too quickly you will have to keep increasing to get continued results. At some point you will run out of time, energy, willpower, or all the above. Start small and add volume slowly. If you start with a lot of volume or long workouts you will run out of hours in the day. “Ain’t nobody go time for that!”
4. Follow a plan but make sure it has some flexibility.
Try to plan your workout schedule around events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and my birthday (kidding) whenever possible. If you are going on vacation, schedule it as the reward or recovery period after finishing a program. If you are out of town on the weekend, try to get the harder and more intense strength workouts in while you are in town; save the lighter workouts for the road.
If you are working with a trainer, tell your trainer any changes to your schedule that might affect the workout program. Ask them to write a workout for you if you are on the road or research bodyweight exercises on your own and schedule time to do them.
You CAN make it work! I’ve seen countless moms, doctors, bartenders, and teachers all make it work. Stick to a flexible program, get the workouts in, work hard when you do them, and enjoy your recovery time!