Wednesday, July 6, 2016

10 Things I'd Do:

Pretty much on a daily basis people ask me what they should do to get in shape, lose weight, feel better etc.  Basically, people ask me what I would do if I were them.  How would I go about feeling, looking, and performing my best again?

And as I’ve said countless times before, the answer is “It depends”.

It depends on your goals, your circumstances (like lifestyle and schedule), the results of your physical assessment with us, and a few other factors.

But there are 10 things that I would do that would apply to just about anybody’s situation.

So if I weren’t ecstatic with how I looked, felt and performed, here’s what I would do to right the ship and get back to being the best version of myself.  In no particular order…

  1. I would establish what I REALLY want.  People always come into the TR and say “I want to be fitter”, “I want to be more toned”, “I want to be stronger”.  Those are way too vague.  I would decide “I want to have more energy when I play with my kids”, or “I want to look better in my clothes”, etc.
  2. I would set small a goal and build off of it.  I’ve never seen anyone set a HUGE goal like “Lose 20 pounds in 6 weeks!”, or “I want to be 10% body fat”, make it and stick to it.  Not once.  I would set a small, realistic goal – then when I achieved it, I would reevaluate before setting another.
  3. I would choose one food to remove from my diet.  Going cold turkey on everything that’s bad for you is very difficult.  But I would accept that something has to give – I would choose one food item I know is unhealthy and remove it for a week.  If I didn’t miss it, great.  If I was dying without it, I’d try a different one.  But I would accept something has to give with all the crap we ingest.
  4. I’d add protein and fiber to my diet.  Protein controls hunger hormones and keeps the metabolism up.  Fiber slows the rate of digestion.  These two things have an enormous impact on body fat and overall health, and almost everyone I meet initially isn’t getting enough of either.
  5. I’d schedule my workouts and stick to them.  “I’m getting to the gym this week” does not work.  I’d put my workouts on my schedule and stick to them.  Nothing short of an emergency would keep me away.  (And here’s a tip – it’s almost NEVER and emergency).
  6. I would do only high value workouts – only things that would have a big impact on my success.  There isn’t enough time to waste on things that aren’t driving you toward your goal.  (Yes, even if they are fun, or make you feel good.)  That’s fine for other reasons, but it won’t get me what I want.  For example, if I want to lose weight, yoga isn’t going to help. If I want to decrease joint pain, jogging won’t help.
  7. I would consider the source.  99% of people who give fitness advice have never trained anyone but themselves.  (And no, working out and having people follow along is not training someone.)
  8. I would ask for objective help.  It’s difficult to see the forest through the trees.  This is a cliché for a good reason.  I’m fortunate enough to have good trainers with me at the TR – I always ask for feedback on what they see/observe when I’m working out.
  9. I would evaluate my situation and formulate a plan.  Many roadblocks and obstacles can be avoided if they’re spotted ahead of time.  For example, if I had 4 hours per week to workout, planning workouts that took 6 hours would be a bad idea.  If I had a bad knee, putting joggin on my program would be a bad idea.
  10. I would accept responsibility.  People who blame lack of time or money for not being healthy are lying to themselves and don’t really want to be fit and healthy in the first place.  That’s fine, it doesn’t make them bad people – but if I’m going to look, feel and perform my best again I’m not going to be a victim.  I’m going to control my choices.

Again, there are aspects that are specific to you based on your goals and your circumstances.  But with very few exceptions, I would do the above if I were starting out again and wanted to look, feel, and perform my best.


Jon

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Facts About Flexibility

One of the more ironic aspects of my job is my relationship with social media.

On one hand, it’s a crucial tool that helps me connect with many people about fitness, exercise and health.

On the other hand it is the single biggest source of absurdity in the realm of fitness, exercise and health imaginable.  Seriously, some of the advice I see on social media about exercise is so nonsensical it’s almost surreal.

And although the foolhardy have no specialization – they are equal opportunity attackers of common sense - today I want to talk to you about flexibility.  It just may be my bad luck, but it seems like lately I’ve been bombarded with tips on stretching and advice on how to stay flexible.

And I’m here to tell you 99.9% of it is absolute bullshit.

Two of the more problematic issues with flexibility are that a) it’s a FAR more complex process than most people realize, and b) there are almost countless variables that go into someone’s level of effective flexibility.

So it’s impossible for me to cover such a broad topic in a blog post, but I can help with the facts to get you going in the right direction.

Facts.  No BS. No sales pitch. No outdated, dogmatic, social media garbage.

Keep these things in mind as you attempt to improve your flexibility as part of your overall fitness program:

The Facts about Flexibility:

·        Stretching Does NOT Prevent Injury

Biggest.  Myth.  Ever.  There is no evidence anywhere to suggest stretching prevents injury.  If it did, there would be no injuries because we would all just stretch and be 100% healthy.  Professional athletes would never be injured.  (Seriously – what am I missing…?) I could write a book alone on how silly this notion is…

·         Stretching May Create Injuries

There are areas of the body – the knee and lower back for example – that have very limited movement capacities.  Making them more mobile increases the chance of injury there.  Knee and low back maladies are on an almost epidemic level, due in part to excessive “looseness” there.

·         Looser, Relaxed Muscles are Not Better.

When it comes to muscle tension, “loose” isn’t better.  Muscles are always at varying lengths of tension to keep joints in their place.  But they need to have the very specific, and always changing correct amounts of tension to allow adequate movement without excessive movement that would create an injury.  Looser muscles often lead to joint hyper-extensions and dislocations.

·         Muscle Length is Controlled by the Central Nervous System

Controlling the tension described above is a very complicated process that is always occurring subconsciously in our central nervous systems.  It is a complex process and also a very dynamic one – the only way to improve it is to be in motion so the brain becomes more adept at controlling and maintaining the appropriate levels of tension described above.  (Because that’s how we use flexibility in life – we move.)  Stretching a muscle and holding it for an extended period does NOTHING to improve that process.

Am I saying “don’t stretch”? No. 

I am saying it’s probably not doing for you what you think it is, so be careful.

And apply the FACTS, not what the Instagram model doing yoga says to do.

About the author:


Jon holds a Masters’ Degree in Exercise Science and the topic of his research thesis was “The Correlation Between Static Stretching and Injury Prevention”.  He’s overseen thousands of training sessions and despite intense workouts, the next time a client pulls a hamstring, groin muscle, etc. will be the first.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Research suggests..." Whatever...

Let me preface what I’m about to write with the following statement:

I am NOT anti-research.  Research certainly has its place. 

But…

Practitioners drive research.  Not the other way around.”  (A great trainer said that to me once.)

There is what you know, and there is what you can implement.”  (A different great trainer said that to me a different time. J)

And in my decade and a half in the business of getting people healthy, lean and strong, I can tell you unequivocally that both of those statements are true.

So even though I’m not “anti-research”, I do urge you to take everything that begins with “Research suggests…” with a grain of salt.

The experience of a long time, successful practitioner, is a FAR more reliable source of information than the research you will see in the news, online, etc.  This experienced practitioner is a person who has tried all of the theories, with real people under real circumstances, as opposed to people who are sequestered from their real life for the period of weeks to be studied.  (Here’s some inside information for you:  ANYONE can lose weight when they’re taken out of their environment as occurs on TV and in some research studies.  The real question should be can they lose body fat while living in their homes, going to work, having social lives, etc.)

Practitioners deal with the latter every day.  He/she can tell you if something will work in your case or not, because of the variables mentioned above and others.  He/she can tell you that the “research” may make sense on the surface, but with anything more than a cursory glance, will reveal itself as non-applicable.  Typically, the research may have left some very important, pertinent information out.

You may be wondering what got me off on this rant…J  As usual, no single thing – just a buildup of reading “Research says this…”  and “Research says that…” crap that I decided I needed to clarify things for the public.  Consider it another one of my fitness Public Service Announcements.  Although, I did see an article recently that pushed me over the edge – more on that below.

Because, as you know, I am not funded by a third party to do research.  I am funded by people like you, who know I’ve been doing this a long time, and know I know how to get results.  Incidentally, in almost all cases, the people paying for the studies have a financial interest in the outcome of the study.  Yet another reason to be mistrustful of research…

Nor am I spending my career in a lab or controlled environment.  I work with people like just like you.  People who...
  • can’t just simply go away for 6 weeks to a military camp or “The Biggest Loser”.   
  • live with spouses and children who may not want to eat healthy the same way they do.
  • don’t want to live like a monk.  They want to have social lives with friends and family and not have to overthink their eating habits when with their friends and family. 
  • can’t quit their jobs, that although provide a living, cause health problems due to the sedentary nature and stressful environment.

The Trainers at the Training Rim work with these people every day.  I’ve been doing it regularly since last century.

So when you see a research study that suggests something, take it with a grain of salt.  But if you’re serious about knowing whether or not the results can help you – ask an experienced practitioner.  (And no, your neighbor’s wife who has a niece who is a part time yoga instructor is NOT an experienced practitioner.  No, your kids JV football coach who has the keys to the school weight room, is NOT an experienced practitioner.)  An experienced practitioner can tell you if the information can help you or not – and why.

Next time, I'll link the article that preciptitated this rant...sorry, "blog".  Stay tuned...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Scary notes on Consistency

As you know, I’ve been doing this a long time.  I’ve been exercising myself since the mid to late 80’s and I’ve been observing people exercise more or less since the mid 90’s.  So I’ve always known that training inconsistently would bring inconsistent results, but recently I read a few eye openers.

Dr. Robert Lustig, generally considered a leader in the fight against body fat (to those of us who pay attention - sorry to disappoint you if you thought Jillian Michaels was a leader…J) listed some of these scientific tidbits in his most recent book:

The benefits of exercise, which are numerous obviously, are short lived and have to be frequent and sustained:
  • Studies demonstrate that levels of PPAR-gamma coactivator 1-alpha (the protein in muscle cells that turns on all the metabolic raising effects of exercise) decline within 24-48 hours of cessation of exercise. 
  • Insulin sensitivity returns to baseline within 15 days.  And as the TR has mentioned ad nauseum, if you can control your insulin, you can control your waistline.

I think that's WAY more drastic than most people who train inconsitetnly realize.  If you want to use exercise as a tool to fight against a large waistline and chronic disease, you’ll need to be consistent about it.  If you take the “weekend warrior” approach to fitness, you’re probably wasting your time.

Set a schedule and stick to it.  Put your workouts on your planner and get them done.

As we say at the TR, half assing your workouts will only get you half an ass J


Jon

Monday, February 2, 2015

“Man: He sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”

-          The Dali Lama, when asked what surprises him the most about humanity.

This quote resonates with me because I’ve seen or heard examples of this on an almost daily basis for the better half of two decades now.

I’ll have someone tell me they can’t train with me because of their work schedule – they’re just “too busy” - on a pretty regular basis.  They’ll come to me to exercise “When work calms down…”

I’ll have a TR member tell me they need to skip a training session (or sessions) because something came up with work, or things are “real hectic at work right now” on a regular basis as well.  It’s usually followed by the obligatory, “If I don’t go to work, I can’t pay YOU!” justification – as if I’m the one who’s going to suffer if their self-abuse isn’t allowed to continue. J

And anytime I hear this logic, I think of the Dali Lama quote, and I follow my situation through to its logical conclusion:

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating:

You are going to pay for your health at some point one way or the other.

You can be proactive about it, and invest in a good training program NOW that will save you a small fortune down the road.

Or you can get caught up in your “work” and ignore your health by not paying for it – YET.  But as sure as you are reading this, if you go that route, you WILL pay for it at some point.

You’ll have to get yourself an orthopedist, a cardiologist, a physical therapist, an oncologist, etc.  It’s going to cost way more than a trainer and it’ll be much less pleasant.  Not sure how much your quality of life is worth, but it’s going to be a lot worse and a lot more costly if you go that route.

Trust me, I get it – life gets hectic.  I own and operate a small business.  I have a “to-do” list that could choke a horse.  But I will NOT allow that to get in the way of my health or quality of life.  And because I’ve been doing this for years, I have the benefit of knowing many people for a long period of time, so I can say relatively assuredly:  People who prioritize their health look, feel and perform better over long periods of time.  People who don’t make their exercise and health a priority, do not look and perform their best, but they end up paying for their health anyway (again, usually in an unpleasant manner).

And oddly enough, I’ve never had anyone disagree with me on this.  Yet they’ll ignore the message anyway and continue the self-defeating behavior.


It’s your call.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Moderation, my ass.*

“Everything in moderation”.

How many billion times have you heard that one?

I’m here to tell you folks, it’s complete B.S. to all but a very few people.

First of all, “moderation” is a relative term.  A cocktail “every now and then” to one person means every other month.  To another person it means every other trip to the kitchen.

Secondly, moderation is for people who already have what they want.  As I said that’s a VERY small group of people.

Specifically with regards to people trying to lose body fat, it’s an infinitesimal group of people.  I’ve spent a good chunk of my life working with people trying to lose body fat and almost nobody looks at their body and says “Nope.  There’s no extra fat/skin anywhere on my body thatI wouldn’t like to trim down and tighten up.”  The next person I hear say that will be the first.

So put the above together and what do you have?

Moderation is a good way to NEVER get to your fat loss goal. 

Moderation is for AFTER you get to your goal and you’re OK with “maintaining” until you decide what your next goal is.

But as I mentioned, that’s very few of us.

If I’ve learned anything in the decade plus I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned you will never lose body fat being “moderate”.

Be bad ass.  Be hard core.  Pick a fight with body fat and kick its ass.

If you got in a real fight would you say “Moderation is the key, here.”?

Hell no, you would fight HARD!

Same with body fat.  Set a goal and be 100% committed to it until you get there.

Start exercising correctly and take the crap out of your diet.  If you aren't sure what those things are, ASK.  Don't be ashamed - have you looked around lately?  Most people don't know what those things are...

It doesn’t have to be forever. 14 days, 3 weeks, 28 days - something like that.  (Why do you think most diets and weight loss contests are around those lengths of time?  Because it’s long enough you can reach a goal but short enough you can be compliant.)

And those lengths of time are really not that hard to commit to.  Unless you are SERIOUSLY weak minded and weak willed - you probably aren’t.  Unless you won the lottery of weak willed, you can go a few weeks without (insert food) and (insert drink) in your diet.

Give it a shot.  Get serious about it.  When you reach your goal, then you can reevaluate “moderation”.



*I got the idea for this blog from Dan John and Thomas Plummer, two of the most well respected people in the world of health and fitness.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This is a waste of time:

I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating:  Monitoring how many calories you burn during an individual workout is a complete waste of time.

That is akin to counting your calories at one meal but ignoring how much you eat the rest of the day.

If the goal is fat loss (it should be – I’ve never met anyone who wanted to gain body fat), then the focus shouldn’t be on the caloric expenditure of your workout.  The focus needs to be on your resting metabolic rate (RMR).  This is how many calories you burn at rest over 24 hours.

The point of an individual workout, and exercise in general is to raise your metabolism so you’re burning more calories 24/7/365.

That is a crucial point about health, fitness and fat loss that many people just don’t get.  Many people still focus on how many calories their workout expends with no concern for whether or not their exercise selection is ramping up the metabolism.

This is why (again) you can’t lose body fat by performing long duration “cardio”.  It’s not intense enough to raise your metabolism so your body stops burning calories as soon as you stop exercising. 

And unfortunately you’ll never be able to out exercise or out cardio your food intake.  Jogging two miles burns about 300 calories.  That’s a very small meal that just wiped away the caloric expenditure of your jog.


Make sure you choose exercises and workouts that raise that metabolism so you become a calories burning machine – you won’t need to count calories from individual workout.  And remember, genetics do play a role in your metabolism, but whatever yours is can be improved.  Your metabolism, to a certain extent, is a choice.