Nuts and Bolts of Fitness Coaching

I label myself a fitness, health, and performance coach. The reach of fitness and health is broad, wide, diverse and expansive. It’s almost impossible to quantify the power your physical and mental fitness has on the rest of your life. No matter how successful you may be in other areas of your life, if you don’t have a high standard of fitness and health, you will lack performance.

My approach is simple. Get fit. Be healthy. Stay confident. Fit. Healthy. Confident. It flows right? I believe in coaching for one simple reason: accountability. In most areas of our lives deadlines imposed on us by others. Appointments, due dates, responsibilities, etc. all work to structure our weekly flow. When adding something personal into that mix, such as fitness training, it is paramount that the importance of this addition is treated as highly as those imposed on you by others. This is where your accountability coach comes in.

A few tools I employ to make sure you stay on track and have success:

  1. Private Fitness Training App/Website
  2. A requirement that all fitness and health activities be recorded and tracked.
  3. Sunday night check-in.
  4. Upgrade: “live” training via facetime, skype or other video calling service.
  5. Consequences for non-compliance. If you aren’t participating, you are gone.

Do you run a marathon to get to the finish line? Seems like a lot of hard work to simply stop the clock, right? No, you run a marathon to experience the journey along the way. From the day you commit to the process your life begins to change. No excuses. Do what has to be done to be successful!

Sustainable Approaches To Health and Fitness

The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body. Exercise and athletics are growth. -George Sheehan

How to get the most results / success / gains / change, from the least amount of training? We all want answers to this question. As a fitness professional, having a template that conforms and applies to all individuals would be a dream. Countless hours have been spent trying to create such a product, or system to no avail. Yet, the consumer still desires, and in many cases expects to be offered such products (shake weight, 8-minute abs, 10 minute trainer, perfect pushup, etc…). Substantial physical change requires a lifestyle intervention, drastic measures, and extreme discipline. What are you willing to invest?

  1. Seek improvement and enhancement. Is this visual? Probably not so much. Can you feel it and describe it? Definitely. Does it make you happy? Hopefully. This can be an exercise, a series of exercises, an activity, a sport, or a competitive challenge. Enjoyment. Engagement. Improvement.
  2. Work with a coach, trainer, or specialist to get feedback. This is time well spent. Confidence builder. Very helpful in the day to day, week to week process.
  3. Career enhancement. We spend most of our time working on and in our careers. A huge portion of our life’s satisfaction comes from our chosen careers. Most of us are professional workers, not athletes. What exercises, workouts, and activities can help correct physical imbalances obtained from our jobs? How can they enhance my ability to perform at work? Can being more physically fit help me advance my ___ career? These are the questions to ask yourself, repeatedly.
  4. Know the Impact of Your Choices. If you are a top physician, researcher, educator, or attorney, etc. deciding to invest 15 hours each week into training for a triathlon most likely will have a negative impact on other areas of your life, in which you are already successful. Your optimal fitness may be obtained with as little as 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5 days per week, and 15 minutes of strength training 3 days per week. Simple, right? Knowing the best, most practical approach to your lifestyle demands is key.
  5. For many of us the endurance activities are all we will ever need. Jogging, cycling, walking, hiking, playing… loving and committing to every moment of it.

The time benefit equation is delicate and constantly evolving. Understand yours, be flexible and forgiving, and optimize your fitness practice to give your life the most benefit.

Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse. Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing. We are our bodies, our bodies are us. Satisfaction is such a minor thing. Joy is what we want. -George Sheehan

Notes on Nutrition

Notes on Nutrition

Success lies in the details. Success is personal. Success is rarely the same for any two people, let alone a legion of individuals seeking to become the best THEY can be. Self-discovery is a journey, which for many starts with just plain being fed up… fed up with their image, lack of energy, lack of lust for life, or an unfulfilled biography.

Nutrition habits are best represented by journaling. Keeping track of what you eat and consume all day long. It’s often not a conscious act, but an impulsive satisfaction of cravings, repeated throughout the day. The process of journaling is very educational. By tracking eating habits we can then correlate those habits with digestion, mood, energy, and sleep quality. Often this simple task is enough to get clients to immediately change their eating habits. It’s easy to substitute foods and increase nutrient quality of the food we eat. It’s also easy to drink more water, less alcohol, soda, and coffee.

Elimination diets are too quick to be adopted and don’t last. A lot of people are quick to blame gluten, bread, or dairy for their obesity, poor digestion, and other health related issues. For others it can be a completely unnecessary and expensive “journey” into very strict dieting and eating habits. Usually it’s unbalanced consumption along with lack of movement that creates the problem, not the entire food category. Keeping a journal and recording quantity consumed helps immensely.

What works for me, may not work for you. A few years ago I eliminated gluten for intestinal issues I was experiencing, thinking I must have a intolerance. What was lacking though, was balance in my diet. Too much of one food group and not enough of another was the main culprit. It’s a huge relief to know that you don’t need to avoid a food group for the rest of your life. Self-discovery is the key. Our gut is very sensitive. If we are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety in our lives it shows in our digestion and eating patterns. Seeking balance and being accountable to your nutrition is the answer.

I eat pretty much everything. I avoid trans fats and overly processed, as well as fried foods. I enjoy cooking. I drink lots of water. I make one or two smoothies every day and eat a large salad every evening. This works for me. Nutrition is taken care of. I enjoy food and yet I recognize that as an athlete, food is fuel. This is who I am.

Choices… everything is a choice, when movement is a foundational element in your life these choices become much easier and more positive. Tip the scale in your favor every single chance you get!

SMOOTHIE RECIPE:

  • 20-30 grams protein (whey concentrate, vegan, plant)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup blueberries (frozen)
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 handful of spinach or kale (fresh)
  • 1 tbsp raw almond butter
  • add ice cubes if you’d like, just a couple should suffice.

SALAD RECIPE:

  • spinach, kale, or arugula (couple handfuls)
  • chopped broccoli
  • diced red/orange peppers
  • diced tomatoes
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • dash of feta

WATER:

  • drink to thirst
  • quench often
  • always have a water bottle with you, within reach
  • helps body eliminate fat, impurities, toxins
  • cold water is an excellent thirst quencher, as well as coolant during extreme heat
  • drink half your body weight in ounces of water:
    • Jake = 160 lbs, Water = 80 oz … minimum standard

 

Body Fat Training

BODY FAT TRAINING

Tackling the challenge of changing body composition is an exciting journey. When you are ready to begin, both mentally and physically, that motivation and energy needs to be immediately harnessed to a plan of action. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to address some of the key tenets of body fat training. This is indeed a general overview, but my intention is for you to walk away with a greater understanding of how I approach these situations with my clients and create programming that gets results.

The presence of an excess amount of body fat is a clear and quantifiable sign that you are lacking balance. I’m not a big fan of “BMI”, but in most cases (non-athletes) it does the job.

Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

BMI

Weight Status

Below 18.5

Underweight

18.5 – 24.9

Normal

25.0 – 29.9

Overweight

30.0 and Above

Obese

Height

Weight Range

BMI

Weight Status

5′ 9″

124 lbs or less

Below 18.5

Underweight

125 lbs to 168 lbs

18.5 to 24.9

Normal

169 lbs to 202 lbs

25.0 to 29.9

Overweight

203 lbs or more

30 or higher

Obese

The first box is your status given your BMI. Very simple, and straight, forward information. The second box is giving the weight ranges based off of a height of 5’9”.

Working with a weight loss client, my initial assessment always incudes weight, body fat, and BMI measurements. These give a solid baseline to work off of moving forward. Nutrition is the next topic of conversation. Here I utilize a food journal. The client is assigned the task of writing down everything they eat and drink for a week. This only works if 100% honesty is given. From this I can establish patterns and ask poignant questions (the “why”). Body image is a process. We begin by working backwards, creating a roadmap that got you to where you are now. We then work forwards with new planning, techniques, and strategies to cement new habits into your lifestyle.

My expertise and main area of interest is in prescribing and planning effective training sessions based on goal and desired outcome. We first must establish what type of movement you enjoy, or have enjoyed in the past. If you’ve lost weight before, what worked? How long did it work for? Why did you stop doing it? Answers to these questions help us in your program design. Your complete physical activity history is crucial in this process. If you liked playing co-ed volleyball in college, there is a good chance you might enjoy group exercise, and a more social setting for your fitness. If you enjoyed distance running, there is a good chance you may enjoy cardiovascular fitness training. These are just two examples, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to fitness training for weight loss. The first is the idea that long, low-mild intensity cardiovascular workouts are the best way to go. The theory here is that it takes 30 minutes for your body to begin burning stored fat; so a more patient, persistent approach to exercise is needed. These workouts are 60-70 minutes. The second school of thought is that it is best to utilize high-intensity interval training to attack fat loss. These workouts include maximal effort intervals, followed by periods of rest and generally last about 30 minutes total length. The catch with high-intensity intervals is that they increase EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This causes an increased metabolic effect, burning calories throughout the day, giving you a larger total caloric expenditure.

Both of these methods work. Not everyone will have an equal preference for one over the other. My opinion is that you should utilize both methods in your weight-loss training plan. The more discipline we can place in your physical and nutritional life, the more effective and efficient we will be in achieving success. The confidence that will come from knowing you can, and have done, both methods is not to be taken lightly.

The next piece of the programming puzzle is strength training. Here our goal is to increase your lean body mass, build your confidence in your body, and make you more efficient. Strength training is the bind that ties. You are building a new you, laying a solid and broad foundation for the future. Specific, personal, and customized planning is employed to ensure you get the biggest bang for your investment (time). These sessions are generally 30-45 minutes of full body circuit training. Our focus is on movement, not simply resistance, weight, and repetition.

When we train to decrease body fat and improve our body image we are essentially changing our lifestyle. We are instilling healthy habits that are repeated throughout each and every day for the rest of our lives. This creates permanent, lasting change.

Last, but certainly not least. It’s not easy! Arm yourself with a strong supporting cast, and an eagerness to stay the course. Invest your time and resources in knowledge and guidance. Never stop learning and experimenting with your own life.

Intervals

Intervals

I just finished reading an article in the New York Times about HIIT, or, high intensity interval training. The title of the article, “How to Get Fit in a Few Minutes a Week” caught my eye, as titles like that usually do. The article does a good job of using science and study to give evidence based recommendations to the reader without too much complication in application. The concern is benefit and improvement in aerobic endurance capacity.

The “hacking” of fitness and health is extremely popular. The common theme is that we don’t have time to workout anymore. One hour of physical activity is just too daunting of an endeavor for the common human. The reasons why this is so are far too many to discuss here, so in interest of sticking to the topic I’ll move on to the nuts and bolts of interval training.

The body adapts very quickly to the stress we place upon it. If we do the same thing, at the same intensity day after day, week after week, our improvement stops, and as is often the case, overtraining and a loss of fitness can take place. Not good. Doing intervals is an effect way to layer differing intensities on top of a solid base aerobic fitness foundation.

  • What I mean here is that after running 50 minutes, 6 days per week at a moderate intensity, for 8-12 weeks it would be wise to substitute a couple higher intensity interval workouts into your week. You’ve got a base, now we can work on getting faster, building speed and power, 30 seconds of very hard effort followed by 60-90 seconds of recovery jogging, for as many as 10 repetitions.
  • Or, speaking in terms of strength training, instead of doing 4 sets of 15 kettle bell swings or burpees, resting between sets you would do 8 sets of 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This varied demand takes us out of a certain comfort with the exercise and training, forcing us to adapt and become more efficient in the movement.

These are just two examples of application. Implementation of interval training is not a daily occurrence. Recovery is essential to improvement and sustained fitness gains. A good standard to follow is 48 hours between these workouts. Here, we are not talking about complete rest. It is always advisable to perform a lower intensity, endurance based or corrective exercise on these recovery days. Looking at our week of training, usually 6 days, we can space these sessions on days 1/3/5 with our targeted aerobic/endurance or corrective/recovery workouts on days 2/4/6.

Creating a flow in our training is essential. When thinking of efficiency don’t focus on cramming the workout into 8-12 minutes of pure sprint/recover training. Instead focus on optimization of those 30-60 minutes you are working on your fitness. In the gym take 3 full body exercises: burpees, kettle bell swings, and ball slams. Use an 8 x (:20/:10) or 4 x (:30/:30) format for each exercise, resting 3-5 minutes between them. Simple and effect application for 4-6 weeks, followed by assessment of progress toward your goals is the standard assignment.

Remember. Know your desired outcome (point B). Whether you are trying to get fit from a long period of inactivity, diligently training for a competition, or fixing a problem or weakness in your fitness (mental, physical), you need to keep an accurate assessment of your training.

As Dr. Phil Maffetone (endurance athlete coach)  says: Work + Rest = Training