Strategies for Overcoming Plateaus

The dreaded plateau: Anyone in the fitness game long enough will most likely encounter one.

It typically goes like this: You’ve been consistently working out for several months, eating better, feeling great overall and becoming excited that your clothes are starting to fitting loose — everything is working!

Then all of a sudden, the magic abruptly stops. What gives?

Unfortunately, the human body can be quite stubborn. It is continually seeking a homeostatic state, making it resistant to consistent change. The truth is, your body would prefer to keep the status quo and is very smart when it comes to adapting to exercise and dietary changes.

This can create a great deal of frustration, especially when it comes to fat loss. Essentially, it becomes a chess match against yourself.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to troubleshoot if you find yourself in this situation. Outlined below are some strategies that can help regarding the three areas that might be the source of frustration: nutrition, exercise or recovery.

Remember: It’s a chess match, and it’s more effective and easier to determine what is working by making one change at a time.
Also remember that the body inevitably has to comply as long as you stay the course. Be patiently persistent and stay one step ahead at all times, and you’ll put that plateau in the rear-view mirror for good.

Nutrition

As contradictory as it may sound, it could be that you’re not eating enough.

While a reduction in calorie intake works in the beginning of any weight-loss attempt, eventually your metabolism will actually slow down.

This is because the body’s survival mechanism kicks in. The body gets to a point where it senses a lack of control and the possibility that it is being starved. When this happens, our thyroid actually begins to produce less calorie-burning hormones, and our progress stops.

A trick that can be used to avoid this is “caloric cycling.” Rather than continuing to take in the same number of calories each day, we throw in a higher-calorie day one to two times per week.

For example, if you have been consuming 1,500 calories per day, bump your calorie intake up to 2,000 calories after three consecutive low days. This signals to your body that you are not going to starve, and there is no need for survival mode.

Also, make sure you are getting good-quality, nutrition-dense food every day. This allows our bodies to adequately refuel from workouts, rebuild muscle and help maintain high amounts of energy. Remember that it takes calories to burn calories.

A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables at every meal, quality carbohydrates, protein-dense foods and healthy fats.

Remember that carbs should be reserved for postworkout or physical activity if fat loss is a goal. This is because the body is most tolerant of carbohydrates after a workout than any other time. Also, it will help refuel the body without any carbohydrate “spillover” into fat storage.

FITNESS

Undertraining: It’s easy to get lulled into the same routine. If you find yourself consistently doing the same exercises, sets, reps and same mode of cardio week in and week out, then this is simply a case of adaptation setting in. Quite frankly, it’s time to take it to the next level.

This involves disrupting your comfort zone. You can do this by either increasing the number of reps or the amount of weight you are lifting during strength-training sessions. If your cardio sessions have been strictly steady-state up to this point, try mixing in some interval training one to two times per week.

Overtraining: On the flip side, there is such a thing as trying to do too much. When results come to a screeching halt, the natural instinct is to think: “Well, I just need to do more!”

All of a sudden you are doing everything under the sun: Tabata, weights, running, kickboxing, zumba, workout videos — anything and everything. Slow down, killer!

The body needs to recuperate from the demands that are placed on it. By continuing to keep the foot on the accelerator, we can actually start losing results — or worse, you can get injured.

Working out too hard for too long can overload the hormonal system, create chronic inflammation and increase the production of cortisol, which makes us more likely to hold on to fat stores.

So rather than adding more exercise at that plateau, give your body a much-needed break by taking one to two weeks off from structured exercise and replacing it with some light recreational activity instead.

Sometimes just giving your body a moment to breathe is all it needs to reboot to the updated and improved version of yourself.

Try switching modes of exercise: This is a simple, yet very effective method. You’re not changing anything exercise-wise, just gaining a new weapon of choice. Regarding strength training, this may involve switching from machines to free-weights, free-weights to body-weight exercises, barbells to dumbbells and so on.

The same goes for cardio machines. Try the rowing machine or step mill if you have been glued to the elliptical for the last two months. Any switch-up is worth trying. Surprising enough, this does the trick in a lot of cases.

Train for an event: This shift in mindset can be the magic ingredient for a lot of people. It’s important that your fitness routine address more than scale. Weight loss can be an emotional roller coaster, and many people aren’t willing to stay on that plan for the long haul.

The scale can have you jumping for joy one day and crying the next, but the exhilaration of crossing the finish line at a Color Run or conquering a Spartan Race is something that will stay with you forever.

And more often than not, the pounds will continue to come off as a result of your training. So in addition to creating good memories and getting into fabulous shape, you become lean and mean in the process.

RECOVERY

Unloading: Recovery is the yin to the yang of exercise. As previously stated with overtraining, sometimes it’s a matter of giving the body a chance to actually adapt to the training demands that are being placed upon it.

At a minimum, you should “unload” with a lighter workout week every four to six weeks of training. It’s during this period that our body finally gets a chance to play catchup and physically adapt to the training demands placed upon it.

This is where we experience increases in strength and endurance as we carry over into our next training cycle and even experience more reduction in the fat loss we’re after. You can unload by cutting your workout times in half, decreasing your intensity or simply just participating in recreational activity.

Sleep: Sleep is huge. Let me say that again. Sleep. Is. HUGE! And it may be one of the reasons why you’ve hit a plateau.

Sleep has been said to be the “athlete’s steroid.” The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven to eight hours a night. It is during this time that we produce human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is important in tissue repair, healing, muscle growth, brain function, bone strength, energy, endurance and metabolism. Additional benefits include improved cognitive function, increased reaction time and better immune system function.

There isn’t really any downside to getting adequate sleep, and it’s a critical part of continuing to get results from training and feeling 100 percent.

Jason Wanlass is the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian. Contact him at championfit@live.com or championfit.net.

Consistency and Purpose for Weight Loss Success

Woody Allen once said, “80% of success in life is showing up.”  I would argue the same goes for fitness.  While the process may be a little more detailed there’s still merit to the claim.  Simply sitting on the couch and wishing for a better body, more energy and endurance, more libido (minus the blue pill), and quality health sure as hell isn’t going to happen by itself.  Also…going balls to the wall for one month out of the year doesn’t offset eleven months of being stagnant either.   You need to take action…consistent action.  Think marathon…not sprint.  Results take time…the goal is longevity.  Besides…what’s the hurry anyway?!?  I HAVE TO LOSE 20 LBS IN 3 WEEKS!!!”  Why?  Are you going to die in three weeks…and you want to look smoking hot in your casket?  Do you think you get to quit once you get there?  I’ve got news for you…there is no finish line in this!  It’s not a race.  It’s about expansion.  Think of it more as a high jump.  We don’t set the bar at two feet, successfully jump the bar and think we’ve made it.  We continue raising the bar.   Seriously…let go of the idea of being done.  It really is about the journey not the destination in this circumstance.  And ultimately what you’ll come to find is the journey is much more gratifying than any destination you originally had in mind.  But first, let me ask you a question…what motivates you?  And for the love of God…please don’t say: “To lose weight!”  Losing weight is simply a bi-product of the process.  I’m not trying to discard its importance and I respect that it’s a hot button for most people.  It can drive you for a little while…but there will always be a deeper part of you left unfulfilled.  Even if you do hit your goal weight, you’re left with…now what?  Or even worse…the fear of the weight coming back.

The reality is, as humans we always want more for ourselves.  Fitness isn’t any different.  Complacency has no foundation to keep us going.  But finding your true purpose will.  And then you’ll feel no reason for haste.  You’ll become engulfed in the process and release your attachments of what you thought you were after originally.  Then seemingly it all magically comes together.  Body…mind…purpose…continual expansion…and belief in yourself.  So…what’s my advice to you?  Go inward.  Be still. Be quiet.  And ask…why?  Why am I doing this?  What is my purpose?  What do I truly want out of this?  And lastly…be patient.  It may take a day…a week…a year…a lifetime.  But never stop searching.  The answer is there…but you have to ask first.

Bryan (Far Right) at 250 lbs from 2003-2005.

Enter my client and friend Bryan Wheeler.  Like most, Bryan’s purpose in working out was wanting to “lose weight.”  Gym membership…check.  Steady mix of cardio and weight…check.  Boredom beginning to set in…check.  It wasn’t until 2005 when his mother-in-law invited him to do a triathlon that things began to shift.  And to be more specific, getting beat by your mother-in-law can create spark!  Bryan recalls,  “It was a humbling experience losing.  I dabbled in other types of exercise, but found that training for endurance events was more rewarding.  The triathlons have helped with the boredom, has created a fun bonding experience by participating with friends and family, I have made new friends, and even inspire current friends with their goals.”  Since 2005, Bryan has competed in over 20 endurance events which includes, seven Ragnar Relays, several (he can’t recall an exact number…awesome!) half and full marathons, seven triathlons, and is currently training for the Half Ironman this June!

Catching some waves August 2011

And guess what?  A funny thing happened along the way. Bryan lost weight…70 lbs to be exact!  He began at 250 lbs. in 2005 and now weighs 180 lbs. today.  And you know why?  He kept showing up.  It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, Bryan only averaged 0.7 lbs of weight loss per month.  How many people do you think would give up on a strict “weight loss only” quest at that rate?  Thousands?  Millions?  Doesn’t seem too inspiring from that stand point does it?  You have to remember days turn to weeks…days to months…and years to a lifetime.  Slow and steady results…just like a marathon.

Bryan’s just like you.  He battled with self-criticism, negative self-image, and defeatist self-talk.  His metamorphosis came over time with small victories and surrounding himself with positive supportive people to re-program himself to the person he his today.

70 lbs. leaner and meaner in 2014

The moral?  Find a deeper purpose.  And it doesn’t have to be just like Bryan’s story.  I’m not saying go out and become a triathlete.  I’m saying…explore beyond the scale.  Try new activities.  Take up hiking…mountain biking…skiing.  Join a sports league.  Get into martial arts.  Search…for as long as it takes.  And make your own story.  Be an inspiration to someone too.  Your friends…your family…your kids…your neighbors.  If you do…there are no words to describe the magnitude of the impact you’ll have on everyone around you.  The weight loss is just the added bonus.

Now…are you ready to keep showing up?

 

Get more results in less time: High-Intensity Interval Training

Most people’s primary motivation for working out involves weight loss. The original school of thought for optimal results was performing a minimum of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at a moderate intensity three to five times a week in conjunction with resistance training two to three times per week. But in today’s world, most of us simply don’t have that much time to commit to the gym. The good news is we may not have to.

A multitude of recent research studies have shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has the potential to be just as effective for burning fat, increasing strength and improving cardiovascular endurance.

Researchers from the city of Eugene’s FitCity Wellness Center completed a 10-week study. Twenty-one people participated in HIIT three times per week with workouts finishing in just under 30 minutes. The results? Participants showed reductions in body weight, body fat percentage and circumference measurements. Another study published in The European Applied Journal of Physiology showed metabolism to be in an elevated state for up to 16 hours following intense exercise. And from a fitness perspective, the Journal of Applied Physiology did a study measuring the cardiovascular response of a high-intensity program and found endurance actually doubled in the high intensity group.

Now this isn’t at all to suggest we should completely eliminate longer workouts, especially if your goals are endurance-based. However, considering how precious time is in today’s society, isn’t it wise to incorporate short, intense workouts into the mix? So the question is, how does it work?

In a nutshell, HIIT workouts typically involve total body strength and conditioning exercises performed in a quick, all-out intensity for 20 seconds all followed by a 10-second recovery. This cycle is repeated for a total of four minutes, and HIIT workouts usually last between 20 and 25 minutes (5-6 cycles), not including the warm-up or cool-down. The goal is to work as quickly as possible but without compromising form.

And on that note, because of the intense nature and speed of the workout, it’s recommended to incorporate only exercises that primarily use body weight, resistance tubing or a medicine ball (5-10 percent of body weight). This will ensure better form and minimize the risk of injury. HIIT workouts should be self-paced and adjusted to your fitness level. If you are just starting an exercise program, I recommend at least 12 weeks of aerobic base conditioning, muscular endurance training and mastering the exercise technique before adding HIIT to your routine.

Now that you’re ready, try this challenging circuit that is guaranteed to get your heart pumping and your muscles burning for more!

Burpees: 

 
Start in a standing position with your feet hip width apart.  Lower into a squat and place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart. Hop or quickly walk your legs behind you until you are in a pushup position.  Quickly hop or walk you legs back underneath you and jump into the air.  Perform 2 cycles (20 seconds work/10 seconds of rest) then move to the next exercise.

Resistance Tube Punches:  

Wrap a medium to heavy resistance tube around a solid anchor point at chest level threading it all the way through.  Grab the handle with your right hand and position your body with your back facing the anchor point in a split stance with your left leg forward. Stand far enough away so there is slight tension in the tube with your right arm cocked at your side.  Engage your abdominals, and explosively rotate your hips while pressing/punching your right arm straight forward towards 12 o’clock and then quickly return to the starting position, repeating the movement fast.  Perform 1 cycle on the right and 1 on the left (20 seconds work/10 seconds of rest) before moving to the next exercise.

Split Jumps:

  

Begin in a lunge position with your left leg forward and your right leg back.  Jump into the air scissoring your legs so you now land with your right leg forward and your left leg back landing both feet simultaneously.  For modification, add a stutter step by letting your forward leg land prior to the back leg landing.  Perform 2 cycles (20 seconds work/10 seconds of rest) then move to the next exercise.

Medicine Ball Slams:

Stand with your legs hip width apart with your arms hanging just below your hips holding a medicine ball.  Keeping your core tight, quickly raise the ball overhead and slam it down to the ground catching it on the bounce.  Repeat as many repetitions as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 then repeat for 20 more seconds.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 18 years experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at championfit@live.com or www.championfit.net.

Strength Complexes Get Fast Results

It seems every summer is the same. Life simply gets … busy. Kids are out of school, there are vacations, you’re working more hours and still trying to maintain anything remotely close to a social life.

With the mad shuffle, it’s our fitness routine that usually gets put on the back burner first. Why? “I don’t have time to spend an hour at the gym.” Well, you may not actually need an hour. In fact, you might get more out of your routine now in as little as 20 minutes using strength complexes.

Strength complexes are similar to circuit training with one exception: We limit our workout to one piece of training equipment. This can be in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, TRX, barbells – anything, really – as long as it’s simple and allows for a wide variety of exercises.

The advantages of using one training tool are: First, it minimizes setup time; and second, it allows us to move seamlessly from one exercise to the next without moving to another station.

Strength complexes come with many fitness advantages as well. Not only are they great for building strength, but they are highly effective at improving cardiovascular endurance. Also, strength complexes come with a high metabolic, which taxes our bodies more in less time, yielding a higher-calorie expenditure post workout, higher fat loss, etc. And lastly, strength complexes utilize total body movement, which is what our bodies were designed for. If you watch an athlete or people move in general, you see that movement involves multiple regions of the body.

Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball, picking up your kids or putting away groceries, these actions require multiple muscles to fire and work synergistically. So, by using full-body strength complexes, we experience a better carryover effect for our recreational activities and day-to-day living.

OK, here’s how we set it up:

Choose your equipment: The only rule for this is choosing something that can be taken anywhere in the gym, preferably where you have ample space to maneuver. My favorites are the TRX, dumbbells, barbells, resistance tubing, medicine balls and kettlebells. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; simply know that each has its own advantages, and any of them will suffice.

Pick a rep scheme: There are countless options when it comes to choosing reps. Typically, strength complexes are more endurance-based.

I recommend working with lighter loads and training at higher reps due to the high demand of the workout. Anywhere between 10-15 reps per exercise/combo works great. Another option is performing each exercise for a specific time, typically between 30-90 seconds per exercise.

Exercise sequence: Again the sky is the limit. Pick two or three combination exercises (e.g. barbell deadlift/row) or four exercises that focus on a total-body movement (e.g. lunge with lateral raise), a pressing exercise (e.g. overhead press), a pulling exercise (e.g. dumbbell row), and a squat and/or lunge. The goal of the sequence is to use all the movement patterns of the human body.

The workout: Once you have your exercises and reps selected, perform your strength complex for a 5- to 10-minute block of time, resting only when needed. This will get your heart pumping and your muscles burning in no time. Rest between 1 and 3 minutes and repeat, performing a total of 2-3 blocks.

There you have it. A killer workout in 20-30 minutes. Outlined below are three strength complexes to get you started.

To see a video of these complexes click here

Barbell strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.

1. Alternating lunge

2. Push press

3. Deadlift to barbell row

Dumbbell strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.

1. Squat to lateral raise

2. Single leg squats

3. Renegade row

TRX strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.

1. Pistol squats

2. Wide row

3. Pushups

4. Hip press

Metabolic Conditioning

Most people’s primary motivation for working out involves weight loss.  Traditionally, experts suggest doing a minimum of thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise at a moderate intensity three to five times a week in conjunction with resistance training two to three times per week.  Realistically most of us can’t commit that much time to the gym. The good news is we don’t have to!  Current research shows you can burn more fat, increase your strength, and improve cardiovascular endurance in less time by utilizing  high-intensity, low volume training into your routine.

One study compared the effect of a 20-week endurance training program with that of a 15-week high intensity in terms of body fat loss and muscle metabolism.  Researchers found a bigger decrease in body fat in the high intensity group compared to the endurance group (Smith 2002).  Another study published in The European Applied Journal of Physiology showed metabolism to be in an elevated state for up to 16 hours following intense resistance exercise (Schuenke, et al. 2002).  From a fitness perspective, the Journal of Applied Physiology did a study measuring the cardiovascular response of a high intensity program.  The results?  Participants’ endurance actually doubled (Burgomaster et al. 2005).

While the research isn’t to suggest we completely eliminate longer workouts, especially if your goals are endurance based.  However, considering how precious time is in today’s society, isn’t it wise to incorporate short, intense workouts into the mix?  The question now is how?  While there are several methods to high-intensity training, one of the most popular and effective choices is metabolic conditioning.

In a nutshell, metabolic conditioning is a high intensity circuit workout using a combination of strength training exercises and cardio conditioning drills at a higher repetition. The goal is to complete the workout as quickly as possible while staying around your anaerobic threshold for maximal challenge and energy expenditure.  In most cases, circuits are three sets with a minimum of fifteen reps performed per exercise with minimal rest between exercises.  The workout usually lasts between twenty to thirty minutes (not including warm up).

Metabolic workouts should be self-paced and adjusted to your fitness level.  If you are just starting an exercise program, I recommend at least 12 weeks of aerobic base conditioning, muscular endurance training, and mastering lifting technique before adding metabolic conditioning into your routine.

Now that you’re ready, try this challenging circuit (See Video) that is guaranteed to get your heart pumping and your muscles burning for more!

Alternating Lunges w/Dumbbell Curl & Press:  Start in a standing position while holding a pair of dumbbells. Step forward and sink into a lunge holding the down position.  Remember to keep your knee behind your toes.  Perform a bicep curl immediately followed by an overhead press.  With control, bring the dumbbells back down to your sides and lunge back to the standing position.  Alternate sides until you complete a total of 10 reps per leg.

Burpees:  Start in a standing position with your feet hip width apart.  Lower into a squat and place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart.  Hop or walk your legs behind you until you are in a pushup position.  Immediately hop or walk you legs back underneath you and jump into the air.  Repeat for a total of 15 repetitions.

Pull ups or Weight Assisted Pull ups:  Grab the pull up bar with your grip just wider than shoulder width and you palms facing away from you.  Pull yourself toward the bar keeping your chest out and driving your shoulders down away from your ears until your chin is above the bar.  With control lower yourself back down to the starting position.  For modification, use a weight assisted pull up machine if needed.  Repeat for a total of 15 repetitions.

Split Jumps:  Begin in a lunge position with your left leg forward and your right leg back.  Jump into the air scissoring your legs so you now land with your right leg forward and your left leg back landing both feet simultaneously.  For modification, add a stutter step by letting your forward leg land prior to the back leg landing.  Repeat for 20 repetitions.

Pushups:  Depending on your strength start in a pushup position from your toes or knees with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.  Keeping your body straight from head to toe/knee, slowly lower yourself towards the floor until your arms are bent at 90 degrees.  Using control and staying aligned, push your body back to the starting position.  Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed throughout the movement and repeat for 20 repetitions.

Medicine Ball Slams:  Stand with your legs hip width apart with your arms hanging just below your hips holding a 6 to 20 lbs. medicine ball.  Keeping your core tight, quickly raise the ball overhead and slam it down to the ground catching it on the bounce.  Repeat for 20 repetitions.

The power of Omega 3

Most of us know the value and benefit of taking a multivitamin.  Today’s food lacks the amount of nutrients our bodies need day in and day out.  Supplementing with a multivitamin can obviously help minimize deficiencies we may have.  And while a multivitamin should be a staple in almost everyone’s diet, an additional supplement that should be regarded as equally importance is an Omega 3.  Omega 3 also known as linolenic acid, is a polyunsaturated fat and is part of the “healthy fat” family.  Supplementing with Omega 3 and consuming healthy fats helps improve our cellular function be keeping the cells fluid and more pliable. In contrast, high amounts of saturated fats (animal fats) and trans fatty acids found in processed foods diminishes function by making our cells hard and rigid, Omega 3 consumption can make it easier to balance things out in our body.

Traditionally Omega 3s were taken primarily to help improve cardiovascular health, but recent research has shown that the benefits go well beyond improving heart function.  Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to:

  • Improve nervous system and boost immune health
  • Increase fat metabolism and improve weight loss
  • Decrease risk of diabetes and certain cancers
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Improve function for those with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
  • Aid in workout recovery
  • Improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
  • Improve airway dilation

You can see why many doctors, therapists, and nutritional experts are so fond of Omega 3s.  While many fatty acids can be synthesized by our own body, Omega 3 must be obtained through diet and supplementation.  Foods high in Omega 3 include; walnuts, hemp seeds, fish (wild salmon, light tuna, shrimp, etc.), chia seeds, flax (Ground or Oil), soy nuts, olive oil.  Try to add at least ½ -1 serving to each meal/snack throughout the day.  In addition to food, it is recommended to take a daily Omega 3 supplement as well.  The minimum recommended daily amount is generally 2-3g per day in either liquid or capsule form.   However, research has shown as high as 9-10g/day may be recommended in certain cases. Consult with your physician to determine the correct dosage for you and start reaping the benefits of this super supplement!

Additional Resources:

www.dietarysupplemntu.com

www.consumerlab.com

www.pubmed.com

www.precisionnutrition.com

www.pubmed.com

Sources:

“The Essentials of Sports and Exercise Nutrition, 2nd Edition – John Berardi, PhD; Ryan Andrews, MS, MA, RD

www.consumerlab.com

What do you believe?

With 70% of the American population being overweight and/or obese it shouldn’t come as any shock that countless people want to improve their health and maybe shed a few pounds.  Obviously changes need to be made regarding diet and exercise, but one area that is often overlooked is a person’s mindset.  Believing ultimately can make or break one’s success.  We see this all the time in professional sports, business, and even fitness.  Having a vision for what needs to be accomplished, the drive to achieve greatness, and most importantly…believing is critical.  Henry Ford says it best, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”  Simple and true.  The battle is won or lost long before you even set foot in the gym.

But it’s  a little more than just belief, you have to shift to a mindset of “positive outcome.”  In other words, focusing on what is desired opposed to what is undesired.  Esther and Jerry Hicks, authors of the “Law of Attraction” looks at it from this perspective:

“From your place of lack, you will attract only more of that, and that is the reason most diets do not work:  You are aware of your fat – you are aware of your body looking the way you do not want it to look – and so when it gets bad enough that you cannot stand it anymore (either from your own perspective or because others are scowling at you), then you say, “I can’t bear this negative place anymore.  I’m going to go on a diet, and I’m going to get rid of all this stuff that I do not want.”  And yet, your attention is given to the stuff that you do not want, and so you hold it to you.  The way to get to where you want to be is to give your full attention to what you do want, not to give your attention to what you do not want.”

By overly examining what you do not like about your body and/or physical health only perpetuates the problem.  There needs to be a paradigm shift for true change to take place.  You need to “Believe it before you see it.”  How is that possible Jason?  I look in the mirror and the mirror doesn’t lie!  I realize we live in a society of “seeing is believing” but I simply encourage you to reflect for a moment on everything that has changed in the world throughout your lifetime.  Fairly recently, we didn’t have cell phones, internet, ipads, etc.  Even television hasn’t been in existence for 100 years!  Bottom line, people have vision and the ability to believe it before they see it!  The same rule applies when it comes to our bodies and physical health and the body will go only as far as your mind will allow it to.

Here are a few tips to help shift your focus and achieve the body, health, and life you desire.

Write down your goals:  The more specific the better.  But remember to state them in a what you want to happen manner.  For example:  “I want to lose 20 lbs in 6 months.” “I want to lower my blood pressure to 120/80 or less by next year.”  “I want to fit into my old swimsuit by June.” I want to improve my flexibility so I will feel better.”

Create your vision:  More specifically, create a poster board of what you want your life to look like.  Find pictures of yourself when you were looking and feeling your best.  Do you have fitness goals like running a marathon, competing in a triathlon?  Maybe you want to take on new recreational hobbies like rock climbing or martial arts?  Find images of these activities and put them on the board!  You could even go beyond fitness with your vision.  Images of places you want to vacation, a certain vehicle you like, the amount of income or job you desire, the sky is the limit.  This is a powerful too!  Having a image to view daily naturally puts your subconscious to work towards your goals.  Try it…you’ll be amazed at how effective it is!

Surround yourself with positive influences: Post inspirational quotes throughout your work and home space, read self improvement books, write daily affirmations, and surround yourself with positive people who mutually want you to succeed.  Remember…positive attracts more positive!

Want to change your life in 30 days?  If you make a daily commitment to perform these three action steps, you will be amazed how much better you will look and feel.  Everything will seem like it’s naturally falling into place.  It’s your life!  Take control, take action, and become the person that you truly deserve to be!

Recommended Reading

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Don Miguel Ruiz

100 Ways to Motivate Yourself – Steve Chandler

The Law of Attraction – Esther and Jerry Hicks

Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson

 

 

 

The 5 keys for fat loss and optimal fitness

People are always in search for the “secret” to weight loss and optimal health.  I’ve been in the fitness industry for 18 years now and I’m here to tell you…there is no secret! While there are a lot of factors that will make or break one’s success for optimal health, I have found there are five keys to it all.  By following and using these five keys not only will you have a greater chance of achieving your fitness and weight loss goals, but you are more likely to enjoy the process as well!

KEY #1:  NUTRITION IS 90%

Two Studies with the Same Results

The University of Texas and University of Oklahoma recently conducted a 16-week weight loss study. Two different groups were measured, an exercise group and a control (non-exercise) group.  Each week the exercise group performed three hours of strength exercise with an Olympic weightlifting coach and circuit training for two hours with a group exercise instructor.  During the study, researchers collected data on body composition and a host of other measures.  As expected, the exercise group did get better results…but not much:

  • The control group gained 1 lb of lean mass, lost 0.5 lb of fat, and lost 0.5% body fat
  • The exercise group gained 3 lb of lean mass, lost 2 lb of fat, and lost 1.5% body fat

WHY? No nutritional adjustments were made for either group!

Bottom line, for true health and successful weight/fat loss, you must eat a balanced and healthy diet.

What habits consist of a “balanced and healthy” diet?

Slow Down! Many of us eat way too fast.  It takes about 20 minutes for our sensation of fullness to kick in.  The pathway from our stomach, to our brain, and back is long.  If you eat too quickly, you are more likely to overeat by the time your brain can communicate it’s time to stop.  The long term goal should be taking 15-20 minutes to consume each meal.  I know this may be too ambitious for a lot of us and that’s okay!  Just by slowing down by 1-2 minutes can make a big difference.  From there you can work towards the 15-20 minute goal.

Stop Eating at 80% Fullness: Rather than eating to the point of fullness, focus on eating until you are no longer hungry.  In conjunction with slowing down, this again will allow plenty of time for your brain to communicate that it’s time to end the meal.  Many benefits come of this, including better overall appetite cues, improved digestion, and increased performance with your workouts as well.

Eat every 2-4 hours: When you go prolonged periods without any food, your body goes into conservation mode simply because it doesn’t know when the next meal is coming.  As a result, the body holds onto any excess fat storage which a lot of people would prefer do without.  By eating smaller and more frequent meals this will keep your metabolism running at higher levels throughout the day and is more likely to let go of the extra stores.   

Eat Fruits and/or Vegetables with Each Meal: There is a good reason why mothers harp on their children to eat their fruits and veggies!  Nutrient dense and low in calories, fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and actually help buffer the body’s acidic response to protein and grains.  One medium sized fruit, ½ cup of raw chopped fruit or vegetables, and 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables each equal one serving.  Aim for 1-2 servings per meal.

Include Protein Dense Foods & Health Fats:  Up to1 serving (20-30g) for women and 2 servings for men (40-60 g) should be included with each meal.  A portion size of protein is visually about the size of the palm of your hand.  Protein dense foods include lean meats such as ground beef, chicken, turkey, bison.  Other great protein sources include salmon, tuna, eggs, cottage cheese, tofu, beans, etc.  Also, a mixture of fats should also be part of a balanced diet.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K, are critical to optimal human function, and can only be absorbed by the body with adequate fat in our diet.  Eating a variety of meats, cheeses, nuts, olive oil, and a fish oil supplement are all great ways to getting our daily dose of fat.

Eat “Quality” Carbohydrates: Cut back on the processed, sugary carbs like juice, white flour, muffins, etc and focus your efforts on eating more whole food and fiber rich carbs.  This includes a mix of vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grain breads and pastas, quinoa, long grain rice, etc.  Typically, vegetables, beans, legumes, and most fruit can be consumed often and at any time of the day.  For breads, pasta, and rice, ideally these should be consumed after workouts or physical activity, especially if fat loss is a goalPrimarily this is because the body has its highest tolerance of carbohydrates post-workout than any other time. This will help refuel the body without any carbohydrate “spill over” into fat storage.    

Great Nutritional Sources:

cleaneatingmag.com

eatright.org

healthykitchensmakeover.com

precisionnutrition.com

KEY #2:  YOU NEED A STRONG SOCIAL SUPPORT GROUP

 Social Support: “Network of individuals that provides feedback, constructive criticism, and encouragement for one’s lifestyle choices.

“You are the average of the five people closest to you.”  How does your social support group look?

  • Does your spouse/partner follow healthy lifestyle habits such as exercising regularly, watching what they eat, and taking nutritional supplements?
  • At your workplace, do your coworkers regularly bring in treats like     cookies, donuts, and other snacks?
  •  If you go out to eat more than once per week, do the people you dine with order healthy selections?
  • Do you belong to any clubs, groups, or teams that meet at least twice per week and do some physical exercise (this does not include a gym membership)?
  • Do the people you live or work with schedule activities for you that interfere with your pre-established exercise time?

If most of your answers made you raise an eyebrow…then you may need to align yourself with a stronger group.  It’s not to say that you need to sever all ties in your existing relationships, but you do need to be aware if you have any “Crabs in your bucket.”

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs.   Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that members of a group will attempt to “pull down” (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, conspiracy, or competitive feelings.

Strategies to overcome the “Crab” obstacle

  • Encourage your friends, family, and co-workers to join you in social events that compliment your goals (healthy dinners, physical challenges, group workouts).
  • Join a network of individuals that work towards common goals.  This can be a hiking/running group, a recreation sports league, or fitness club.
  • Consider hiring a professional.  IDEA, the international health and fitness organization found that 75% of individuals that workout aren’t getting the results they want.  And of the 25% who were, 90% of them work with a personal trainer.

KEY #3:  HAVE S.M.A.R.T GOALS

Saying “I want to lose weight” is not enough.  Goals need to be focused, and realistic.  A common acronym for goal setting is SMART, Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Reward Based & Realistic, and with a Timeframe.  “I want to lose 20 pounds of body fat in 6 months and then I will get myself that new swimsuit.”  This is a great example of a SMART goal.  Not only does it cover each component, but it is realistic as well.  Since the recommended range for permanent weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, a goal of losing 20 pounds in 5 months is honest and very achievable.

“A Goal without a plan is just a wish.”  In other words, action needs to be taken!  Include five steps with each corresponding goal for the coming year.  Your steps should be conducive and relate directly to your goals.

Here’s how it looks using our same weight loss example:

SMART Goal:  Lose 20 pounds of body fat in 6 months

Action Step #1 – Get a gym membership by the end of the week

Action Step #2 – Do 45-60 minutes of cardio on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays

Action Step #3 – Do strength training for 1 hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Action Step #4 – Eat 4 to 6 small healthy meals/snacks per day

Action Step #5 – Drink 10 to 12 cups of water every day

Notice how the action steps focus on behavior not the outcome.  With a behavior focus, the goal becomes framed around activities that are under your control.  With this approach we detach from the outcome, but ultimately our behaviors shape the outcome.

More examples:

  • I will commit to completing at least 90% of my scheduled workouts for the next eight weeks.
  • I will commit to only one “free meal” per week for the next eight weeks.
  • I will commit to eating breakfast everyday for the next eight weeks.
  • I will commit to taking a multivitamin and an omega 3 supplement daily for the next eight weeks.

KEY #4:  YOU MUST TRAIN WITH INTENSITY

Fat Burning Zone Myth

The discussion usually begins like this, “If you work too hard during cardio you’ll burn less fat!” Yes, the myth of the “fat burning zone” is alive and well! I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 15 years and it still amazes me that this topic still exists. But, with cardio equipment manufactures continuing to display low intensity training as “fat loss” on their monitors and a percentage of fitness consultants still prescribing low intensity cardio as the most effective method for weight loss, it’s no wonder that the confusion still exists! The question is why?

Specifically the “fat burning zone” is 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. Past research has shown that you burn a higher percentage of fat while training at this intensity. People were quick to conclude that this must lead to more fat loss. The problem with this theory is the most important factor is left out, the rate of calories being burned. Also, fat is still being used at higher workout intensities and ultimately will result in more fat calories expended overall. Take for example, the average exerciser burns approximately 8 calories/minute while training in the fat burning zone with approximately 50% coming from fat. Compare that with an exerciser working at 70-80% of max heart rate (“Cardiovascular Zone”) the rate increases to 11 calories/minute on average with approximately 40% of fat being used. The final result:

Fat Burning Zone (50-60% of max heart rate)

• Approximately 50% of calories come from fat

• Approximately 8 calories/minute are expended

• 60 minutes x 8 calories/minute = 480 calories

• 50% x 480 calories = 240 fat calories

Cardiovascular Zone (70-80% of max heart rate)

• Approximately 40% of calories come from fat

• Approximately 11 calories/minute are expended

• 60 minutes x 11 calories/minute = 640 calories

• 40% x 640 calories = 264 fat calories

The cardiovascular zone yields more for both total calories and fat calories burned! And as a bonus, your fitness levels will improve even more! This is key, because the body will begin to burn more fat during and after workouts. This happens because the body begins to spare carbohydrates, a process known as “glycogen sparing.” Since carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel, and since we have a limited supply, the body naturally begins to use a higher percentage of fat during workouts as our fitness improves.

Also, after intense exercise, the body has to work even harder to restore equilibrium to our body temperature, respiratory rate, and hormone levels. This requires high amounts of oxygen, a process known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). With this increased demand for oxygen, more fuel is required from our body during post workout recovery to achieve homeostasis. And guess what the primary fuel is during this process…FAT!

The take home message is that there is no magical “fat burning zone”. For best results, cardiovascular training should include a variety of intensities. While there are countless benefits to training at higher intensities, low intensity workouts are still important and should be included into your routine, especially if you are just beginning a program. And even an avid exercisers in need of some “active recovery” can benefit from lower intensities a couple times per week. Outlined below are some recommended training guidelines for overall cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiovascular Training Guidelines

Structure 2–3 long and easy intensity workouts each week. These sessions should be 45 minutes plus in duration with a target heart rate ranging between 50-70% of your maximum. These workouts should be feel comfortable, but have you still breaking a sweat. These workouts effectively target your aerobic energy system which will help develop fat burning enzymes, help maximize recovery, and should be your starting point if you’re just beginning a program.

Structure 1–2 moderate length and intensity aerobic workouts each week. These sessions should be 30–40 minutes in duration and target heart rate should range between 70-80% of your maximum. The level of effort in these workouts should be comfortable but challenging.

Structure 1–2 short and intense interval workouts into your program each week. These workouts should last between 20–30 minutes with your target heart rate ranging between 80-90% of your max during work intervals. During these workouts your breathing is heavier and will definitely be above your comfort zone

Strength Training Principles & Guidlines

Principle of Overload:  A greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to occur. The body will always adapt to exercise over time and once this happens a different stimulus is required for additional strength gains. The process should be gradual and is usually accomplished by altering training intensity or increasing the amount of weight lifted. As a rule, when you can perform two or more repetitions over your repetition goal in the last set of two consecutive workouts, intensity should be increased. Weight increases should range between 2.5-5% for isolated exercises (e.g. tricep pressdowns) and 5-10% for exercises that utilize larger muscle groups (e.g. bench press).

Principle of Variation:  Much like the principle of overload, except it involves altering one or a combination of training variables. Specifically, speed of movement, rest periods, training frequency, exercise order, or style of exercises. Take a dumbbell lunge for example. We could vary this exercise by switching to split jumps which would alter two variables, the speed of movement and the style of exercise.

Train for movement:  Muscles work in synergy.  The term “synergy” comes from the latin word meaning to “work together.”  The nervous system innervates the musculoskeletal system to work as a complete unit.  A baseball player throwing a ball with maximum velocity or simply the act of running best illustrates this point.  The muscles work in harmony.  Performing more compound exercises that involve multiple joints and allow the body to work as a whole unit has a higher carry over into day to day life.  Also, training for movement will yield greater strength gains, improve coordination, and increase stability.  Exercise Example: Squat Row

Train all planes:  The human body works in three different planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, and transverse).  Basically, the body is made to rotate, move forwards/backwards and side to side.  Thus, it’s important to train for movement in all directions.  This will help minimize muscle/movement imbalances, decrease risk of injury, and improve overall function.  Exercise Example: Rotational Cable Chest Press

Train Balance & Stability:  Strength is transferable from an unstable environment to a stable environment but not the other way around” (Orr 2009).  In other words, training muscles strictly in a machine based settling will yield little or no improvement for your balance or stability.  In order to improve balance & stability, you must train for it!  Try performing traditional exercises on a BOSU, stability ball or in a single leg position.  Not only with it improve balance and stability, but strength as well.  Exercise Example: Single Leg Squat

Train Standing:  In can’t be emphasized enough!  We sit enough throughout the day between work and our daily commute.  Try to perform the majority of your exercises in a standing/upright position for better overall functional strength and improved posture.

Using these principles, incorporate strength training into your routine at least 2-3 times per week.  Focusing primarily on total body movements.   Sets and reps are based on individual goals and needs.  Here are the recommended ranges:

Stabilization/Endurance:

  • 1-3 sets
  • 12+reps
  • 50-70% max
  • Rest 30-60 seconds between sets

Hypertrophy

  • 3-5 sets
  • 6-12 reps
  • 75-85% max
  • Rest 45-90 seconds between sets

Maximal Strength

  • 4-6 sets
  • 1-5 reps
  • 85-100% max
  • Rest 3-5 minutes between sets

KEY #5:  TAKE YOUR TRAINING BEYOND THE SCALE

Maintaining focus year after year can be challenging, especially if we’re working out just for the sake of working out.  Giving your workouts a greater purpose and training for activities outside of the gym can help you stay on track…permanently  It’s easy to skip a workout if you lack a specific purpose, but if a ½ marathon is lurking around the corner, odds are you’ll stay consistent.  Besides, most of us have recreational activities we enjoy like running, cycling, basketball or snowboarding.  Focusing workouts towards improving your recreational skills can help keep you focused and consistent year in and year out.

You are always ready! Does this sound like you? “I need to get into better shape before I can do something that.” Quite the contrary! There’s always a wide range of participants, men, women, all with different fitness levels in a variety of events every year. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to participate.  The only obstacle you have to overcome is making the decision to do it.  But once you do an amazing thing happens.  Your purpose training purpose changes automatically.  Instead of worrying about mastering the scale, now your focus is on mastering your fitness.

Have Fun! Remember growing up in a world where there were no deadlines, meetings, errands, etc?  We simply played.  Whatever your motivation for getting in shape I encourage you find your fun!  Life always comes with responsibility, but we can still take the time to reconnect with that “timeless” part of ourselves. Whether it’s the Dirty Dash, going on a scenic hike, or simply playing with your kids, take the time to do it every week.  Follow this formula and you’ll achieve results greater than imagined and enjoy the journey along the way!