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.


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.


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.


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 or

What does it take to get results?

Over the past 14 years I’ve had the opportunity to train hundreds of individuals.  All with their own stories, histories, and expectations.  And during that time I’ve developed a pretty keen sense in reading people.  More times than not I know within the first five minutes of meeting someone if they are truly going to “make it” when it comes to changing their lifestyle.  That’s not to say that it won’t happen for them at some point, but they simple aren’t ready yet.  You see…people come to me in hopes of being inspired and motivated, but the fact of the matter is the ball is always in their court.  At best all I can do is create opportunities for success, guide them along, and be their cheerleader.  But ultimately…if you REALLY want to change it’s something that only you can do.  Don’t get me wrong!  Having a trainer and a strong supporting cast does play a major role in the process, but it’s still a secondary one and putting those pieces in place is only the start.  At the end of the day it’s you that has to find the motivation to get up and burn while the rest of the world continues to sleep. It’s you that will have to spend less time with people who subconsciously want to keep you exactly where you are.  It’s you that will have to indulge less and actually start acting like you give a shit about what you put into your body.  And it’s you that will need to realize that you deserve to feel and live better than you currently are AND also do what it takes to get there.  So the question is how do you do it?  Or even better…what type of person do I need to become to do it?  Lately I have been reflecting on that exact question and even more specifically, I have been thinking of those I’ve had the pleasure of training over the last 14 years who were truly awakened, embraced the process, took power and ownership of themselves back, and became the change.  So without further ado…here’s what I have discovered.

Finding a purpose: It all begins here.  Getting into shape just for the sake of being in shape will not create the solid foundation and driving force to keep you in the game for the long haul.  Nor will body image goals like “getting skinner” or “losing the beer gut.”  Body image goals are the equivalent of chasing a carrot on a stick.  We constantly keep the lens focused on what we don’t like about our bodies even once we have reached our original weight or body fat goal, ultimately leaving you in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction.  There’s nothing “healthy” about that.  Besides, results are measured far beyond “how we look.”  I understand the nature of wanting to look better, but it’s the feelings we associate with it that we are after.  Having more confidence, feeling empowered, increasing our self-esteem, and overall happiness is what we are truly after.  Once you start training with more of a purpose you quickly make a mental shift towards the feelings you are after.  Your purpose can be a wide variety of things.  Being able to have the stamina to keep up and play with your kids…being their role model.  Participating in a event you’ve always wanted to like a 5K, Spartan Race, Backpacking Trip, or even playing in a sport you enjoy.  Getting out of a state of chronic pain.  I’ve known too many people dealing with back, shoulder, and knee issues on a daily basis.  Getting your body to the point where it complies to what you want to do instead of limiting what you can do is incredibly empowering!  Find and establish what is going to drive you as soon as possible and let that be the life force to your workouts.  Then fitness becomes a part of who you are opposed to something that you “have to do.”

Get Competitive: There’s nothing wrong with being competitive and this is something I encourage you to fully embrace.  I’m not saying that you have to beat everyone in the gym at everything.  But at least be competitive with yourself.  Establish goals within the workout.  How many reps you want to do?  How much weight do you want to lift (safely)?  How fast do you want to complete a circuit?  Drive yourself.  Challenge yourself.  Push yourself.  Your here to get better right?  Then train like it.  Begin to get a sense of where your fitness comfort zone is and push yourself just outside of that when you train.  The only exception would be on a recovery day or unloading week.  But even then you want to stay focused on being disciplined and seeing the benefit of holding back in that moment.  Once you discover where you fall in this fitness realm then you can begin to size up everyone else if it suites your personality and drives you.  It is said that we are the average of the five people closest to us.  This goes for training too.  Trying to hang with someone that’s just a little more skilled and fit can propel you to the next level.  So again…embrace being competitive…you’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll accomplish.

Know your numbers: We use 12 fitness tests in our gym that measure strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance.  We track these numbers and test quarterly.  This is how fitness is measured.  More specifically, this is how RESULTS are measured.  Bigger, stronger, faster it what we are after.  Ironically, this is how you catch both the carrot and the stick.  I’ve never seen a person with an elite level of fitness that didn’t look like they were chiseled out of stone.   Working to improve in all of these areas will have you accomplishing more physically and mentally that you could possibly imagine.

Be a Weekend Warrior: Workouts should carry over into life outside of the gym.  Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy my workouts and improving at my fitness test, but not nearly as much as what it allows me to do everywhere else.  Continuing to play at a high level in all areas of life is what the workouts give us.  For me personally it’s being able to participate in Spartan Races, play football, softball, volleyball in recreation leagues at a competitive level, having the endurance to play all weekend with friends and family without feeling like I got hit be a bus for a week afterwards.  It can be different or the same for you.  These are just my examples.  But I implore you to find something that keeps you active and that you’re passionate about outside for the gym and let that be another source of fuel for your workouts.

Workouts are non-negotiable: It’s simple.  The ones who “make it” always find a way to get a workout in opposed to finding an excuse for why they can’t.  This is because of all the previously stated points.  The workouts are now a part of who we are and not only improve the nature of who we are physically, but who we are mentally.  Workouts make you sharper, more focused, more efficient, and overall a friendlier and better human being day to day.  Cheating yourself from a workout now means you are cheating your true self.  Whether it’s your stress reliever after your work day, recharging at lunch, or setting the bar first thing in the morning, it becomes a necessity.  Again…it’s a part of you.

Take Nutrition Seriously: There are two extremes that need to be avoided.  One is the thinking that exercise gives you a hall pass to eat whatever the hell that you want.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Garbage in garbage out.  And your exercise performance and results will reflect that.  Two is thinking that food needs to be restricted to ridiculous proportions in order to get lean and mean.  Again, nothing could be further from the truth.  You shouldn’t fear food or fear calories!  If you deprive yourself of food you’re only slowing metabolism down and increasing how much fat your store because your body thinks there is a famine. Food is fuel.  Do you freak out every time you put gas in your car? No. Food is the same thing for our bodies.  Want to get lean and mean?  Then you better start eating clean…and often!  Fruits. Veggies. Whole grains.  Lean Proteins.  Health Fats.  And the occasional indulgence is acceptable and healthy as well.  I’m not the food nazi…far from it!  I love a good beer.  Sometimes several.  A small dessert after dinner…etc.  But 80-90% of what goes in is high efficient fuel that will drive my performance, give me energy, and keep me healthy.  So I encourage to gain knowledge in this area.  Pay attention to what you are eating and how you are eating.  There isn’t a one size fits all approach and nutrition is highly individualized.  Start with the basics, then tinker and modify to until your body responds in the most positive way and you discover the formula that works best for you.

Always Expect more:  Continue to be driven and expect more out of yourself.  Limitations are only illusions that the mind creates.  Avoid self-limiting phrases like “I’ll never be able to do that.”   You immediately build a ceiling for yourself be doing so!  Keep your mind and expectations open to all possibilities.  Be an inspiration to yourself and to others.  Find a way and get it done whether if it takes days or years.  Keep moving forward.  Whether it’s completing your first marathon or coming back from an injury, focus on the desired outcome and let it pull you forward.  And last…never become complacent.  We are designed to grow and evolve physically and mentally.  There is no place that we arrive.  Our journey if forever going.  Take the time to enjoy your accomplishments along the way, but continue to strive for more as you continue on your quest.  It’s your body.  It’s your mind.  It’s your soul.  You are the author.  Write your story the way you want it and go out and get it.

Nutrition Tips to Get You on the Right Path

There is no shortage of information when it comes to nutrition. And unfortunately there isn’t a universal method or diet that will work for everyone either.

You hear about diets like Paleo, Atkins, The Zone Diet, eating for your blood type, etc. Each author will make a sound argument for the benefits of that approach, touting it as the “holy grail” of all diets, while critics will quickly line up to point out all of its pitfalls.

Now I’m not here to decipher or break down the pros and cons of each. Most plans are effective in helping the dieter to consume fewer calories than they burn, resulting in weight loss. But many other factors like genetics, environment, food allergies and daily energy demands will influence how an individual responds to dietary intake.

For example, a weekend warrior training for a triathlon will naturally have a higher need for carbohydrates and overall calorie intake compared to an office worker who hasn’t been physically active for five years. But regardless of individual differences and nutritional needs, the commonalities all people need is consistency, behavior change and an environment for success.

Let’s face it: Change is hard. Especially when it comes to nutrition. But if we start by implementing the right strategies first and foremost, our likelihood of success can only increase. Outlined in this article are three areas to begin with to get you on the right path and on your way to better nutritional wellness.

Weekly Prep

The majority of us have busy lifestyles and need to hit the ground running first thing in the morning each week. This means that gaining control over our food consumption will require setting aside a few hours or so weekly (usually on a Saturday or Sunday) to write out a menu and then shop for and prepare our meals for the week. The idea is to simply make the rest of your week easier by doing a little work in advance. The process goes like this:

▪ Sit down and come up with a meal plan, ideas and needs for the week.

▪ Decide roughly how much of each food you’ll need for the week and generate a shopping list.

▪ Hit the grocery store and, once you’re home, start cooking for the week. Cook the meat/beans, chop the veggies, set up snacks, etc.

You can either choose to prepare all the meals for the week or figure out which meals will be easy to cook just prior to meal time and save them for later. Typically, preparing meals that will need to be eaten during work hours or during busy times of the day when food prep becomes difficult is best done in advance. This usually consists of lunches and two or three daytime snacks.

Initially, this process will take some getting used to, but with time and practice it will become second nature and make a world of difference in terms of your consistency and success.

Create mindless eating solutions

In his book “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life,” Brian Wansink gives powerful solutions to healthier eating just by making simple tweaks in your home.

A 2015 Syracuse University study in which 230 homes were visited uncovered some interesting statistics based on what was visible on the kitchen counter:

▪ Participants weighed anywhere between 9 and 29 pounds more when they had items like cookies, crackers/chips, breakfast cereal and regular or diet soda on the counter compared to those who didn’t.

▪ Participants who had only fruit on the counter weighed 7 pounds less on average.

Also, how you serve dinner in your home can have an influence on the amount of food consumed. When serving food from the stove or counter, people ate 19 percent less food compared to those who served food “family style” directly from the table. Having to get up and walk is just enough for people to question if they are really that hungry.

Below is a checklist of ways to set up your kitchen and meals for better success. The goal is to achieve at least seven or more.

▪ Salad and vegetables are served before the entrée and starches are brought to the table.

▪ The main dish is pre-plated and served from the stove or counter.

▪ Your dinner plates are 9-10 inches wide.

▪ You eat sitting at the table with the TV turned off.

▪ There are two or fewer cans of soft drinks in your refrigerator at any one time.

▪ Your kitchen counters are organized (not messy).

▪ Pre-cut fruits and veggies are on your middle refrigerator shelf.

▪ At least six single servings of protein are in your fridge: eggs, yogurt, string cheese, tofu, etc.

▪ Your snacks are kept in one conveniently placed cupboard.

▪ The only food on your kitchen counter is a fruit bowl.

These are just a few of the countless ideas that Wansink provides in his insightful book. You can learn more by visiting

Kitchen Makeover

There is a saying: “If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, you will eventually eat it.”

So if you wish to become leaner and healthier, you must remove or minimize foods that aren’t part of a healthy eating program and replace them with a variety of better choices. Here are some examples of what to have and what to eliminate:

Foods to have in

your pantry

Foods to have in your fridge/freezer Foods to eliminate or minimize
  • Whole oats
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Mixed nuts
  • Canned or bagged beans
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Green tea
  • Extra-lean beef
  • Chicken breasts
  • Salmon
  • Omega-3 eggs
  • Real cheese
  • At least four varieties of fruit
  • At least five varieties of veggies
  • Flax seed oil
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potato or corn chips
  • Fruit or granola bars
  • Regular or low-fat cookies
  • Crackers
  • Chocolate or candy
  • Soft drinks
  • Regular peanut butter
  • More than three types of alcohol
  • Instant foods like cake mixes and mashed potatoes

Source: “The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition” by John Berardi and Ryan Andrews

Be Flexible: You’re Body will Thank You

Flexibility training is often the most overlooked and skipped part of a workout routine. With so many areas to address such as core, strength and cardio conditioning, it can be a challenge to fit in.

However, flexibility shouldn’t be neglected, especially when you consider the benefits. Flexibility training can help improve posture, increase mobility, increase sport performance and boost overall day-to-day function. Plus, it is a great way to aid in recovery from more intense workouts.

One effective method that I have discovered for flexibility training is incorporating the use of a suspension trainer. Suspension training is typically used for strength and conditioning purposes, but it can also serve as a great flexibility piece, especially if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional stretching. Similar to when it is being used for strength exercises, suspension trainers have two straps that are anchored overhead, allowing users to angle their bodies in a way that is appropriate for their flexibility level.

Outlined below are five of my favorites that will give you the most bang for your buck. If you consistently dedicate at least one session a week to these stretches, you will see noticeable improvements in overall flexibility and mobility.

In the outlined stretches, we will use a combination of active and static flexibility. Each set will begin with an active stretch. This involves using controlled momentum to take a joint or muscle through the full available range of motion for a total of 6-10 reps. Once the final rep is reached, we then perform a static stretch at the end range of motion for a 30-second hold.

Hip/Chest/Abdominal Stretch

Begin with your back facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your elbows at your sides. Step out with your left leg and lower your body as if you were performing a lunge, keeping your back leg straight, while simultaneously fully reaching overhead with your arms. Briefly hold for 1-2 seconds and return to the starting position, and then repeat on the same side for six total reps, holding for 30 seconds on the last rep. Once complete, repeat the same pattern on the opposite side.

Chest Stretch

Begin with your back facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand and extending your arms out to the side to a 3 and 9 o’clock position. Walk away from the anchor point until you feel slight tension in the chest and shoulder. Position your feet together and gently lean further into the stretch for 1-2 seconds. Rock back and forth in this position with controlled momentum for 10 reps, holding for 30 seconds on the final rep to complete the stretch.

Side Bend Stretch

Begin with your back facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your elbows at your sides and your feet together. Extend your right arm over your head and bend sideways to your left, pushing your hips in the opposite direction and keeping your left arm down. Hold for two seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat for 6-10 reps before holding for 30 seconds at the end. Then repeat the sequence on the opposite side.

Rotational Hip/Hamstring/Back Stretch

Begin by facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your arms in front of you at chest level with palms facing up. Drop your hips toward the floor, keeping a slight bend at the knees and your upper body straight until your arms are fully extended. Slowly rotate at your hips toward your right side while straightening your right leg and keeping your left leg bent. Hold for 1-2 seconds and then rotate to the opposite side, straightening your left leg and bending your right. Repeat by alternating sides for 6-10 reps per side and then finish with a static hold of 30 seconds on each side to complete the set.

Standing Inner Thigh Stretch

Begin by facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your arms in front of you at waist level with palms facing down. Widen your stance until you feel a slight stretch of the inner thigh. Hinge at the hips and reach your arms out in front of you. Shift your weight to the right leg, keeping it bent while straightening the left leg. Hold for 1-2 seconds then shift to the opposite side, straightening your right leg and bending your left. Repeat for 6-10 reps per side then finish with a static hold of 30 seconds on each side to complete the set.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at or He writes a monthly fitness column for Idaho Statesman.

Athletic Conditioning Workout

Dynamic Warm up – Circuit 1 (1 set each)

  • Walking Lunges x 20 yards
  • Side Squats x 20 yards
  • Straight Leg March x 20 yards
  • Buttkickers x 20 yards
  • Sprint build up x 25 yards @ 50-60% of max speed

Dynamic Warm up – Circuit 2 

  • T-Rotations x 10/side
  • Groiner Stretch x 5/side
  • Arm Circles x 10 each way
  • Carioca
  • A-Skips
  • Side Shuffles
  • Backpedals
  • Sprint build up x 25 yards @ 70-80% of max speed

Conditioning Circuit – 2 Rounds @ 1:3 Work/Rest Ratio (ex. If a set takes 10 seconds recovery would be 30 seconds before the next set). 3 minute recovery between rounds

  • Prowler Push – 4 Sets @ 50-75# x 20 yards
  • Agility Ladder (High Knees to Lateral Shuffle) Use two ladders in an “L” formation. Do 2 Sets each direction
  • M-Drill – 2 Sets each direction

Sprints – 4 Sets @ 70/80/90/100% of max speed.  Walking recovery between sets


  • 40 Yard Dash

Speed Endurance – 1 Set 

  • 300 Yard Shuttle (Two cones @ 25 yards apart.  Run down and back 6 times)

Go Inward

Too often we look for things to distract us in life. Television…celebrity gossip…drinking…anything to avoid looking within ourselves.  Exercise isn’t any different.  Go inside any big gym and you’ll see countless people mindlessly pedaling away on a recumbent bike or strolling on a treadmill, staring at the television, reading a magazine, simply to distract themselves and missing the opportunity to go deeper physically and mentally.  Pain avoidance beyond the physical.  Even in my gym at times, clients can be too focused on what’s happening outside of them.  “I need a better song to get through this” or simply going through the motions because they are overly engaged in conversation.  Don’t get me wrong…there are times it serves it’s purpose and we need to go at a lower gear to get through it. But most times it’s a squandered opportunity to truly accomplish something.  Growth.

The majority of time when I workout…I’m inward.  Sometimes miles…light years within myself.  Focused on reaching a new threshold and embracing the challenge to see what I’m truly made of.  But it’s also a process of self-discovery and a means to healing myself.  “Exorcising” my demons so to speak (How’s that for a play on words?).  I don’t exercise to hide or escape from my demons, but rather run right at them.  We dance in the flames created by my burning lungs and flesh.  Ultimately it becomes a contest to see which one of us will burn first…me or them.  God help them they don’t stand a chance.

The point is exercise is an opportunity to reflect and come to the realization that any of the physical pain brought upon yourself in the gym pales in comparison to moments in your life that have caused “real pain.” The loss of a loved one, having your heart broken, regrettable mistakes, pain you’ve caused others…insert whatever your “pain” is and those last two reps or final mile that you thought were insurmountable is pretty smooth sailing by comparison.  If you’ve survived “pain” you sure as hell can survive the toughest workout thrown at you.

The only way to reach enlightenment is to look at our inner darkness dead square in the eyes and go to work.  And that’s my approach…my inner and outer worlds colliding. Some days it can be cataclysmic, but I’m so much better for it every single time.  I feel renewed, a better version of myself, one step closer to healing old scars and more prepared for new ones that inevitably will come.

So I implore you. Go to that place and I promise you’ll truly morph into a “healthier” person as a result.

Stay physical and go inward.


The Mindset Needed for Permanent Fitness Success

I am going on my sixth year in writing this column and every January I feel this strong obligation to “keep it real” for you all.  As you embark on your fitness quest with high hopes and a renewed sense of motivation to conquer all of your goals this year, make no mistake that challenges will still come your way…just like last year.  There is no exception to this.  No one magically gets an “exemption status” from life when it comes to achieving their goals.  Life simply happens and quite frankly doesn’t give a crap sometimes.  But rather than viewing it as bad luck or thinking to yourself “here we go again” consider it life’s way of testing you.  Because ultimately that’s all it is…a test.  “How bad do you want it?”  That’s what is being asked.  And I have found that life rewards individuals who press on and continue in hot pursuit in accomplishing what they set out to do regardless of what is thrown their way.  Now in order to be able to work through the year and come out the other side both physically and mentally better than the previous one, these are the necessary requirements for you to solidify your chances of becoming that person you know you are supposed to become.

Fitness has to be a priority:   This absolutely has to be adapted right out of the gate…period.  If you are not willing to schedule your workout time with the same level of importance as you would for a work meeting and all other day to day obligations, your chances of success will plummet big time.  Something will always come up and you will quickly develop the nasty habit of finding reasons to skip a workout instead of finding ways to get it in.  Trying to simply fit it in when it’s convenient is damn near impossible if you continue to place it at the bottom of the totem pole.  And honestly it’s only yourself you are placing at the bottom of the totem pole.  Put higher value and importance into yourself.  You are worth it.  Start treating yourself that way and everything will start to shift.  Whether its 5:00 in the morning (my largest training group) before life has a chance to get in the way, a lunch break, right after work, or after you put the kids to bed, find what works for you and stick to it.  Remember this saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”  Taking care of yourself will only enable you to take care of everyone else in your life to full capacity.

Take ownership: There is no magical workout plan, diet, or special cape that somehow you were unaware of and is the sole reason why you have failed to this point.  If you want to get lean and mean it’s YOU that has to do the damn work.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a method to the madness and there are approaches that are more effective than others.  But at the end of the day…you’re the one who has to show up consistently.  You’re the one that has to put in the effort.  You’re the one who needs to embrace the challenge.  The blood, sweat, and tears all must come from you.  As a trainer, I can motivate and hold you accountable, but at the end of the day you need to look in the mirror and be real with yourself and own it.

Exercise isn’t your enemy:  The path of least resistance will get you nothing in the results category.  There are no short cuts and there is no way around “real work” when it comes to this.  You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.  And most importantly, you should never view exercise as your enemy.  It’s no coincidence that the exercises you hate the most give you the most results in return (i.e. Burpees, Squats, Lunges, Pushups, Running, Pull-ups, Box Jumps, etc, etc…).  I realize I’m in the minority when it comes to my love for “most” exercises.  But most of that love has come out of respect for what it has given me in return.  I feel just as good physically at 40 as I ever did in my 20’s.  I owe most of that to the exercises listed above.  An “enemy” wouldn’t give you closest thing you’ll ever find to the fountain of youth for only five hours a week.  An “enemy” wouldn’t help minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease, low back pain, obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiac arrest, osteoporosis, or in general…premature death.  And not to mention other things like, improved sleep, mental well-being, self-confidence, increased libido….I think you get the point.  I’m not saying you have to love it all, but at minimum respect it and appreciate what you get for your hard work.

Free your mind and your body will follow: Too often going into a fitness program we put restrictions on what we think we are capable of.  Whether it’s being able to complete a half marathon, being able to do a pullup, or getting to your ideal weight, we’ve already made decisions on whether it’s possible or not.   Realize that your body will only perform and fall in line with what you believe.  It’s critical to catch and eliminate self-limiting phrases like, “I could never be that fit” or “I’ll never be able to run” and replace it with empowering phrases like, “I want to be able to do a pull-up” or “What do I need to do to reach my goals.”  Begin questioning the process of how you can and keep a blank page of what is possible going into it and you’ll accomplish more than you previously thought.  If you have a desire to go after a goal, go for it and lose the mental leash.  Free your mind and your body will follow.

Exercise is therapy: Everyone has personal battles they are going through.  It can come in the form of work or money related stress, relationship issues, regrets, basically all challenges that we will all face at various stages of our lives.  Rather than letting life issues paralyze you from exercising, make it even more priority to take care of yourself.  Resist the urge to stop because life is handing your ass to you.  It’s during difficult times that you need to keep exercising most because the mental benefits of exercise can far exceed the physical a lot of cases.  And I can tell you from personal experience that during some of the toughest moments in my life, exercise is the only thing that kept me from losing it.  You’re not alone.  Lean on a friends and family during your toughest moments and keep moving.   Bang some weights, go for a run or walk, hit some hot yoga, whatever suites your needs the most.   The mental war gradually softens, the clouds will clear much faster, and all of your problems will seem significantly smaller and more manageable.

Take your power back: I say it all the time and I will probably say it until I take my last breath.  Exercise is more than just what the scale says.  It’s more of reclaiming your power and becoming a better and more rounded person.  It’s about having the energy to get through your day and playing with your kids.  Being able to hike Table rock with ease.  Getting off your blood pressure medication.  Getting physically and mentally stronger.  Having less aches and pains.  Happiness…you’d be amazed how much happier and vibrant you will become.  Confidence.  Self-worth.  Being a role mode.  Basically, being the person you deserve to be.  You are all worth it and you have to believe that. We can all be inspiring to those in our lives.  Now get out there, get physical, kick ass, aim high, and conquer with a smile!

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at or He writes a monthly fitness column for Idaho Statesman.

Getting Fit with Sandbag Training

Even though sandbag training isn’t necessarily a new concept, it hasn’t been until recent years that it has become more consistently used with fitness professionals and athletes.

Sandbags can mimic most exercises performed with dumbbells, barbells and medicine balls, but the key difference is that they bring more challenge to stability during exercise due to the shifting of the weight. This helps improve core strength and endurance in our postural muscles. Plus, with more of a “dead weight” feel, there is more metabolic demand placed on the body, which creates a great cardiovascular challenge as well.

Lastly, sandbags effectively allow the exerciser to train for movement and in all planes of motion. We need to remember muscles are designed to work in synergy and in three-dimensional space, allowing the body to rotate, move forwards/backwards and side to side. This will help minimize muscle/movement imbalances, decrease risk of injury, improve athleticism and simply improve overall function.

Sandbags themselves come in a variety of sizes and allow for the user to adjust the weight depending on his/her strength or skill level. There are two approaches that can be utilized: a heavier, more stable sandbag or a lighter, less stable sandbag. Specifically, the more the sandbag weighs or is filled, the more strength is emphasized. In contrast, by removing one of the filler bags, the overall weight is less, but it also allows for more shifting of the weight inside of the sandbag, thus placing more emphasis on stability.

Brand-wise I personally recommend the Ultimate Sandbag. They are durable and don’t have any issues with leaking sand like some of the less expensive models I have tried. They offer four sizes based on fitness/strength levels. If you are just starting out I recommend the “core” or “power” bag. For more advanced users, the “strength” or “burly” bag may be the best fit.

Now that you’re ready to give sandbag training a go, here is sample circuit to get you going.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions each.

Cleans: Begin with the sandbag directly in front of you. From there, “hinge” at the hips by pushing them behind you, as you lower and grab the parallel handles of the sandbag while keeping your shoulders pulled down and back to lock in the upper body. Pushing through the heels, quickly accelerate by extending at the hips and simultaneously pulling in a straight line with the arms, keeping the bag as close to your body as possible. Allow the bag to roll as you catch it shoulder-level with your elbows up. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Shoulder Lunge: Begin with the flat side of the sandbag resting on your right shoulder. Step forward with your right leg and lower into a lunge position by bending your front leg until you reach a 90-degree bend in your front leg while maintaining an upright posture. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Continue for 10 reps total, and then position the bag on your left shoulder and repeat.

Shoveling: Begin with the sandbag in front of the body. Pivot one foot while rotating the bag to the opposite side by the knee. Absorb and decelerate the bag by bending the knee and hinging at the hip. Extend the knee and hip, pivot and swing the bag back to the other side. Continue to pivot and swing the bag back and forth to either side until the set is complete.

Bear Hug Squats: Hold the sandbag vertically by wrapping your arms around the midpoint of the bag at chest level by squeezing the bag, keeping your shoulders down and back. Slowly lower into a squat, keeping your knees slightly outward, keeping weight in the heels and maintaining squeezing pressure with your shoulders back. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Speed Kills…Fat that is!

I must admit…this weather has me fired up!  As absurd as seventy degrees in early March may sound, I’m certainly not going to complain and I’m sure as hell going to take full advantage of it…particularly when it comes to my workouts.  I’ve always been a believer that we should all train like athletes and what better way to do so than kicking up the intensity with some speed and agility work. The fact is, many of us are athletes at heart. And the good news is, we can use some of the training methods the pros use to improve our overall fitness and shred fat as well!  Speed and agility work comes with many training advantages.  It helps improve balance and coordination, increases our efficiency at acceleration/deceleration and increases our ability to change directions quickly. Not only is this important for improved performance, but is key for injury prevention as well.  Also, with speed and agility work we get the fat burning benefits of high intensity training.  In fact there are numerous research studies that show 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.  Look at this way…when’s the last time you saw an overweight sprinter?  The answer is never! Reason being the majority of their training is at a very high intensity effort and with that comes high levels of calorie burning during and post-workout which contributes to maintaining their very strong, lean physique!

Before you begin, it should be noted that If you are just starting an exercise program, I recommend at least 12 weeks of aerobic base conditioning and muscular endurance training before adding speed training into your routine.

Now that you’re ready, get out and kickstart your heart with these fat torching speed and agility drills!

Note: Begin with a 10-15 minute dynamic warm up before performing the exercises.  Perform 1-2 sets if just starting out, 2-3 sets for  advanced exercises. Allow a full three minute recovery between sets.

40 yard sprints: Set up two cones 40 yards apart. Starting at one end, quickly run to the opposite side until you run past the cone. Gradually slow down, walk back to the starting point and repeat for a total of 4 to 6 repetitions.

Note: For beginners, run approximately at 60-80% of your maximum speed.  Intermediate, 85-100% of maximum speed.  Advanced, 100% and/or with a parachute or weight resistance (5-10% of your body weight).

M-Drill (Set up): You will need 5 cones for this drill. Begin by setting up 4 cones in a box formation, with each cone spaced 10 yards apart. Then place the fifth cone in the middle of the square.

M-Drill (Exercise): Begin at the bottom left corner (Cone 1). Quickly run to the cone straight ahead (Cone 2). Now, backpedal to the center cone (Cone 3), turn slightly right and run to the cone in the top right corner (Cone 4). Last, backpedal to the final cone in the bottom right corner (Cone 5), then finish by sprinting through Cone 4 straight ahead. Return to Cone 1 and repeat for a total of 2-3 reps before repeating the sequence in the opposite direction.

Medicine Ball Reverse Scoop Toss to Sprint: Begin with a medicine ball weighing 5-10% of your body weight. Beginning in an athletic stance, then explosively jump while swinging and tossing the ball over your head behind you as far as you can.  Immediately sprint to retrieve it and repeat for 4-6 repetitions.

Shuffle Drill:  Place two cones 5 yards apart from one another.  Perform a burpee, quickly hop to your feet and quickly shuffle sideways to the opposite cone and perform another burpee.  Repeat until you have shuffled down and back a total of 5 times.

Plank/Lateral Jump Combo

Here is a fun one to add into the mix. Essentially you’re getting a combination of core, strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance with this partner drill!

Here’s the basic set up:

  • One person is in a plank position while the other is doing either a forward or lateral tuck jump over their partner.
  • You can either alternate every 2-4 repetitions or continue jumping for 20-30 seconds before switching.
  • Make sure you jump over the highest point that your comfortable and confident with! You don’t want to trample your workout buddy 😉

There you have it. Quick, easy, and more fun than a plyo box!


Snow Day Workout

Now grant it…I’m from Utah and today’s snow conditions are pretty elementary from my experience. So with that being said, this workout will still require some equipment and actually making it to the gym for most of you.

The theme of the workout is more for getting out some aggression that comes with cabin fever and is a better alternative to the “All work and no play” approach as we’ve all seen with our “dull boy” in the clip above.

So without further ado…here’s what I felt inspired to do on today’s snow day.

Dynamic Warm Up – 10 Minutes

Anaerobic Circuits: 3 rounds total. Complete the first circuit for the designated reps. Alternating between the two exercises as many times as you can for the full two minutes. At a minimum you should complete each exercise at least one time through.

Rest 1 minute. Then use the same approach for circuit #2. After completing both circuits recover for two minutes, then repeat two more times with the same rest schedule. Note that the reps descend each set as indicated below.

Anaerobic Circuit #1 – 2 minutes
1. Straight Punches (Heavy Bag) x 100-90-80
2. Burpees x 15-12-10

Anaerobic Circuit #2 – 2 minutes
1. MB Power Getup to Wall Ball 20# x 10-8-6
2. Jumping Jacks with Battle Rope x 50-40-30

Rest 3-5 minutes after completing 3 rounds of the anaerobic Circuit.

Strength Circuit (Push/Pull): Pretty straight forward.  Complete both exercises for the outlined reps below (Descending Rep Scheme).  Complete both exercises without stopping, then rest 1 minute between each compound set.  Strict form on the chin ups.  Use a superband or minimal kip if needed.  But try to stay as strict as possible.  For you stronger ladies and gentlemen…you can put your feet on a plyo box if it’s too easy 😉

1. Ring Pushups x 10-10-8-8-6-6-4-4-2-2

2. Chin ups x 10-10-8-8-6-6-4-4-2-2

Rest 2-3 minutes after strength circuit

Core Circuit:  Complete each exercise for the designated reps.  Minimal rest between exercises.  1 minute recovery between rounds.  Use a 8-12# Med Ball for the first two exercises.

1. Long lever crunch with vertical leg raise x 20-15-10

2. V-Sit with rotation x 20-15-10 (per side)

3. Plank with spiderman kick x 20-15-10 (per side)

4. Cobra (McKenzie Press Ups) x 20-15-10

That’s it!  Go home, kick your feet up by the fire and relax…you earned it!