Fitness: 7 Things to Do to Feel Good Today
“Don’t believe anything,” Louie told me when I left Westside Barbell. That is my challenge to you. Don’t believe what I say. Don’t believe what Mitch says. I offer you another perspective. Form your own opinion.
The fitness industry is highly unregulated. The best trainers, regardless of credentials, read diligently and then practice what they study. The best trainers see an obligation to not just produce great results, but to educate their clients.
One of the most effective forms of education, in the clinical setting, is known as IMB methodology. It provides information, then motivates, then achieves behavior change. By information, I don’t mean a list of “Do Not Do This,” and by motivation, I do not mean a Machiavellian motivation by fear. Without all three components, the observed new behaviors are hardly sustainable.
Here are my thoughts on Mitch’s seven statements, followed by seven things you can do to feel good, today.
1) Bread and Soda (I’m from New Jersey) — Neither will help you achieve your goal, whatever your goal is. But they will not necessarily take you away from your goal, if consumed in moderation. I’ve dined with many elite, national and international level athletes who have consumed both bread and soda at a meal. They still set records. But I am certain at least 80% of their nutrition is spot on (more on that below).
2) Cardio — There is absolutely nothing wrong with long slow duration cardio as a component of your fitness program. Just understand it is only one component, and a very small one. It is important to train all energy systems. Again, even elite athletes will use it for active recovery.
3) Squatting — It is the king of all exercises. Find a trainer with the best squat in the gym, or at least one whose clients have the best squats in the event the trainer is injured, and ask him or her to teach you. You may need to incorporate a corrective exercise program with a high volume of accessory work to strengthen what is weak to achieve a safe and sustainable position in your squat. You need to squat, but you need to do more than squat to get stronger at squats.
4) Heart rate — Heart rate is very important. Judging your heart rate against the chart on your treadmill is not. To truly know what energy sources your body is using for fuel at various intensities, you need to find access to a metabolic cart and get tested, as the results vary per individual and are affected by more than just age. In Columbus, Life Time Fitness and The Ohio State University have metabolic carts. What you do with your results is dependent upon an exercise physiologist who is an expert in exercise prescription. Workouts are not generated. Training is prescribed. Sound too complicated? To begin, understand that variety is good. Work hard, recovery, do it again for different amounts of time. Measure your recovery heart rate (how many beats per minute does your heart rate drop in a given amount of time). The faster you recover, the better your conditioning and the more work you are able to perform in the same amount of time in each session, as prescribed.
5. Charity Runs — I’m not sure why this is even up for debate. Do it if you want. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a charity run. It gives you a specific time to train for an event. It may go to a good cause; the burden of proof is on you to do your homework. But unless a business is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, that means those weightlifting and CrossFit events are for-profit too. Pick your battles.
6. Programs and Commitments — See point number four. Workouts are not generated. Training is prescribed. Fitness is not one size fits all. The systems are repeatable, but the elements within are highly varied for each individual. It is the responsibility of the fitness professional to adapt the training stimulus to the client, whether an introvert or extrovert who has varying degrees of attention in a single session, let along a training cycle. For the client, choose your trainer after a week of observation. Don’t let the gym pick your trainer when you buy your membership. I challenge you to do exactly what your trainer says (and by exactly, 80% is a reasonable outcome, but the more the better). If you don’t think it’s realistic, ask for adaptions at the beginning. Give feedback. If, after three months, it’s not working, find another trainer. It’s not personal. Your trainer is a professional who hopefully wants the best for you. It’s business and it’s your life.
7. Internet — The Internet is the largest library in the world. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it is easy to face paralysis by analysis. In determining your goals, I offer you a question posed by author, Danielle LaPorte, “Do you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” Figure that out on your own. Close your eyes and breathe. Once you have that, find up to five professionals to follow on the Internet. That’s it. When did you take more than five classes at a time in college? Read, ask questions, interact, experiment, and evolve. Likely, your Internet mentors will evolve as well. If not, drop them and find another, but give it as much time as you would at least a semester in school.
Here are seven things to do to help you feel good, because, at the end of the day, we all want to feel good.
- Articulate how you want to feel. As Danielle LaPorte, says, “You’re not chasing the goal itself – you’re chasing the feelings that you hope attaining those goals will give you.” Be honest about which is more important: wearing size-four jeans or feeling strong, confident, and energetic?
- Write down your three favorites of each: vegetables, fruit, meat/protein, nuts/seeds, and whole grains. Ta-da! That is your grocery list for the week.
- Plan menus instead of counting calories. Calories matter, but start with the menu. Eat all of your meals with a knife and fork. You will significantly increase your chance of eating healthier foods.
- Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water before consuming any other beverages during the day, with the exception of a cup of black coffee to become a human (or to daydream of Italy) in the morning. You will likely decrease your consumption of other beverages with the notorious “empty calories.”
- Train hard enough so that you can walk out the door and say, “That was the best I could do.” Do that and you win. Understand that your best today may be different than yesterday and tomorrow and it is never the same as your neighbor. With the right program, your best should continue to improve.
- Get enough sleep at night (7-8 hours). Understand that extreme workouts (85%+ intensity, as measured by a percentage of your one-rep max) ideally require 72 hours rest between sessions. Small muscles groups, and recovery work, including but not limited to sleds and slow cardio, can be trained more frequently, if they have a purpose.
- Ask for help. You are not alone. I am here to help you and can refer you to many magnificent people in various disciplines of health and fitness throughout Columbus and throughout the country.
Christine Leigh Hannon is a writer, fitness professional, and world traveler. She trains clients in Columbus and online at www.the-art-of-strength.com.
Photo by Jennifer René of Jennifer René Photography.