“What are you here for?” is the first question I ask most new clients.
Common responses are “to tone up,” “lose weight” or “get buff.”
Those answers are OK, but are not specific enough. Your goal needs to be more personal. “Why are you toning up, losing weight, getting buff?” That’s when the real reasons come out: “I have a wedding (or a class reunion) and want to be in awesome shape.” “I want to get back to my pre-baby weight.” “I want to impress my girlfriend when she comes home from school in the summer.” “My doctor says I need to lose weight so he doesn’t have to put me on medication.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
The more I know about a client, the more I can help them see the big picture and achieve their fitness goals.
The big picture is not just a few recommended exercises. It’s not just eating right or doing cardio. It’s how all of those things contribute to your health.
Many people think that if they do the latest get-fit-in-six-weeks routine or diet from their favorite health magazine they will be in awesome shape forever. Those routines can help and the exercises are good, but they only partially contribute to the big health picture. Measuring results, eating right and exercise are major components of achieving overall fitness.
Detoxing people from false ideology is a large part of what I do. Imitation methods will cloud the big picture. People pick up tips and secrets from any number of sources, both reliable and questionable. Things such as: “Doing billions of crunches will make you thin.” “Trend diets work miracles.” “If I exercise, I can eat whatever I want.” “They’re doing this in Hollywood and it’s working great.”
The basic truth: If you want to look healthy you need to be healthy.
Tools for measuring are crucial to achieving goals. I use the scale, body fat calipers and a tape measure. With these tools, I can help my clients see the big picture. Body fat measurements tell me what the scale doesn’t. If weight goes up and body fat stays the same, that tells me that an individual has added muscle mass. If weight goes down and body fat goes down, then the individual has indeed lost body fat. Using a tape measure to take measurements of the body’s key areas such as the chest, waist, hips, arms and legs tells me where the gain or loss has occurred.
Keeping gains and losses in perspective will help avoid discouragement. The average person can lose anywhere from one to two pounds of body fat per week. Those who are very overweight can see more than two pounds fall off in a week. As people reduce their body fat, getting closer to the body’s essential levels, it gets more difficult to lose pounds. In adding muscle, the average person can gain about a quarter pound a week.
Many people use just a bathroom scale to chart their progress. They hop on every morning and make a decision about how their routine is going. If the weight is up, they work out more. If the weight is down, they can take the day off. With just one tool, it’s difficult to determine how the body is changing. Using the right tools can make a huge difference in seeing the whole picture.
Surprise, there are differences between men and women. One of them is the way their bodies respond to healthy eating and exercise. Men tend to see these effects sooner than women. Their bodies are more responsive to changes in their physical routine while a woman’s body is more resistant to the same changes. It’s not fair but that’s generally how it works. Don’t be discouraged if your body is a little slow to respond to the changes you make. Once you get the results wheel spinning, keep it up, stay motivated and you will reach your goals.
Food is an important part of the big picture. Helping people eat right is one of the hardest things I do as a trainer. It might take me six months to get someone to eat healthy. Most of that time is spent breaking down myths about food. Food should work for you. What you eat is supposed to have a purpose. If your diet is full of fats, your body will store it. If you eat foods that satisfy your body’s needs, you will have healthy energy and not gain excess weight.
In my certifications as a trainer and in university classes, I learned that diets that have you omit an entire macronutrient group are fads and should be avoided. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Fad diets can assist in losing weight fast because they deprive your body of a nutrient it needs. When those on fad diets eventually come off them, however, they gain weight back. It is not a sustained loss and it’s not the healthiest thing for your body.
Making food work for you is the key to fitness. Most people eat three meals a day. Consider changing the number of daily meals from three to five, but consuming the same number of calories. The body will burn about a pound a week just digesting the extra meals. So if I consume 2,000 calories a day and divide those calories among three meals I would be eating about 660 calories each meal. Changing my eating to five meals a day, I would eat the same 2,000 calories per day but my meals would be 400 calories each. I burn more calories eating smaller meals more often.
Logging your food intake can be helpful. Some organizations charge a membership fee and give you meal plans and point systems that work well. Anything that will aid you in being accountable will help. Whether it be a fancy food log, smart phone app or a pocket notebook, find something that works for you.
I encourage my new clients to write down everything they eat for a week. Then I review it with them and point out the good foods and the foods that should have been omitted.
Knowing how you cheat can help you curb bad habits. I’ve identified a few of the most popular ways people cheat on healthy eating. The first is not telling. Whether you’re on a gain or lose program, if you’re not eating right the results will be slow coming. I will eventually figure it out by process of elimination, but that takes a week or two. Don’t waste time, be honest with yourself (and your trainer). The second is denying you ate anything bad at all. “I ate lots of pie and drank like a fish, but I’m OK, right?” The third is the mentality that if the bad food isn’t recorded in the food log, then it wasn’t eaten. The body knows, and now it had to store food plus the emotional baggage. If you have more ways to cheat, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exercise is another important part of the big picture. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. What better way to burn calories than to get moving. Most trainers will recommend regular exercise two to five times a week. A mix of weight training and cardio will ensure the body is well-rounded and help prevent injuries.
There are many different ways to exercise. It’s OK to feel a little overwhelmed when confronted with creating your own workout program. At the gym, the people who maintain a program and see the best long-term results are those who begin with a trainer. Don’t turn on your anti-sales pitch shield yet. I’m not trying to sell you. My point is, those who walk into the gym with nothing more than the last few months of fitness magazines are more likely to stop coming by the end of the year. Trainers will show you your postural deviations and how to fix them. They will show you how to progress your routine to reach your new best every month and will keep you accountable to your workout and eating goals.
All trainers are different. Find one who works well with you. Some women feel more comfortable with a female trainer, while others prefer a male trainer. Are you the kind of person who responds to a drill sergeant’s style? Are you post rehab and need a trainer to push you, but softly? Some people like to be destroyed at the end of a workout and feel it the next day. Whatever your preference, there is a trainer for you.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. You can contact him at email@example.com. Before beginning any exercise program, consult your physician.