Recommended: Click to hear audio version of blog
Things You Should Know Before Starting Your Next Weight Loss and Fitness Transformation
What I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Training and 6 Fitness Transformations
The video at the top of the web page was shot in 2004 when I was 30. The BEFORE and AFTER picture was taken October 12, 2019 at the age of 45, during my 6th fitness transformation.
This is my Fitness Journey Journal.
5 Common Weight Loss & Fitness Mistakes Everyone Makes
Written by: Al Smith, Jr. The Fitness Specialist
Read by: Amazon Andrew
- Too Focused on Deprivation Instead of Moderation
- Assuming that Weight Loss is a Static Process
- Lack of Planning for Success and Failure
- Believing that Results Come from Putting in Long Hours of Exercise
- Not Qualifying Your Fitness and Advice Sources
- Next Steps: Applying What You’ve Learned
To be clear, like many professional nutrition plans and exercise routines on the market it isn’t that the original TrainChange Fat Loss fitness strategy stopped working, I simply got tired of revolving life around the gym and counting macros, EVERY DAY. The solution required a scaling down in order to be sustainable. It needed, a more light weight version. Specifically, the way a fitness strategy is implemented while in your 30’s will not be the same implementation used once you’re in your 40’s, and so on. The overall strategy may remain the same, but the implementation will require a revision. Guaranteed! Case in point, two weeks into the most recent transformation a 4-day training seminar in downtown Seattle needed to be attended, in which I immediately knew, staying on the current transformation plan would necessitate packing lunches each day instead of eating the meals that were provided. I decided to relax, by choosing to eat their lunch and snacks instead. Albeit, responsibly. Kind of, I mean the food was free and I did pay for it as part of my tuition so a mans got to get his moneys worth right? To make matters worse, the following week a trip to Vegas for work was also required, meaning another adjustment to the transformation meal plan and exercise routine would be needed again. Staying on routine while traveling is something I’m already accustomed to because when traveling for work in the past was a requirement, during my competitive bodybuilding days, the solution was simple. Prior to arrival entailed booking a hotel near a gym (because when you stay at budget hotels their gyms usually suck), and they usually don’t have a refrigerator so the first stop upon landing would be a trip to the grocery store and purchase a disposable ice chest, beef jerky, deli meat, and prepackaged tuna. However, not wanting to live like that anymore, for this trip, the decision was to take the time off from the gym and eat in moderation. Not panicking about working out or gaining weight, just living for a change. Guess what, I survived. And, it felt good! It felt amazing to no longer be controlled by a fear of IF the weight could be taken off again, or if the progress that had already been made was going to be lost. Still the best part is that I’ve ended up tracking better toward my goal, both mentally and physically, than transformations in the past.
This current transformation has resulted in development of more mental and tactical improvements. Specifically, how to hit one’s goal quicker but by using moderation instead of deprivation. With this new knowledge and set of tools I’m sharing with you, the promise is that by the end of this series you’ll have all of the information you need to make MORE INFORMED fitness decisions, course correct, and take the weight off now, and whenever it comes back!
Another usage for the idea of moderation is balance. A great example of balance is the Yin and Yang symbol. If you’re not already familiar with the ancient black and white Yin & Yang symbol, it looks like two tear drops pushing each other in a half-circle with another two opposing black and white dots in their center. This ancient symbol is meant to represent that life is in an ever constant moving cycle. Nothing is meant to be forever. Such that we don’t just have Day, we have Night. We don’t just enjoy summer, rather, we have spring, winter and fall. The two little dots further represent that while you are in a current state or season there is always a fragment of the previous state continually pushing you back into the next phase. This, represents life, operating on a continuum. So, another common mistake baked into the weight loss process is viewing success as a final destination where you’re never expected to have to lose weight again. As a result when you finally lose, then regain, you’re only left feeling demoralized and not wanting to try again, or have any desire to get back onto the bike. Yet when weight loss is re-framed as being part of a continuum of life, is it so unnatural to think that if you lose weight the body won’t also regain it? And if that’s the case then why not just bake the solution that’ll be required to take it off AGAIN, into the initial weight loss process, like the little opposing dots. To some, this may be discouraging all together leaving them with the idea of why even try losing weight at all. Well, there is also the reassurance in knowing that, if you become weak at some point you will….or can…also become strong. But it’s a conscious choice that YOU make. A choice to control the continuum instead of allowing the continuum to control you.
Similarly, in high performance business optimization strategies like Lean and Agile, which we have been borrowing upon throughout this writing, are concepts called Learn Fast, Fail Fast. Meaning that the sooner you fail (or reach one state) the sooner you can learn from your mistakes, then course correct. They also incorporate the values of retrospectives and continuous improvement, such that when you fail it’s critical that you conduct a retrospective to understand why and how you failed. Then, a constant evaluation of information is used to improve, and accelerate the success of your next transformation. The result? A constant learning life cycle of not failures, but OPPORTUNITIES for improvement.
So what I’ve done is use a 3 step process to improve the original fitness strategy created. That being:
- Merge the culmination of these philosophies into a new fitness implementation that ties known anatomy and physiology A&P biological pathways of weight loss into easily, repeatable processes.
- Include the day-to-day life events that drive the most common failures as well as those that have produced the greatest successes.
- Empirically analyzed decades of experience to refactor, then refined the fitness strategy that’s already been taught and applied for years.
Again, it’s not perfect, nor a one size fits all approach but it’s part of the continuum that’ll give you the courage and motivation to keep pushing forward.
So what are the basic biological approaches that need to be understood to lose weight? This is where and why most people fail in their weight loss process. They don’t understand the BASICS of weight loss, which is critical to understand before any substantial fitness success can ever occur.
For starters, a basic law of physics, thermodynamics to be exact, is that for every action there will be an equal or greater reaction.
This concept is 100% accurate for how the body works as well, just scaled out 10 times greater. For your body those reactions occur in the form of homeostasis in which your body is in constant motion to achieve and maintain balance. Like the Yin & Yang cycle.
An example of this is when you consume simple sugars like chocolate (my personal weakness…ok, one of my many weaknesses), which in turn causes a spike to your blood sugar, throwing your body out of balance which than causes the pancreas to release a surge of insulin to lower your blood sugar, or blood glucose. But then too much blood sugar is removed, stripping your body of the correct amount of glucose to carry on basic life functions and in order to get back into a balanced state, you need to eat again. Hopefully this time something that won’t cause a spike in glucose. Basic anatomy and physiology. The point is whenever you do something to your body there’s always a cascading domino effect down the line, whether you want to deal with those effects or not; and there may be a long chain of dominoes falling as result of something you hadn’t or didn’t want to deal with in your nutrition plan or exercise routine.
Comprehending that for every Action there is a Reaction cannot be stressed enough as it has the potential to put an end to many fitness related arguments, and even stopping them before they start.
In my experience the point of contention with many fitness related arguments is that one person bases the argument for following a specific training protocol around lets just say, the first REACTION, while 1 or more individuals are basing their opinion on the downstream cascaded reactions. While technically they may all be correct, I always believe the correct answer depends on the context of the ultimate goal. Or, the final IMPACT of the outcome. For example, we’ve all heard the age old adage that doing intense cardio burns muscle. And it’s true. IN ISOLATION and without a complete CONTEXT. Because, when one understands the fat loss and muscle catabolic A&P cascade, along with the numerous alternate paths that can be taken, before simply saying that high intensity cardio destroys muscle, you need to strategically perform a line a root cause analysis questioning, similar to this:
- Question: Why does high intensity cardio burn muscle?
Answer: It causes your body to go catabolic.
- Question: Then, after how many minutes into a high intensity cardio session does the body become catabolic?
Answer: Current science states that the body goes catabolic after approximately 90 minutes.
- Question: Are there things that can naturally be done to stop the body from going catabolic after 90 minutes.
Answer: Yes, consuming calories that release insulin into the blood stream can reduce catabolic activity. However, we also now know that the secondary impact of that cascade also means that while an insulin release will reduce catabolism, it will also stop fat burning. Thus, again, are you doing cardio to burn fat or increase your cardio capacity?
Outcome A: If the ultimate goal of doing your high intensity workout is to simply increase your cardiovascular strength, then consuming calories to raise your insulin, is a means to prevent catabolism.
Outcome B: If the ultimate goal of doing your high intensity workout is to burn calories, specifically fat calories, then consuming calories to raise your insulin, is NOT a solution to preventing high intensity training induced catabolic activity.
Proceed to Question 4.
- ….and so on, and so.
- Then, finished up by doing a Risk vs. Reward Analysis
As you can see, there is a lot to account for within a cascade based on the results you want to happen, and why at a given point within the cascade, or context of a question, the answer can change. Ladies and gentlemen, this right here is what makes fitness so complex and why there is no such thing as a QUICK ANSWER or solution. This is also why you need strategic nutrition planning and exercise routines because they are interwoven, and impact one another. (Side note: This is a formal thinking process called Socratic or First-Principle thinking that philosophers Socrates and inventors such as Elon Musk use to solve complex problems through Root Cause Analysis). Unfortunately, if the person you’re seeking advice from doesn’t have an in appreciation of the causality and totality that goes into fitness programming, asking them a question about cardio will likely result in the partial truth, and generic answer that high intensity isn’t good for burning fat.
#RealityCheckChat As we’re going to discuss in a second, even experienced fitness professionals will have divergent opinions on the best way to achieve an outcome. Which is fine because training is as much an art as it is a science, and creating the perfect fitness solution for someone is like nailing jello to the wall; often only achieved after weeks, if not months or years, of trial and error. That said, in addition to there needing to be a science based, fact driven, baseline that everyone starts from, you must also factor in the short and long term, risk verses reward of recommended fitness programs And truth be told, not all “advice givers” have the acumen or patience to do this level of multiple scenario based, rabbit hole thinking let alone having a mutually, matured tolerance for risk verses reward in their recommendations. So you should always proceed with caution when seeking fitness advice by ensuring that the primary short-term outcome is answered, but also request an explanation of their recommendation 4-5 levels deep; being sure to ask what is the risk verses reward of the recommendation. In earnest, doing so will allow you to consider more intelligent lines of questioning instead of, “Can I ask you a quick fitness question”. Such that when you do get an answer, it will be far more accurate and of greater value.
Lastly, having thought through the benefits, along with the risk verses reward of using cardio to burn fat, I let you in on a little secret. If you do high intensity cardio or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), it’s the best and quickest way to burn fat and get rapid results. It’s the technique I’ve been using for years with success when I want to lean out quickly without losing muscle. Although the entire process as to how it works is too complex for this specific post, the short answer to the solution is to: FOCUS ON INCREASING THE INTENSITY OF YOUR EXERCISE WITHIN A 20-30 MINUTE TIMEBOX, CONSISTENTLY. This answer will be explained in more detail toward the end of this series.
Although logistically this works in the #3 position for the post, not planning for A&P cascades are, in my opinion, the biggest mistake most people make because it not only requires knowledge of what to expect, it requires discipline to plan for (or around) cascades…then to EXECUTE. Conversely, many people only look at what’s immediately in front of them. The now, without planning for the future which results in them spinning their wheels and engaging in a lot of “waste” or busy work, yet never seeing the fruits of their hard effort.
Another example to further demonstrate the importance of understanding A&P cascades is intermittent fasting, combined with fasting cardio.
At first explanation these are two very powerful techniques that can help quickly put your body into fat burning mode, and help you lose weight. The problem is many individuals only use them in isolation; and without understanding the entire compounded-cascade that occurs or alternate A&P pathways, these techniques end up producing little to no results and can cause more harm than good. For example, elaborating further with insulin. Let’s say you plan an intermittent fast starting on Sunday night with a plan to do fasted cardio first thing Monday morning. So, you eat nothing all night and skip breakfast then head straight to the gym. Just as you’re about to start cardio hunger pangs begin to kick in but in place of eating you decide to have an energy drink. Well, if that energy drink contains any carbohydrate or calories in it, there’s going to be an insulin response that will immediately negate ALL of the effort and sacrifice you’ve put into your training over the past 24 hours.
Instead of burning fat due to lack of glucose in your blood from fasting, the consumption of carbs immediately becomes your body’s preferred fuel source thereby all but kissing the benefit of fasting good bye. Even if you’re not doing intermittent fasting this same scenario plays out when you consume calories immediately before exercising regardless of it providing you with energy or not (including artificial sweeteners like Sucralose but that’s an entirely different post in itself). I can’t tell you the number of times I see this happen as I watch people that are obviously trying to lose weight, suck down energy drinks while doing cardio because they believe it’s going to give them energy. Technically, it does….but in the form of calories and an insulin burst which means they aren’t burning any stored calories. On the flip side, and why it was required to distinguished between those that are training for athletic improvement verses fat loss, if your goal is to increase cardio endurance and strength, have no regard for burning fat, or you’re engaging in prolonged activity like playing football or distance running, then using an energy drink can be beneficial. But when your goal is to burn fat and you need energy, black coffee is a preferred source because it’s zero calories and provides the caffeine boost. An argument can also be made that this isn’t that big of deal because, since you’re exercising, you’ll burn the calories off before they get stored as fat. And this is pretty much true. However, it’s actually the COMPOUNDING EFFECT that you want most, and what you’re directly interfering with; that being, to force the body to use STORED CALORIES FOR ENERGY (or fat), instead of the calories that were just consumed. Again, the entire context, along with action to reaction must be factored in, especially if you want to see the most results, in the shortest amount of time…with, the least amount of effort.
Knowing how to compound for faster results is the most underutilized fitness technique in my opinion, primarily because people easily fall into only thinking in myopic terms of just an ACTION, instead of in totality, and accounting for ACTION to REACTIONS. But once that mental switch is factored into every part of your fitness program, and lifestyle, you’ll not only hit your weight loss goal faster, you’ll be able to effortlessly maintain your success. So let’s make the point of this series crystal clear: Creating strategic plans, that are designed to leverage compounding, is the fundamental foundation to your long-term fitness success.
(Side Note: Interestingly enough, if you attend a workshop on financial investing, I guarantee they too will say that compounding is the success secret to wealth. That’s because it’s a universal principal that automates and simplifies any Action to Reaction process).
What exactly is compounding?
You’ve probably heard of compounding before with the old analogy that if you invest something as small as $100 into a bank account, that accrues daily interest, doing absolutely nothing with it for the end of 30 years, by the time you withdraw it you’d have a small fortune, created with little to no work. The same concept applies to fitness, but again within a process of understanding the biological pathways of how your body works and instead of a bank paying you interest on your money, your body pays you with results for the time you invest through nutrition and exercise.
But this type of high return, quick result compounding can only be achieved through consistency.
Ask any seasoned fitness professional and they’ll agree that the 3 most important things you need to focus on to reach your fitness goals are: Consistency, Nutrition and Exercise. In that order. Yet, most people attempt their journey doing those things in complete reverse because once you get started, EXERCISE is the easiest part given that it provides instant gratification and the quickest emotional reward (not to mention endorphin highs). Though, short-lived. But for the sake of this series, I’m bypassing the importance nutrition plays in weight loss, in order to expeditiously hit upon how consistency and exercise must be tied together.
#4 Common Weight Loss and Fitness Mistake:
Believing that Results Come from Putting in Long Hours of Exercise
There is no such thing as rapid fat loss or instant muscle gains. The body does not undergo rapid changes. If it did life would probably be horrible because we’d all be living like Dr. Dave Banner where the slightest stimulus to our body could cause us to explode out of our clothes like an Incredible Hulk®. Instead, the body slowly responds through cycles of constant stimulus and progressive adaption. Again, driven by those pathways. The most concrete example of this is building lean muscle, which not only looks pleasing to the eye on the body, it also contributes to burning off fat. However, the only way to build muscle is through consistent, progressive resistance training.
Resistance can be achieved in different ways and the most important aspect to leverage is consistent-resistance. Notice I didn’t say heavy resistance. Everything we see would lead us to believe that in order to get results, you need long and heavy back breaking workouts. Not true at all. Again, think back to the Hulk® scenario. We’ve been misled to believe that the faster we add more resistance to our exercise routines the quicker our results occur. Social media does a huge part in perpetuating this myth as we’re constantly fed Instagram® videos of ATHLETES attempting to break personal records, or worse yet, elderly people lifting ridiculous amounts of weight as if they’re training for some type of underground senior citizen fight club?! [Na’nna…please, stop!]
In continuing with a focus on using a balance mindset to create our fitness strategies, we’ll take a quick look at DECOMPOSITION.
Decomposition is simply the act of tearing something down to its most basic element(s), aka decomposing. For the sake of this post we’ll use it as the opposing concept to compounding. Up to this point we’ve discussed the power of &P cascades, along with the importance of being able to take multiple fitness tools and techniques, and use the synergy to create highly effective fitness strategies. Once you’re confident you’ve squeezed every ounce of efficiency out of your compounding strategy, how do you make it even better? You tear the strategy apart and build it all over again. Except this time since you no longer have to focus on IF your outcome strategy will work, you can direct your effort toward CONTINUALLY IMPROVING each step within the strategy so that the overall process becomes that much more effective. This approach to continuous improvement is at the heart of First Principles thinking.
While First Principles thinking is too complex to properly cover in this post, here’s a great link to a post that does: “First Principles: The Building Blocks of True Knowledge” (See link https://fs.blog/2018/04/
The amazing beauty in the scalability of First Principles thinking is that in addition to using it to create highly optimized nutrition plans, it can also be used to improve the efficiency of your exercise routines. For example, for those that frequent the gym a common complaint (excuse) for not going consistently is that they can’t follow their routine if the specific piece of equipment is being used by someone else. Well truth be told, if you really understand and have properly designed your exercise routine based on your specific muscles, the equipment you use is (and at best should be) irrelevant. Or as I tell people, “Focus on training the muscle not the machine.” Again, if you aren’t doing sport specific targeted training all you need to concern yourself with is “intelligently” putting the muscle through a high intensity training session. In other words, if using the bicep curl machine is part of your exercise routine one day, but someone is using the machine or you don’t have access to it…seriously, don’t freak out…just train your bicep using one of the other 100 exercise options available in this world (Psssst…you can also change the order of your exercises in your routine). Sigh. Indeed, for some readers this may seem obvious but for others, usually those that have gotten so into a grind and can’t see past a training OCD, not having access to THEIR machine will drive them crazy, if not throw off their entire routine. And heaven forbid you’re someone that hovers over people like stalking them for your machine–or ask to work in? (No, you cannot work in with me! If you’re so inefficient in your routine planning, why in heaven would I allow you to inject your inefficiency into my work out?) Quick gripe. Anyways, you only have this ability to SEE the different exercises when you truly understand how and why you are training a specific muscle instead of just going through the motions. This, in my opinion, is the primary reason for investing into even the most basic personal training or fitness coaching services, if you don’t have time to sit down and study basic muscle anatomy for yourself. The caveat to this statement will be mentioned in the next tip. All the same, readers of this blog that are already familiar with or have used any of my ALLN-1 Fitness Equipment understand that the equipment is always designed with First Principles thinking in mind. The intent behind the ALLN-1 product line is it that is allows you to easily create the correct piece of fitness equipment you need, to accomplish your exercise routine or overall fitness goal. However, the logic used to create our equipment can be…guess what…scaled into how you select and design your exercise routines, even if you go to a gym or need to create your own fitness equipment. That being:
- Clearly identify the purpose of what you’re trying to train (being it muscle or overall training objective).
- Remove any wasted movement or parts (ahem, even people if need be) that interfere with the stated objective. And specific to training equipment, remove any needless heavy bulk or complexity
- Ensure that the movement and exercise routine is optimized to safely scale.
Following this strategic line of exercise decomposition, means you have exponentially more options available to you than just the one piece of equipment or modality you may have grown accustomed to. More importantly, this increases your access to use even the most basic of objects, like gallon water bottle jugs if need be, to do your bicep curls. Just keep in mind, you must compensate for the lighter weight, by increasing your training intensity. Luckily however, upon following the fitness programming strategy recommended throughout this series, by now, you should already have the required skills and knowledge as to how you can increase intensity on demand, and scale it into your exercise routines.
Again, if you are not an athlete, and you only want to tone your muscles to stimulate fat burning, training ridiculously heavy is not only wasted effort, you’re increasing the risk of developing an injury, which may impede your workouts all together, ultimately preventing you from being consistent. Think of your body more like a rubber band where the more constant you pull on it the tighter and tone it becomes. As you release tension, the softer it becomes. The goal to strive for is a constant HEALTHY tension.
In terms of training, the minimum you’re going to need to see results is a routine that progressively forces your body to adapt, is 4-5 days a week. You’ve probably heard the social norm that states you only need to train 3 days a week, but unless you are a genetically lean person, 3 days a week is barely enough training to simply maintain result. When you think of it logically, training 3 days a week to encourage progressive adaption doesn’t make sense at all. Although the body doesn’t work in the context of days and weeks, if we quantify our training routine into a standard 7-day routine, training 3 times over the span of 7 days, isn’t even half a week! In other words, training anything less than 4 days a week can’t even be considered HALF ASS TRAINING! So if you aren’t taxing your body beyond what it’s accustomed to, it has no reason to adapt and build new muscle which is why if you want to see any type of results you should train at least 4-5 days a week. Ideally 5-6.
While 5 days may seem like a lot, another common mistake people make is thinking they need to spend hours at the gym to see results. But again, if your goal is to lose weight, and not to become a competitive athlete, you only need to train about 30-45 minutes a day at a high intensity level. The key take away here is that if you want faster results, remove the waste from your exercise routine, and increase the quality. Achieve this by training with a goal of aiming for shorter, time boxed workouts, using lighter resistance, at a higher intensity–CONSISTENTLY. It’s just a new spin on the age old adages such that: When you focus on training for quality instead of quantity, you’ll end up doing less work, and produce more results. Here’s the real irony in using this type of exercise strategy. Can you guess what the other benefit this allows for? It requires LESS TIME out of your schedule to reach your fitness goal when the most common excuse people use for not trying to reach their goal is not having enough time!
Now, for the sake of brevity let’s define intensity as any physical activity that requires your body to function beyond its normal threshold of exertion in the shortest amount of time, within a time boxed duration. A good example of high intensity, fat burning exercises are interval sprints, or well-designed HIIT routines. And to the dismay of many a bad example of a high intensity exercise is, planking. Planking simply doesn’t push your body to a high enough threshold to quickly kick in the fat burning process. In my opinion, planking is the LaCrox® water of fitness. It allows you to add a light activity to your exercise routine so you can say that you worked out, without really having worked out. This is also a great time to bring up another form of waste frequently encountered. Again, let’s set the context first. If you are not a competitive athlete training with intent for a specific purpose, listen close. You. Do. Not. Need. To Do. All of those advanced and crazy training routines that you see online or read in fitness magazines. They are a waste of time. Why? Because once you set a goal of training consistently, that doesn’t mean just going to the gym or exercising consistently. It also means following the same routine consistently. That is what drives progression adaptation. However, if doing each workout you are diverting energy to try a new exercise, not only are you wasting time by having to learn something new, you’re not working on improving your form from doing an repetitive use. You’re also not improving your mind muscle connection which is also critical to master if you want to improve your training performance. This high performance optimization philosophy is known as Minimizing Variation. And yes, adopting this type of approach to training seems counter intuitive because we’ve traditionally heard that you need to mix up your routine, or keep your muscles confused if you want to keep making progress. But, that needs to be put into context. It is only applicable if your goal is needing to hit multiple angles of a muscle for specific reaction movements and performance, for specific physical activities. If your goal is to lose weight however, your primary objective is to get your muscles moving, body temperature hot and intensity level up in the shortest amount of time. You do not need to waste time performing things like unilateral training! For example, training the right arm, then left arm, so that you can have perfectly balanced bicep strength. Uhm, for the purpose of what? To carry an equal number of grocery bags in both arms, so you only have to make one trip from the car? Seriously. Simplicity increases consistency. So instead of doing unilateral bicep training, just do some damn barbell curls, at maximum intensity to stimulate your biceps–and be done with it! Anything other than that is just waste. That is how you burn the maximum amount of calories in the least amount of time (additionally, you’ll finish your workouts much faster)!
The primary reason why magazines, websites and trainers are constantly promoting the use of doing “out of the box” things like unilateral training and constantly coming up with new routines, is because that’s how they stay relevant to you, and at the same time, it keeps you motivated and excited about maintaining a subscription to their publication or purchase more training sessions! But look, part of the discipline of training, and any type of work in general, is realizing that it’s going to be boring. That, is an emotion. An emotion of your monkey brain, that needs to be tamed. (Google Monkey Brain Discipline if you aren’t familiar with that concept) Bottom line, if you want to play and have fun while exercising, fine…there is no problem with that either. One of the biggest draws you can enjoy about going to a gym is the sense of community that can be found. Just know that if going to the gym becomes your social “happy hour” instead of your personal improvement hour, it will come at the cost of hitting your goal in the shortest. And, in the long run, I don’t know about you personally, but the majority of clients I’ve met would agree that hitting their goal and looking sexy–and feelin’ kind’a cute–in the shortest amount of time, would be far more rewarding than daily entertainment in a sweat box. So again, ask yourself: how serious are you about reaching your long-term fitness goal?
In closing this tip out, its also important to note that training at high intensity does not require heavy weights, special equipment or even a gym membership. You can achieve amazing results at home with basic resistance bands. As long as you remain consistent and aware of your A&P pathways that will be in play, making sure not to hamper them, you can quickly realize the benefits of leveraging the exercise intensity component to accelerate incremental compounding. This exact type of high intensity compounding strategy is the secret that many fitness professionals use to achieve results, with the least amount of time and effort.
In wrapping up this list, another common mistake people make is not checking where or who they are getting fitness advice from.
Yeap, as I’m giving you all this information you should rightfully be fact checking, skeptical, analyzing and applying critical thinking to what I’m sharing with you. Personally, I welcome it because even if I’m found to be wrong about something I’ll chalk it up to the learning continuum and use it as an opportunity to improve (operative word there being if). But too often people just gobble down what information is fed to them, basing the merits of said information primarily on the physical appearance of the person, the degree or profession, number of titles or worse yet, number of followers and likes. Social media being the worse because information is spread rapidly regardless of its validity and as already described, how, if not properly placed into context and prescribed properly can do more harm than good—intentionally or not.
Let’s use a typical weight loss ad for the next illustration. We’ve all seen the ads promoting the latest fad diet or fitness product (pick whichever you want), sprinkled with the term it’s the ultimate fat burner endorsed by a model with a beautiful body and ripped 6 pack. More often than not that model is usually a genetically lean person, an ectomorph or what’s also known as a hard gainer. They don’t struggle with staying lean, they struggle with gaining weight. (Also worth noting at this point you can usually tell a genetically lean person by the size of their lower body in relation to their upper body, in men, usually having much smaller legs; genetically lean women can also be quickly identified as having smaller upper body, waist and legs, but have larger hips and a big ole’ booty. Again, this is just a quick eyeball determination, but worth keeping an eye on the next time you see a product being promoted with a proverbial 6 pack model). So logically, if they have a problem gaining weight, how credible can they be at giving fitness advice on life-long weight loss, if they’ve never struggled with their weight? Not meant to be judgmental, but rather when given an opportunity to get first hand fitness advice from others that have actually done what you’re trying to do, take first-hand fitness advice, first. Again, with a caveat exception to that rule discussed momentarily.
On the flip side, as you’ve seen my struggle is keeping the weight and body fat off, but the benefit is being an easy gainer at developing chest and shoulders. In being cognizant of this, when guys ask how to develop their chest, genetics, is the first thing I mention and always take into consideration the role ones genetics will play when designing exercise routines for others.
This logic also holds true when it comes to getting training advice from those that use performance enhancing hormones or steroids. Again, to each their own…but for example…when a person uses anabolic steroids they’re shunting the biological pathway of catabolism, ie. muscle deterioration. So their muscles recover faster which means they need less rest in between their workouts and as a result their workout routine cannot be the same as someone that doesn’t use performance enhancing anabolics. Non-steroid users have to incorporate more recovery time into their training and diet schedule. So even if someone followed an “anabolic” athlete’s routine with 100% accuracy they aren’t going to see comparable results and more than likely incur an injury from overtraining.
Similarly, and I approach this topic with as much sensitivity as possible, is that people are taking dieting and nutrition advice from social media influencers struggling with personal issues like an un-diagnosed eating disorder, obsessive compulsion disorder (OCD) or even body dysmorphia may have shifted their disorder into the more socially acceptable form of bodybuilding or other fitness competitions. Again, out of respect for the complications involved with eating disorders and having lost a loved one to it I cannot go into specific details as to how you can spot this in this short post.
Lastly, in addition to steroid use and eating disorders, are those that are giving advice because they have excelled in some form of competitive sport or competition. For the better part of life I too adhered to the mantra that you should always take advice from those that have done what you’re trying to do. Well there’s an exception to that rule I recently learned.
Several past and current clients I’ve worked with followed nutrition plans and exercise routines from trainers/coaches that were award winning athletes, bodybuilders and fitness competitors, but delivered horrific results to their clients. The advice these top athletes were prescribing to clients was horribly constructed and put together. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why. At first glance in looking at the nutrition plans and exercise routines the clients had been prescribed, I recognize many of the TECHNIQUES being used, but when examined in totality, observed that when certain training methodologies and components were being mixed together, they’d be as effective as mixing gasoline, annnd….fire. Then it hit me after talking to several other coaches. What was discovered is that many top bodybuilder and figure fitness competitors have their own coaches, which also struck me as strange but didn’t think anything of it, simply chalked it up as another way to achieve continuous improvement. Until after seeing it happen enough times I remembered reading a book about one of the greatest armies ever formed, led by Alexander the Great.
So to illustrate the difference between working with a fitness professional that is a great strategist versus one that’s simply a great competitor, we’re going to look at a quick comparison between Alexander the Great, and his Generals.
Alexander conquered the world by leading some of the greatest generals into historical victories. However, once Alexander died so did the great army he had built. Why? If he had so many great generals then one of them should’ve been able to step up as the leader and continue Alexander’s greatness. That wasn’t the case though because as it turned out his generals were great followers, or tactical executioners—not strategists. Meaning, that if they were given a plan they could operationalize it with the utmost performance, probably even better than Alexander himself. But when it came to seeing the big picture and developing strategic campaigns those skills were all the intricate planning and talent of Alexander. In relation to fitness we assume that if a person is able to achieve a top finishing in athletic competition, then they must also be able to teach and transfer what they know as an exercise or nutrition coach. That is not always…dare I now even say…rarely the case.
Many top performing competitors have coaches that know how to tap into the unique talent of that athlete then develop a winning strategy, specifically designed around that athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. However, those athletes then believe they can reproduce what their coach has done for them by simply reusing (or parroting) their own routines and techniques without ever truly having understood or have the strategic planning skills of an Alexander. Again that’s not meant to pass judgement. In fact, having competed as a bodybuilder I never excelled in the sport because I didn’t have the gift or passion to do so. Like many coaches, I found my gift was being able to identify patterns and create fitness strategies from them, then passioning that gift into helping others excel at achieving their fitness goals. And this is common when you think of great coach and athlete pairings like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Weider, Mike Tyson and an Angelo Dundee. But, if an athlete doesn’t have the self-awareness to realize this, they end up prescribing cookie cutter nutrition plans and exercise routines that are as ineffective as any other freshly certified fitness professional, straight out of school.
So in learning how to avoid this common mistake just know that you don’t know who you are getting fitness advice from or what struggles they are personally dealing with in the background while “teaching” or being a social influencer to others. The struggles can be in the form of performance enhancing drug addictions, eating disorders, obsessive compulsion, or just plain lack of strategic planning skills–so, you have to take everything you learn with a grain of salt, research it yourself, know when to use what is applicable for YOU and throw out what is not.
While this was a lot of information to absorb I commend you for getting through this and staying engaged and committed to learning how to improve, and reach your fitness goals. A lot of the information in this post can be applied right out of the box and used immediately. But because of the complexity and subtle nuances of fitness and weight loss, a lot of it has to intentionally be left abstract so that it can be tailored to your specific body and lifestyle.
Then, RE-ADAPTED, to your goals, body and lifestyle changes over time. Continually.
The goal in this post was to simply provide you with an honest, and accurate baseline to help you get started or improve your existing fitness efforts. And hopefully dispel a lot of old fitness myths, by removing some of the noise that’s being created using egregiously misleading fitness ads; and circumspect social media influencing. Most importantly, shining a light on the complexity involved in fitness that many don’t address because it can be socially edgy, or worse, dry and boring. Either way, that is where greatness is to be found. In the addressing of socially uncomfortable topics, which are the cause of the most common problems. In order to make progress though, those issues should be taken on, need to be taken on, because that’s where personal, and social growth occurs. In the end, if there’s one thing I hope you walk away with from this is that regardless of how much work you put in…regaining weight may be biologically inevitable for you. Don’t let that deter or derail your progress if or when it happens. Plan for it in advance, know that it’s all part of the process, and success isn’t about where you end up, but rather in your ability to embrace the yo-yo just as we’re expected to embrace all other aspects of life. Keep in mind that times will be hard…but they will also be better.
In closing, if you like the concept of Embracing the Yo-Yo or know of someone that it might help please feel free to share this post. I also plan on elaborating into further details about other tools and techniques that can be used to build effective fitness strategies, and point out other common mistakes that will help people reach their fitness goals more efficiently and faster. The ultimate goal is to teach you how to best maintain your success…and sanity…by creating an Embracing the Yo-Yo fitness workshop, and online coaching programs, along with a fitness tips mailing list in the future. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to sign up for those as well and I’ll be sure to keep you informed.
Best of luck on your journey.
Al Smith, Jr.
The Fitness Specialist
TrainChange: A Unique, Step-by-Step Analytical Approach to Fat Loss
2012 2nd Edition
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