This is a question that comes up often.
Before I get into a long explanation of technique and what not, let me answer the question:
No. Kettlebells are not dangerous.
It’s funny to me that the types of equipment and training that offer the most benefit are also demonized the most. Resistance training, kettlebell training, Olympic lifting all get a ton of unnecessary hate and people stay away because they heard part of a bad story.
On the other hand, I have yet to hear of someone that avoided running, spin, or another form of aerobic exercise because they suffered a knee injury or heard a story from someone they know.
I’ll stop before I go full rant, but context is important. Remember these words:
There are no bad exercises, just bad applications.
Even the most simple exercise has the potential to cause injury if you aren’t paying attention. For this reason alone, good technique is an absolute must.
Learning correct technique will keep you safe and enjoying the benefits of all exercises, kettlebells included!
Swings are not an upper body exercise!
When using kettlebells for the first time, it is common to want to raise the weight by lifting with the upper body first. This is incorrect and will definitely lead to problems.
All popular kettlebell exercises (swings, cleans, snatches, etc) are lower body exercises first. Yes, your hands and arms are involved, but they are mostly there to hold and control the weight. Your lower body, specifically your glutes and hamstrings, are the muscles mostly used. Understanding this will keep you safe with any kettlebell exercise you attempt to learn.
After teaching for about 10 years now, these are the issues I see most often with kettlebells:
- Using the upper body
- Too much range of motion
- Not using a heavy enough kettlebell
No squatting with swings!
Kettlebell swings are NOT squats. They are It’s a completely different move that’s similar to a deadlift, but with less weight and range of motion. Commonly called a “hinge” because you are only moving at one joint (think of a door hinge). When I teach this to clients, I tell them to imagine they are folding themselves in half at the waist. Think “hips to the wall, keep back flat”.
The goal of the hinge is to teach you to move using your hips first. This is the basis for the swing, so make sure you get this move down!
I like to use a wall and start with a small range of motion. Within a few minutes, clients usually feel confident doing this and move away from the wall, increasing range of motion. You can see this in the video above (ignore the single leg version).
From the bottom of this movement, you want to flex your glutes to return to the start position. Since there’s no resistance it will take several reps before you start to “feel” it in your glutes. If you don’t feel it right away that’s ok. What’s more important right now is that you don’t feel fatigue, pain, or strain in your lower back.
When learning any exercise for the first time, GO SLOW! You cannot learn and correct yourself at full speed.
If you feel this where you shouldn’t or have a difficult time holding a neutral spine position, take a step back and start with an easier exercise. Bridges are a great exercise for learning to use your glutes.
Bridges allow you to focus on hip extension without worrying about much else. Keep your abs braced tight and use your glutes, making sure that you aren’t using your low back to arch up and down from the floor. There should be no flex or bending in your middle throughout the range of motion.
Once you can do this easily, go back to the hinge.
Once you are comfortable with the hinge, you can add some resistance.
The only difference between this exercise and a full swing is the speed. We’re still learning the movement so it is best to keep the range of motion short. Don’t worry though, this will still get your heart rate up and you’ll definitely feel it!
With most resistance training exercises, we put emphasis on lowering the weight slower than we lift it. Not the case with kettlebell swings. This is one situation where we want to use the momentum to our advantage!
Stay with the hinge, but now move faster! Start by just moving faster on the way up. Feel how the weight starts to move away from your body? This is how you get the kettlebell up! Once you have a feel for the “fast up” part, try lowering faster too. Don’t pause at the bottom, or you’ll lose the momentum. Once you hit the end of your range of motion, extend your hips and immediately return to the start position.
And that’s it. Congratulations, you just learned how to swing a kettlebell!
Don’t be afraid to use a heavier kettlebell. Remember, you aren’t using your arms to lift so it won’t feel as heavy as you think. This also reduces that tendency to want to lift with your arms. If you’re looking to use kettlebell swings as a conditioning exercise, 5, 10, or 15 pounds aren’t enough to get that effect.
The RKC recommends 20kg for men and 10kg for women. If you want to start a little lighter to get the technique right, that’s fine. But don’t be afraid to push yourself once you feel confident with your form.
I recently went to a local rock climbing gym!
One of my friends goes from time to time and asked me to come. In the spirit of trying new things I told him to count me in!
As a last-minute surprise, his wife joined us. She’s an experienced rock climber, ice climber, and does a bunch of other stuff I find very impressive and would never in a million years think of doing. I like being outdoors, but they take it to another level! Much respect.
She gave me a brief “intro to climbing” talk and helped me understand how to climb and not wear yourself out.
As someone who spends a considerable amount of time every week lifting heavy stuff, it was tempting to rush right in and start climbing like is was in the gym for a workout. I know better than that though, and rock climbing is NOT an activity to approach with a “BRUTE FORCE” mentality. That is, if you want to be able to move and have hands capable of doing anything the next day.
My unexpected coach helped me have an enjoyable and successful first go at climbing. Thanks, coach! Luckily, I was able to somewhat return the favor in the same day.
During a break from climbing, explaining route markers, and the differences between indoor and outdoor climbing, she mentioned she gets pain in her forearms whenever she does a pull up. My turn to be the coach!
We went over a few stretches for areas she mentioned were tight, and I spent a few minutes teaching her how to engage her lats to help with her forearm issue.
The Moral of The Story…
Learning to engage and use bigger muscles before smaller ones (lats vs wrist flexors and extensors, in this case) will make you stronger in the gym and in everyday situations.
When learning pulling exercises in the gym like rows, pull ups, and even lat pulldowns, “engaging” the right muscles first is key. Bigger muscles can handle more stress and won’t fatigue as fast, allowing you to do more work. Improving intra-muscular coordination will lead to better results and less likelihood of injury.
Learn to retract and depress your shoulders!
I bet you can shrug your shoulders and round them forward with no problem, right? The 2 movements below are about learning to move in the opposite direction. These moves are usually tricky when attempting them for the first time. Take is slow, don’t get frustrated, and practice often!
This movement is challenging if you’ve never done it before. Often when you ask someone to “move their shoulders back” they will lift their chest and arch their back, which isn’t exactly what we want here. It’s a small movement. Start with 2 sets of 10 with a 1-2 sec pause on each rep. You can increase this hold as you get stronger. You can also change the angle of the exercise for an added challenge. The lower the angle, the more of a challenge to retract without shrugging your shoulders.
This is the opposite of “shrugging” your shoulders. A common instruction is to “put your shoulders into your back pocket”. This is also a small movement and tricky if you’re not used to it. Start with 2 sets of 10 with a 1-2 sec pause on each rep. You can increase this hold as you get stronger.
You do not need to hang from a bar to perform this exercise. I prefer this personally, but I’ve also worked up to the point where it is easy. You can start with your arms overhead, or by holding something light, like a broomstick if it helps to have something in your hands.
This is important for performance in and out of the gym, but also for healthy shoulders. Add these exercises to your warm up routine or do them on your off day. It doesn’t matter where you do them, just make sure you get them done!
You don’t need equipment to do these exercises either. If you’re stuck behind a desk all day you can raise your arms and do them with no resistance. You’ll still feel it where you’re supposed to.
I have a new little brother!
Well, he’s not actually my brother but that’s what he calls himself. I started volunteering with Big Brothers & Big Sisters last year and I spend roughly 4 hours each week with my 9 year old “little”. Entertaining doesn’t quite describe our adventures.
I try to find something different to do each week, and so far we’ve gone to the movies, the zoo, a reptile house, and a trampoline park. Actually, we did the trampoline park twice and the second one had a ninja warrior course! I think this big kid had more fun than the little one that day.
When the weather is nice we spend a lot of time in the park playing games.
He tries to turn everything into a competition between us and does everything he can to stack the odds in his favor, like not telling me we are keeping score until he is ahead. I have to give him credit because he’s clever. I’ve been around a lot longer though, so his sneaky attempts at winning never work out like he wants them to.
This leads to a lot of conversations about playing games, sportsmanship, and the concept of winning. He’ll often say something like “If I win this game, you have to take me to McDonald’s and I get extra nuggets!” I usually play along, but raise the stakes for him by saying something like “Ok, no problem. But if I win, we go for pizza and I get to eat yours.”
“What?! I don’t want to play then. That’s not fair!”
Funny how that fairness thing only comes up when he’s not getting his way.
I’m teasing him, of course. He always wants to win with everything, but there’s a problem…
He doesn’t know how yet.
I try to help him with this where I can, but it’s tough and I’m sure anyone with kids can relate!
When we play basketball, he usually starts running around the court, pretending to be LeBron James, then tries to make some impossible shot. When he misses (as anyone would), he gets mad and starts putting himself down:
“This is ridiculous! Why can’t I make a shot? I’m no good at this”
I usually step in at this point with the same approach I use with clients struggling in the gym. My goal is to get him to calm down, understand why what he’s doing isn’t working, and help him figure out a better way. I usually say something like “you’re not bad, but you’re taking shots that are difficult for someone my size. Move closer and try a normal shot like we practiced.”
As always, once he listens, he makes the next several shots and the all is right in the world again.
“I can do it when I pay attention to what you said.”
I explain to him that “winning” isn’t automatic. It takes a lot of work, and no one wins all the time. Even more important, EVERYONE wants to win, and nobody is going to let you win just because you want to.
If winning is important to you, then learn how to win!
Same goes for fitness and any other area of self-improvement.
- Pay attention to what you’re doing instead of mindlessly going through the motions. This goes in the gym with exercises and at home with nutrition.
- When you’re paying attention, you’ll start to notice what is working for you. Keep doing that until it stops.
- For the things that aren’t working, change them. Make small changes to your approach, one thing at a time, until you’re getting the results you want.
- Keep it simple until you’re confident and can handle everything easily.
- Don’t quit because you’re frustrated or having a bad day. It happens to everyone. Your ability to manage this becomes important for future success, so hang in there!
Success and winning are not automatic, but you can be successful if you work at it. Put in the time to learn what works for you, pay attention to your actions, and improve them until you’re getting what you want. A simple and effective approach for almost guaranteed results!
Tired of Crunches? Use These Exercises to Strengthen Your Core!
Abdominal, or “core” training as it’s more commonly called these days, is more than crunches and planks. In fact, you’re missing out big time if you’re only doing these exercises!
When talking about abdominal muscles, most people immediately think of the “6 pack” (rectus abdominis) and the obliques. That’s it, right?
Yes, these are major abdominal muscles, but there are several more. If you want to talk “core training, then you also have to include the glutes and other trunk muscles that you can’t see in the mirror.
“But how? How do I train these muscles and give them the attention they need?”
Do more than crunches and straight planks!
Before I jump into the exercises, let me say this: abdominal training IS NOT complicated. You do not need much equipment, or impressive looking exercises that look good on social media but do little more than give you a nice “burn” in your stomach. Remember, your goal with these exercises is to improve strength and stability that transfers to other exercises and activities you enjoy.
It is also worth mentioning that abdominal exercises DO NOT make your stomach flatter or your waist smaller. If your goal is to see these muscles, better nutrition needs to be your priority. One more time, for the people in the back:
Ab exercises don’t make your stomach flatter or your waist smaller. Focus on better nutrition and fat loss if you want to see these muscles.
Okay, onto the exercises!
Chops are a great exercise to work your obliques. You can do them kneeling to focus just on the abdominals, or do them standing to get the glutes involved. Do them starting low and finishing high, or the opposite. I’d recommend doing one from each direction. One way or another, just do them, and do them right! Start with 2-3 sets of 15 each side.
Your obliques are responsible for rotational movements, like the chop above. Did you know that they are also meant to resist rotation? They are, and that’s what this exercise is all about. Make sure your weight is even between your feet, and start with your hands about chest level at the center of your body. Push your arms straight forward, pause, and return to the start. Make sure you aren’t “stirring a pot” when doing this exercise. You can also hold for time, making this exercise kind of like a standing side plank. Try 2-3 sets of 15-20 for the press, and 2-3 sets of 30 seconds for the hold.
This exercise is very simple, but when done right it is very effective and challenging! Just like the obliques can resist rotation, your abs/rectus abdominis can resist extension (arching your back). The goal of this exercise is to move your arm and leg without arching your back or losing tension in your abs. This exercises tends to be a little frustrating at first, so be slow and deliberate with your movements. Start with 2-3 sets of 15 each side.
Another simple but effective exercise. This is similar to the dead bug, but from a different position. Again, the goal is to move your arm and leg without arching your back, but this time there is the added challenge of balance. Try 2-3 sets of 15 each side to start.
This is not a complete list of different core exercises, but it’s a good place to start. Add some to your program today for more variety and stronger abs!
Pound for pound, pull ups are one of the most challenging exercises out there.
If you want to be “bad and strong” in and out of the gym, pull ups are an absolute must. Getting your first reps takes some work though, and it can be a real grind!
Don’t worry though. If you can’t do a full pull up yet, or you want to be able to do more reps, adding these exercises to your program will help make it happen.
Get ready to pull a lot! The more pulling exercises in your program, the better. Rows are great for focusing on muscles involved in pulling, like the rhomboids and middle and lower trapezius. They are also easier than pull ups, which means you can get more reps to build strength and endurance in your hands.
The more upright you stand, the easier the exercise is (first version). To make it harder, walk your feet forward. The Inverted row is the hardest version of this exercise you can do without adding extra resistance. Start with 3 sets of 15-20 reps on the bodyweight row, and 3 sets of 10-12 reps on the inverted row.
Assisted Chin Ups
Lat pulldowns and machine assisted pull ups are fine for improving back development, but they won’t cut it if full pull ups are your goal. Band and partner assisted pull ups are also ok, but these two assisted versions are closer to the real thing and require you to work more. It’s all about the work!
Start under the bar with your feet on the floor. Pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, but only use your upper body! You can “cheat” a little with your legs to get the last rep or two if you must, but use as much upper body as possible. For more of a challenge, straighten your legs, or get your feet off the floor like in the 4th exercise. If you want even more of a challenge, use gymnastics rings or TRX. Start with 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Eccentric Chin Ups
This one is a killer! Your muscles can lower more than they can lift, and this exercise takes advantage of that to build strength. Use a step or bench to get your chin above the bar. Come to a hang, then slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended.
When I say slowly, I mean SLOW! It should take 5-8 seconds to reach the bottom. Your reps will be lower on this exercise than the others because of the slower tempo. Try 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps.
A few tips to remember:
-You can change your hand position on these exercises to add more variety. Palms up (supine), palms down (prone), or neutral (palms facing each other) grip all target the back muscles, but with a slightly different emphasis.
-NO CHEATING! Fully extend your arms on every rep.
Question from a client: I have some equipment lying around and want to put together a gym I can use at home. Where do I start and what do I need?
Right behind “how do I get a flatter stomach?” this is the second most often asked question I get. While it may seem overwhelming or confusing, putting together a home gym is very simple. I’ll break it down and show you exactly how.
The amount and type of equipment you can use depends on 3 things: space, budget, and how much you plan to use it. If you have plenty of room, can invest in a decent amount of equipment and will use it often, build a full gym with a squat rack, bench, full set of dumbbells and a few other pieces depending on your goals. If your space and budget are limited, a few dumbbells and an exercise mat are enough.
This space is a storage room that holds most of the equipment I use day to day. With some rearranging, we can turn it into a nice little gym!
This room is pretty big, but I’m only using a small, 10×6 section for this demonstration. If you have more space, have fun and build a really cool gym! Just know that limited space won’t keep you from being able to train effectively and get good results.
As an in home personal trainer, I have a variety of equipment that I use to keep clients “happy”. I recommend equipment that has multiple uses. Dumbbells, kettlebells, bands and sandbags can be used for all resistance training and interval training exercises.
A bench is helpful, but it is not required since most exercises can be done on the floor.
- Clear the area of any objects so nothing is damaged or broken.
- Careful with low ceilings for any overhead or jumping exercises.
- If you are using a bench or squat rack, make sure you have enough clearance on both sides to easily load and unload the bar and move each exercise through the full range of motion. If you plan on doing barbell exercises like bench press, have a spotter for heavy sets.
- For treadmills, make sure the area behind the machine is clear of any objects and not right up against a wall.
Time to put your new gym to use! Get some workouts in, get comfortable, and find a way around the home gym challenges. Happy training!
I had a conversation with a client recently that made me stop and think for a while. She commented on the advice and coaching throughout the session and how helpful she found it, both in and out of the gym. It’s part of the job and automatic at this point, so I tend to think nothing of it. I thanked her for the compliment and then tried to think of a time when I was in her shoes.
Sit back, put your feet up, and relax. Its story time!
Flashback to 1997 and a gym somewhere in suburban New Jersey.
About halfway through one of many basketball practices, the coaches split us up to practice free throws. Right behind sprints, this was my least favorite part of practice. I had a lot of work to do in this area and I was a very inconsistent shooter.
I must’ve missed several shots in a row, because our “shooting coach” felt the need to chime in…
“Jay, you’re a horrible shooter.”
And that was it. Nothing else. No help, no advice. Nothing. From the shooting coach. The coach who’s job it was to help us improve our technique. To say I was angry is an understatement. As an athlete, you get used to coaches pulling you aside to tell you where you messed up. I didn’t mind the criticism, but the other coaches would tell you something you could learn from and use next time. This guy gave me nothing. Thanks for the help, coach!
Here’s my question: if you’re a coach and see a player struggling with some aspect of their game, why open your mouth to criticize if you have no intention or ability to help them? To any personal trainer and coach, fitness sports or anything in between, I ask you the same question:
why criticize and berate your clients if you can’t do anything productive to help them?
This approach does nothing to correct or solve any problems It is confusing at best, and discourages people from trying at worst.
There’s a much better way to go about it.
Compare that experience to my brief time practicing with the basketball team in college 2 years later.
During one evening practice, the coaches had the big men together working on free throws and post defense. My free throw shooting was better, but not by much. After a few shots, the head coach came over and explained what he saw that was causing me to be so inconsistent. He told me what to do and what I should focus on while on the line.
Within 5 minutes there was a noticeable improvement. Mind blown! Even after I quit the team I continued to use his advice when I played or went to shoot around.
These two experiences stick with me to this day as examples of what to do and what to avoid when coaching people on exercise, nutrition, and daily habits that lead to better health.
Of course, fitness is much different than sports, but coaching is an important part of both. In all my experiences with coaching, on the receiving end as an athlete and student and on the providing end as a personal trainer, these are a few of the things I believe make great coaches stand out:
1.Observe, listen, and do something helpful.
Being critical is fine, but also give them something they can do to improve. It’s silly to have to say it, but this is what coaching is! If you’re coaching a client with nutrition, don’t yell at them for having a bad day. Listen to them and discuss what they can do to get back on track and solve the issue going forward. Instead of “wow, your push ups look awful!”, show them how to do it right. Train them. This is what you’re there for!
2.No advice is better than bad advice.
Sometimes its better to just be quiet. The last thing anyone needs is more bad advice that doesn’t help them solve their problem. If you can’t help, keep it to yourself.
3. Communication is key.
As a coach, you have an understanding of fitness, nutrition, sports, or whatever your chosen field is. Your knowledge is useless if your clients don’t understand you when you speak. Big words and industry specific terms are fine when talking to colleagues, but your clients most likely don’t care. Skip the buzzwords and learn to speak their language. The better you can communicate, the better their results will be.
4. Be patient.
It would be great if everyone was 100% on board and ready to go from day one, but that’s not how it works. People progress and learn at different speeds. Understand that it takes more time for some than it does for others. Encouragement, reminders, and even a little “tough love” are all fine, but don’t hold it against them or get mad because they aren’t getting it as fast as you want them to.
Fitness trends are always changing.
It’s impossible to keep up or know what’s going to be the next big thing. How do you keep up?
If you’ve been on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube recently you’ve no doubt seen videos of “booty workouts” with resistance bands, or other leg exercises done in “interesting” ways. What started as a way to introduce new exercises to the masses has turned into… well lets just say ridiculous would be an understatement.
If you’re interested in actually looking better or improving performance in the gym and not just getting likes on social media, this is for you.
What you need to know about Booty Workouts (and any other fitness trends):
1.Are you going to build impressive levels of strength or a killer physique with “band only workouts”? Nope, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Band exercises make a great addition to a training program and are handy while traveling, but they aren’t a replacement for it. Lift, add some resistance, and focus on basic movements like squats, lunges, bridges and their variations. I promise you won’t end up looking like a man.
2.Train your entire body. Focusing only on your “booty” puts you in the same category as the guy that only trains his upper body. Don’t be that person!
3.Incorporate the useful parts into what you’re currently doing. Attention grabbing stuff aside, some of the exercises seen in these videos are beneficial. Skip the “looks good for the camera” stuff and add the good exercises to your program. Yeah, you’ll get a good burn, but you’ll also notice the effects elsewhere.
4.Lower body exercises like squats, lunges, step ups, and deadlifts focus primarily on flexion and extension of the hips and knees. Some variations of these exercises involve abduction or external rotation, but flexion and extension are still the primary movements. Unless you add exercises that specifically target abduction and external rotation of the hip, the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and external rotators are likely to be under trained.
Sure, there are machines made for these exercises. Unfortunately, not every gym has them, and if you train at home you definitely don’t have access to them.
This is where resistance bands come in to save the day!
Bridges, hip thrusts, band walks, and abduction exercises strengthen the glutes and external rotator muscles of the hip. Squats, lunges, step ups and their variations are great, but they mostly move in one direction. Adding lateral movement exercises like band walks, clams and hip abduction will make your lower body workouts more well rounded.
This video shows a few of the exercises I use most often with clients. Depending on their needs, we may use these exercises as part of the warm up, towards the end of a session, or as part of a circuit to really challenge the legs!
A few notes on the exercises:
1. I prefer medium to heavy resistance bands for these exercises. Yes, they make the exercises harder, but they are also less likely to break! I use 4Kor bands and they are the only available band I’ve found that holds up under heavy use. I use them multiple times daily and I’m still on my first set, which is more than I can say for some of the others I’ve tried. You get a set of 6 and they come in a handy pouch so you don’t lose them! You can find them here.
2. For the bridges, kickbacks, and hip thrusts, try 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
3. The kickback is meant to focus on hip extension only, so check your form to make sure you’re not getting a big arch in your low back. Push back so that your leg is in line with your hip and torso at the end of the movement.
4. With the lateral and monster walks, start with 2-3 laps with 10-15 steps in each direction. If you don’t have a lot of space or find this too easy, do more laps! To get the most from both of these exercises, press your knees into the band, but not so much that your big toe comes off the floor. Maintain this position for the whole exercise.
5. For the side lying clam and standing abduction exercises, start with 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, do as many reps as you can in 1 minute.
I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade here. Sure, booty workouts and other fitness videos can be fun to watch, but it’s important to know the difference between entertainment and what’s effective for getting results in the gym. Focus on the effective and you’re guaranteed to continue moving closer towards your fitness and physique goals.
Lift. Eat. Sleep. Stretch. Don’t eat a lot of garbage.
If you came to my gym looking to train and asked how to get results, this is what I would tell you. How much of each and how often depends on the goal, but this is the general message.
Most people agree, and follow the program even if they are slow to implement the changes. Some will disagree and want to argue, which is fine. Education is part of the process and through these conversations they also come around and eventually follow the program.
Every now and then I meet someone that doesn’t want to listen. Not just to me, they don’t listen to anyone! Instead of taking the advice of their coach, they try several approaches at once or switch from one to the next weekly in the pursuit of instant gratification.
Flustered and frustrated after several attempts, stops, starts, resets and jump starts they eventually come to ask me “what should I do? I’ve tried everything and nothing is working!”
Stop trying to do everything. Pick one approach and give it a chance to work.
While I’d be thrilled if everyone followed my recommendations, I understand that everyone has different goals, interests, time commitments and motivations. The approach I use works, but it isn’t for everyone.
No matter what fitness or nutrition approach you take, amazing results don’t come overnight. Yes, I’ve had clients see visible progress in one week, but this does not happen with everyone. Expecting a completely different body or big changes in strength in a week or less is unrealistic and guaranteed to bring frustration.
As long as its not something dangerous or some silly fad diet (you would not believe half the stories I’ve heard!), give any program a minimum of 4-6 weeks before changing to something else.
4 weeks allows you to mentally and physically adjust and get the early mistakes out of the way. This is enough time to figure out if you can sustain this approach long term. It takes more than a week or two to figure these things out and get settled, so be patient! If the program is solid, it will work and you’ll get results. If not, go ahead with Plan B.
The “trick” to getting results is simple – be consistent. That’s it. You don’t need to do anything extreme or complicated! Whether it’s getting stronger in the weight room, losing inches through better nutrition, or even something not fitness related like saving money, consistent effort over time brings success. Make this your focus, instead of looking for a different approach.
Weight loss is a complicated and often emotional issue for many. Fitness is difficult at times, but nutrition is the most difficult and frustrating, for both client and coach. Long held beliefs, habits, and the constant stream of confusing and conflicting information from the media are plenty to deal with. When you add the “I want results now!” factor and the challenge of breaking old habits, it is easy to see why so many end up frustrated and give up.
Here is the good news: it doesn’t need to be this hard! The process of weight loss or building muscle is actually very simple, and there are several steps you can take to get great results with little frustration.
Things To Do For Long Term Weight Loss…
1. Be patient and set realistic expectations.
Results don’t come overnight, so be patient. Getting discouraged because you only dropped 4 pounds in 2 weeks (realistic) instead of 15 (very unrealistic and impossible for most) is unfair and misses the big picture.
focus on the fact that you are making progress towards your goal.
What is a realistic expectation for weight loss? Roughly 1% of body weight/week. For most, this is between .5-2 pounds a week.
There are three very important things to know:
- Most people overestimate the amount of weight they need to lose to achieve the look they want. Don’t tie your success to the numbers on the scale!
- The less weight you have to lose, the slower it comes off. Also, certain areas of the body respond slower or faster than others, and this differs from person to person.
- The scale lies, so use a more objective measuring tool. Scale weight can change drastically day to day depending on several factors. Take measurements of your waist, hips, and other areas or have your body fat percentage measured.
2. Pick an approach and stick with it.
Progress with weight loss takes time. Switching from one thing to the next every week because you are frustrated won’t help. Pick something and give it time to work. There are no magic formulas or secret approaches, just consistent work. Give your plan a minimum of 3-4 weeks before you consider another approach.
3. Have a plan for dining out and special occasions.
Dining out, special events, being caught at kid’s events (games, parties, etc) with nothing to eat. These are some of the most common problem areas that cause frustration and lead to throwing in the towel. Have a plan before you go. If you’re dining out and don’t want to splurge, eat before you go and have something small at the restaurant, or take a look at the menu and choose your meal before you get there. For soccer games and other activities, you can eat before you go or pack a small lunch bag with food or supplements to take with you. There are many things you can do, but the most important thing is that you have a plan!
4. Prepare more meals at home.
Take out is great every now and then, but nothing beats a home-made meal! You know exactly what is in your food and in what amounts, giving you control and an easier time staying on your nutrition plan. If the thought of spending time in the kitchen gives you a headache, there are several companies that offer good quality prepackaged meals. Food prep has never been easier!
5. Treat sleep and recovery as serious as you treat your exercise program.
There are three parts to every successful fitness and weight loss program, and sleep & recovery are one of them! Exercise is a form of stress that makes us stronger, faster, durable, and more resilient, but only if we can recover from it. Not only does sleep let us recover and grow, but it is much easier to follow a nutrition plan when well rested. Make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours a night, or work a nap into your day.
6. Work at it and be consistent.
There’s no secret or trick to it. If you want it, you’re going to have to work for it. Your approach doesn’t have to be extreme or aggressive to work. Consistent effort over time brings results. Get started today and keep at it until what you are doing stops working.
Things Not To Do…
1. Beat yourself up over mistakes.
Mistakes happen, and unexpected events will throw you off. This is especially true if it is your first time, or you’re starting again after a long break. I often hear a lot of disappointment and anger when these things happen. Clients usually say they are “starting over” or “hitting the reset button”.
Question: If you were on a road trip to someplace you’ve never been and took a wrong turn, would you go home and start over, or would you get back on your route?
The mistakes and unexpected events are there to teach you something: how to adjust yourself and your plan to keep moving forward. Instead of kicking yourself and starting over, learn from the mistakes and setbacks. Apply this new information to help continue with more confidence.
2. Go “beast mode” on day one.
It is tempting to want to conquer the whole mountain on day one, but I urge you to resist. Taking on too much, too soon will lead to a quick burn out and a fair amount of frustration. Take your time and gradually build up to a rigorous plan. Start with 3-4 days a week so you have a chance to adapt to and recover from the workouts. This works better for staying consistent since you have 3-4 days to make up in case you miss a day.
3. Try the crash diet and over exercise approach.
This recipe for disaster usually shows up when someone wants to be ready for an event in a short amount of time. At best, you’ll hit the wall fast and wind up exhausted, cranky, a little sick and really hungry. I don’t recommend extreme diets under any circumstances. The reduction will affect your hormones, appetite, ability to concentrate, and sleep. All of these make it harder to exercise, follow a nutrition plan, and lose weight.
Here is a better approach to tighten up quickly: make small changes to your food intake and keep your exercise the same or increase slightly. You’re better off adding a workout and getting plenty of sleep than cutting a big portion of calories.
4. Rely on caffeine or other stimulants to keep you going.
It is important to push yourself, but you also must listen to your body. Loading up on caffeine, pre-workout supplements and other stimulants may hide the fatigue, but it won’t fix the problem. Forget all that “sleep is for the weak, I’ll rest when I’m dead” nonsense. If you’re tired, rest and take care of yourself so you can continue to train hard and work towards your goals.
5. Compare yourself to anyone else.
Self improvement is all about becoming a better version of yourself, so the only comparison is to yourself! How are you doing now compared to last month? How much have you improved since you started? Is this attempt at reaching your goal going better than others? These are the only kind of comparison questions worth asking.