If you know anyone who works in the fitness industry, do me a favor and give them a big hug. Look them in the eyes and tell them, "It's going to be OK. Everything will calm down soon."
The early months of each year are a bit of a hectic time for personal trainers, nutrition coaches, gym managers, sales staff and pretty much anybody who works in any field related to getting in better shape. We go from the quiet solitude of the holidays, where we can hear crickets chirping in the corners of the gym, to the mass confusion of trying to help every soul that wants to sweat themselves into a healthier lifestyle.
I'm hoping I can resolve some of the panic for my professional peers and help steer those looking to undo the unhealthy choices they made in 2015. I want to ensure that those looking to make a change actually stay the course and find their success while assisting my fitness brethren to maintain their sanity.
As fitness professionals, we have to answer a lot of the same questions, in many different forms. We don't mind it, honestly. We love what we do; we love helping people. But in the day and age of information overload, people are inundated with so many fitness and nutrition fallacies that debunking the wrongs tends to eat into our valuable time to teach the rights. So allow me to share some thoughts on a broad range of typical topics.
First, if the TV or computer says it's true, it's probably wrong. At the very least, it's skewed to make you buy a certain product. There are no miracle pills, no miracle fruits, no miracle wraps and no miracle fat-burners. The true miracle is in finding the discipline to live, eat, move and exercise in a healthy manner and to stick to it, even when times get hard.
This means that it is OK to have an occasional sweet or bit of unhealthy fat. Notice I said "bit" and not "smorgasbord." Allow yourself to indulge, but set a small amount aside and keep it to that. The people I've worked with who have had the most success are those who keep an adherence rate of 80 to 90 percent - meaning they eat healthy, balanced meals 80 to 90 percent of the time, but allow themselves that small amount of relief from their cravings and then continue kicking nutritional tail.
Next, one of the things I love telling my clients is that if a food has to tell you it's healthy, it's probably not. So if you're looking at a box of cereal or protein bars, and the label reads "all natural," "healthy," "high protein" or any of the usual meaningless food industry jargon, it's probably not that great.
Have you ever seen broccoli marketed as "new, healthier formula" or spinach with an "improved flavor!" sticker on it? Umm, nope, don't think so. Healthy foods are just that. Healthy. They market themselves. Take a second to think about your food choices. Are they actually healthy, or is a company trying to convince you with slick packaging, bright colors and buzzwords?
Continuing on, don't ask "What will help me with my gut/butt/thighs/arms" or any other lagging body parts. No specific exercise will target an area. It's best to have a fully detailed plan designed for you that targets all of your body. Have you ever seen an overweight person with a shredded six pack? Or somebody with a Buddha belly but Schwarzenegger arms? Your body will balance itself out as you work out. So to answer your question of "What will help my _____," my answer is "time and work."
Which leads me to my next point. Putting the weight on didn't happen overnight. If you understand going into a lifestyle change that it's going to take time and effort, you'll be much better prepared for the journey.
Nothing makes a fitness professional cringe more than someone asking for a quick fix because they have a cruise/wedding/reunion to attend in two months. Even if we can make a miracle happen and get you whipped into shape, we'll most likely be a bit upset with the thought that you may just go right back to being unhealthy after the special occasion has passed. Again, we're in the business of helping people live healthier, not finding quick fixes.
Lastly, I say this all the time, but living a healthy lifestyle should be enjoyable. It shouldn't be an existence of painful sacrifice and mind-numbing exercise. I think we tend to see people younger than us, stronger than us or slimmer than us and think we simply need to sacrifice more to get what they have. That kind of thinking will do you in.
The only thing that separates a healthy person from an unhealthy one is their collection of habits. That's it. What does that mean to the individual who wants to live healthier, who wants to lose weight, quit smoking, get stronger or all of the above? That means you have to start small. Pick ONE thing that is an improvement in your life and make it stick. Develop that healthy habit. Then repeat the process with a second healthy habit. Rinse and repeat as needed.
I think clients see us in the fitness realm as supermen and women. They aspire to live as healthy as we are, but they fail to see what we've gone through to get where we are. They don't see the mountain of healthy habits that we've built our lives upon, and they just want to know where to find the escalator to the top.
No matter where you are in life, you can always start small, you can always start fresh. Develop healthy habits that you're comfortable with. Don't buy into marketing hype and information overload. Know that anything worth doing will take time but have the faith to know that you'll succeed. Find a qualified fitness pro who can help guide you and when you do, give them a big hug and a thank you.
Andy Frisch, NASM CPT, CES, PES, WFS, IFT, NESTA FNC, is a successful personal trainer and nutrition coach who enjoys working with clients of all shapes, sizes and ages. He currently train clients at Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon, works with clients online at www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com and has a budding YouTube channel.