- You Can’t Out-run A Donut: The main variable for achieving fat loss is your diet. Exercise, sleep, hormones, and stress all influence your body composition significantly. Though, what and how much you eat is still the main factor. You won’t see a continued, significant fat loss without improving your diet somewhat, even with a regular, sound training program. You don’t need to start an extreme diet, but small changes do make a large difference over a period of months. Shoot for eating whole foods. Cut out processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. Do this 90% of the time and you are halfway there.
- Improve Your Posture and How You Move: The average adult spends more time than ever just sitting! This seemingly benign activity causes a gradual negative cascade of soft-tissue stiffening, muscle-weakening and inhibition, and poor joint alignment. Fixing many of these posture and movement problems should be a primary focus. A well-designed strength training program will help improve your posture and how you move. A program of stretching and foam-rolling tight areas, and a balanced strength training program go a long way to restoring posture. You just need to keep it up to counter the detrimental effects of being sedentary.
- Spend a Lot of Time On the Basics: Basic exercises (like push-ups, pull-ups, rows, squats, step-ups, lunges, bridges, etc.) are good exercises if performed correctly. Most often, people really don’t know how to perform these exercises properly. This is where I spend most of my time with a new client. It is very coaching-intensive but important for long-term success. However, I often see clients (and trainers) by-pass basic exercises all the time. Some clients need many weeks and months to gain proficiency, especially if they have not exercised or played sports formally. Amazingly, even among people who have exercised for years or even decades, most have never been properly instructed or critiqued on their exercise technique; and it shows!
- Use Appropriate Intensity: Beginners can make significant improvements without heavy resistance or high-intensity exercises. Running and jumping (often used in boot camps) can cause a huge amount of stress that beginners may not be able to handle. It’s not uncommon to see a “Boot Camp” class with over-weight individuals jumping on boxes and running extensively (usually without proper instruction or regard for fatigue). Beginners can continue to get stronger with intensities as low as 40 to 60% of their maximal strength (more advanced lifters need more), and should perform exercises that enhance joint stability, body control, and strength, instead of exercises that place 2 to 6 times their bodyweight force onto their joints, such as running, cutting, and jumping.
- Keep It Simple: So often clients (and trainers) make things unnecessarily complex. Clients need time to develop movement proficiency, stability, and strength. You will need to practice exercises often and only need to progress one factor (reps, or duration or resistance) at a time. It’s not uncommon, for example, to see someone performing a deadlift with a couple light dumbells, and then the next thing you know, they’re performing circuits with a heavier barbell, on one leg, on a BOSU ball, with burpees in between.
If you are a beginner, I recommend that you invest your time in building your body gradually so it can tolerate the stress of vigorous exercise. Don’t get caught up in the numbers, but listen to your body and have patience. Changing your body takes time -- often months and years. It’s human nature to want instant changes, but change is a perpetual process. There is no finish line, and remember, consistency trumps intensity. Your primary focus should be on removing barriers to consistent training and keeping things simple and manageable so you can sustain your training program.
to lose fifteen pounds,” or “I want to be able to run a half marathon.”