For more info on the Whaling City Triathlon and to check out the results visit:
Danielle began training at the TR in July of 2011. She was determined to loose weight, but one of the biggest challenges she faced was her crazy schedule. Danielle works at MGH, and her schedule is insane. She often works for long stretches with no days off, or she works nights one week and then days the next. Her inconsistent schedule always made sticking with a regular exercise routine challenging. Her eating habits, as a result of her work schedule, were also erratic. Sometimes on her feet at all hours of the night, she has few breaks for healthy meals and no way of predicting her meal times. Often she would settle for quick bites of whatever was available and convenient, regardless of how the food was processed or prepared.
Danielle at 173lbs
Now, Danielle tries to plan ahead. She brings pocket-sized snacks from home such as fruit or nuts, so that if she doesn’t get a break, at least she has something healthy and energizing to reach for until she can sit down to eat. When eating out after a long shift with co-workers, Danielle has made small changes to what she orders, such as veggies or salad instead of fries, or a burger without the bun. She has also reduced her alcohol consumption by at least half. In the beginning, not ordering a beer was a challenge, only because the habit was hard to break from a social standpoint. After a while though, Danielle started to see the positive benefits in the way she looked and felt, and others started to notice. Alcoholic drinks became a treat instead of a routine. Fresh foods and protein-packed snacks like Greek yogurt are now commonplace.
Danielle has lost over 30lbs from her starting weight, and 8% body fat. She can now do 3 sets of 10 full push-ups, an exercise that seemed impossible 8 months ago.
Her workout routine is not overly aggressive, but it is smart. She comes in once per week for a one-on-one session where we work on exercise form and technique, gradually increasing the weights and difficulty of the circuits. When her schedule allows, she shoots for one at-home strength routine that consists mainly of body-weight exercises and lasts no more than 30-minutes. She also started running outdoors 1-2 times per week for about 30 minutes.
Danielle continues to get stronger each week and lose weight at a healthy rate. We are so proud of you Danielle! Much TR love!
Allison had a couple obstacles that were preventing her from being in the kind of shape she wanted to be in – her knees.
At a younger age, she had arthroscopic surgery on both knees and has had chronic knee pain her whole life. Unable to participate in any sports involving impact to her legs, Allison took up swimming and continued competing through college. However, once her competitive swimming days were behind her, she had a hard time finding activities to stay in shape that didn’t hurt her knees.
As a teacher for Teach for America, Allison had the summer off to be able to really focus on her health and fitness, so she decided to give strength training a shot. Given her specific circumstances, she was hesitant about what she would be able to accomplish, but she figured she could at least do some upper body and core exercises and see what would happen. She started meeting with me at the Training Room twice a week and doing one strength workout a week on her own. Because of her summer off, she was able to easily fit in the three workouts a week, but wasn’t sure what would happen when the school year started back up.
During Allison’s initial assessment, I found that the muscles around her hips were very stiff. When a joint in the body is overly stiff, the adjacent joints take on the opposite role of being overly mobile. This usually results in some sort of pain/injury. In Allison’s case, her knees were compensating for her stiff hips and were becoming mobile when they are meant to be a stable joint.
Based on this assessment, I had Allison begin every workout with 5-10 minutes of soft tissue work (foam rolling) as well as 10-15 minutes of mobility and activation work (with a heavy focus on the hip joint and surrounding muscles.)
The rest of the workout was then dedicated to heavy strength training. As the weeks went on, Allison found herself not only getting really strong, but also losing weight and body fat, and most shockingly – working out with her LEGS. As her hip mobility improved, we were able to include more and more lower body exercises without any pain. Allison can now perform heavy deadlifts, hip lifts, glute-ham raises, kettlebell swings and most recently, completely pain-free squats. While her ability to lift with her legs is impressive enough, Allison has also become one of my strongest female clients. She has a bench press that makes me jealous and can bang out pushups like nobody’s business. She has really become passionate about getting stronger and strives to lift more every single workout.
The body composition results Allison has seen from heavy strength training is something that I hope inspires other women to drop their fear of lifting weights. Instead of “bulking up” as most women are afraid will happen as a result of strength training, Allison has lost more than 10lbs and has dropped her body fat percentage by more than 5%. She now feels better, looks better, and moves better than when she walked in the door back in June.
To me, however, the most impressive thing about Allison is that her commitment over the summer has carried over to her extremely busy schedule in the fall. Once the school year began, Allison was back to balancing a long commute to work, long teaching days, taking classes at BU, planning curriculum for the next day, and now the GYM on top of it all! None of this has stopped Allison from continuing her progress and setting new goals. She has changed her eating habits for the better and stuck to them even with things got busy. She still fits in all three strength training workouts and continues to get stronger every week.
But don’t just take my word for it – here is a video compilation that covers just the surface of what Allison can do in the gym:
Congrats to Allison for all of her hard work and accomplishments over the past few months!!
It’s been a LONG time coming, but this blog entry is finally going out. I asked my client Sarah Shugars to answer the questions that follow back in May. And yes, she sent them to me back in May. Needless to say, it is not Sarah who lacks any punctuality, drive, determination, or follow-through. As much as she credits me and The Training Room for helping her achieve her goals, I am truly inspired by her dedication, organization, and discipline. Sarah’s positive attitude and strict adherence to her training program has led to 68.5lbs of weight loss… and counting!
H- You’ve mentioned before that it had been a long while since you’d seen the other side of 200lbs. What sequence of events led you to The Training Room and made you get serious about losing the weight?
S- I’ve been overweight nearly all my life. I’ve tried on my own to change my eating habits and to exercise more, but I was never able to do so sustainably. I had what I’m afraid is a pretty typical routine: I’d get to a point where I’d decide I really needed to lose weight, then I’d join a gym and/or change my eating habits. I’d lose about 10 pounds. Then slowly I’d start eating the food I liked again and slowly I’d get too busy to go to the gym and slowly I’d put the weight back on. Then I’d do it all again a year later.
I started going to The Training Room because I was in one of my “time to do something” phases and I wanted to try something different than the same old routine. Two things have always bothered me about typical gyms:
Sarah in October 2010, a few weeks before her first visit to the TR. If you ask me, this is a “time to do something” look
- #1- I can figure out how to use a treadmill or a weight machine, but I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to planning or doing a workout. I just made it up – and the fact that I wasn’t getting results was a clue that maybe I was missing something.
- #2- Membership gyms are like a black hole for my money. With the cycle above, I’d typically hold a gym membership for 1-2 YEARS, while being an active user for 1-2 MONTHS. That’s a terrible investment, especially when you’re not getting any results.
H- What has been the most challenging aspect of your weight loss so far? How have you stayed motivated?
S- It can be very frustrating at times. Sometimes I gain a little or don’t lose any weight. Sometimes I try new exercises and am really bad at them. Sometimes I aggravate an old injury and can’t work as hard as I’d like. Sometimes I’m just really tired.
At the beginning, I made a commitment that for at least three months I would go to the Training Room for 2 classes and 2 training sessions a week. That was an usually large commitment for me and frankly I wasn’t sure it would pay off. But ultimately, having that initial commitment helped me stick with it through some of the hardest times. I hoped to lose about 25 lbs in those three months. I lost about 40.
After that, I knew I wanted to keep going and keep working hard. I still have bad days, but sometime you just have to just take a deep breath and try again tomorrow.
H- As a vegetarian, please describe the changes you’ve made in your eating habits.
S- I have made drastic changes to my eating habits. I’ve long been a notorious junk-food junkie – not like I’m the only person who’s ever eaten an entire bag of candy corn in one sitting or finished a large pizza by myself. Two big factors influenced these habits: time and comfort. It’s hard to make time to shop and cook – ordering food or picking up some chips is way easier. And, I was a serious comfort eater – there’s just something indulgent about eating “bad” food that helps me de-stress.
Before I went to the Training Room, my typical day went something like this:
- Coffee, skim milk and sugar (skim milk, see I was healthy!)
- Fat-free yogurt and a cup of cereal (OMG, why am I starving?)
- Carrots and celery (Hm, this is all the food I brought today and it’s only 10am is there a meeting today that will have left over food?)
- Can/bottle of diet coke and whatever what left over from that meeting
- Emergency afternoon snack (Good thing I brought this can of nuts/bag of chips to work. Is it bad I ate half of it?)
- Order out for delivery (Man, that was a long day!)
I sort of tried to be healthy, but my eating rapidly deteriorated as my lack of planning and busy schedule overtook everything else. It wasn’t just that I liked the food that I could have delivered, but I structured my life in such a way that those were my only viable options on a daily basis.
With Heidi’s help, I’ve totally overhauled my eating. She’s not only helped me change what I eat, but has helped me figure out how to change my eating in a way that’s sustainable for me. Now my typical days looks more like this:
- Coffee, black
- Greek yogurt (anything but vanilla!)
- String cheese (I’m not ashamed to be a grown-up who eats string cheese)
- Homemade trail mix – a handful of unsalted mixed nuts, a few pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, dried apricots, and just a little bit of whole-grain cereal (Yes, that was all pre-lunch)
- Homemade lentil soup. Bag of lentils, can of beans, celery, onion, garlic, zucchini, squash and spinach or kale. Throw it in the crock pot Sunday morning, portion it out Sunday night – good to go for the week!
- Fruit – an apple, orange or a banana are my staples
- Carrots and celery (again, I portion these all out on Sundays so I can grab and go in the mornings)
- If I’m going to The Training Room after work, I might have a multi-grain cracker or something, especially if I’m feeling hungry.
- For dinner I mix it up a little bit. Sometimes I have a flax-seed tortilla (actually really good) with some hummus and a garden burger. I LOVE pasta, so sometimes I have a serving of whole wheat pasta with sautéed veggies. And sometimes, I even go out to eat.
When changing my eating, my I started out really strict. Going into it, I really wasn’t sure what changes I could live with and which I couldn’t. I also knew that my portion sizes had been out of control, so I spent the first month or two really focusing on trying to get my portion sizes reasonable and getting used to the routine and eating different things.
I thought Heidi was crazy when she suggested I drink my coffee black – and I thought it was gross the first few weeks I tried it. After awhile, though, my tastes started to change. I like drinking my coffee black. I don’t miss eating bags (and bags) of junk food. I got into the habit of bring snacks with me every time I left the house and its now just part of my usual routine.
At the same time, I’ve learned what foods I really enjoy (pasta!) and I’ve figured out how responsibly integrate them into my eating. Similarly, I’ve learned how to go out for dinner or over to a friend’s house without going crazy.
Because I now snack all the time, I’m usually not very hungry. So even when I’m presented with something awesomely delicious (or unhealthy) to eat – it’s more a great opportunity to “taste” something delicious rather than an overwhelming need to stuff my face.
As I’ve changed my eating habits I’ve found that I don’t crave junk food any more. Seriously, I don’t know what they put in that stuff but I think it’s designed to be addictive. And as I’ve gotten used to working out, I’ve found that has become my new comfort. When I’m having a bad day, instead of looking forward to having an entire box of mac and cheese, half a bag of potato chips and a pint of ice cream for dinner and I look forward to my workout at The Training Room. And no matter how stressed, exhausted, busy or overwhelmed I’m feeling when I walk in the door I always feel relaxed and energized (and ready to get back to work!) when I walk out.
H- How many times per week do you workout and what is your routine?
S- I generally work out 4 times per week (2 personal training sessions and 2 classes). Occasionally during a really busy week, I only get to The Training Room 3 times, in which case I try to do at least one workout on my own.
Personal training serves as the core to my routine. I generally schedule a month at a time and try to have fixed days and times – ex., Mondays and Fridays at 6:30. I make a point of only scheduling on days when I know I can commit to showing up – there’s usually at least one day a month I have to adjust my “usual” schedule.
This helps me really stick with it and keep my workouts prioritized. If something comes up – and something always comes up – I have to either do it before or after my workout or simply say that I needed more notice.
I supplement my trainings with TR classes on a more flexible basis. There are times when I know a week is filling up and I schedule classes in advance to make sure to fit them in, and there are times when I have no idea what my schedule’s going to look like and I register for classes a little more last minute.
In general, I try to look at my calendar for the week every Sunday or Monday to figure out where I can fit my classes in. If my schedule is just too packed, then I put an at-home work out in my calendar and ask for Heidi’s advice on what to do.
Each week, I generally have one cardio-focused training and one weight-focused training. I try to keep a similar balance for my classes – I may take one spin class, but I’ll balance it with something that combines strength and cardio, such as circuit training, 50/50 or a Kettlebell class.
H. You’ve never missed an appointment, and you always arrive early to do your warm-ups. What advice do you have for others trying to lose weight in terms of keeping this level of dedication?
S- It’s definitely been a challenge to “keep with it” – like many people, I have a busy schedule and it’s almost too easy to say I’m too busy or tired to work out.
As I started at the Training Room, I realized that everything in life is about priorities – saying you don’t have time to do something is the same as saying you care about other things more. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a reality. We all have things that we are deeply passionate about – work, family, friends. These are the things that we’ll push ourselves, rearrange our schedules or drop everything for.
If you’ve ever gotten out of bed earlier than you wanted to, gone to a meeting you didn’t care about or sat through an awkward social gathering you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, no matter how much you feel like you don’t want to do something you do it anyway because it just needs to get done.
Every time I schedule a personal training session or sign up for a class, I put it on that level of personal priority. Sure, a trip to the hospital would trump all other priorities – but for most every day things that pop up I figure out how to make it work. Sometimes this means going from work to The Training Room then straight on to an evening commitment, sometimes it means planning ahead and changing my usual work out time and sometimes it even means saying I can’t do other things.
H- What has been the most notable thing about this process (thus far) for you?
S- The most surprising thing for me has been a change in my understanding of what it really means to be healthy. As someone who has struggled with weight, I’ve often thought of health solely along this dimension. This can be dangerous because of all the social and psychological issues that go along with weight. Throughout my life, my yo-yoing weight was largely an external sign of my internal battle between my own desires to look good while not letting society’s norms pressure me.
While I’m proud to have lost so much weight, it’s been more exciting to discover the other benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The combination of diet and exercise has had an impressive effect. I don’t get headaches or migraines as much as I used to, I’m not as sore in my back or joints as I used to be, I have more energy and I generally feel healthier. Oh yeah, and I can bench press your mom for breakfast.
Sarah at 238.5lbs, her starting weight on day one at the TR.
Sarah at 170lbs today.
Push-ups, Turkish Get-Ups, and Pull-ups are just a few of the exercises that Sarah ENJOYS at The Training Room. Congratulations, Sarah!
Much TR Love!
Amy W’s transformation at the Training Room has gone beyond the physical. Amy has not only changed her body, she has also completely shifted her mentality about food and her attitude toward working out. She has learned the ins and outs of fitness and nutrition and has really taken the time to understand the changes she was making, rather than just going through the motions. Oh, and along the way she also managed to lose 35lb and 10% body fat through a LOT of hard work and determination- not too shabby huh? Here’s her story:
I first started working with Amy in September, 2010. At the time she had come into the Training Room a few times to take classes, and decided to ramp up her workout regimen with some personal training sessions. In our initial assessment I learned a few things about her. She weighed 165lb, and was holding onto 30% body fat. She had a great, bubbly personality and her goal was to lose some weight and do something worthy of making the TR blog! But most glaringly, her diet was TERRIBLE.
The most amazing thing about Amy was that she truly had no idea how bad her diet was. According to Amy, she was trying to eat “healthy” in the first food log that she brought in for me – meaning that it had been even worse before! Here are a couple sample entries from her original food logs:
Disclaimer: Since these entries were from a few weeks after we had started working together, Amy had already started to make changes to her original diet. She switched her breakfasts from bagels and cereal to eggs and she was working on getting a lean protein portion in with each meal. (We couldn’t find the original entries because she probably threw them away!)
- Greek Yogurt
- Luna Bar
- 1/2 Peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat
- Chocolate Milk
- Chunky tomato bisque
- Bread and butter
- 2 glasses white wine
- 2 eggs
- 1 slice whole wheat toast
- string cheese
- navy bean soup with saltines
- grapes and pineapple
- Reeses peanut butter cup
- green beans and hummus
- peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat
- 2 bites of dessert
- 1 glass white wine
*Other common foods included (lots of) pizza, mozzarella sticks, cookies and various desserts throughout the day.
I’m not going to lie, after seeing her first food logs, I was a little worried that changing her eating habits was going to be a huge challenge. Amy’s attempts at eating healthy (as shown above) were based on eating less of the same unhealthy foods she had been eating before. Her diet still consisted of mostly carbohydrates and a lot of sugary foods. All I can say is that I’ve never had anyone transform their diet so drastically and stick to it so wholeheartedly. Every week I would give Amy a new behavior goal – one lifestyle change she needed to make that would help her to get one step closer to her outcome goal of weight loss. Without fail, Amy would come in the next week with a food log that reflected her compliance, and a weigh-in that showed another pound lost on the scale. As her weight went down, the goals had to get more strict in order to avoid a plateau. Amy never blinked an eye when I suggested she eat protein with every meal, or when I asked her to try to eat grain-based carbohydrates only after workouts, or when I told her to cut her “cheat meals” down from 4 per week to 2-3. When she got stuck at the same weight for a couple weeks in a row, she agreed to take the sugar out of her coffee and switch half of her fruit servings to vegetables. There was never any resistance – only eagerness to see what could happen with the new changes she was making.
At the same time, Amy was working incredibly hard in the gym. I knew I would get 100% effort out of her every single workout. Here are a few videos of her showing off some pretty impressive strength:
These lifts are even more impressive when you realize that less than a year ago Amy couldn’t even do one pushup – never mind ten with her feet elevated! She is a perfect representation of the fact that girls NEED to lift heavy weights. Not only does heavy weight training burn fat like crazy, it also increases metabolism, strength and bone density. Amy also proves that contrary to popular belief, lifting heavy weights will NOT make a girl “bulky.” As you can see from her before and after pictures, Amy has not only lost weight, but her muscle tone has improved. Girls who spend their days on eliptical machines and treadmills may eventually lose some weight, but they will be burning off muscle instead of fat and will end up looking “skinny fat” (not a good look!) Amy is proud of her strength and even embraces the calluses that go along with it!
Amy has completely gone beyond my expectations and I am so proud of her for the work she has put in and the accomplishments she has made. When asked about her thoughts on the process she said,
“I have had more success than I ever imagined from training and taking classes at the Training Room. Lauren is excellent to work with – by always staying consistent and supportive at the same time. The best part is that I really love working out there and always feel great afterwards.”
She also noted that she could go on for days about it, but I asked her to keep it brief. I hope that everyone reading this is inspired and motivated by Amy’s commitment to her health. The TR is very proud to have another success story in the books! Way to go Amy!!
Happy New Year everybody! I hope everyone had a fun, safe and healthy holiday season!
Taking a look back at 2010 as a whole, we have seen some amazing things from our clients at the Training Room. Our whiteboard has been filled with goals set and goals met. These included losing body fat, competing in athletic events, achieving new personal records for lifting weights and more. Everyone who has stepped into the TR has made an impact on themselves and those around them by improving their health and for that they should be extremely proud.
With that said, if the Training Room was to name a “client of the year” Kelly D. would most definitely be in the running. Kelly came to me at the end of May, 2010 with a pretty lofty goal – to lose a total of 60lbs in 2010. By the time she came to the Training Room she had already lost about 20 lbs on her own by starting on a weight watcher’s diet plan. With 40 lbs to go in 7 months, I knew it would be tough, but possible with proper training and nutrition combined with Kelly’s determination to reach her goal.
I addressed Kelly’s nutritional habits first because as hard as I trained her in the gym, she would not have made the kind of progress she was looking for without also fixing her diet. I could have taken the easy way out and decreased Kelly’s caloric intake to 1000 calories a day with no carbs, no sugar, no fat, etc (with starvation being the only sacrifice.) This would have been a sure-fire way to see that Kelly lost the weight. This would have also been a sure-fire way to see that as soon as she hit her goal weight, she would gain everything right back.
One of the main reasons rapid weight loss techniques never work is because rather than making lifestyle changes, people make temporary changes in order to lose weight as quickly as they can. What ends up happening is that once the person loses the weight, they fall right back into their old habits because they didn’t actually learn how to be healthy, they just learned how to lose weight quickly- and these are NOT the same thing.
In order to make true lifestyle changes, I asked Kelly to adjust one eating habit each week. This is a much more manageable method than trying to do a complete overhaul. Kelly explained the process well, saying:“In the beginning, instead of eliminating several “bad” things from my diet right away Lauren made a plan that included small changes in increments – first just changing my “Chai and Bagel” breakfast routine and then looking at ways to increase protein, decrease processed carbs, increase fruits, veggies and whole grains, and manage calories.”
Even though Kelly had lost some weight on the weight watcher’s diet, she had not learned anything about her poor nutrition habits. By making habitual changes, eating well stopped feeling like work and started feeling like her normal day to day routine. Kelly’s compliance and dedication to changing her eating habits were incredible and a huge attribution to her success.
The rest of Kelly’s success came from her hard work in the gym. Though she was an athlete in high school and part of college, Kelly was admittedly very out of shape and hadn’t seen a gym in quite some time. In the 7 months she has been with us at the Training Room, she has turned into a workout machine. Kelly wasn’t afraid to lift heavy weights and work extremely hard to attain her goal. Many people – women in particular – have an aversion to lifting heavy weights in fear of “bulking up.” These misguided fears are derived from images in body building magazines of women who take steroids and/or testosterone injections. In reality, women do not typically have high enough testosterone levels to “bulk up” like that, and lifting heavy weights is the best way to speed up metabolism, burn fat, gain lean muscle mass, and look great! Kelly took my advice to focus the majority of her workouts on weight training and it paid off. Not only did the weight start falling off, but she actually had fun in the process! She added,
Another major lifestyle change is that I *gasp* enjoy working out! I like how I feel after working out and I like taking time to focus on doing something for myself. I used to think that you have to run or jog to lose weight. I had no idea how fun and effective weight training could be.
Watch Kelly in action in the videos below. These are just a couple examples of how far she has come and how much strength she has gained.
It should definitely be noted that while Kelly was going through this major transformation, she did not have the luxury of spending every waking moment focusing on her weight loss. Between working full time, going to graduate school part time, and having a social life, Kelly was extremely busy. A crazy schedule like hers often leads people to make excuses and to fall off the wagon, but I never heard ONE excuse from Kelly. She had committed to putting her health first and she never wavered on that commitment, no matter how busy life got.When asked what has made the process of losing so much weight a little easier, Kelly answered,Ever since I first walked in to the TR, I have felt welcome and supported. The co-owners, my trainer, other trainers and even other clients give encouragement and I truly feel like there is a team of people committed to my success.
But even with all the support in the world from the TR and her husband Ryan (who was amazingly supportive and kept an eye on Kelly for me when I couldn’t be there to see what food choices she was making!), there were still challenges along the way that tested Kelly’s willpower.
When asked about her biggest challenges, she responded,I have really changed my eating (and drinking!) habits and learned healthier ways to enjoy food – but I still have a tough time with parties, holidays and group get-togethers where the “old Kelly” would stand around the food table and shamelessly pick at the hors dourves.But more often than not, Kelly made the right choices in and out of the gym which is how she managed to go from the “Old Kelly”:
To the “New and Improved Kelly”:
By the time January 1, 2011 came around, Kelly had lost a total of 58lb in one year. Though 2lbs short of her goal, it is most definitely an incredible accomplishment! Kelly’s journey is not over and with a new year comes new weight loss goals. Kelly says her main motivations are,
To be healthy, feel good, look good and also to prepare my body for a healthy pregnancy sometime in the future.
So, here is to Kelly and all of you who have accomplished your goals in 2010! Congratulations and good luck on all your endeavors in 2011!
Nathan is probably one of the funniest clients that I’ve had the pleasure of training. He came to the Training Room with a specific goal in mind: lose 24 pounds in three months to reach a body weight of 196 pounds for his wedding in November. That was his main goal; his side goal (although he may contest that his side goal was actually his main goal) was to look like this guy from the movie Fight Club:
No; not Brad Pitt, but the extremely intense guy to the right of him.
During his initial session, I took Nathan through a series of assessments. Being a computer engineer, his job required him to sit at a desk for the majority of the day. Not surprisingly, his flexibility was that of a 2×4. Before every single workout, I had him foam roll and perform various mobility and flexibility drills for at least fifteen minutes to help combat his sedentary lifestyle. Not only would this help him move better during the session, but also reduce the likelihood of developing lower back pain, neck pain, or other ailments down the road.
Before starting at the Training Room, Nathan went from a peak weight of about 232lbs down to about 220 simply by eating better. Check out this scale that recorded and graphed his body weight measurements online since December of ’09:
After hitting a plateau, he enlisted our help and began to lose weight again. The very first thing I had him do was set up a food log and track everything he ate. This not only helps me to get a clearer picture of his diet, but it also serves as an eye-opener to him. All too often, I train clients who say they eat “pretty well” and can’t figure out why they’re not losing weight. Once we start recording their food intake, they realize that their eating habits could be a lot better.
Instead of going all Jillian Michaels on him after reviewing his food log, I had Nathan change just three things:
1) Drink a protein shake for breakfast instead of his usual sugary breakfast smoothie
2) Eat fewer carbohydrates in his meals and more veggies
3) Eat more fish and lean protein sources
After a couple of weeks of implementing these changes into his diet, Nathan noticed that controlling his portions became a lot easier because of the increased protein intake, which led to increased satiety. We then started to incorporate nutrient-dense foods like Greek yogurt along with various fruits and his diet gradually became very well-rounded. Salmon and roasted vegetables became a staple in his diet; I actually think there was a point in time where he ate salmon for dinner five nights in a row (note: I didn’t recommend this but, hey, the result was a four pound weight loss that week). By not completely overhauling his diet right from the get-go, I think the gradual changes really helped Nathan to stick to the game plan and not go crazy.
Nathan trained with me three times a week in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Contrary to popular belief, I did not have him perform steady, long distance cardio. We focused solely on strength training and followed a simple system that I use with all of my beginners called progressive overload. All it means is that with each workout you need to strive to become stronger at your main lifts (squat, deadlift, lunge, chin-up, chest press, etc.). Now, “stronger” could mean more weight or it could mean more repetitions with the same weight. Either way, if you don’t improve in either category you’re just maintaining your results from the previous workout.
Once or twice a week, I’d have Nathan go through some rigorous metabolic work for about 10 minutes at the end of his session. This was generally in the form of bike intervals with various work to rest ratios, and it’s main purpose was to burn as many calories as possible. I prefer the bike to most cardio apparati, because you can work at a high intensity with a low risk of injury. Sure, I could’ve had him lose weight with just cardio and high intensity circuits alone like in the Biggest Loser (kill me now):
But I have no doubt in my mind he would’ve been completely burnt out and would have hit a plateau before he got to his target weight. Purely cardio/metabolic-based workouts do very little in terms of building lean muscle mass, which is crucial in terms of elevating your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn doing absolutely nothing). They are, however, an extremely effective supplement to your fitness regimen if your goal happens to be fat loss.
Not only do I want my clients to lose weight, I also want them to gain lean muscle mass in order to improve their overall body composition. In just three months, Nathan got pretty strong. He went from not being able to do any pushups to doing 15 of them at the end of a workout with a 45 lb. plate on his back:
He also went from not having a prayer to pull himself up to performing 5 neutral grip pull-ups:
The key to Nathan’s success was his dedication and determination. He never missed a workout. He slammed down “not so delicious” protein shakes in the mornings and after his training sessions. He sacrificed some foods he really enjoyed for healthier options. Even if he had some slip-ups at social events, he got right back on track the next day instead of losing control. He went out of his way to make sure he cooked his meals, even though takeout or a Lean Cuisine would have been more convenient. There is very little room for error if you want to knock out 24lbs. in three months. Nathan took off 26.
Before dieting at around 23olbs and ??% body fat:
Before the Training Room at 220lbs and ~26% body fat:
After at 194lbs and 18.9% body fat:
Leah and I began to work together back in February and I could tell from day 1 she was going to be a hard worker – all she needed was a little guidance. She seemed slightly skeptical when we were going over foam rolling techniques as well as some dynamic warm-ups to help prepare her for the strength training and metabolic portion of the workout. I mean wasn’t I supposed to beat her into submission with a heavy dose of burpees, jump roping, crunches, lunges till she couldn’t see straight? All that makes for good television – not necessarily good training.
Now, don’t get me wrong – Leah busted her butt during our sessions. But we also made sure she was ready for our sessions by taking the time before the work outs to take care of her body and help reduce the chance of any injuries from occurring.
First things first, we had to get her diet squared away. I hesitate to label it a “diet” because I didn’t really want her to eat less – but better instead. First thing I saw right away in her food log was that she took in a lot of carbohydrates and not nearly enough protein. All I told her were some simple guidelines that I tell all my clients: eat more protein/fiber/good fats, and eat fewer carbs/sugar/bad fats. Every week, I looked over her log and let her know some simple tweaks she should make and any foods she should add/cut out.
All too often, I see people jump into these ridiculous diets and workout routines without ever being prepared for them and end up being completely overwhelmed. So, instead of instilling healthy habits over time and realizing that losing weight requires a lifestyle change, these people jump into an entirely unrealistic program that promises results in the short term without first changing their behaviors to set them up for success in the long term.
After setting her up with a plan for her “diet”, I then had to get rid of Leah’s notion that waving small, pink dumbbells in the air would be the key to her fitness endeavors. Somehow, women have been brainwashed to the fact that lifting up a weight more than 5lbs would suddenly make them the female equivalent of Hercules.
Here’s what I wrote in my last client spotlight with Andy concerning my thoughts on resistance training for fat loss:
“What many fail to realize is that the more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (RMR) will be. Your RMR comprises approximately 70% of your total caloric expenditure per day (the rest is made up of physical activity and the energy it takes to break down food), which means the amount of muscle mass you have is crucial for any fat loss endeavors. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t deem it quite as necessary because it’s so metabolically “expensive”. For that reason, any time your body encounters a period of lower caloric intake (a diet), lean muscle mass is often the first thing to go. The only way to “bypass” this is to strength train with weights challenging enough to provide the proper stimulus that tells your body that it needs to hold on to the muscle mass.”
Translation #1: When you’re on a diet, muscle is very hard to maintain because it uses up so much energy (burns calories). The body’s survival mechanisms kick on and are stubborn to release any fat stores it has in case it needs to use it in the future for energy during periods of “starvation”. You need to lift challenging weights to make your body hold on to that muscle and burn fat instead.
Translation #2: Lift.
Leah met with me once a week and generally took 1-2 classes at the Training Room per week (Circuit Training/Cross-Training). She was also very diligent with the “homework” that I gave her, which usually consisted of a circuit of four-five strength training exercises coupled with about a 15-20minute bike interval set. Being an athlete throughout her life, she loved the way the classes and training sessions pushed her to her limits and were not boring like traditional, long duration cardio sessions. While losing more than a pound of body weight per week, Leah also got more flexible, stronger, and overall in better shape and conditioning than she has been in a long time. Here are some clips I took of her last session:
Trap Bar Deadlift: 145lbs
Kettlebell Swings: 16kg
This is just the first part of Leah’s journey! I have no doubt I’ll be writing again soon once she hits her next goal of dropping below 25% body fat. Until then -
Doug was one of my first clients at the Training Room. He started taking classes in August, 2009 and after a round of classes he decided to try personal training as well. When I first met with Doug one on one my impression was that he was a skinny, shy guy who just wanted to gain some strength and put on a little muscle. Little did I know, Doug really wanted to conquer the whole world of fitness, and somewhere under that quiet exterior he had the drive and determination that could actually get him there. Now, almost a year later, when Doug walks into the doors of the Training Room it is like seeing a new person, both in physical stature and emotional confidence.
When I first put Doug through a fitness assessment, he was 6’3 1/2, weighed in at 170lb and was around 10% body fat. He was fairly inflexible especially through the hip flexors and hamstrings. His upper and lower body mobility was also limited. He could perform only a couple body weight pushups before his form began to suffer and his core strength was almost non-existent. He also had very little body awareness and had a difficult time getting his body into proper positioning for a lift and activating the correct muscles during a lift.
If you met Doug now, you would be shocked by these figures. Today, Doug still stands at 6’3 1/2, but he weighs in at just under 200lb and about 12% body fat. This means that Doug has put on about 30lb of pure muscle. He has also made incredible improvements in his upper and lower body mobility and flexibility. His strength has sky rocketed to heights I didn’t even expect when we first began to train. To gain that amount of weight, hardly add on any body fat, and improve mobility, flexibility and strength takes incredible dedication in both training and diet.
Since Doug wanted to gain muscle while keeping his body fat percentage low, he had to eat a high calorie, nutrient dense diet. This means the foods he ate had to be high in healthy nutrients and high in calories per gram of food so that he could eat more without feeling completely stuffed all the time. Here is a sample entry from Doug’s daily food log:
2-3 cups of Kashi Go Lean Crunch
1-2 pieces of whole wheat toast or 1 cup of whole wheat oatmeal
(optional, usually depends on time)
Throughout the day:
5-7 pieces of fruit (usually bananas or apples)
Water, Water, Water, Water, More water (I usually drink over a gallon a day)
Cold cut whole wheat sandwich (usually ham) w/ a little mustard or
whole wheat pasta w/ tomato sauce
Protein bar (optional, depends on daily routine)
Whole wheat pasta w/ tomato sauce or rice w/ salmon & broccoli or
chicken burrito bowl (depends on amount of time I have, if any, to
prepare a meal)
Protein shake or Gatorade (depends on nature of the workout)
1-2 cups of whole wheat oatmeal
Now, with this type of high calorie diet, Doug really had to hit the weights hard in order to keep the body fat off and the muscles growing. Here are a few videos of Doug during one of his recent training sessions. Keep in mind that less than a year ago, Doug could do 2 body weight pushups, no chin ups, about a 20 second plank with good form, and only unloaded, body weight squats.
Decline Bosu Ball Pushups with a 10lb plate on his back.
Chin ups with a 15lb dumbbell between his legs
Weighted bar ab roll-outs
TRX Inverted Rows with 10lb plate
230lb Front Squat
Doug is a serious example of someone who wants to do it all. When he first showed up at the training room he had a hard time expressing exactly how he wanted to do it all, and so his three primary goals were pretty broad and overarching. They were:
- To get back in the saddle of leading a healthy lifestyle
- To feel more comfortable and less intimidated by exercise
- To push himself
Over the course of his first year at the Training Room, Doug has accomplished these broad goals is some very specific and awe-inspiring ways. In October while on a trip to Thailand, he went on an impromptu 90km (about 57 mile) bike ride up a mountain outside Chiang Mai. In February he completed his first half-marathon. Currently he is within striking distance of running a 6 minute mile. He understands how to engage specific muscles while strength training which has led to incredible gains in the amount of weight he can lift (as seen in the videos above!) His diligence in his warm-up routine has led to increased mobility and flexibility which have in turn led to more gains in the amount of weight he can lift with perfect form. And these are just his physical accomplishments so far! Mentally, Doug has come a long way and only he can really explain the changes that he has experienced. In Doug’s own words:
“I’ve reached a point where my confidence is through the roof. To be perfectly frank, I’ve wrestled with nervousness and depression throughout my life. Fear of failure kept me going in school but it also made me afraid to deal with other people, to make claims where I had even the slightest doubt I could fulfill them, or to take chances. Combined with some other changes in my personal life, I feel the best that I may have ever felt in my life and hopefully it shines through when I interact with others!”
None of these changes happened over night. If there’s ever a complaint I have about Doug, it’s that he refuses to REST! Doug’s current workout regimen goes a little bit like this:
- Monday – 6am bootcamp
- Tuesday – 7am personal training session; 6:30pm kettlebell class
- Wednesday – 6am bootcamp
- Thursday – 6:15am cycling class; 7pm personal training session
- Friday – 6am bootcamp
- Saturday – day off (only because I make him!)
- Sunday – strength training workout on his own at the local Boston Sports Club
On top of all of this, he also goes on bike rides and runs in his spare time.
Today Doug’s goals have become much more concrete. I think this is a great testament to the confidence he has gained through this journey. His ability to set very specific goals now displays his new found belief in himself and in his ability to accomplish anything he puts his mind to. Doug’s current goals are:
- To complete a solo bike ride from Boston to Provincetown in June of this year. (completed: June 18)
- To run his first full marathon in October of this year.
- To improve his swimming abilities and complete an Olympic distance triathlon.
- To get involved in the local randonneuring (time-limited long distance bike rides) community.
- To continue weightlifting gains.
- World domination by Thursday.
Okay, so #6 might not be attainable, but all the others are goals that I have full confidence he will accomplish. Doug has worked so hard and his efforts have really shined through. He has grown into himself physically and emotionally and I really look forward to continuing his journey toward world (of fitness) domination!