In 2002, I started training fitness clients, here is my advice.
I was still working as a government lawyer during the day, but in the evenings I would travel to the homes and offices of my clients. Armed with my PowerBlock dumbbells and a backpack full of boxing equipment, I was making house calls and getting people in the best shape of their lives.
I opened my storefront business in 2004 in a hundred-year-old building with a leaky ceiling and the stench of sewage permeating the air. In 2007 I moved my business from the leaky stinky 1,600 square foot mess to a 7,700 square foot dream facility.
Clients have come and gone over the years, but those who followed my instructions all got the results they wanted.
The first blog post at gymjunkies.com went up in the fall of 2008. And since then, I am amazed and humbled by the people from all over the world who have achieved fitness success with the assistance of my advice via the internet.
I have personally tested all of the fitness techniques and nutrition tips you can find on this blog. Whether it’s getting stronger with heavy weights and low reps, leaning out with the primal diet, or packing on some muscle, I am my own lab rat (but never a gerbil).
I give you this little time line as a demonstration of my credibility. Yes, I still train real clients one on one. Yes, I have personally morphed from over stressed and out of shape business owner to being in tip top shape. Yes, when it comes to fitness I know what I’m talking about. And yes, even with my experience and proven track record I am recommending that you not believe a damn word I say.
In the macro big picture view of things, fitness is simple. Move your body, eat real food, and get adequate rest. Those three pillars of health and fitness are universal, and will get anyone started on the right path. But what about the micro view? What about the exact set and rep scheme you should use to gain 6 pounds of muscle? What about the exact number of daily calories you should consume to get to single digit body fat? What percentage of your one rep max on the deadlift should you use in a 5 x 5 program?
Here’s the honest answer no one wants to hear: I DON’T KNOW! I can make a pretty damned good educated guess about where to start. But after that, it becomes a never ending cycle of testing and tracking.
There are too many variables from person to person to give cookie-cutter answers. Obvious factors such as training experience, injury history, and genetics all must be considered.
But the less obvious are no less important and can often have more impact. How well do you tolerate dairy? What are the current physical demands and stress levels of your job? What kind of support will you get at home regarding your new healthy lifestyle? Does a new born baby make getting ideal recovery time through sleep impractical at this time?
The list of factors that could affect your training results could go on forever. Rather than get overwhelmed by the variables, I recommend the following as you figure out what works for your unique situation:
1. Look for clues from others
Whether you use your local library or the internet, finding information about fitness is easy. The problem is that there is so much information, you may not be sure what is solid advice and what is complete bullshit. Through comments on posts and forums, the internet provides the capability of communication with others in situations similar to yours. When you see real people comment on my blog about their results – people like Mike McNeil, Lisa Anderson, and Ray L. – you can make a deduction that the methods they used may also work for you. I call these people “trail blazers” and seeking them out can be helpful in finding a starting point for your fitness quest.
2. Record everything.
Once you have a starting point, it’s time to take some action. And when you start taking action, it’s time to make a record. Write down as much detail as is practical for you. At a minimum, record the exercises, weights, reps, and sets of each workout. But consider other factors as well such as rest between sets, the weather, the time of day, and your emotional state or “mood” before and and after the training session. And keeping a log of what you eat is crucial. Over and over I see it – clients who do not keep a food journal do not get results. Also, be sure to test your goal at regular intervals. That could be a weekly weigh-in if fat loss is your goal or testing your deadlift one rep max every other week if you are striving to get stronger.
3. Allow adequate testing time.
So you’ve found a starting point and you’re taking action. But how long do you head down the path before assessing the effectiveness of your program? For weight loss, I recommend two weeks. If you go two weeks in a row without losing a single pound, something needs to change. I’ll take it a step further and say that if you lose less than three pounds in a two week period, your regimen needs some tweaking. Gaining muscle and strength takes a bit longer and I recommend testing your program for a solid 30 days before judging your results. Keep in mind these are just guidelines; all of the variables I keep referring to will also affect what constitutes a sufficient length of time for testing.
4. Course correct.
One of my favorite quotes is from Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The results you seek ARE obtainable. But if you are not seeing progress after an adequate test period you MUST change what you are doing. This is where the data you have collecting in your diet and training journals becomes invaluable. You can review what you have done, and then make an educated guess as to what needs to change.
5. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
This process of testing and tracking is a never ending process. Nothing stays stagnant, especially your training. We are all in a constant flux of regression or progression and so our approach to training must remain dynamic. Heed the signs your body gives you and continue to record, test, and correct along the way.
What I write about fitness is not law.
It’s nothing more than my opinion based on accumulated experience. You don’t have to believe a damn word of it. Once you have the basics down, and you understand your body then find what resonates with you, test it yourself, and then come to your own conclusion.
What works for YOU in regards to nutrition and training? Anything counter-intuitive or against mainstream advice? Let me know in the comments below.