Friday was the first day of spring, and in my garden a burst of green was springing up (chives). It made me think that perhaps this dreadful and endless winter did not in fact kill all of my perennials. And also, that summer can't be TOO far behind. It won't be long before we pack away the sweaters and see how our tank tops and swim suits are fitting.
Time for a "spring cleaning" that includes making positive changes to our bodies - how we feel, how we move and yes, how we look. Good or bad, to some degree we live in a physical culture which puts a lot emphasis on things like bigger arms and more defined abs. And now that it is officially spring, summer (and wearing less) cannot be far behind.
Unfortunately, for so many of us, the desire for change too quickly becomes frustration as we put in the time at the gym and don’t see the results for which we were hoping. And then comes the self-recrimination. Why can’t I get the body I want? If only I had a faster metabolism. Or pushed myself harder at the gym. Maybe I should go on a starvation diet. What if I tried steroids?
The good news is that absolutely anyone can find dramatic physical change without going to extremes with their diets, their exercise regimes or trying dangerous supplements or steroids. The solution is actually a very simple one, which is not to say easy. If it were easy, everyone would be flaunting their six-pack abs. But it is simple to start living in the body that you imagine for yourself.
In this week's article and the three that follow, I will teach you the secret to healthy, dramatic physical improvement.
Here is the secret: Balance. A balance created by eating in a way that supports your goals, building metabolism-boosting muscle tissue and doing the right kind of cardio for burning off unwanted fat. While that may sound obvious, it is not. Doing any one or two of the above will not give us the result we are seeking. It is in the correct combination of those three pieces of the puzzle that we will find success in creating the bodies we imagine for ourselves.
So, if we are going to succeed, we need to understand why we’ve failed in the past. Almost every single person who walks into my gym wants something very similar. No matter how they say it - “I want to lose weight”, “I want to be stronger and more muscular” - what they mean ninety-five percent of the time, is that they want to have a better balance between lean tissue (muscle) and fat. Muscle, in the absence of fat in and around it, gives our bodies the lean, cut look that most people want, whether they call it a swimmer’s build or a gymnast’s body, two iconic types toward which many people strive.
Many people attempt this through diets that deprive the body of the calories that it needs to function and thrive. The truth about diets is that they do not and, in fact, cannot work. When the body gets fewer calories than it needs, two things happen. The brain resets the body’s internal calorie thermostat so that it can survive on fewer calories, slowing the metabolism. At the same time, the body god into "survival mode", essentially storing as many calories as possible by turning them into fat and depositing them into the fat cells.
Other people try an approach to weight loss that is equally sure to fail. Instead of trying to starve off the fat, they try to burn it off. I frequently meet people who spend an hour every day jogging on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine. Unfortunately, long, steady-state cardio tends to burn more muscle than it does fat, resulting in a body with a very unfavorable ratio of fat-to-muscle. The word I often use to describe this body type is “skinny fat”.
Still others try to build muscle to reverse the soft, flabby body type that is created by dieting and doing the wrong kind of cardio exercise. Unfortunately, most are either not getting enough calories to build muscle or are burning too much of it with the excess of cardio. Even those who are eating in a way where adding muscle might be possible typically are not doing their strength training in a way that gives them results.
If any of the above sounds familiar, it’s time to re-think your fitness program and start moving toward your goals. Again, the answer lies in the balance that comes in eating in a way that supports your goals, exercising in a way that adds muscle to the body and doing your cardio in a way that burns off excess fat. The good news is that it is actually very simple to start seeing physical improvement almost immediately and for the most part it can be accomplished very efficiently in just a few hours each week.
For many, the most difficult piece of the puzzle is the nutrition, so we’ll address that first in next week's newsletter. The first step toward eating in a way that supports your goals is to take an honest look at what you are eating now and start to make small changes. I recommend taking at least three days in which you do a food journal and write down everything that you eat and drink and at what time of the day. After you do that, download the Empower Fitness Guide To Supportive Nutrition. The Password is: metabolism. Read each nutrition “rule” on the left side of page one and compare it to your food journal. Make a small change or two that reflects a more supportive way of eating. The first thing that you will notice, within a week, is that you will have more energy and be less susceptible to those mid-afternoon energy crashes.
Once we have addressed nutrition and you understand how to eat more supportively, we will take a look at the most efficient ways to build muscle and burn body fat, respectively, in the weeks that follow. You can expect to learn the most efficient ways to dramatically add muscle and burn fat from your body.
If you've found this information helpful, keep reading. I will provide you with solid, scientific advice that works, advice that has allowed me to help hundreds of people overcome their obstacles and move toward their ideal bodies. I have a few spots left in my 10-Week, Total Body Transformation Program (This is not a boot camp - it is personal training for small groups of 3 or 4 people). Classes start next week and are just $65/week. Please get in touch if you are interested or have questions. You can find information about the program here.
As we look toward to spring and as the weather gets better, remember to be thankful for what you have in your life and make a real and conscious effort to make improvements in those areas in which you feel you need it. So many things in life are about finding the right balance and I’m looking forward to helping you learn how to do that with your fitness goals this year.
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Greg Rothman, MS PT, is a fitness professional, writer and the owner of Empower Fitness in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. His “Recession-Proof” Fitness Programs are an affordable way to find dramatic physical change over the course of 10 weeks. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at www.GetEmpoweredFitness.com.