Now that we've run out of public holidays for months to come, and beach season is oh-so-far away, winter is the time where many get back into their health and fitness. And when that happens, the questions roll into my email inbox.
So this week is dedicated to slimming down my mailbag, because whether I peek into my inbox or I'm out and about, I continually hear, "Oh, you're a personal trainer? I've got a question for you."
Here are some of the most common questions, and my thoughts:
1. What's the best workout?
From CrossFit to Zumba, from yoga and pilates to F45 Training, from an outdoor jog to a bike ride, the choices are almost endless.
I don't know what's best, only what's best for me. For my clients? I judge each individual as they come in the door.
If I have a corporate woman who doesn't like her job, hasn't slept well, isn't keen on the man in her life, and doesn't like her body, and yet I give her a 10/10 session and she's puking? Well, I've done her serious harm.
Whatever you do, aim for a 7 to 8.5 out of 10 effort. I hope my clients are sweating, swearing and smiling during a session - make it your goal, too.
2. I'm eating well, I'm exercising hard, but I've plateaued.
The body doesn't like change, it feels comfortable staying the same. So, change up your routine in the gym and the kitchen, and your body will be forced to adapt to a new regimen. As long as it's healthy, you'll smash through that plateau.
3. What do you think of Isagenix?
When I see programs such as Juice Plus, Isagenix, and various Amway weight loss schemes making the rounds at the gym, I start to regurgitate my banana.
Taking a fruit pill instead of eating an apple? Really? If a friend sells you fruit or veggies in a pill, they're not your friend. Isagenix is the latest multi-level marketing (MLM) wellness system, selling products to cleanse, detox, aid in weight loss, etcetera, etcetera. Yaaaaawn. I get one phone call per week trying to get me into a MLM pyramid scheme, but I don't sell false hope to clients, friends or family.
You cleanse, detox, and lose weight with water, fruit, vegetables, healthy protein and exercise.
4. What pre-workout enhancer should I buy?
Energy drinks and pre-workout powders? Skip 'em. Loaded with sugar, chemicals and crap. Why would you down (in some cans) 19 teaspoons of sugar, then enter a gym for a healthy workout? Before a Wellington-to-Auckland drive, you'd fill up your car with quality fuel, not sand - do the same for your body.
Music works. Science shows that music increases performance. Put down the drinks, and put on the headphones.
5. What's the best diet? Paleo? Fasting? Gluten-free? Anti-cancer diet?
The tough answer is this - diets don't work. People lose weight in the short term, and then they put even more back on over time.
The best diet? Nobody knows. It's really up to you. Use your common sense. But if you go by the general rule of eating close to a farmer. hunter and fisherman, you'll do your body good. Fewer pills, powders, and meal replacement shakes - more water, red wine (in moderation, if that's your thing) and real food.
I have a corporate client, Karen. She's down 40 kilograms (my role is admittedly small - she's the boss of her own journey) and she hasn't done it by copying anybody's program but rather researching recipes, recommitting to her health, and experimenting with changes she's able to implement into her (long-term) lifestyle. It hasn't happened overnight, and it wasn't easy. But it's her challenge. Her knowledge of healthy foods and fitness starts in her mind, then flows straight down to the rest of the body. That is the best diet.
How did she do it? Karen says: "I stopped settling for a second-rate life. Conscious choice is now my way of life. I choose to fuel my body with real food, preparing on the weekend for the week ahead. I purposely get quality sleep. The alarm goes off at 5am, I choose to get up and exercise. It's all about intention. I got serious about the little daily choices - they are the ones that will accumulate into a changed life."
6. I'm keen to lose weight, but I just can't give up the drinks ... it's my social life. What should I do?
Then your health and fitness journey will sputter. You just don't want it badly enough. Admit it, and crack open another. Or you could change your relationship with alcohol.
7. How long should I work out?
This is a tough one to answer, as your goal should determine your exercise session length. Are you training for a half-marathon, or seeking hypertrophy? Longer workouts will be your thing.
But if you're after weight loss or general fitness, it's time to lift the intensity. People either love or hate CrossFit - I've always been a fan because no matter the workout, intensity is preferred over length of the session.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Tabata training - these types of sessions are superb for beginners and the ultra-fit. Get involved, and you'll find yourself exercising less at a higher intensity, with better results than staring at reality TV while sliding on the cross-trainer.
8. What's the best protein?
Salmon. Steak. Chicken. Eggs. Ohhhhhh, you meant protein powder/supplements? Well, let me ask you - how much protein do you require in a day? How much protein do you obtain each day? And how much protein is in a 250g piece of salmon?
If you're not sure, then it's likely you don't need that Cookies 'n Cream protein box after a gym session. You can get all the protein you need from real food.
9. Travelling for work messes with my training.
Easily fixed. A jump rope is a mobile gym. Pack one, and perform rounds of 150 skips, 15 push-ups, 15 squats, and 15 sit-ups. Perform 20 minutes of that circuit, and you're a corporate champion. Dinners and drinks? Simple advice: just consume less.
10. I want to lose weight. How do I get started?
Commit. Get inspired. Sacrifice and make change happen during a challenging (but fun) journey.
And finally ...
I admit it: I don't have all the answers. The health and fitness industry is always expanding, because our waistlines are. We had scientific evidence supporting X theory 20 years ago that has been dispelled by scientific studies that support Y theory from 10 years ago, and today's scientific evidence contradicts them all.
So science still isn't producing answers, but deep down we all know what we need to do.
If you're working out hard and eating the right foods, you CAN have your cake or wine and eat or drink it, too. Get some quality sleep, some good lovin', and have a positive outlook throughout the day. Long-term health and wellness should follow.
Agree or disagree with the above? Cool. Let your opinions be heard in the comments below.
- Sydney Morning Herald