WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET IN SHAPE?

steve2021-05-04

 When discussing ways to get in shape and the variables this entails, one could say there is one, another may say there are two, many more will present a laundry list of several possibilities and variables, and the wisest will likely say: it depends. Well, I accord importance to four aspects, or variables:

1-Train with purpose

2-Eat good things

3-Prioritize sleep

4-Manage stress

Remember, the greatest results are rooted in the simplest of origins. If you are mindful of keeping everything simple, the results will follow. Do not be swayed by a complicated exercise or workout, sold off as the “Next Best Thing”, very often the trainer/ salesman presenting it, has traded their integrity for the potential to stand out from the crowd and their peers (the squat on a Bosu ball comes to mind). Some are genuine, and simply fell for another “salesman’s” tactics, but I believe most of them are FULL of shit! A squat, like those performed by our ancestors, and many current day indigenous people when voiding their bowels, is already perfect in its simplicity…and this with their feet planted firmly on the GROUND.

Here at SSP Fitness Box, we are forged in simplicity, our key lifts are : the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. We perform these exercises the traditional way, no bull, without the outlandish modifications, or programming that seem to plague our industry. What we do here is built on a solid foundation of analysis and the basics, the results that are achieved here are the only things worth citing. Welcome to our facility, and our philosophies, the following are my thoughts on how to get in shape, enjoy 🍻.

1-TRAIN WITH PURPOSE

Well, you have heard these one a million times: “go to the gym! You will look and feel better.” in all these years of training, this sentence, this cliché really gets to me… Going to the gym serves a purpose that FAR exceeds, simply looking and feeling good…I hope! The bottom line is, if you go the gym, you will, in time, develop better posture, energy, discipline, food habits, accrue information on health (if you have a good trainer that always tries to be better at his/her job), quality of life, optimal growth hormone and sex hormones, slow the aging process, prevention of injuries, and so on…

You have to start somewhere, but where should you start? Now, if you are thinking that starting off with training four to five times a week is the optimal way to go for the bikini season, golf season, or adhering to your doctor’s recommendations for health: you are either misguided, or misinformed. Read, repeat, and remember this next statement: IT TAKES TIME TO GET RESULTS, and in this endeavor, patience is the ultimate virtue. The trainers, and/ or healthcare professionals that say otherwise, and promise substantial results in very little time (i.e. two months or less), are snake oil salesmen, and likely full of shit! Furthermore, if you have already been training for a year or more, with very little results to show for it, there is likely something awry. I highly recommend that you outsource your training needs, and you consult a professional for assistance.

I believe when establishing parameters for a beginner, or someone coming off and extended absence from training, the minimum frequency of training should be three days a week. Why? Simply put, this will provide the ideal rest interval between workout days: one day on, one day off. If you do too much, you will likely fatigue, have limited results, which is discouraging, and may lead to you quitting. A lesser frequency like this, also permits a favorable adaptation, which can then be increased upon, by adding a fourth training session, or manipulating another training parameter, and so on, and so forth. Starting with lesser intensity, frequency, and volume, provide the possibility for small bouts of continuous progress, by refraining from “throwing the kitchen sink” at our work, we allow ourselves to make micro progress to each small change we adopt. Remember, no black belt is ever earned in three months, the same is true for health and fitness, nothing of substance, or benefit, will occur overnight. Take your time building a strong foundation, savor the different nuances, those you enjoy as much as those that you despise. Over time, you will experience favorable changes, you will learn to notice each and every positive adaptation, your body will be strong, and you will greatly appreciate all the time and effort it required.

Fast forward now, you have made it to the gym, you purchased your six-hundred-dollar membership, and are about to meet your trainer: Johnny Cardio, the victor in the previous fifteen national level triathlons. You listen to him describe how he interprets what issues he sees in your structure, and muscular imbalances. A reminder, all this is accomplished by doing nothing more than looking at you. He says things like:

– “You have imbalances related to the muscles surrounding your scapula, and pelvis.”

-“You have poor posture.”

-“Trust me, this is how it works…”

These types of professionals will overload you with these fallacies, and clichés, add in a grip tester, a reach test to see how stiff you are when seated, use calipers to approximate your body fat percentage, then take your blood pressure, and TADA! This is their “complete” evaluation…

Following these evaluations, month after month, Johnny reaches into a different drawer on his desk, and hands you your program, this month he has bestowed upon you the one titled: “Posture Problem”. This kind of cookie cutter bull shit makes my blood BOIL! The saddest part is that Johnny is quite possibly FAR more knowledgeable than what he puts out. He has either chosen to sell a high volume to pad his bank account, or the center he works in pressures him HEAVILY to meet a monthly quota…both realities are absolute SHIT and give our industry and its professionals a terrible name. After all these years spent working in gyms, I can assure you, like a true Mandalorian: “This is NOT the way”. Our clients trust us with their time, money, and health, we owe it to them, and to ourselves to provide the utmost in service and value. If you start with a flawed evaluation, you will undoubtedly fail, even if your trainer knows how to program an individual, they must be able to identify your personal needs. Without this information, positive results will be hard to come by, and in time you will either change trainers, or give up, and none of that will have been your fault.

Some clarity on Johnny Cardio, Joe Muscle, or whoever it is working in most commercial gyms, often present with a knowledge base that leaves to be desired, if not completely absent. Why? Because they were likely hired due to their performances on the field, not their breadth of understanding of a given subject. This on field experience has some value, but almost ZERO application to the general population, which can actually be dangerous to the well being of clients. If you are a retired athlete that reads, goes to seminars, you may even have a degree, you have a chance at being better than most. The marriage of academia with real world experience is a potent combination, and for that you would have my respect. I have met a few hybrids like this over the years, and they are very at their job. Client or coach, in the gym, the only way to mature like fine wine, is time spent under the bar. Why? Well, it enables you to have time to test theories, methodologies, and to develop your critical eye, before passing anything on to a client.

I believe the most baffling concept to me in regards to run of the mill physical evaluations, would be stating an individual has a structural deficiency, without having administered any structural balance tests, or movement screenings. Testing clients properly, takes A LOT of practice, and related learning of various subjects, in the form of seminars, online courses, internships, degrees, and in the gym/ clinic repetition. Most commercial gyms do not allow it for many reasons, none of which have the client’s best interests at heart…this is near sacrilegious. The bottom line is, get a certified coach with experience, go to the gym three times a week, and hire someone that will routinely perform thorough physical evaluations. Run a “background check” on your trainer, it might be the difference between getting, and not getting results.

2-EAT GOOD THINGS

Overly simplified advice: if it does not fly, swim, run, or grow in the ground: do not eat it…The funny thing is, that when I meet people for their evaluation, the first thing they say is: “I eat well at home…I am here for the workout”, I tell myself: “Ok, then how come you are so fat, and inflamed?!?!” The last time I dealt with this, the client was asking for information for her daughter, and that the only thing missing in her daily regiment, was a good place to train. I told her what we we do here at SSP, and she said: “Nice, I love it! This is what I’m looking for…”

She went on to add : “You know, we eat very well at home, there is no need to provide us with a diet.” As she is telling me this, she goes into her pocket and pulls out a carton of chocolate milk… What the in the actual FUCK?! I mean, you must be joking…either they are overtly lying themselves, or they SERIOUSLY lack a basic understanding of nutrition. If everyone I meet is on a diet, then why are the majority of these people so fat????

Athletes and corporate clients must follow a healthy meal plan.  If you regularly drink chocolate milk, and hope to lose fat, you are in for a rude awakening. Again, to properly decipher what your own body is presenting/ communicating, you will need to find yourself a practitioner who is well versed in nutrition, and understands the subtleties of a bio-signature. Not your lifting partner, your mom, uncle, brother or sister, they will not cut it, this truly requires a specialist. Drink plenty of water, if you are an inconsistent eater, aim to increase meal frequency in to the four to six range, and then, go see a nutrition SPECIALIST. After all, the foodyou put in your body is your daily fuel, you do want to put cheap fuel in your tank. I know, once in a while, a good cheat food or meal is enjoyable, but when the cheats come in multiple times a week, this is where you will run into problems. You will have to make some sacrifices if you want to achieve your desired results. Even trying to gain mass is not that easy, remember in my book, the ratio of importance between eating and training, is 90:10. Many people say 80:20… Yes, this may have been true ten years ago, but we live in a world where every day is a battle: pollutants, toxins, demineralized soils, and cheap, calorie dense, nutrient poor food, may oppose our goals daily. You will require an ironclad will to win this war. We live in a fast world…just go to McDonald’s for example, in and out in 20 minutes (and that is a stretch), this means you ordered, sat down, ate, and got out! You might also go to the frozen section at the grocery store and BAM! You just bought diner or lunch, that you can cook in under three minutes!! Things are quick and, easily accessed in the world today, no wonder people carry insulin and metformin, as commonly as Chapstick nowadays…

3-PRIORITIZE SLEEP

We rarely cook anymore, we train for the wrong reasons, we stress about everything, and compound all of this with very bad sleeping habits! Well, guess what? You must go to bed! You remember how your mom or dad were always telling you that?  THEY WERE RIGHT! We adults go to bed far too late and get out of bed too late as well. Sleep hygiene can go a long way towards helping weight loss, or facilitating weight gain weight, it all depends on which habits you ingrain. Sleep is made to recharge the batteries, if your sleep is always getting disturbed, well, the batteries will not get fully re-charged. Sometimes, I have clients whom I know are putting in the work, yet they still say:

Client: “Steve, I am not seeing any change, why is that?”

 Me: “What time do you go to bed? What time do you get up at?”

Client: “I Go to bed around eleven, and get up around six…”

Steve: “How many times per week does your sleep follow that schedule?”

Client: “Well, two, three, maybe four days a week max…”

 Ok, well here is the problem, going out, getting drunk and sleeping next to the toilet, even if infrequently, is extremely detrimental to your progress. We need a good seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and this consistently, night after night. This is not hearsay, this is science, and I suggest you adhere to it, if you wish see any palpable progress in your physique. A human should go to bed before ten at night, and wake up around six in the morning, why? All because of melatonin, melatonin is a chemical located in the brain, the central nervous system, and several other cells in the body. It helps you achieve a good quality of sleep, but that is not all, the greatest concentration is dumped into the brain and CNS during the deep sleep cycle, nearly four thousand times what is produced at other times during the day. Melatonin is potentially the MOST important anti-oxidant produced in the human body, its adequate production during sleep is related to guarding the body against nearly all diseases and metabolic dysfunctions. Its health and recuperation benefits are so pronounced, that in upper echelons of endurance sports, athletes are now known to mega dose melatonin in the form of a supplement for three to four days prior to a race or event. This has become common practice, as it promotes a PRONOUNCED reduction of post exertion inflammatory markers, improved muscle recuperation, and metabolic functions across the board. To all of you night birds, if you are fat, and do not change your sleep schedule, you will stay fat. Go to bed, you will have better results, and your life may improve in general. If I can recommend a good book, a true Masterpiece on this subject, it would be: The Promise of Sleep – by William C. Dement, MD PHD.

4-MANAGE STRESS

Doing yoga, and mediation, may be good practices for stress management, but beyond this, effort placed in daily preparation, goes a long way to facilitating life, and this in part, REALLY diminishes perceivable stress. I believe this sentence really sums up my personal philosophy on stress management:

“Fail to plan, plan to fail!”

Make an effort, stick to a routine, arrive ahead of time, use an agenda, ready your meals in advance, etc., we all live daily stressors, and most are DRAMATICALLY reduced if we prepare ahead of time. This allows us not to rush to accomplish daily tasks. If you think about it, some stress potentiates positive change in our lives, exercise, new skill acquisition, trying new food, confronting a fear or phobia, public speaking, or even sparking conversation with a crush. It is important to maintain some of our innate “stress resilience” to take on these beneficial tasks, and I believe our failure to plan/ prepare, largely taps into the chronic stress that robs us of these “reserves”, this “resilience”. We say all kinds of things after a challenge or frustration arises, the “OUPS” is when we realize we have made an error in processing, likely brought on by an error in preparation, too late, that was STRESS.

Life is about making choices, not for Joe Neighbour, but for ourselves, what are our goals? What are our wants? And what daily choices and planning can help me obtain these? Many of us slip into the habit of living for others, not for ourselves, and our aspirations. How often do you say: “If I say no, what will they think of me?” For myself, if I say no, and they are not happy, they do not understand or care about my needs and boundaries. If this is the case even after clearly, and calmly communicating my needs, they can go fuck themselves. I am not here to please anyone, but I owe it to myself to cultivate the life I desire, and do so while lowering my stress. This is my life! Many will ask you for all kinds of things, if you feel obligated to do it, you will experience more and more stress, and this all the while living someone else’s life…this behavior will dig you an early grave: cut it out! We can not escape negative stressors, that much is for sure, but we can make a positive shift, by adopting small changes in habit, all the while working towards a more fulfilling, stress reduced life.

In the end, all the choices we make are our own. You must choose wisely before getting involved in something, chew the fat, mull over all the possible outcomes, and ask yourself: “does this decision align with my calling, with my true self?”. Make the best of it, but factor in enjoyment, it is not all about the work, life is too short. Regret nothing, and before analyzing anything, take in information on every aspect of what you are getting involved. If the choices you made do not pan out, blame yourself, not the other party. You are the problem, you made a poor decision, you must absorb the consequences: own your choices. What makes me angry is when people blame others for their lack of success, and/or repeated failures. Just blame yourself, in the world of today, everyone blames something or someone else, but in the end, we are to blame. My dad always said: if you fuck up, take extreme ownership, this way you will not repeat that same mistake.

See you in the next article.

Stay strong,

Coach Steve.