10 Lessons in 10 Years of Fitness- Part 1

Last month marked a full 10 years that I’ve chosen a lifestyle with fitness as the center piece. I look back on where I came from and where I am today, and there are very few things I would change. For every mistake I made over the course of the last 10 years, it’s led to the trainer and fitness enthusiast I currently am. I’ve been extremely blessed to have worked under, and alongside some incredible strength coaches, that helped me harness my love and passion for fitness. I’d like to share 10 lessons I’ve learned in 10 years in the industry, that may in some way help shape your own routine, and lead to a prolonged period of commitment to a healthy lifestyle as well!

(In this post I will delve into #10 to #6 and next post I will finish with my top 5!)

#10- You DO NOT Need a Gym to Have a Quality Workout

This is the most recent lesson that I’ve learned in 2020. CO-VID 19 has had countless drawbacks on individuals from a health and wealth perspective, however, one positive I’ve taken away, is the ability to not rely on a gym for a great workout. I didn’t realize how “lazy” I had gotten with my workouts until the gym was taken away from me.

By “lazy” I don’t mean I was missing workouts, but instead I was choosing the cable, machine or hammer strength variation of exercises, as opposed to the barbell and free-weight option. There were a few reasons for this- one being, I lift anywhere between 4 and 5:30 AM daily, so my willpower beyond that is occasionally lacking. Also, due to my personal training schedule, I’m always looking for efficient lifts, and sometimes the setup of a machine is just purely quicker.

When CO-VID shut down gyms though, I was forced to get back to the basics- left with a barbell, a pair of power block dumbbells, and a set of kettle bells, I was AMAZED at the increase in quality of my workouts- and the results!

I understand I was extremely fortunate to be a fitness professional and have my own collection of equipment prior to the virus hitting- this ability has put my home workouts on a level that not many people have access to. However, until I set my space up to exercise, I was just using my power blocks in a space no bigger than my wingspan- and I was getting great workouts in! It highlighted the fact that a gym is not necessary- if you have the internal motivation and the creativity to make safe and effective workouts, you can train anywhere and get a great workout in! Don’t get caught up in thinking you can only have great workouts at the gym, because it’s simply not true!

(For some examples of home workouts, click here)

#9- Continuously Grow Your Personal Exercise Encyclopedia

This is a skill that has benefitted me the most as a trainer, and is rooted in my own personal experiences in the gym. I can always tell a trainer that is not used to exercising themselves, when they have limited knowledge about exercise variations. I’ve always prided myself in dabbling in different variations of every movement pattern. This has ranged from Olympic Lifts, to Kettle Bells, to traditional strength moves- at various points over the last 10 years I’ve sprinkled in every kind of variation you could think of.

My initial exposure to the fitness industry was a subscription to the magazine, “Muscle and Fitness” back when I was in middle school, so I’ve always had a fascination with “new twists” on traditional moves. The one thing to keep in mind though is, I’ve always stayed rooted in the traditional movement patterns. Any experimentation with new exercises always occurs as accessory work, rather than having completely different workouts every time.

The value in having a giant exercise encyclopedia to draw from, is seen in a private sector gym most frequently- but has been highlighted recently due to CO-VID as well. The ability to substitute exercises at will, because a piece of equipment is being used or unavailable, will allow for a more effective workout. This knowledge base will also eliminate feelings of frustration when you try to exercise at peak gym hours. 

The best way to enhance your variations, is to start with the basics, then find a reputable and trusted source and experiment with the variations they publish. From there, if you feel the move to be potentially beneficial to you, at the end of your workouts, safely try out a few new variations. Some you’ll never attempt again, however, others you might keep practicing until they get worked in as part of the routine. Learn to walk the fine line of being utterly committed to the “basics” while simultaneously having a multitude of variations to substitute up your sleeves.

(Check out this write up to see 5 exercises that are unique, safe, effective and can be performed at home!)

#8 Nutrition Can’t be Thought of in Terms of ‘Dieting’

The term “diet” usually denotes a period of time that some fashion of restrictive eating occurs. Whether that’s a subscription to a traditional “Fad Diet” or simply a caloric restriction, when you approach nutrition with a “diet” mindset, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Dieting is not conducive for long-term success- very rarely can an individual sustain commitment to a Fad Diet for extended periods of time. (I’m not discrediting the value in following a specific nutritional plan, by any means- if that works for you, then keep up the great work!)

The majority of people should be searching instead for a Nutritional Lifestyle instead of the perfect diet. Through portion control, slow and mindful eating, and the infusion of lean protein, veggies, complex carbohydrates and fats at each meal, will lead to a healthy and sustainable nutritional lifestyle. Dieting can ruin your relationship with food– anytime you feel deprivation, at some point you will likely have a binge eating episode on whatever food you feel restricted from having. This is not a healthy nutritional lifestyle. Instead, learn to accept the fact that we’re human and it’s OK to not be perfect- as long as you avoid making it a habit, a binge eating episode or overly dwell on it, then embrace nutritional slip ups as a part of a lifestyle and move on.

Everyone’s different, so find what works best for you in terms of macronutrient loading. Some people perform and feel better on less carbohydrates, while others have such an active lifestyle, a reduction in carbs will greatly hinder their daily performance. Consuming lean protein is a must- even if you’re vegan or vegetarian find the option of protein that’s right for you, because having protein at each meal will vastly assist in muscle recovery. Fill the gaps with lots of veggies and curb your sweet tooth with some fruit. Keep it simple, because simple is repeatable and therefore sustainable.

(To read more in depth about some specific recommendations I have regarding a ‘nutritional lifestyle’ click here)

#7 Overtraining is Overblown

If you are a competitive athlete at the high school, college or professional level, overtraining can certainly occur. Between practices, games and training sessions, strength coaches have lost their careers over causing athletes to have Rhabdo (short for rhabdomyolisis, which is the death of muscle fibers and release of myoglobin into the blood stream, which can cause extreme kidney dysfunction).

If training volume and frequency isn’t being closely monitored in high level/competitive athletes, overtraining can easily happen. However, for the general population, who work 9-5 jobs for 40-60 hours per week, getting an hour of activity every single day, will not cause overtraining. That said, you don’t want to make that hour of exercise the same exact movement pattern for 7 days- that will definitely hinder your ability to recover. However, having 3-5 days of well-programmed resistance training with the remaining “off days” treated instead as “Active Rest Days” you can safely and effectively hit 7 days of activity.

I am not a proponent of resistance training 7 days per week for most people. Even if it’s an extremely well planned program, I think it’s grounds to get burnt out mentally more so than anything. The issue is, for most individuals an “Off Day” is literally a “do nothing day,” which is not conducive for a fully healthy lifestyle. On days that your traditional workouts are not occurring, active rest options such as: brisk walks, bike rides, hikes, pick-up sports (basketball, volleyball, soccer), yoga or a foam rolling session, all present themselves as great recovery options. Any of these will moderately elevate your heart rate and provide you with high quality activity, that will assist in your recovery- and is different than your normal workouts!

(To read more in depth about how to transition your “off days” to “active rest days” click here)

6. Early Morning Workouts are Superior

There is plenty of research that states, as a male, I would be better off resistance training later in the day, because my testosterone levels are higher as the day progresses. I don’t doubt this science one bit, however, whatever advantage I have in hormonal levels, is negated if I let ‘life’ get in the way and I don’t even exercise. I found out very early on in my 10 year journey, that there’s one way to almost guarantee you won’t miss workouts due to life getting in the way- that is, workout very first thing in the morning. When you wait to exercise until after your workday is done, you’re allowing for the potential of a “bad day”, spontaneous social plans, family responsibilities or unforeseen work obligations (like having to work late), to prohibit you from training. Early in the morning, when most of your community is still asleep, usually the only thing that will get in the way of you and your workout is your own feeling of being sleepy- and that is purely a battle of willpower that you must win.

Yes, you may be initially tired going into the session, however, if you train hard you will feel invigorated by the time you’re done. This feeling of vitality will naturally keep your energy levels much higher throughout the day. Exercising in the morning also sets the tone for subsequent healthy decisions through your day as well. You’ll notice that by training in the morning, you’ll be naturally more health conscious with your nutrition choices. Additionally, one of my favorite aspects of exercising early, is that any activity you get later in the day is bonus! All the sudden the walk after dinner seems less like a chore and more like a great way to unwind and get some extra steps in for the day.

Committing to an early morning gym routine will give you a mental edge for the upcoming day, but also your physical goals will become more quickly attainable. Especially if you are usually inconsistent with your workouts, implementing a regular early morning workout routine will ensure consistency- which is the number one variable to achieving any goal.

(To read more about how to make an early morning exercise routine work for you, click here)

In Conclusion…

In my next blog, I will delve into my top 5 lessons I’ve learned in the first 10 years of my fitness journey. None of these lessons are particularly groundbreaking, nor are they gospel, however, they’re things that I’ve picked up along the way that has exponentially aided my overall fitness level. These lessons are applicable to all ages, genders and goals, and can take any exercise routine to the next level!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

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