Here’s what I want for you.

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About a year after I finished college, I bought my first gym membership. The gym was close to work, a friend from work was a member there, and I had been promising myself that I would do something about my weight for a long while by then…so it seemed like the thing to do. When I walked in and bought my two-year membership (which was a huge expenditure at that point in my life) they asked me to come to a new members’ orientation at the end of the week, where they took all the new gym members and put us through the (TRIGGER WARNING!) Canada Fitness Test. If you’re old enough to remember doing those in school you may be twitching a little bit or having a full-on anxiety attack right now, but don’t worry – we’ll move on in a second. Anyway, I did the thing and bombed it in all sorts of ways, so when they gathered us all up and READ EVERYONE’S RESULTS ALOUD, I realized how bad things had gotten: Cardiovascular Endurance: POOR. Upper Body Strength: POOR. Speed, Power, Agility: POOR, POOR, POOR. Abdominal Strength: POOR. Flexibility: EXCELLENT. (What can I say? I’m hypermobile.) I’d like to say that that experience fired me up and inspired me to get to work on everything that needed improving, but instead what happened was that I walked out of that place feeling judged and mortified and I never went back. Not even once.

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Fast-forward about five years to where I actually did start feeling inspired to get moving but didn’t have a clue how or where to begin: do you think I was going to join a gym? HELL NO. There was no way I was going to walk into a gym and get humiliated again. At that point my weight was hovering just under 300lbs, I had two tiny daughters, and I was exhausted most of the time. The last thing I needed was for someone to tell me my physical condition was shit; I was telling myself exactly that (and worse) every damn day.trainer3

One more story! Fast forward another couple of years to where I had lost over 100lbs and was doing sales training at my first job as a personal trainer. We were taught to take new gym members through some movement screens, get them on the scale, test their body composition…and then sit them down and highlight all the things that were wrong, impressing upon them that they were simply not equipped to get going on an exercise program alone; they needed training. “Make sure they know how much they suck,” I remember the facilitator saying. “They won’t get it done on their own.” No matter how many grains of truth there were in that statement, its callous and meatheaded delivery turned me right off. It seemed like a backward approach to me; that’s exactly the mentality that had scared me away from gyms and the people in them. I expressed as much to my boss at the time, who said, “don’t worry – just jump through the hoop and then figure out what works for you.” He got it – not many others did.

Experiences like that are the reason why I’m never really shocked to hear people say that they need to get in shape before joining a gym, or hiring a trainer – and I know that my experiences are not unusual. Still, the fact remains that of the people who do join gyms or fitness facilities in order to make a tangible change in their lives, very few (something like 10% or less) of them succeed.  As an industry, we just don’t do a great job of drawing in the people that need our help the most.trainer4

So, here’s some real talk about getting going with a personal trainer. This is how I want your experience to go, and I’d submit that if this ISN’T how it goes then you should probably find someone that you can better connect with.

The Initial Meeting

Your trainer should be enthusiastic about meeting you. They should be interested in you as a whole person – not just a body that needs fixing or altering, that is unfortunately attached to this brain that holds everything back by, you know, being a human being. They should want to know about WHO you are, what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it, how you want to feel about yourself, and what you are willing to sacrifice to feel that way. They should be flexible and realistic about putting together a plan that fits around your life – not the other way around.  When I meet with you, I want to know what your life looks like right now, so I have a good idea of where we’re starting from. I also want to know what made that tipping point happen – why you suddenly decided it was time and sent that message or picked up the phone. Those little moments count – they can change the course of a life if they’re given the chance. Also, I want you to enjoy this journey – because once you reach your destination, you have to keep doing what you did to get there. The changes that you make won’t stick unless you actually LIKE how you live.

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Goals

Most of the time, if you’ve decided to make a change, it’s because you’re unhappy with some part of your body’s performance. Now, no matter why you’re in front of me – whether it’s because you want to lose weight, or you’re tired of hurting all the time, want more energy, etc. it is going to take time. It’s important that we’re on the same page about that – lasting change does not happen overnight; we’re in this for the long haul…so, lean in because this is important: even if the physical changes take a little while to manifest, I want you to feel better about yourself NOW. I want you to take a moment to appreciate that you took that first step, because I get it – that’s one of the hardest hurdles to get over. You’ve opened yourself up and admitted that you need help and that’s some hard shit to do – it takes courage. You should walk out of the gym feeling like now that you’ve got a good coach in your corner, you’ve GOT THIS. The ball’s rolling – all you need to do is build some momentum.

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action, concept, tags on the table.

Health History

I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions about your health history. Some of them are going to sound pretty weird and you may wonder why I’m asking them; I promise there are reasons why I need to know whether or not you poop every day or if you’re on medication for anxiety or depression or if you’ve sustained musculoskeletal  injuries. If you are uncomfortable sharing information or want to know why I’m asking you something, I’m always happy to offer a deeper explanation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve noticed something a little funky in the first workout with a new client, mentioned it, and had them say something like, “oh, I had an injury/surgery/etc but I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it made a difference.” IT’S ALL IMPORTANT because YOU are important and I want your program to be a perfect fit. trainer7

Movement Assessment.

Generally in an initial consultation, you’ve probably done most of the talking up until now, and it’s time to go move around a little bit. What we’ll do, as far as screening and assessments are concerned, is going to differ wildly from person to person based on the information I’ve collected up until now. If you’re new to exercise, or are coming back from a long hiatus, or are nervous about this part of the consultation, do not fear: this is not going to be too much work. I want to see how connected you are to your body, if you’re limited or hurting anywhere, and get a snapshot of your cardiovascular fitness, strength, and mobility. No judgement here – again, I want your workout program to meet you where you are, so the more honest you are about how things are feeling, the better. No need to try and tough it out today (the time for that will come) and if something hurts, don’t be a hero – I need to know about that stuff so that you stay safe.

Hey, you made it through! Now the fun part starts. We’ll book your first workout and when you show up for that, I will have your program ready to go for you. You’re on your way!

 

Veto Keto

Ok. So at least once a day somebody asks me what I think about the ketosis diet and whether I think it’s a good idea…keto1Here’s the short answer: it’s bullshit, and no, it’s not a good idea for most people. However, in the interest of being a thorough and somewhat balanced source of information, I’ll delve a little deeper into the keto mole-hole. Pull up a chair and get comfy because I’m gonna go into some detail here and give you the long answer now.

I suppose it’s a good idea to start at the beginning: what exactly is this magic load of spunk that people seem to be guzzling up so enthusiastically? It’s very, VERY low carb spunk for starters. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet. Its guiding principle is that our brains – our bodies’ biggest consumer of energy (about 30% of the fuel we take in is used by our brains) can run on either glucose (carbohydrates’ simplest form), or ketones. If we don’t take in enough carbohydrates to fuel our brains, our livers will start producing ketones by breaking down stored fat into ketone bodies – which the keto-converts will tell you, makes it possible for your body to switch its prime energy source from carbohydrates to fat, thereby burning through the fat stores in your body like gasoline in a fire. AND you get to this magical bio-hacked state by eating lots of all the delicious food that most of the other diets tell you to limit: butter, whipping cream, peanut butter, cheese, bacon…easy!

Seriously why are we not all doing this??

Here’s why. Most of you are familiar with the three macronutrient groups (if you aren’t you can learn about them here) and you know that the three need to be somewhat balanced in order to maintain optimal health and performance. The balance is a little different for everyone based on body type, activity level, and personal preference, and it also may be a little different from day to day, but in a nutshell each macronutrient has a job to do: carbohydrates fuel your brain and your physical activities, protein helps your body repair itself and build muscle and other lean tissues, and fat is important for catalyzing nutrient absorption, reproductive health, and joint health. (That’s an overly simplistic Coles Notes version but it’ll suffice for our purposes here. If you’d like more detailed information, here is a good place to start) Now, the primary goal of a ketogenic diet is to effectively eliminate carbohydrates for long enough that the liver starts producing an alternative fuel source that the brain can use to continue functioning during periods of starvation. Sounds sort of like an emergency life support system, right? Right.keto4

So in order to activate this alternative-fuelled life support system, you have to first get rid of the stored carbohydrates in your body, and the quickest way to accomplish that is – you guessed it – starvation. Or fasting – whatever you want to call it. (Ever fasted for more than 24 hours before? It’s not that fun.) If you don’t want to fast, you can stop eating carbohydrates – it takes a little bit longer but at least you get to distract yourself by exploring lots of tasty options that were not available to you on other calorie-controlled diets: peanut butter sandwiches with slices of prime rib where the bread used to go? Yay, sign me up! After about five days of this, the exhaustion and hangriness and brain fog will go away and you’ll start to feel pretty good again at which point you’ll pee on a stick to see if your body is producing the appropriate level of ketones and congratulations, you’re in a ketosis state. At this point you will have dropped some weight as well, simply because without carbohydrates stored in your body, your body won’t be able to retain water either, and you may feel like the water you drink is just running right through you. Your body can remain in this ketogenic state for as long as you can live without carbohydrates…but as soon as you go over the recommended 20g of carbohydrates in a day (for reference, a medium-sized apple has about 22g of carbohydrates), your body will revert to its natural carbohydrate-burning state and you’ll have to go through the five days of misery again in order to re-establish that ketosis. Bottom line: the keto diet is a commitment. It’s a full-time job to maintain. If you are peeing on the stick every day to make sure you’re remaining in this keto state you can make it work, but don’t think that you can have a life outside of your diet plan – no eating out, no going for a beer here and there, no special occasions unless everyone around you is doing keto too.keto2Why on earth would you do this to yourself? Well, lots of people look at the ketogenic diet and think it looks awesome because you can eat lots of fat – specifically lots of fatty foods  that would otherwise be something to avoid most of the time. That’s a big selling point…but here’s a bigger one: the keto diet gets you weight loss results really, really quickly. Now before you drop what you’re doing to fire up the fryer and cook that bacon that’s been in the fridge calling your name, keep this in mind: it’s not actual fat loss that shows up right away; it’s water loss. See, for every molecule of carbohydrate your body stores, it has to store four molecules of water. If you use up your carbohydrate stores and don’t replace them, you will have to drop water weight too. (This is usually what happens when people start just about any diet, because most of us eat more carbohydrates than are good for us.) And speaking of carbohydrates…it’s worth considering that lots of foods that are fatty and delicious are also very high in carbs – think chocolate, doughnuts, etc.  And lots of high-protein foods like greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and even some protein powders have more carbohydrates than is recommended on the keto plan.keto3

How to execute it then? There are lots of online support groups out there for people who do the keto thang, or if you want to get started on it. There are websites that include meal plans, subscriptions, macronutrient calculators; everything you could want as far as support is concerned. And let’s not forget supplements! There is big money to be made off the people who are trying to simulate normal life while in ketosis and pretend like they are enjoying all the same carb-o-licious foods that the rest of us are.keto7I tried some of the online keto macronutrient calculators to see what they’d recommend for a relatively large 40-year-old woman who has an active job and works out regularly just for comparison’s sake – and I came up with pretty close to the same recommendations every time:

Protein: 129g

Fat: 162g

Carbs: 20g

Total Daily Energy Intake: 2054kCal

To compare, the macronutrient split I use right now looks like this, to accomplish the same result:

Protein: 155g

Fat:70g

Carbohydrates: 200g

Total Daily Energy Intake: 2050kCal

Notice any similarities? The daily kCal total is pretty close to the same, but on one plan I can live relatively normally, enjoy a wide variety of foods, and indulge/celebrate/walrus out from time to time. On the other one I’d have to stick to a short, strict list of foods lest I let myself slip out of ketosis and back into my body’s default, carbohydrate-burning state.

Show of hands: how many of you have tried a diet before? If you’re old enough to have been around in the 80’s and early 90’s you’ll remember that most of the “healthy” diet plans recommended a high-carbohydrate, low fat diet – in fact, there are lots of people out there clinging to the idea that eating fat is terrible for you – but if you ever actually did it, do you remember how you FELT? Not awesome, probably…because any diet that advocates for eliminating or drastically reducing any macronutrient is hard to maintain and not going to make you feel very good. Now, people who have accomplished ketosis will tell you that they’ve never felt better…and that may be true, in the moment. But 100% of those people (give or take a fraction of a percentage point MAYBE because I don’t know a single person who has actually done it) end up giving up on it before too long because it’s a veritable tonne of work.

keto5Bottom line? The Keto diet seems easy because it’s simple and it eliminates some of the decision making we have to do from day to day. Unfortunately ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ are not the same…and in almost all cases, the keto diet ends up on the list of stuff that we tried for a while, spent too much money on, lost a bunch of weight really quickly, and then gained it all back (plus a few extra pounds) as soon as the diet was over. DIETS DON’T WORK.keto8

Here’s what I tell my clients about weight loss: if you want to lose weight you have to change how you live. If you want to keep the weight off, whatever you do to lose the weight has to be something you can do FOREVER. There’s no going back to ‘normal’, so you have to find a new ‘normal’ – and the best way to do that is to focus on small habit changes you can maintain for life.