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Three Steps To Reaching Your Goals

Roughly 20% of the U.S. population has a gym membership.  Based on my 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, I would estimate that of that 20%, only one half to three quarters actually regularly and consistently use that membership. I find that the majority of people who struggle with consistency do so because they either lack focus and goals or because they fail to reach those goals.  At Fenton Fitness & Athletic Center, we have found there to be three key components to reaching any goal in the fitness and nutrition realm.

Setting the Goal

First and foremost, we must name our goal.  I suggest writing this goal down and possibly sharing this goal with somebody you trust and who supports you.  When choosing your goal, you want it to be specific, something that can be measured, something realistic/attainable, and you want to give yourself a time frame to accomplish the goal.  Think about why you want to reach that goal.  It can be helpful to place the written goal somewhere visible that you will see on a regular basis.  If we can’t make a given goal happen, we can alter our actions to bring us closer to that goal.

Behaviors/Skills

Once our goal is set, we want to write out the behaviors and skills needed to reach that goal.  For example, if your goal is to drop 20lbs, two key behaviors would be eating less calories and being more active.  In the case of somebody who wants to be able to Bench Press their body weight, their skills might be bench pressing progressively heavier weights 2-3 times each week and eating sufficient protein.

Habits/Practices

After setting our behaviors that are needed to achieve our goal, we must then set up our daily habits or practices that will lead to successful execution of our behaviors, which in turn will lead to achieving our goals.  Our habits for our sample goals might look like this:

            20 pounds weight loss (less calories, more activity)

            -Pack gym bag before going to bed and put in car, including a protein shake in bag

-Go to bed 7-8 hours before alarm is going to go off

-Wake up 15 minutes earlier to eat breakfast at home instead of fast food

-Workout at lunch hour instead of going out to eat with coworkers, drink shake instead of eating lunch.

            Bench Press Body weight (2-3 progressively heavier bench press workouts and more protein)

            -Go to bed 7-8 hours before alarm is going to go off

-Set alarm 1 hour early Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for early morning workout

-Prepare/plan breakfast the before going to bed and pack lunch for next day targeting 0.15-0.25g of protein/pound of body weight.

-Buy quality protein shake, protein bars, and/or Jerky to help supplement protein needs at snacks.  Keep them at home, in the car, and at work.

 

From start to finish it can be helpful to set up a chart that looks something like this.

It should be noted that it is best to only introduce one major goal at a time into your life.  I recommend picking just one goal and working on that for 3-12 months before adding or changing goals.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

 

Sarcopenia And The Media

Older individuals have the most to gain from strength training. Six weeks of dedicated strength training will normalize balance, rejuvenate posture, revive the metabolism, and eliminate long-standing pain.  I often tell physical therapy patients that strength training is the “fountain of youth”.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince older individuals that they need to become dedicated to a routine of consistent resistance training.  I recently got some help from Jane Brody in the New York Times, *Preventing Muscle Loss Among the Elderly.

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the physical attributes that keep humans healthy and vigorous over an entire life span.  They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:

  1. Muscle Mass.  What percentage of your body is made of muscle?
  2. Strength.  Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry?
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate.  The number of calories your body expends at rest.
  4. Bodyfat Percentage.  What percentage of your body is composed of fat?

They named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad.  They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.

  1. Aerobic Capacity
  2. Blood Sugar Tolerance
  3. Cholesterol / HDL ratio
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Bone Density
  6. Internal Body Temperature Regulation

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers.  It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age.  The keys to aging well; staying durable- no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly.  An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.

I was happy to see that Jane recommended her elderly compatriots consume more protein.  Not enormous amounts of protein- just some protein.  Many fitness clients fail to make optimal gains because they have the protein intake of a bunny rabbit.  Adequate training recovery requires the building blocks of muscle in order to produce results.  A bagel for breakfast, a kale sandwich at lunch, a yogurt snack and a diner of soup, bread and ice cream does not supply the nutrients necessary for recovery.

So, take the time to read the amazing Jane Brody and then get those dumbbells out of the basement.

*Brody, Jane. Preventing Muscle Loss Among the Elderly, September 1, 2018, New York Times.   View article

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

That pain in your arm or hand could be coming from somewhere else.  Read Mike O’Hara’s article, Changing Locations to find out more.  Jeff Tirrell gives nutrition tips and Mike discusses the benefits of using an agility ladder.

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Calculating Nutritional Needs

If you are hoping to see serious changes in your weight and body composition, then nutrition is going to play a huge role.  There are many parts to a solid nutrition plan.  For the purposes of weight gain/loss, we must look at overall energy intake.  A chronic surplus of calories consumed leads to weight gain, while a chronic deficit leads to weight loss.  But most people want to do more than to lose or gain weight.  Most individuals want to gain or maintain lean body mass (muscle, bone, organs, tendons/ligaments, water) while decreasing body fat.  For this, we need to focus on protein.  Nutrition needs to be based on performance goals, the types of activities you enjoy doing, your lifestyle, and your food preferences.  Adherence to a program is huge, so it’s important to pick a nutritional approach that fits within your lifestyle.

Calories: We must first start with calculating caloric needs.  First, determine a good target body weight (TBW).  This should be based on a healthy/realistic body composition range.  For men, this is typically 10-20% body fat, for women it tends to be 18-30%.  A good trainer can help you determine this number/range.  Once you have your TBW, we must determine your activity multiplier.  It is important to be brutally honest here, odds are you are 1 lower than you think.  The multipliers are:

Very Inactive & Older: Multiplier is 8.  This is for anybody who never does anything physical day to day.  They have a long commute, office job, and engage in little unplanned movement from day to day.  They are also over the age of 55.

Very Inactive: Multiplier is 9.  Same as above but for individuals under the age of 55.

Inactive: Multiplier is 10.  This for anyone who while mostly sedentary during the day, does get up and walk around or move several times per day.  This can also apply to someone who doesn’t move much during the day, but has a standing desk.

Moderately Active: Multiplier is 11.  This individual is never sitting for more than 90 minutes straight and moves around several times per day.  They also engage in leisurely activities a few times each week such as walking or casual bike riding.

Active: Multiplier is 12.  This individual sits no more than 60 minutes at a time during the day, and engages in leisurely activity 5-7 days per week.

Very Active: Multiplier is 13.  This is for individuals who have a very physically demanding job such as construction, landscaping, assembly line work, etc.

Hard Gainer: Multiplier is 14.  This is reserved only for those individuals who are trying to gain wait, have a very low body fat percentage (below the norms listed), and has never been able to gain wait.

The final thing we must determine is how many moderate to intense training hours we are going to perform each week.   Again, be realistic.  Don’t count warm up time, and if you think you are going to train 3-4 hours per week, use the low number for weight loss and the high number for weight gain.  Here is what the equation looks like:

(TBW x (activity multiplier + training hours))=estimated caloric needs

Here are two examples to help you work through this:

200lb male, with a target body weight of 185lbs who is inactive, and trains 3 hours/week.

(185 x (10+3))=2405 calories/day

150lb female, with a target body weight of 140lbs who is very active and trains 2 hours/week.  (140 x (13+2))= 2100 calories/day.

Protein:  Now that calories have been determined, we must determine protein intake.  Calories will dictate weight gain/loss.  Protein will help preserve or increase lean body mass.  Protein intake should be set at 0.72 up to 1g per pound of target body weight (TBW).  So, for our 2 examples listed earlier, we would have the following:

200lb male with a TBW of 185lbs.  0.72 x 185= 133.2g

The low end would be 133 grams of protein, and we could go up to 185 grams reasonably.

150lb female with TBW of 140lbs. 0.72 x 140= 100.8g

This puts our low end at 101 grams of protein with the upper reasonable range of 140g.

There are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein.  This will come into play when we set our carbohydrate intake later.   Our male would be targeting 133-185g of protein per day which equates to 532-740 calories coming from protein.  For our female, we have targets of 101-140g of protein each day with 404-560 calories coming from protein:

Fat: Fat is essential for optimal hormonal health and should be consumed from a variety of sources.  There is no good or bad fat (outside of trans fats), we should simply seek a variety of fat sources.  Fats (just like carbohydrates) have a huge healthy range you can pick from based on food preference and tolerance.  Fat should make up 20% of your calories at a minimum, but can go as high as 1g per pound of target body weight (TBW).  Using our previous examples:

200lb male, with a TBW of 185lbs.  Calories projected at 2405/day.   0.2 x 2405=481 calories coming from fat.  There are 9 calories in each gram of fat.  So, we take 481/9=53 grams of fat each day for the lowest possible number.  The upper end would be 185g or 1665 calories from fat.  Our fat range could be 53g (481 calories) up to 185g (1665 calories).

150lb female, with TBW of 140lbs.  Calories projected at 2100/day.   0.2 x 2100=420 calories from fat.  420/9=47 g of fat.  Her low end would be 47g (420 calories from fat) up to 140g (1260 calories from fat).

Carbohydrates:  While carbohydrates are not technically essential in our diet, your brain prefers them for fuel, and intense exercise tends to be best fueled through their inclusion.  However, for the recreational gym goer who trains 2-4 days per week, the amount of carbohydrate intake probably has minimal bearing on progress.  Food preference, as well as how your body tolerates different levels should be your main determinant in setting levels here.  To determine carbohydrate levels, we simply take your remaining calories (after setting protein and fat intakes) and a lot them to carbohydrate intake.  There are 4 calories in 1 gram of carbohydrate.  So again, using our previous examples, we would have the following:

200lb male with TBW of 185lbs.  2405 calories per day, sets protein at 0.72/lb of TBW.  This equals 133g of Protein (532 calories).  This guy loves fat so he sets his fat at 1g per pound of TBW.  This would be 185g of fat (1665 calories).  So 2405-(532+1665)=208 remaining calories.  208/4=52 grams of carbohydrate.  Same guy may also choose to up protein to 1g/lb of TBW.  This would give us 185g protein (740 calories).  Let’s say he loves pasta, bread, etc.  So, he sets his fat to the minimum of 53 grams (481 calories).  In this example we have 2405-(740+481)=1184 calories from carbohydrates.  1184/4=296 grams of carbohydrate per day.  There is an endless combination of macronutrients here.

Conclusion: There are many approaches that can be used when determining nutritional needs.  The most important variable is adherence.  Can you stick to this approach long term?  Data suggests that both very low carbohydrate diets (under 100g) and very low fat diets (under 15% of total calories) are difficult to maintain beyond 6 months.  Do the foods you eat make you feel energized, taste good, and satisfy you?  These are all things that should be considered.  We want to emphasize whole foods, while not avoiding any food group entirely unless you have a proven medical condition.  These equations are to be used to help you set baseline numbers.  For weight loss, we should target 0.5% up to 1.5% body weight lost each week.  For weight gain, we should target 0.25% up to 1% body weight gain each month.  If your rates fall below or above those respective rates, we simply need to increase/decrease caloric intake accordingly.  For help setting your numbers schedule your nutrition consultation by reaching out at jeff@fentonfitness.com or calling 810-750-0351.  Nutrition coaching is available for those that require more education and/or accountability.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#8–Deloading

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#8–Deloading

Deloading is a term used to describe an intentional period of time (usually 1-2 weeks) where intensity and/or volume are reduced in training.  In some cases, no training at all is performed (though this is probably not optimal, unless you are injured).  In my experience, this is usually not an issue with the majority of clients.  Most people end up missing time at the gym due to illness, work, kid’s activities, vacation, etc.  If you happen to be somebody that is highly dedicated to your training and don’t ever miss any period longer than a week in the gym, then a scheduled deloading period may be needed.  I usually recommend reducing training volume by 40-60%, and intensity by 10-20%.  In practice for a one week deload, this would look something like this:

Normal Week                                                                                     Deload Week

45 total weekly training sets of all exercises                                      24 total weekly training sets

e.g. squats: 200lbs lifted                                                                     squats: 160-180lbs lifted

If you don’t ever miss time in the gym in a 12 month period, I would recommend the following deload schedule for people who train 3, 4, or 5 times per week.  As mentioned earlier, training more than 5 times per week is likely not feasible for most adults, and less than 3 doesn’t warrant a deload period.

3 days per week: deload for 1 week, 1 time each year

4 days per week: deload for 1 week, 2 times each year

5 days per week: deloa for 1 week, 3 times each year

 

8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#7–Program Hopping

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#7-Program Hopping

As stated initially, any new exercise or activity added to a program will produce a novel stimulus that will almost always lead to some level of soreness.  Many individuals change their workout every day and never give themselves a chance to adapt.  Many people enjoy the feeling of being sore as they associate that with progress.  However, when you look at research, most of the gains in lean body mass actually occur 2-4 weeks into training after the majority of initial soreness has subsided.  It should be remembered that strength training is a skill.  It must be practiced.  It is recommended that the majority of your exercise selection remain basically the same for at least 3 weeks.  Workouts can be varied by the number of sets, reps, weight lifted, or time to completion.  After 3-12 weeks with a given exercise, you can switch it out if you are bored or no longer able to progress the aforementioned variables.

8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#6–Training Frequency

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#6-Training Frequency

The cold hard truth is that when we are younger, we recover quicker.  I remember when I first started training in 1998 (8th grade), I would train 6 days per week for 90-120 minutes.  I got bigger, stronger, and rarely felt overtrained.  There was a time in the summer my junior and senior year where I would train 6 days per week, and on 3 of those days. I would actually lift 2 separate times accounting for roughly 12 hours of training each week.  Even at this time, I still made great progress.  It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that my 6 day per week plan was just more than my body could keep up with.  I scaled things back to 5x/week and did just fine again.  Once I started having kids and sleep got limited, the stress of providing for a family became real and I had to scale back to 4 days per week.  I find that most adult clients over the age of 40 can only tolerate 3-4 days per week.  There’s nothing that says you can’t train back to back days.  However, if you are always sore, and don’t feel that you’ve recovered, you may need to give yourself some extra days for recovery.

 

8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#5 Training Volume

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#5-Training Volume

When referring to training volume, we are typically talking about one of two things.  Total number of sets performed in a given session, week, or month is one way to look to volume.  Another way to look at volume is as volume load.  Volume load is calculated as weight lifted x sets x reps.  So, if you lifted 100 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps, your volume would be 3 sets, but your volume load would be 3000lbs (100 x 3 x 10).  Simply looking at volume (total sets performed) is a better way to compare different individual’s workloads.  Volume load is very relative depending on an individual’s training background, strength, etc.  If training volume gets too high, then you may be outworking what your body is capable of recovering from.  I find that most adult clients over the age of 40 struggle to handle more than 24 total sets in a single session or more than 72 sets in a given week.  There are some who can handle more than this, and some who struggle to recover from volumes half of this.  When increasing volume, it can be helpful to look at volume load for an individual and try not to increase by more than 5-10% in a given week.

Stay independent longer by increasing your stair climbing capacity.  Mike O’Hara shows you how in his article, “Keep Climbing”.  Mike also discusses standing desks and the many benefits of standing while working.  Jeff Tirrell explains the effect of exercise on appetite.

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8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#4 Carbohydrates

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#4–Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary nutrients that drive insulin secretion.  Insulin is an anabolic hormone that drives protein and fat into cells where these nutrients are used to repair tissue.  Though there are other pathways that do allow protein and fat to make their way into the cell, they are not as quick or efficient.  Carbohydrates are also stored as glycogen in the muscles, which is the body’s preferred fuel source at higher intensity exercise levels.  Carbohydrate levels can vary greatly depending on activity levels, goals, and training frequency.  Most people will operate best on a minimum carbohydrate intake of 100 grams per day.  Ideally, these are coming primarily from fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, beans, and whole grains.

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