For those familiar with this blog and expecting adventure… Yes, I’m posting another fitness article and may need to change the name of the site if I keep it up. This is the third such article, that is if you don’t count the story of my own 12-week journey of extreme fat loss.
You see something interesting has been happening since the first fitness article was published. When people learn I rode a mountain bike 2,700 miles through the Rocky Mountains, they are genuinely interested to get this web address and read the daily postings of that ride. However, the next time I see them, forget the life-changing, epic journey… They want to talk about the fitness articles, so here we go with more truths about diet and exercise.
First, a little explanation to new visitors that have not ventured over to the About this Blog section. This site was started to chronicle an adventure of solo riding the world’s longest mountain bike route in 2015. Hence incorporating the word “biker” into the name of this site.
Stories of other biking adventures have been added since that 2015 ride but a few years ago I ran this blog totally off the “adventure” rails by posting an article about fitness titled, Ten Truths I Learned About Exercise And Losing Body Fat.
It’s not that I had some sort of epiphany or the holy spirit spoke to me about changing directions of the blog. The simple truth is I was giving the same fitness advice over and over to coworkers who wanted to make weight loss their New Year’s resolution. Figured my time would be best spent writing an article covering basic questions, then handing out this web address to the inquiring minds.
That article spurred more questions from friends and readers, prompting me to do a follow-up article with More Truths About Exercise And Losing Body Fat.
I get it, fitness is relatable to everybody. Riding a bike up and down mountains through Grizzly country, not so much.
Something I have since realized from conversations around the previous fitness articles, I should have included my background and relationship to fitness and training. So here it is now: I am a licensed Physical Therapy Assistant and a bit of a biomechanics geek. My primary interest is, addressing weaknesses in the body, pain reduction, and studying the mechanics of exercise. One important note of discussion… Nutrition, on the other hand, is not my thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a very good understanding of nutrition and with some laboring, can write individual nutrition programs. However, it’s like a homework assignment in a class I don’t care for. I understand that the assignment is required for passing the class and ultimately graduating, but now, I’m totally into copying somebody else’s paper for this task. Let me just put this out there once and for all. Please do not attempt to discuss the merits of one type of diet over another with me! I don’t care.
With that lengthy introduction out of the way, and I’m feeling a bit wordy today, here is more of what I have learned about fitness, diet, exercise, and where I often see people missing the mark.
Be a student of fitness
I get a fair amount of people that want to discuss fitness with me. Most are genuinely looking to expand their knowledge just as I do by asking questions of others and constant study. However, there are a lot of people who just want me to provide validation for the diet or exercise program they are on now. When I pick up on that vibe I just give the thumbs up and a “sounds good”.
A long time ago I came to understand that true learning and progression requires being open to the reality that no fitness belief is safe from being labeled as ineffective and subsequently buried in favor of an updated truth. My graveyard of dead fitness beliefs is vast and forever continues to grow.
Nobody wants to hear what they are doing has been proven ineffective. However, I encourage you to always be seeking new truths and ready to retire old ones. Forever be a student of fitness.
Know how to do your exercises
As a Physical Therapist Assistant I am now forever cursed to notice exercise mechanics, and biomechanics of others even when I’m not getting paid to do so.
In PTA school I had an instructor that, after weeks of studying gait mechanics, (walking) said; “you will now forever be analyzing the gait patterns of the general public”. Her humor held a ton of truth because, yes I do. But what my instructors also failed to mention is that I’d be doing the same thing at the gym with exercises.
Poor exercise selection and form are certainly not in short supply at any gym. I’m not talking about the weird stuff that famously gets featured in a Youtube gym fail video. Although I have witnessed that a time or two.
I’m talking about exercises that, at a casual glance, may appear proper but in reality, are being bastardized to the point the dynamics have been changed, and a different set of muscles is being worked than what is intended.
It would be one thing if the product of poor form was just ineffective exercising but some of it falls into the category of ‘high probability to cause injury’. Can’t fault these unknowing souls because we don’t know what we don’t know.
This is why I encourage everyone to spend some time watching videos on exercise and taking notice of the cues of doing it correctly. Among all the weight training articles I read in a week many have videos and I watch most for insight and another perspective, I may not have considered.
Even if you know and understand all the proper mechanics it can often be impossible to “feel” if you are doing things correctly, it takes another set of eyes to analyze form. To be a good student of correct exercise form have a workout partner, ask a friendly-looking soul, or set up your phone to take a quick video of yourself doing an exercise. This way you can see if your form matches the video example and adjust accordingly. Just know you may have to humble yourself and reduce the resistance to do an exercise correctly. (Note: Experienced powerlifters constantly video themselves so this is a gym thing.)
An important note if you working with a trainer: DO NOT assume your trainer has your back on this. I’ve witnessed some bad form of clients working directly with a trainer. Be your own advocate, and do your homework by watching videos of the exercises you are doing to make sure you are getting the most out of them and doing them safely.
Plan your meals and exercise
By planning out your meals for the day or even the week, will keep you from adding extra calories throughout the day. When you just shoot from the hip on your nutrition, foods that keep you from your goals will invariably make their way into your daily intake.
With exercise, If you just go to the gym or into your exercise nook at home and simply make it up as you go along, is just wasting your time. Have a plan of the exercises you want to do, with how many reps and sets for each.
Modifying on the go is acceptable. Listen to your body and not ignoring pains that might be telling you to do something else before that pain becomes chronic. Gym-goers, also find the equipment they want to use might be occupied at the time. Making slight detours and substituting from a repertoire of exercises is mastery of your program.
Get enough sleep
I mentioned in the first article that adequate rest is necessary to recover from exercise, but I should have expanded on that to say; adequate sleep is necessary for wellbeing. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can reduce insulin sensitivity which leads to all kinds of problems such as fat gain, heart problems, diabetes, etc.
Your goal should be a solid 8 hours of sleep every night. Impossible you say? There are things you can do to improve your sleep and Google has some good answers. Here are a few: Eliminate screen (phone and computer) time a few hours before bed. Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption. Set up the bedroom to be quiet, dark, and cold. Use a sleep aid such as melatonin.
Do not skip breakfast
When asked about my meal plan, many are surprised to learn that breakfast is my biggest meal of the day. It’s not vastly larger than any other, but it does have the highest calorie and carb count of any other meal in my daily plan.
I’ve come across a few articles on the merits of breakfast that referenced studies showing a high percentage of people that struggle with excess body fat tend to skip breakfast, so I started my own surveying process. When someone tells me they struggle with their weight and proclaim ”diets never work for me”, I ask what they typically have for breakfast? So far, every single person I’ve asked this has told me they never eat breakfast.
The issues caused by skipping breakfast is an entire article onto itself so I’m just going to bullet point some of the facts that multiple studies have identified that can result from habitually not eating breakfast; Higher risk of type-2 diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, a tendency to overeat later in the day, decreased glucose levels for muscle and brain function.
No need to comment below or email me on how you’re not hungry in the morning and you have something healthy later etc. I’ve heard it all, but I can say that I’ve had a couple of converts from the camp of, “I never feel hungry in the morning” put the advice of starting their day with a healthy breakfast into practice. They quickly adapted to eating and being hungry in the morning having great success with their body recomposition. Admittedly eating breakfast wasn’t a lone magic bullet here. They also worked hard with proper diet and exercise but I can conclude breakfast was an important piece of the puzzle that helped bring all the pieces together.
Know your macros
Macronutrients (macros), are just three simple elements; Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat. All are equally important to the daily function of our bodies.
Carbs have received a bad rap in the past couple of decades, but before carb shunning was in-vogue, fat intake was the unwanted stepchild. The manta then was “fat on my lips is fat on my hips”.
Low carb can be an effective short-term fat loss program but it should NEVER be a lifestyle. Carbohydrates create glucose in the body and glucose is energy for muscle and brain function.
We need a balance of all three macronutrients and being aware of which foods contain concentrations of each macro is essential. Some of you may be saying… “Well, Scott, like you I’m following a meal program developed by somebody else, therefore I do not need to know this.” BS I say!
First, I will say good for you following a solid meal plan and doing your meal preps, but as life happens and is impossible to follow a program 100% of the time. By being food aware you will be able to make substitutions to your plan and make wise food choices when; dining out with friends, at family functions, or even on vacation.
If you cannot recognizing the calorie density of various foods as well as their macro makeup, I highly recommend the use a food tracker app. I’m not saying this should be your life tool from here to eternity but being dedicated to tracking your foods for a few weeks will vastly improve your food awareness making it much easier to stay in your healthy nutrition zone.
Yes. I mean getting your butt out of bed early to get your exercise for the day. I can hear the big pushback right now. Whoa! what do you mean? Get up out of bed early and get my workout in? Oh heck no!
I totally get it, but hear me out for a second. There is a famous piece of wisdom regarding procrastination that says if it is your job to eat a frog, do it first! If you know all day that you need to eat a frog you will eventually come up with many excuses to pass on that delicacy.
If you have trouble getting your exercises done, try eating the frog first. You may come to like morning training sessions. (See above about burying old truths.)
Prehab it or Rehab it
Everyone knows what Rehabilitation (Rehab) is, but not many have heard of Prehabilitation. Prehab is a term of the therapy world to describe a pre-surgery program designed to maximize function, in order to mitigate damage caused by the surgery and the rehab needed after.
For this discussion Prehab will merely be referring to using pre and post-exercise warm-up and stretching to maximize function and reduce the possibility of injury. You can either put in the work of Prehabilitation or pay that piper later in Rehabilitation… The choice is yours. Let me tell you the first option is much more pleasant but does require dedication to the cause.
The older we get the more important prehabbing becomes to avoiding injury and pain that can sideline you from activity. To give you an idea of what this looks like… one-third of my gym time is dedicated to prehab. Before getting into my weight training for the day I warm up with light exercise and movements that mimic the training I have planned for the day. Then I follow up my daily training with some stretching. I will add that my favorite warm-ups and stretching are basic yoga movements.
This Prehab is another point that can be an entire article itself, and this article as a whole has become long enough.
With that said… That’s enough fitness and exercise wisdom, based on the principles l learned from others, to pass along for now.
Below are links to the two previous articles I have posted about fitness and fat loss. If you still have questions after reading all three articles, please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me in the Get in Contact section.
Here is a link to an article about my own extreme 12-week fat loss journey.