My Intermittent Fasting Experiment
The following are things that I’ve found to be true and have continued to hold true over the twenty plus years I’ve been training and teaching people.
- The principles haven’t changed that much. Most companies and guru’s seem to promote methods. Those that are successful are always based on the basic principles you get taught when you certify. If you want to do well in the industry, get a really good understanding off the principles of exercise and nutrition.
- People are individuals. Not one of my clients has ever been treated the same as another. Even when I trained identical twins, the approaches I used were different. Personal training should be just that, personal.
- People are not their DNA. Very few people genuinely need every element of every exercise, set, rep, calorie and micronutrient assessed and prescribed. Apply the principles to them as individuals, but don’t go overboard.
- We are not our clients. Out of my current list of twenty or so in person clients, not one finds exercise to be overwhelmingly interesting. None of them read T-nation or post on forums. Most of them are people who work a regular job and try to fit exercise in around other areas of their lives. As a result, I match what I ask of them to their perspectives, not mine.
- The minimum effective dose yields the longest standing outcomes. The quicker I try to change things, or the bigger the changes I make, the less lasting they tend to be. The smaller the changes I make, the longer clients tend to adopt them for. I’ve stayed in touch with clients for years after they’ve moved on and those that focussed on small, sustainable changes, are typically the ones who are still moving forwards in the same direction 5-10 years down the line.
- Fat people rarely want to lose weight, they just think they do or feel they should. Most of the time they either feel that they ought to lose weight or they want to feel more comfortable. What the scale says is just an arbitrary measurement, it doesn’t really mean Focussing on weight loss ignores the things that are actually motivating to them and may in fact result in issues somewhere down the line. I coach more now based on how clients feel and use their weight as a more of a marker, rather than the ultimate goal.
- Six packs are a nicety, not a necessity. Up to my mid thirties, I rarely went over 10% bodyfat and did very little at a conscious level to maintain it, other than lead a relatively helpful life (eat nutrient dense foods and stay active). Post 35, I now have to work a lot harder to stay anywhere near that. Fortunately, being married and having a daughter gives me other priorities to focus on. I’ve also found little correlation between wellness and single digit bodyfat. However, I’ve definitely seen a correlation between non-wellness and significant excesses of bodyfat, even if it’s regional (i.e. just the waist or hips).
- Take care of the abs and everywhere else pretty much looks after itself. Abdominal fat seems to be the body’s BEWS (Bodyfat Early Warning System). If I could only track one measurement, it would be the abdominal skinfold. If that stays between 5-12mm everything else should stay in check.
- Adding weight to the bar past a certain point only matters if you’re a weightlifter. I have benchmarks that I try and move most clients towards, but past those, I’m rarely interested in getting people stronger in absolute terms.
- We need to move more in our workouts. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to probably the biggest influences in terms of how I incorporate this into workouts. In no particular order, Mike Fitch, Max Shank, Ido Portal, Jim Smith and Tony Gentlicore. All of these guys have changed how I look at either the structure of a warm up or workout, or the needs of the individual I’m training.
- The goal of the warm up is not to raise your heart rate, raise your temperature or increase blood flow to the muscles. Those things happen when you warm up effectively, but they’re not the goal. The 3 goals of the warm up should be to 1) Progressively establish active range of motion at the working joints, 2) Progressively increase involvement/recruitment of the central nervous system relevant to the tasks to be performed and 3) Progressively establish working load on the muscles being used in the session. That’s it. Everything else you may think of as being important, happens when you focus on these three goals being met. But not all of these goals are met when you focus on other things. This is probably one of the most important lessons that I feel has been lost over the years.
- Skinning cats feels inherently wrong, but if you must skin a cat, there is apparently more than one way. If what you’re doing is helping or working for you or the client, remember that. I’ve dropped good, helpful practices because guru’s or mentors told me they were wrong or bad. Years later I’ve gone back to them and found that actually, they had value.
- Focus on the long term. I’m more interested in how what I do with my clients today, improves the rest of their life, not just their summer holiday or the next couple of years. In my youth I was what I call a hard charger and often excelled because of an incessant work ethic, rather than genetic potential or intelligent program design. Today I’m paying for that with shoulder, hip and knee issues that I have to manage consciously. If I were to have any issue with Crossfit (which spellcheck has just said is not a real word, ha!), it would be the decision of too many followers to persist in their actions when their body needed a rest or some recovery.
- It’s not the big stuff that matters when it comes to injuries, but the little stuff you do all the time. Unless you get hit by a car, fall down the stairs, or something equally obvious, most of your injuries will come from low amplitude, high frequency activities. That means it’s the little things you do every day that add up. Either they’re helpful in the long run, or they’re not.
- Your stomach has neither eyes, nor taste buds. Food is just fuel or nutrients at its most basic level. In an era of abundance in the western world, we’ve lost sight of the need to eat to live. Most of your meals should be for health and survival, not individual opportunities to experience sensory ecstasy.
- That said, when you want to enjoy food, sit down at a table and actually pay attention as you eat. I grew up in a very privileged home and was fortunate enough to eat at a number of top restaurants throughout my childhood. I remember on a number of occasions the chef coming up to our table and explaining the tastes, textures and subtleties of the dishes we’d ordered. If food is a genuine pleasure for you, then take the time to savour every mouthful.
- Be happy where you are now. Every decision you’ve made has bought you to your current point in life. That means that ultimately, whether you know it or not, you felt there was some value to you being where you are now. Recognise that and appreciate what you have, because you asked for it.
- If you were genuinely happy with your life, then you’d never change anything in your past, because if you did, there’s no guarantee you’d end up where you are today.
- If you believe you’re genuinely happy with your life, but would change stuff anyway, you’re insanely curious, greedy or kidding yourself.
- Laugh every day. If you can’t find laugh out loud humour in something at least once a day, then that day has been less than optimal.
- Rant and rave and move on. Ranting and raving aren’t negative, they allow you to get unhelpful emotions out of your system. That said, once you’ve vented, decide what your next action is and move on, otherwise you’re just festering.
- Don’t indulge in online flagellation or self-gratification. What psychologists call an extrinsic/external locus of approval (i.e. your self worth is determined by external factors) is ultimately unhelpful. Recognise the things that you can improve on and the things you can do well in person, or inside your head. Publicly and digitally beating yourself up or singing your own praises screams of neediness.
- Don’t assume to know another persons perspective. How someone trains a client, interacts, presents their opinion or runs their business is based on their perspective, which is unique to them. If it concerns or interests you, talk to them and look at the principles that inform their practices, then form an opinion.
- Enjoy what you do. I got into the fitness industry, because I was enthusiastic about exercise and nutrition. I stayed in the industry because I believe my purpose for being here is to leave the world a better place than I find it each day. Doing what I do helps me to achieve that. If one client I train is more productive at work as a result of their session, nicer to someone because their mood has improved or simply feels better than they did when they arrived at the gym, I’m happy that it was worthwhile me getting up in the morning. Find something that you genuinely enjoy and find a way to make that a part of your day to day life.
- If none of my truths matter to you, be ok with that and move on with your life feeling more comfortable with its direction. If any of them helped in any way, then maybe that makes them your truths too.