Archives for April 2014

Exercise Doesn’t Work

Exercise doesn’t work. That’s right. I said it. Exercise doesn’t work. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait. What’s he saying? Isn’t he a personal trainer who can’t stop talking about strength training and how good it is for you and blah blah blah blah?” Well, yes I am but that doesn’t change the fact that exercise doesn’t work.
Well, maybe I should clarify what I’m trying to say just a little bit. Let me paint a picture: Someone wants to lose weight so they start to exercise. The scale doesn’t move. They exercise harder. It doesn’t move. The cycle continues and they exercise harder and even add a day, but the scale doesn’t move. What’s going on here?
It’s simple. Diet. I’m going to put this as simply as I can.
I don’t care if you exercise like a house on fire, if you don’t change your diet you will not lose weight. There are a few different reasons for this so let’s go over some of them real quick.
1. You don’t burn all that many calories when you exercise. This is the truth. You know when you hear about people talk about burning 1000 calories during their cardio sessions? That’s not real.
2. When you exercise hard it makes you hungry. What do you do when you’re hungry? Eat! If you haven’t consciously addressed your diet you most likely eat somewhere around the calories you just burnt off, plus a few for good measure.
3. The body is nothing if not smart. It doesn’t want to change and will do lots of sneaky things to stay right where it is no matter how hard you want to change it. Along with making you hungrier it’ll also do things like subconsciously reduce your activity level so that your calorie expenditure matches your intake. Tricky!
OK. So if exercise doesn’t work and your body is working against any attempt to lose weight why even try? Well, don’t give up yet. You can do it but you have to be smart about it. Here are a few things to get you on the right path.
1. Log your food. I know that this scares people and I know it can be a bit of a pain, but how do you know what to change if you don’t know what you’re doing? Oh, by the way if you need to lose weight and you’re not logging your food you DO NOT know what you’re eating even if you think you are. Let me role-play for a second as someone who wants to lose weight after I ask them what they usually eat.
“Well, I usually eat pretty well. I have some oatmeal in the morning or sometimes a yogurt. Sometimes if I’m in a hurry I’ll have some fruit. For lunch I’ll have a sandwich, but sometimes I’ll go out to eat with the people from my office. For dinner it’s usually some meat and vegetables. Oh, sometimes at night I’ll have some snacks. Maybe some ice cream but not too often. Maybe two or three time a week. Oh, we also have a snack jar at work and sometimes I’ll grab a handful of M&Ms. Not all that often, though. On the weekends we’ll go out to eat, too.”
Based on what they’ve told me they could be eating anywhere from 1100 calories a day to 3000 and I haven’t even asked them how much water they drink. In other words they don’t know what they’re eating and if they don’t know how could they possibly know what to change? It’s like asking directions to the mall. The directions are going to be completely different if you’re starting in San Francisco as opposed to Dublin.
Study after study has shown that people who want to lose weight usually underestimate the calories they’re taking in. Accurately log your food and you won’t be just another statistic.
2. Be consistent. The more consistent you are with your diet the easier it will be to know what adjustments to make. Have a couple of proteins that you stick with, a couple of carbs, a couple of fats, etc. It might sound boring but you can mix and match plenty and with a little creativity with your veggies and spices you can do quite well. If you want all the variety and freedom you can have with your diet, that’s fine, just be happy with your weight right where it is.
3. Learn to be a little hungry. If you want to lose weight then at some point you’re going to have to get used to feeling a little hungry. Now, I’m talking a little hungry. I’m not talking about getting to the point where you’re feeling dizzy or you can’t function or concentrate.
Most of the time what we feel as physical hunger is most likely habit or emotional hunger. People eat for all sorts of reasons. Depression, boredom, habit. Sometimes we eat just because it’s there. When you get used to that slightly hungry feeling you’ll be able to tell the difference.
4. Understand that this may be a long-term thing. Depending on how much weight you want to lose, this may take a while. A good average is between 1-2 pounds a week. You might lose a little more at first but 1-2 pounds a week is what we’re shooting for in the long term. I know it doesn’t sound sexy but if you do some math you’ll realize that can be about 15 pounds in two months. If that doesn’t sound that great then tel me how much you’ve lost in the last two months doing it your way.
Besides, if you think you want more than this, then I’m here to tell you that you probably don’t. Remember what I said about the body never wanting to change? Well, if you lose too much at once the body is going to do everything it can to snap back. If you lose a little at a time, the body isn’t going to mind as much and it’s less likely to fight against you so hard.
By that same token you can’t do this forever, so taking a little break after 4-5 months if you have a lot of weight to lose can be a good thing in the long run.
OK. Let’s get back to what I said at the very beginning. Exercise doesn’t work. Obviously, I just wanted to get your attention a little and make a point but I’m not kidding that your diet is really the most important aspect of weight loss. Having said that, in reality exercise is a very important aspect of weight loss for many reasons. Let me run through a few of them quickly.
1. It tells your body to hold on to the muscle it already has.
2. It boosts your metabolism.
3. It sets you up to be able to maintain your weight loss.
4. It helps you mentally focus on what you need to do.
5. It feels good.
6. It helps elevate your mood.
I’ve written many times about the benefits of exercise but I really want you to understand how important your diet is as well.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments and have a great day!
Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Lean Eating Coach, FMS
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley
I Help People Discover Their Strength!

What Is Strength?

Hello, everyone! A while ago I wrote a pretty long treatise on my entire training philosophy. You can read it here if you like:
In a nutshell the main point I tried to get across was that I feel that many, if not most, people are working on the wrong things when it comes to their fitness, specifically too much cardio and flexibility, and not enough mobility and strength. I don’t want to go into all the reasons why right here (you can read the original article for that) but I made the statement that whatever your goals are (and yes that absolutely includes losing weight) if getting stronger is not part of your program you will most likely fail in the long run.
I don’t think that’s an exaggeration at all and I have lots of clients and many years of experience that have informed that opinion. What I want to talk about today is why I think it’s so important.
1. Mental strength.Many times I see people that have, quite honestly, have had a history of failure when it comes to their goals. Many have tried to lose weight for years with little or no success. Many have started and stopped exercising countless times with nothing to show for the effort. When this happens there is certainly a toll that is taken on the body but it’s nothing like the toll that is taken on the mind.
They feel they can’t do it. Exercise doesn’t work. Diet doesn’t work. They’ve failed and they walk around with that failure all day, every day. I won’t go into the legitimate reasons why they might have failed (thanks Planet Fitness) but they see others getting results and that leads them to feel that it’s not within their power to get the results they want.
When you see someone who is coming from that type of background and watch as they start doing things they never thought they could do, you see a change occur. I can’t tell you how many times a client has seen the word “Squat” on their workout sheet and told me, “I can’t do that.” I just tell them, “Sure you can,” and show them how to do the version they can do. You see, over time a squat to a high box becomes a squat to a lower box and that becomes a squat without a box, etc. What happened there? They got stronger and they realized they can now easily do something they thought they could NEVER do. Now what happens? As this realization hits their mind they start thinking that, “ Maybe I CAN do this”. Let me tell you this. Once the mind starts believing that you can do something, the world opens. You’ve gotten stronger.
I had a client doing deadlifts one day. When she first started a few months prior she was doing a 15 lb. kettlebell. Over time she started doing heavier and heavier weights and soon graduated to the 45 lb. bar. The weight continued to get heavier and one day after her last set she asked me how much was on the bar. (She never wanted to know before her set.) When I told her it was 100 lbs. she nearly cried in shock. She came to me because she wanted to lose some weight and feel better. If I told her that within a few months she’d be lifting 100 pounds or more on a regular basis she would never have believed she could. Is there a price you can put on this?
2. Physical strength.Quite simply, do you want to be able to function in life? Do you want to be able to carry the clothesbasket up the stairs? Do you want to be able to play with your grandkids? I don’t care if you can touch your toes easily, that won’t help you carry the groceries in from the car.
You might respond by saying that strength won’t help you if you’re a runner. Well, you’re wrong about that. When your foot hits the ground you produce force, which allows you to push off and stride forward. What happens when you get stronger? You produce more force, which allows you to cover more distance and RUN FASTER!
What else happens? The stronger you are the more resistant you are to injury and if you know runners like I do, that is a huge issue.
3. Improved movement.Life is really all about movement and strength can help you move better. How many times do you hear about someone who puts out their back picking up a pencil? Well, it wasn’t that pencil that threw their back out. It was a lot of bad movement that put constant strain on the back and the pencil was just the last straw, so to speak.
What proper strength training does is take a basic movement pattern and load it. Let’s take the example of picking a bag of groceries up from the floor. This movement pattern is known as a hip dominant pattern. This means that the hips and the muscles surrounding them drive the movement. Well to put it nicely, many people have pretty poor hip movement. What that means is that each time they pick something up they are putting unnecessary strain on certain muscles. Their back in this case. What we do is teach someone the most basic hip dominant movement. Once they can perform this movement well we make it a little harder, whether by changing the exercise or by adding weight to the movement. The reasons for this are many, but in this case it teaches someone to perform the movement well in adverse circumstances, which will translate to that person performing the movement extremely well in everyday circumstances. Guess what that means when it comes to picking up that pencil or your grandson: No injury!
4. Improved conditioning. I’m going to be as plain about this as I can be.
If you do a working set of squats during your workout (by a working set, I mean one that’s not a warm-up) and you’re not breathing heavily afterwards YOU ARE NOT WORKING VERY HARD.  I don’t mean to burst your bubble but that’s the truth. Strength training with intensity is in many ways the best conditioning you can do.
People ask me about cardio all the time. What I like to tell them is that just because you’re not walking on a treadmill doesn’t mean you’re not exercising your heart! Obviously that’s important. The heart is the second most important muscle in the body! (After a set of HUUUUUUGE biceps). As I said before, if you’re lifting weights and not breathing heavy in the slightest after each set, YOU ARE NOT WORKING VERY HARD! In other words, strength training done correctly is ABSOLUTELY exercising your heart. As a bonus you also get stronger, move better and get more confidence from it as well. You can’t say that about 30 minutes on the treadmill.
5. Better appearance.  OK. I can talk all I want about better function and strength, etc. but in the end the thing that most of us want from exercise is to look better. Well, strength can help with that, too. As we build strength, what else do we build? Muscle. Did you know that muscle weighs more than fat? What does that mean? Well, it means that if you gain 5 pounds of muscle and lose 5 pounds of fat, you will get smaller and leaner and look better!
Also, since muscle is more metabolically active your metabolism will go up making it easier and easier for you to continue to lose fat if you choose to do so. Again, all the cardio classes in the world will not help you do this.
What about the thing many women are concerned with: getting too big. Well, the primary hormone that aids in muscle growth is testosterone and women have, on average, less than 10% of the testosterone that men have so in reality it’s just not all that feasible that you are going to get too big.  If you feel that you are, I’d say that the vast majority of the time it’s your diet that is going to be the culprit here, NOT the strength training.
So let’s see. Strength training will improve your mental strength, your physical strength, your movement, your conditioning and your appearance.  That’s a pretty convincing argument to me. I’ve said this before, but my clients that have embraced this philosophy have ALWAYS gotten better results than those that haven’t. It’s that simple.
Let me know what you think and have a great day!
Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Lean Eating Coach, FMS
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley
I Help People Discover Their Strength!