I Know What To Do But I Just Can’t Do It

I heard it again today. “I know what to do but I just can’t do it.”

If I’ve heard this once I’ve heard it a thousand (million) times.

I know what to do but I just can’t do it.

At Castro Valley Fitness we believe that, for the most part, people know just about everything they need to know about nutrition. You don’t need me to tell you that an apple is healthier than a candy bar and that you should eat your vegetables, right?

You may be asking yourself, if people know all they need to know, then what’s the problem?

Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? If we answer that, we can pretty much solve everyone’s food issues, right? The problem is that this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

It requires work that really has very little to do with food itself.

It requires an approach that is both honest and unemotional. Both of these qualities tend to get lost when we think about how and why we eat.

Let me give you a few things that have worked for some of our members when they’ve been tying to figure some things out.

  • Slow down. Sometimes I’ll ask someone how fast they eat. Usually they just laugh. Slowing down allows your stomach to let your brain know it’s full. That can take 10-15 minutes. How much food can you eat in that time? It also gets you out of GO-GO-GO-GO mode which is when so many of us wind up eating whatever is easy and fast. That’s not usually conducive to making good decisions.
  • Keep a journal. Just reading that might have given you a chill.
    Holiday Season

    An actual person when asked to keep a food journal.

    If it did frighten you, you should ask yourself why. You just might figure out something that’s been holding you back. Journaling keeps us honest and accountable. It also can reveal things that we didn’t know. You might not have realized how much you actually snack in a given day, for instance.

  • Aim for progress not perfection. One of the biggest problems I see is all-or-nothing thinking. This is when people think that one slight slip counteracts all the good they’ve done or they feel like they the “perfect” plan to get started. The truth is that there is no such thing as perfect. No perfect diet or perfect workout. The closest thing we have to perfection is in this picture right here.

    The Closest Thing To Perfection

                      All we need to aim for is progress in whatever form it takes.

Listen, we all have crazy lives. Kids, work, family. We sit in traffic for hours each week. The more we can figure out the REAL issues behind our diet the better off we will be.

Let me know what you think. Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley

How Fitness Confuses People

I want to do something a little different today. A few weeks back I put this question out on Facebook:

What are you most confused about when it comes to fitness or nutrition?

Fitness Confusion

I got some great questions that I thought would help a lot of people so I decided to post them here today. Let’s get started!

Jay – How does a person begin to workout when you have absolutely no clue as to what to do or where (or even how) to start?

This is a great question! So many people just don’t know how to start and that just stops people in their tracks! My answer is to keep it simple. First, what are your goals? They don’t need to be complicated. At first it may be as simple as wanting to feel a little better and more energetic, or lose a few pounds. Second, just do something. If you don’t do anything right now, schedule a walk 3 times per week. The key is to understand that progress is what you’re looking for. You want to build sustainable habits. If you feel you need a little more instruction or accountability, hire a trainer. Obviously, I think there’s value there. The overall key is to keep things simple. Nutrition and fitness should be simple! Find something you enjoy doing, schedule time to do it and just do it. The keys to this are just being consistent, working hard, engaging in the process, and following whatever program you’re doing. I hope this helps. If you want to talk more about this just let me know. I know that there is sooooo much info out there and so many people have a lot invested in trying to make it sounds really complicated. It really doesn’t have to be. When you are writing I’m sure you have a process you go through. This is the same thing.

Michael – Negotiating my back injury and aging into an effective routine. I haven’t found my groove, and I desperately want to feel better about my body and health.

injuries can definitely make it difficult for many reasons, not the least of which is simply the fear of making it worse. Unfortunately, this can be the worst aspect of an injury and can lead people to actually make it worse through inactivity! As I told Jay, the key is to keep it simple. If you have an injury it is imperative to focus on your basic movement and posture. Most back issues actually have more to do with your hips and how they move then the back itself. I don’t know if this is the case for you, but even if it isn’t, improving your hip movement will always be something that will help your back to some extent. If you want to find your groove my advice to you would be to figure out your schedule and figure out how much time you will devote to some exercise. Notice how I said “will devote to some exercise”, not “can devote”. You have to 100% honest with yourself about what you will do even it’s only once a week for 15 minutes. The worst thing you can do is tell yourself you’ll do something 4 times a week and then not be able to follow through. You’ve got to get your mindset in a good place and build from there. Remember that you are looking for progress and a way to build sustainable habits. I hope that helps.

Darcy – I think for me it is a combination and how fitness and nutrition work together. Does a person who is training for a marathon eat differently than someone who is preparing to lift weights? Does someone who wants to lose weight eat differently if they are working out regularly, sporadically or not at all?

Your question is definitely a little complex. To put it simply, your goals definitely determine how you eat. You should certainly eat differently if you were a distance runner as opposed to a weightlifter, although how this looks does vary from person to person depending on their body type, how they respond to different foods and where they are now with their nutrition. As far as weight loss, there would be some difference if someone is working out but not as much as you may think, at least initially. Remember that calories determine weight loss and in the grand scheme of things we actually don’t burn that many calories during exercise. One mistake that people make when they’re trying to lose weight is that think that because they’re exercising they can eat more than they really can. An easy calculation when trying to lose weight is to multiply your weight by about 1.4 or 1.5 to determine calories if you are very active. For example an active 180 pound person may be able to lose weight at about 2500 calories per day. Now, that’s not a very aggressive number and it’s just a starting point. For a more sedentary person we multiply by 1.2 or 1.3 and get about 2200 calories. We can adjust from there.

Monica – Why does my body seems to stick around a certain weight? Breaking through plateaus is very difficult.

Your question really comes down to survival, which is our body’s primary function. In other words, our body ALWAYS wants to conserve as much energy as possible to ensure survival. When we want our bodies to change in some way we are challenging that. It takes energy to change! We really have to trick and force our body to lose weight. This is another reason why crash diets don’t work in the long run. Our body is going to do anything it can to snap back to where it was because it’s panicking! Another reason is that as you lose weight, your metabolism will slow down. This means that eating a certain way may enable you to lose some weight but at a certain point you will hit your maintenance level of caloric intake. At that point you need to adjust your diet and take in fewer calories. Remember that it ALWAYS comes down to calories. If you’re not losing weight it is ultimately because you’re eating too many calories. Sometimes it’s just hard to make those adjustments.

Ernie – I see all those dead lifting videos does that help sciatica? I have old herniated discs (L5 area), and I wonder what is safe for a couch potato at 55?

I’ll say to you what I said to Michael. When you have an injury the most important thing to work on is posture and good movement. The deadlift is a great exercise but only if you have good form with it. I’m not sure what you mean by dog style core thing, but focus on increasing your hip mobility and improving your hip alignment. One of the biggest causes of sciatica is when the hips are misaligned and move poorly. As far as what is safe, start out with walking if you don’t do that much. Set up a schedule and stick to it. Also, when you walk do your best to make sure you are walking in a heel-toe fashion. That will keep you in at least acceptable alignment. You can build up from there. The key is to move, though. Not doing anything is going to cause your symptoms to get worse, not better.

I hope this helps you out with a few things. Let me know if I can help you with any of your fitness confusion!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley

No Time For Exercise? Think Again!

One of the most common reasons I hear for people not exercising is lack of time. We are busy! The thing is that we don’t necessarily need a lot of time to get a good workout in. While there are many aspects to a good workout, one way to get a good bang-for-your-buck so to speak, is interval training. (Thanks to Tracy for suggesting this topic!)

We use interval training with our members and it has shown to be very effective for fat loss, and cardiovascular training, as well. The nice time aspect of it is that you can get a good workout in as little as 10-15 minutes and you don’t have to be in professional athlete shape to perform interval training.

Interval Training

     Diane and Sandy Doing The Battle Ropes

First, let me explain what interval training is. The essentials are that it is an alternating period of work and rest. The keys are that while you work, you are working at or near 100% intensity and while you rest you aren’t working at all. For example, doing a 15 sprint and then resting for 30 seconds. While you are doing that 15 second sprint you need to be sprinting as fast as you possibly can for that entire 15 seconds.

It’s pretty common for interval training to be time-measured in one of three different ways.

  1. A 2-to-1 work-to-rest ratio. For example, 20 seconds of work to 10 seconds of rest.
  2. An even work to rest ratio. For example, 20 seconds of work to 20 seconds of rest.
  3. A 1-to-2 work to rest ratio. For example 20 seconds of work to 40 seconds of rest.

What kind of exercises should you do when interval training? It should be something that you can perform easily. This is why something like an exercise bike sprint or elliptical can work well. At our gym we also use battle ropes, heavy bag punches, a rower, medicine ball slams and other similar options. These exercises can be performed easily, with a lot of intensity, and without a huge emphasis on technique. Anyone can hit a bag, right?

Interval Training

     Tammy doing some Ball Slams

Here are some other keys to effective interval training:

  • You MUST work at 100% intensity during your work periods!!! This simply does not work if you don’t. Go as hard as you can!
  • The simpler the exercise, the better, in this case. When you’re getting tired you don’t want an exercise you have to think too much about. This is why simple cardio-based exercises, like hill sprints, work really well.
  • Start small. You don’t need to do, and shouldn’t do, 45 minutes of this kind of work. About 15-20 minutes of work should be plenty.
  • If you do 20 minutes of interval work and feel you can do another 20 minutes you didn’t go hard enough during your work periods!

Interval training has been shown in many studies to be more effective for fat loss than traditional steady-state work (like walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes) and did I mention that it doesn’t take as long?

Let me give you the structure of a good 20 minute workout you can use today.

  • 4 minute warmup
  • 14 minutes of intervals using one of the following time protocols:
    • 15 seconds work – 30 seconds rest
    • 30 seconds work-60 seconds rest
    • 45 seconds work-90 seconds rest
  • 2 minute cool down

For which exercise to use, again use something easy that you can perform with high intensity. As the weather turns I really love to go outside and do hill sprints. These are easy on the body and can be very challenging. Just run up the hill as fast as you can, walk back down and go again. Start by doing 4 or 5 and build from there. If you live in Castro Valley I actually put together a guide you can use to find some good hills and get your workout together. You can get it here:

CV Cardio Guide

Please let me know if you have any questions on how to put together your interval workouts.

P.S. My “5 Things You Should Know About Fat Loss, But Don’t” workshop is coming up on April 29th. Check out the details here:


Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Mitch Rothbardt Fitness at 2861 Grove Way
Castro Valley’s Premier Fitness Facility
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