Written by Dr. Shane Perrault – featuring Fitness Guru, Coach Lewis King, founder of Supreme Fitness in Washington, DC.
“As March Madness and all of its buzzer-beating shots started falling this week, it hit me: spring is almost here. Yikes! I hadn’t kept my New Year’s workout and weight loss resolutions. As a slight sense of panic set in, I asked myself, “so what now? Can I rally myself and win this battle, or should I wait ‘til next year and start over.” Watching my favorite team (the Buckeyes) come back from being 15 points down, and then win a share of the Big Ten championship by hitting a last second, dagger of a shot, I thought to myself, spring may be the time of year to renew my commitment to my New Year’s resolutions — or to make new ones.
Excited about my team’s comeback victory but nervous about my underachievement, I contacted my trainer Lewis King to ask him about what I could do to orchestrate my own come from behind rally. Rather than tongue-lashing me in his usual ex-Marine, boot camp manner, I was surprised to hear this hulk of a man chuckle and calmly reply, “Don’t despair: The key to success in fitness and health isn’t perfection; the key is persistently adjusting your strategy.
Coach King then informed me that studies have found that roughly 67% of Americans neither meet, nor keep their fitness and health related New Year’s resolutions. Only 33% actually follow through on their goal to lose some weight, go to yoga, the gym or get on that new high-tech treadmill with all the gadgets, or quit smoking or drinking. Even worse, a year after setting resolutions, studies have found only 15% stick with their resolutions.
His next comments surprised me even more, “But, don’t despair: The key to fitness and health isn’t perfection; the key is persistently re-adjusting your strategy.” According to Stephen Kraus, PhD, the Harvard-trained psychologist and author of Psychological Foundations of Success, spring is the ideal time to reassess your New Year resolutions and modify your strategy to successfully get back in the game.
So what are these “Four Elements of Fitness”? He responded, “1) Nutrition, 2) Weight Training, 3)Cardio and 4) Mental Fitness”.
1. Nutrition: This is not about going on a DIET.
In the first key to fitness, he quickly pointed out the first three letters of the word “diet” are D-I-E, and noted we’re talking about making sound nutritional lifestyle changes, and not fad diets here. Fad dieters are more likely to lose muscle and fat; but when they regain the weight they unfortunately replace it with only fat. As such, fad diets increase our chances of getting fatter and unhealthier.
Instead, King encouraged me to learn more about making healthier choices and eating for my body-type. One book he raved about was The 7 Principles of Fat Burning, by Dr. Eric Berg.
Coach King shared that the second reason nutrition is critical is because you can’t “out-train” a lousy diet. Yes, on those rare days when you are extremely motivated and have the time you may burn an enormous amount of calories, but it’s very difficult to sustain that level of activity, and almost impossible to undue the effect of a diet consisting of empty calories from a dense junk food diet, or from eating foods that are counter-productive for your body type.
Finally, discover your Maintenance Caloric Intake (MCI). MCI is the amount of calories that you need each day to maintain your current bodyweight. You can find these calculators online or easily locate a phone App (like the “MyFitnessPlan” App I use on my Droid) that will tell you how many calories you should be taking-in based on your weight, and the caloric content of that carrot cake you are about to put in your mouth (can’t tell you how many times it has helped me discard some food item I would have otherwise mindlessly consumed.) In fact, a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed that keeping a “food diary” may double your weight loss efforts.
Tip: Once you determine your body type and caloric intake, schedule your meals the night before with plans to eat three good meals and a few healthy snacks. Packing your food will help you make healthier choices and eat smaller portions.
2. Weight Training: Don’t work-out harder, work-out smarter.
In the 2nd key to fitness, weight training is second on the list – yes, above cardio. In fact, if you could choose one form of training to start with, Coach King recommends weight training, and preferably some type of resistance training (including body weight resistance).
Why, you may ask? Weight training burns a ton of calories, frequently more than cardio. Weight-training and resistance training both burn calories in two important ways. First, they burn calories during the work-out, and increase “after burn” – the amount of calories burned even after your workout is completed. In addition, while you decrease your calories in order to lose fat, weight training helps you maintain lean body mass. If you diet without weight training, you almost always lose muscle. In fact, just maintaining increased muscle mass burns extra calories throughout the day. If you don’t already, seriously consider starting weight training three days a week.
3. Cardio Training: Cardio training is critical for significant weight loss.
In the 3rd key to fitness, we need to get that heart rate up and our bodies in motion between 3-5 times each week for 30-45 minutes. If you are a beginner, start on the lower end of the scale. An extremely helpful tool is a sports watch with a heart monitor that measures beats per minute. These devices can range from $19.99 to a couple hundred dollars. However, their contribution to increasing and measuring the intensity of your workout can be priceless! In addition to recording your BPM (Beats Per Minute), they provide invaluable information about the number of calories you burned, and what percent of your time is spent in various fitness zones.
Finally, the best way to maintain your cardio is to make cardio fun – Period. Cycling, rowing, walking, jogging – are just a few ways to mix it up. After putting my car in the shop following a car accident, I was amazed at how quickly I dropped 20 pounds a couple of years ago after I started riding my bike to work and to complete various errands. I am now an avid cyclist and am constantly amazed when my sports watch informs me I have burned 900 – 2,500 calories after an enjoyable hour or two on my bike.
4. Mental Fitness: Change your Mind, Change your World.
In the 4th key to fitness, first and foremost, focus on being healthy instead of “skinny.” (If there are esteem issues related to a negative body image, consult a therapist.)
You probably realize instinctively, if not from direct experience, that your mind is infinitely powerful. What most people DON’T realize is that almost all your behaviors are activated subconsciously. While positive thoughts lead to positive health outcomes, negative mental programming causes self-sabotaging behavior like skipping workouts or binge eating.
The good news is, your brain is like a computer and it can be reprogrammed with “mental training” techniques such as visualization, affirmations, goal setting, visualization photos, and many others. Over the years, my clients have found Dr. Wayne Dyers, “101 Ways to Transform Your Life” to be a particularly powerful source of positive affirmations (I recommend CD over book).
This Spring, I encourage you to use these “Four Elements of Fitness” to orchestrate your own come-from-behind March Madness style rally to accomplish your New Year Resolutions.”