Strong is the New Skinny

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The key to looking and feeling  great is Strength Training.  Strength training helps you burn body fat and gives you a firmer, leaner look with curves in all the right places.  And no; it won’t make you “bulky”, unless you overeat, take drugs, or are a genetic outlier.  The truth is that most people aren’t genetically predisposed towards gaining significant amounts of muscle.  It’s even more difficult for women, who, on average, have about five percent of the testosterone of the average male.  And since building muscle does take time, getting big and bulky overnight is really nothing to worry about.  It takes a well designed programme, with periodic changes, implemented with sufficient intensity and consistency over time to achieve the body changes you are interested in.

If you are holding back on your training by going too light, because you think you are going to end up with a “bulky” body, then be aware that you run the risk of achieving no real results and of hitting a plateau very quickly. This means that you will have mostly wasted your time in the gym unless you enjoy hanging out there which some seem to do.

People everywhere are getting stronger and fitter – men and women.  Lean, fit bodies are getting more appreciation and attention, and so they should.  People work hard to achieve these results and a strong body is a healthy body.  This is especially true in comparison to the bodies that have dominated the media for so long.  The waif-like, skinny, stick figures with virtually no muscle tone, resulting in a skinny-fat look.  It is also a look that has encouraged ill health and eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and orthorexia.

Sadly, for some, this remains the ideal look.  But people have started to love getting and looking stronger and more powerful.  If you doubt this, ask yourself how the CrossFit movement has gone from 13 boxes in 2005 to more than 13,000 boxes worldwide at present!? What an explosion of strength enthusiasts!  However, CrossFit can be extreme and it is not for everyone.  There are plenty of other ways to get strong, lean and fit, and basic strength training is one of them.

In order to get results, you need to follow a well-structured, personally-customised training programme based on your specific goals, circumstances and abilities.  And a well designed programme can help just about anyone look, feel and perform better.  The guidance and support of an experienced and knowledgeable coach is invaluable to develop and monitor this process.

Every day I see people who don’t really know which exercises they should be doing, how to do them effectively for optimal gains, or even complete them in a way that won’t lead to injuries further down the road.  And because we are all looking for the next, new best thing, novelty plays far too big a role in people’s choices.  Fads come and go, nonsensical exercises are simply invented and are completely ineffective, and often a huge waste of gym and training time.

To add to these challenges that we face, there are some fully-certified trainers with years of experience, that are not aware of how to teach or even do the basic exercises, which are the foundation of any effective strength-training programme.  Unfortunately, since they have not mastered the basics, they simply cannot put together a training programme that effectively achieves the results that you are working towards.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great trainers and coaches.  As with any industry there is a huge skill variance, and the fitness and nutrition industry is no different!  Also, changing the way that our bodies look, is extremely challenging for most of us, myself included.

I have personally experienced frustrating plateaus, when nothing seems to be changing, training feels like torture, and my body doesn’t comply with my expectations. If you belong to a gym, have a look around next time you are there.  Then think back six to twelve months and identify some of the people who have achieved noticeable changes in their physique.  I know from personal experience that, unfortunately, there won’t be very many. Change is hard- and sustainable fat-loss and physique transformation is, for most people, one of the biggest life challenges they will encounter.

As a coach who is passionate about getting results, it can be confounding to see a strong woman, who picks up her 15 kilogram child in one arm, head off to the mini-dumbbell section to find a two kilogram weight to row with.  Always remember- “ If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you! “

With strength training it is very important to have realistic goals and expectations, and a good coach will help you with this. “The Cost of Getting Lean” is a great Precision Nutrition article that challenges us by asking some straightforward questions, “Six-pack abs. Tight butts. Lean, vibrant, flawless health. That’s the image the fitness industry is selling. But have you ever wondered what it costs to achieve that “look”? What you have to do more of? What you really have to give up?

IMG-20171113-WA0001 (2)Everyone wants to be really lean and “ripped” or even “shredded”.  Sounds awesome. Until the reality of the process kicks in.  For many it will be a nightmare and they will quickly burn-out.  The mental and physical stress of the dieting and intense training.  The gnawing hunger as your body desperately fights back against perceived starvation.  This starts affecting your sleep.  But without sufficient quality sleep you can’t adequately recover and stress goes even higher!  Do you work full-time and have kids? Oh dear – stress ever higher.  Oh well, maybe if you can plan, shop and cook a whole bunch of meals on the weekend you will still be able to stick to eating lots of pretty boring meals most of which never really leave you feeling very satisfied.

And be sure to cancel and avoid any social engagements for several months because you won’t have the time or the energy and will need as much sleep as you can get.    The bed will only be used for sleep as hormonal disruptions  kill your sex drive.   Besides you will often be so irritable you would sooner strangle them than make love.

Does this sound like something that most people should consider?  I don’t think so and that’s why I help clients achieve good results without driving them insane and ruining their health and well-being in the process.

The fitness and nutrition industry, especially when it comes to “fitspiration” on Instagram and other social media platforms, can be so misleading.  Carefully selected, filtered photos of genetically-blessed, drug-enhanced, fitness models are everywhere.  And it sends out the wrong message to people like you and me who are trying to change and  improve our bodies.  Promises of quick, dramatic results are rife if you buy their diet or meal plan, or book or training system, or supplements and meal replacements.  For most of us mere mortals anything really worthwhile and sustainable takes time and effort.

Strength training combined with Flexible Dieting is the way forward for most of my clients.  It is the shortest, most enjoyable route to success, that is sustainable in the long-term.  This does not mean it is a shortcut, but a process that is based on evidence and science, rather than the latest fad that promises quick results, but is inevitably unsustainable, resulting in another bitter disappointment.  This only serves to reinforce the disillusionment and feelings of personal failure that grow stronger with each aborted attempt at weight- and fat-loss, and muscle gain.

Since everyone is different, I understand the importance of meeting clients where they are at in their nutrition and fitness process.  And while it is important for the individual to understand some basic nutrition principles and ideas, and what’s true or false according to the science; it’s even more important that we start taking action, developing the habits and learning the new behaviour that are necessary for sustainable transformation.

That’s the most important aspect of coaching.  It’s providing the guidance, support and encouragement to get you on the road of action.  Then to keep you on that road by developing accountability around what you have decided on as your goals, plans and steps to getting the results you want.  It’s a team effort and if you keep taking actions, motivation and inspiration will follow, and the sustainable results that have eluded you, will be the results you achieve and maintain.

Start small, but begin today!

Click here for more information on my strength training and fitness coaching programme.

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