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.

Stop Hating Carbs!

This blog was inspired by Zoe Nicholson’s recent article “Things to Consider When Giving Dietary Advice”.  In the post, she emphasises the idea that we are constantly being advised to stop eating certain foods and food types, in order to manage weight (as if it’s as easy as that!).  Sugar, bread or carbs in general are normally seen as the main culprits.  What is overlooked here is that we are not machines and to be physically healthy, we also need to be mentally and emotionally healthy.

She points out that if you have been advised to simply stop eating carbohydrates, this is really what is being said:

  • You can never eat out again freely or normally.
  • You can never travel overseas and taste the local cuisine.
  • You can’t celebrate special occasions that include certain foods like cake on birthdays and chocolate at Easter.
  • You are being asked to not fully partake in your life, while forsaking two basic human needs – the need for food and human connection.

Zoe continues to discuss the vital importance of human connection and socialisation that takes place around world.  She does end the post by acknowledging that there are individuals that suffer from true food allergies, Coeliac Disease and other conditions that do require complete avoidance of certain foods.  This is not the same as being advised to cut out a certain food or food group for reasons of weight loss.

Carrying on from here I’d like to say that if you’ve been given this advice, approach it with some serious critical thinking and cautious scepticism.  The reason for this is that we are constantly being exposed to marketing hype, exaggerations, half-truths, out-of-context information and even fabricated evidence, lies and complete bullshit!  Attention-seeking, influential celebrities with ulterior motives and mixed agendas should not be taken as the definitive word on the subject either.

Fear mongering makes headlines and the media are always delighted to be able to write about how something or other is killing us or making us fat!  Talking about eating less calories in order to lose weight is just not sensational enough.  We need to recognise this when we watch food documentaries, read articles or seek out information, which holds true for any topic, not just nutrition.

In the past, I fell for every new fad, book and documentary, and convincing celebrity expert or doctor, promising an amazing new approach to weight- or fat-loss and muscle gain.  Over the years I have excluded a variety of foods and food groups. I tried a number of restrictive diets and given up food that I love with the same outcome every time…I was more miserable, neurotic and paranoid about food, diet and nutrition than ever.  Without getting the results i was looking for.  Because as hard as I tried to get it “right” there was always someone coming up with new idea as to how I was going to gain weight, loss muscle, get sick and inevitably end up killing myself because of the food I was choosing to eat.  And that is how I ended up in a restaurant eating cauliflower base pizza…

However, there is hope!  There exists an objective, credible community of nutrition experts and scientists, that adhere to the rigors of scientific methodology.  A place where claims and evidence are checked and cross-checked.  A place where nothing is accepted at face value and everything about diet and nutrition is constantly being scrutinised in order to present solid, scientific information.  

They are not attention-seeking dietary zealots who preach fanatical nutritional ideologies.  They don’t endorse any single nutritional diet camp and could even be seen as nutritional agnostics, not preaching about the” miracles” of low carb, low GI, high protein, low fat, Atkins, Banting, Keto, etc.  They are only interested in the evidence that is uncovered by scientific research, and are not swayed by personal anecdote or cherry-picked studies.  

The science of nutrition can be extremely complicated and that’s why you need to rely on credible, objective sources that can filter the information for you.  I have been exploring the research for many years, from reliable and respected industry leaders and experts such as Drs John Beradi and Christa Scott-Dixon (Precision Nutrition), Eric Helms, Alan Aragon, Georgie Fear and Martin McDonald (Mac Nutrition), amongst others.  Here are a couple of links that are lists of the nutrition sources that you can trust and the ones that you should avoid!

ScienceAs a result of this I am able to support and assist my clients through my coaching, nutrition education and training experience, to achieve sustainable fat loss and/or muscle gain without resorting to quick fixes, fads and empty promises.

What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful…

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There’s been a really great response to the pictures and posts around my previous post What Happens Outside the Comfort Zone?  The support has been immense and I really do appreciate it.  At the same time, I’ve been thinking about my core beliefs about myself with regards to my weight challenges over the years.

It still makes me feel sad when I think about the different types of responses I have received in my life, simply based on how I look!  After all, I’ve always been me no matter what the scale says and what size my jeans are.  I was never in denial about my weight and how unhealthy it was, but I have spent most of the past 20-something years looking for weight-loss solutions or actually being on diet.  No matter how I look, I’ve always been aware of my unhealthy relationship with food.  As a person in long-term recovery, I am well aware of what addiction’s all about.  And it’s not simply about overindulging, having no willpower, being unaware of my habits and blissfully ignoring the consequences of addictive behaviour patterns

It’s about the inability to stop eating once the binge has started.  It’s about a lack of control.  It’s about using food as a reward or an escape.  It’s about blame and justification.  It’s about the guilt and shame that results from a binge.  It’s about negative core beliefs and the unhealthy thoughts, words, actions and behaviours that are a result of these thoughts and ideas, and the pattern goes on.  It’s not about lacking self control, it’s about having a distorted view of self.

Coaching has been the missing piece in my nutrition and fitness puzzle.  Because weight-loss needs to be supported by a programme or process that works on changing thoughts and ideas, building self-esteem and -efficacy, about understanding nutrition and creating strong, sustaiable habits.  It’s not simply about shedding the kilos, it’s about reinventing the way I think about those kilograms and centimetres, and myself.  In the coaching process I have learned to see myself as worthy of fitness, health and wellness.  It’s about believing I deserve to be in shape, because it’s self-loving.

And I have fully accepted this time that it’s also about HARD WORK!  There is no miracle pill, no perfect diet, no revolutionary eating plan.  It’s about consistency, patience, routine and practice.  It’s really no different to my recovery from substance abuse.  It doesn’t happen overnight just because I am ready for it.  It’s about learning tools and skills, habits and behaviours that are supportive of health and well-being.  And saying that comes with a big dollop of humility, because as a coach I know this…I just needed someone else to coach me and work as an accountability partner in this journey.

I’m practising, I’m being consistent, I’m showing up and doing the work.  Not talking about doing, but actually doing.  And instead of giving up when there are setbacks such as a little weight gain, plateaus and days of hunger, I have relied on myself and reached out to my coach.  And There are days that are extremely trying (the ones when I want to jump into a party-pack of Doritos) and those when I feel like this is the simplest thing imaginable.

And I am learning to love myself a little more every day.  Not just because of the way my body is starting to look, but also because I am being honest, courageous, open and patient.  I have begun to feel as though I deserve to look and feel great, be healthy and fit, and live authentically and congruently in my personal power.  And for that I am extremely grateful.

Have a look at Brene Brown’s Video “The Power of Vulnerability” which has become one of my go-to TED TALKS.

Not Getting the Results You Want!?

davFrom spending hours in the gym every day, I am able to observe many people training either by themselves or with a personal trainer.  There are definitely some proficient trainers, but there are also many that appear clueless and outdated in their training approaches.  Almost just making it up as they go along!?

It’s called exercise science for a reason!  There are scientific principles that should be applied to develop a strength-training programme for an individual.  Important considerations include, but are not limited to:

  • Goals,
  • Training history,
  • Genetics,
  • Diet,
  • Lifestyle,
  • Athletic capabilities, and
  • Training preferences.

Exercise technique is important to maximise results and minimise the potential for injury.  However, this seems to be mostly ignored by those in the gyms.  Time and again I see the most odd “exercise” movements being invented and I struggle to fathom how and why this is happening!?  It’s certainly very creative, but much of it is practically useless when trying to achieve strength and physique goals.

And this is what I see from trainers and people considered to be in good condition!  You may assume that someone who is in good shape must know what they are doing…  This is sadly not true!  Some people are simply genetically blessed and were in good shape even before they walked into a gym.  These are the same people who tend to get great results even whilst training “badly”.  And never forget that some use performance-enhancing supplements and/or drugs to get the results that they do.

The Bottom Line is that copying someone who is already in shape is generally a bad idea, because you cannot be sure of how they got there.  If you are not genetically blessed you will need to have an individually-structured and optimised training programme relevant to your goals and abilities.  A training programme that is based on the scientific principles of strength training.  And unfortunately if you don’t approach your training in this way – nothing is going to change!  You’ll simply be “spinning your wheels” and ultimately be getting nowhere, and then it really is only a matter of time until you give up.

It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the MOST IMPORTANT factor of any training programme is personal preference.  In other words, the optimal programme for you is the one that will actually want to do and be able to stick to in the long run.  If this sounds interesting  let’s get together and have a chat, and together we can develop an individualised training and nutrition programme that works for you.

For more information or to book an introductory session, please complete the form below or contact me directly via email: alexcampbelltransformation@gmail.com or by phone: (061)436-7499.