In Part 1 of this blog post, I discussed that the majority of people who start working out just want to look better and feel better. In trying to do this, they often get lured into programs that aren’t appropriate for them.
I am often asked to review the training programs of people who are frustrated about not reaching their aesthetic goals, and the biggest problem I see (beyond obvious diet issues) is that their lack of progress is likely due to their programming not aligning with their main goal. For example, many people set performance goals (i.e. completing a marathon) and expect that performance goal to help them achieve an aesthetic goal (i.e. reach a certain body fat level, get a six-pack, fit into a certain size, etc.)
Sure there are some performance goals that can help you achieve aesthetic goals, but if what you are doing isn’t working, it may be time to try something else.
You may be glad to know that achieving your goals of, “looking better and feeling better” will probably take less effort than you think. It’s not about murdering yourself every time you step foot in the gym, or being on a crazy restricted diet for long periods of time. It’s about a holistic and balanced approach that uses not just nutrition and training to help you reach your goals, but also sleep and stress management techniques.
**Note: If you have more specific or elite-level goals, the statements above and below may not apply to you.
In the last article I mentioned that a lot of the frustrated individuals who seek my advice are involved in physique competitions, endurance competitions, or CrossFit. If those aren’t the best ways to look and feel awesome over a long period of time, what is?
Well, exactly what we do with our J&M Strength and Conditioning clients. Duh! =)
But seriously, if another method or group of methods worked better, we would use that.
Our approach is based on what my business partner and training mentor Jim Laird has learned over his last 17 years in the business, and it continues to evolve over time based on influence from guys like Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, Gray Cook, and others.
Without further ado, this is what we recommend:
1. Eat real food 80-90% of the time. In other words, if it doesn’t spoil within 7-10 days, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. There are exceptions of course, but this is a good rule of thumb. Focus on protein, vegetables, and fats at each meal, and have protein and starchy carbs after your weight training sessions. Then you can indulge and enjoy yourself 10-20% of the time. If you want more specific guidelines, check out this article.
2. Lift heavy things 2-3 days a week (squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge, resist movement with your core). Obviously you want to master basic body weight movement patterns first. Once you do, you should get as strong as you can at them. More on this below.
3. Walk for leisure as often as possible. Many of us walk around extremely stressed and tense most of the day. Walking for leisure is fantastic because it’s relaxing, stress-relieving and you still get the benefit of a few extra calories burned.
4. Sprint or do other intense cardio 1-2 days a week. If you’re lifting 2-3 days a week, walking often, and your nutrition is sound, you shouldn’t have to kill yourself with high intensity cardio every day. Pick an activity that’s appropriate for your ability level, and do it 1-2 days per week. You can do hill sprints, prowler pushes, kettlebell swings, barbell complexes, or anything else that you enjoy. If you’re doing it correctly, this workout should be pretty short.
5. Get adequate rest. Ideally you would get 7-9 hours of sleep a night in a cold, dark room. You should also try to get in bed around the same time each night, and wake up around the same time. Make sure you shut off your computer, your TV, and your phone within an hour of going to sleep to help you relax and unwind.
6. Manage your stress effectively. This may be the toughest recommendation of all. Your body doesn’t know the difference between fighting with your spouse, overdrawing your bank account, and being held at gunpoint. Make sure that you find a way to gain perspective on “crises” in your life, and do your best not to sweat the small stuff.
So what if your child doesn’t want to wear the seersucker smocked jumper for his two-year-old pictures? I wouldn’t want to wear that crap either. Life will go on, I promise.
7. Get moderate sunshine. Before you freak out, please notice that I said moderate sunshine. This definition will vary for everyone, but for most Caucasians, it’s between 10 and 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, most days of the week. This will ensure adequate vitamin D levels, and plus, sunshine is just good for your soul. There’s a reason we feel gloomy on cloudy days, and feel awesome on sunny days, right?
Above I mentioned that I would get into the “lift heavy things” category more below. While I believe that lifting heavy things is a huge part of looking better and feeling better, most people can’t get away with just lifting. There are other complementary things you must do to stay healthy enough to lift heavy over the long haul.
At J&M, all of our client’s programs follow this general template:
- Soft Tissue Mobilization (i.e. foam rolling, using a lacrosse ball or stick, etc.)
- Diaphragmatic Breathing (note: we no longer allow the chin to tuck toward the chest during the exhale)
- Dynamic Warm-up
- Strength Training
- Energy Systems Training
- Stretching + Restorative Breathing
Each of these topics could fill several blog posts of their own, so I won’t get into too much detail here, but this template was designed specifically to help our clients reach their goals of looking and feeling better, while keeping them healthy, as opposed to choosing one modality of exercise and trying to make that one type of exercise fit their goals.
There you have it! The exact template we use with our J&M clients to get the maximum results with minimum effort, as well as the lifestyle advice we dole out to complement the training advice. Enjoy!
======> Takeaways In Two Minutes <———-
1. If you’re not getting the results you want, it may be time to change your programming.
2. You cannot achieve optimal results and stay healthy over a long period of time if you only do one thing. You cannot just lift, or stretch, or run, or condition. You must do an intelligent combination of things (listed above) to look good and feel good.
3. Do not ignore the effects that nutrition, sleep, and stress management have on your results. Your program can only take you so far.