Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Sedentary Artist-Person 3 Month Fitness Journey + Tips from Personal Trainers For my Fellow Creatives


A quote from the stunning, award-winning animated short The Cat Piano keeps popping in my mind. It reads: I ran my cursed writer's run. I think of it while I'm dying on the treadmill. I am a writer and I can't run. And until 3 months ago I'd never worked out consistently in my life. I love biking, gardening, hiking and exploring/walking at every instance, but it's not the same as deliberate consistent training. I switched to a diet of whole foods and lost thirty pounds along the way, gradually went from vegan to raw vegan and look/feel younger and healthier than I did in my early twenties, but I ignored the ample advice to start an exercise program for years. My excuses were the usual ones:
Excuse 1) No time.
Fact: We all have the same amount of time in the day. Schedule work-out time. Hit it. You can do it.

Excuse 2) Fear that I would have to "work out forever" or I would "gain any weight back."
Fact: You will have to work out "forever." And you can make it fun, it becomes addictive.

Excuse 3) I eat the healthiest diet alive so I don't "need" the gym. + can "diet" to lose weight.
Fact: It's about fat loss and muscle gain, not weight loss. Nutrition is 70% of health, but you must move your body (and rest, working on it!) for complete health.

Excuse 4) Gym culture hatred (narcissism/spray-tans/protein shakes), won't pay to enter one.
Fact: You don't need the gym or a trainer but it's a huge help for beginners. Focus on your own routine and doing it as hard as possible while you're there, then get out and get back to your creative hobbies. You won't magically morph into a "bro."

Excuse 5) I'm not fit. Never have been. It's too hard, I never will be fit so I give up.
Fact: You hear it and it's hard to believe, but it's surprising how quickly you can shape up and/or improve your fitness level!

A writer's diet. Alcohol, coffee, ciggs. Our exercise is typing at the typewriter. Healthy, right?

Excuses debunked, I interviewed three different personal trainers from the "I'm an artist and know lots of other ones and we're lazy and don't move and drink lots of coffee and eat-cigarettes" [stereotyping/hyperbole of course] perspective. These are tips for beginners getting into it, but it can be a fun review for the advance gym bunnies, too. The first set of questions were answered by Sean 'O Quinn at Bailey's Powerhouse Gym, an experience and dedicated trainer that runs his own fitness business and several bootcamps:

1) Why should everyone work out?
It benefits overall health, sound mind and body make for a happy life.

2) What are some exercises everyone should do?
Basic cardiovascular exercises. You can do these on treadmills and stair masters. You should also strength train all of your muscle groups. I don't believe in training specific areas (like abs) you must train as a whole to be successful and healthy.

3) What do you feel is THE most important thing to do for good health?
Nutrition is 70%, what you put in is what you'll get out. Good nutrition is like running your car on premium fuel.

4) What's a good way to get started with physical fitness/exercise after years of being sedentary?
1) Join a gym and meet with a trainer. 2) Set a goal. 3) Get in the mindset that you have to put in 110% to get 60% back. Think of it like a job, you have to do it.

5) What do your clients have the biggest problem with?
Nutriton. [Van's note: My favorite part, so easy! All I have to do is eat!? Sign me up.] Everything you do is dependent on the nutrition, it's surrounded by it. You must consume the right things to be successful.

6) What's a good ratio of proteins/carbs/fats to consume?
Think of your goals then do some research and experimentation to find what's right for you. ISSA, NGA, and BodyBuilding.com have good guides to follow.

7) What types of exercises do you recommend if you're trying to get smaller?
Cardio and weight training. Weight training will make you smaller because it builds muscle, and muscle raises your metabolism and burns fat. More muscle increases you BMI- Basal Metabolic Rate. Raise this and you can burn calories while you're sleeping.

8) How long until people usually see results?
My clients see results in 2 weeks. (Van's Note: I've been training with my boyfriend but will say I felt improvements in my fitness in 2 weeks.)

9) What are good exercises people without a gym membership can do at home?
Lunges, squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, any plyometric exercises.

Artists like unique spaces like what's above, not the gym, with its utilitarian blandness! But you get over it.

10) How about recommendations for building a basic home gym?
Core Basics: hand weights and/or dumbbells, bench, punching bag, multi-purpose bar. Maybe a squat rack.

11) What are the biggest pitfalls beginners encounter at the start of their fitness journey?
Nutrition, motivation levels, and self-esteem. People feel like a small fish in a big pond when they're starting out at the gym.

12) What type of people succeed?
People who follow the directions: Eat right, do the program. Dedicated and disciplined people.

13) What excuses do you hear the most?
"Not enough time" is the big one. You have to make the gym a priority.

14) What must one do to become a personal trainer?
Have an Exercise Science Degree or get certified through an organization.

15) What type of exercise classes/group training do you recommend?
Spin classes, TRX, any type of boot camp.

16) Do you feel physical fitness helps with concentration, creativity, sleep and overall health?
All of it hands down!

17) Are there any supplements you recommend?
Protein shakes. Protein prevents catabolic activity- this is basically your body eating itsself.

18) How necessary is a trainer and/or the gym?
This depends on your experience, knowledge, motivational level and ability to get in and get shit done. I can use every machine in this gym 10 different ways and direct a fitness company and I still see a trainer twice a week. No one can push you like someone else can.  If you can go to the gym or work out on your own and get soaked to the bone with sweat, do it. Otherwise, work with someone.

19) I'm vegan. I'm going to assume you don't approve of the vegan lifestyle?
In all honesty, nope. Do not recommend it. Everyone has their set of conduct and rules and some don't want to take a life. For me, the plan I recommend includes lean, high protein [animal] sources. From my stand-point, you won't find these from plants. Chicken and fish is my staple but if a vegan diet works for you and you're happy with that I work with that, I'll put on a fucking vegan t-shirt! Trainers are here to help you get where you want to be.

[Van's Note: I am still vegan but I'm going to add hemp protein powder to my smoothies and experiment with other natural supplements. Honestly, I do feel low energy lately. It could be from diet but I don't get enough sleep, so...]


Stan Gorman, another trainer at Bailey's Powerhouse Gym also chimed in to give me loads of helpful advice to share with beginners. He's 66 with years of experience under his belt at this work:

Stan's Tip 1) Nutrition is #1!
Stan's Tip 2) Use perfect form with your exercises.
Stan's Tip 3) When training, train with intensity.
Stan's Tip 4) Take quality supplements. All of our food is now deprived of vitamins and nutrients. Give your body what it needs.
Stan's Tip 5) Rest well.
Stan's Tip 6) Physical activity has fundamental universal principles, diets will be different for everyone. There are different metabolic profiles that require different things. Some people can eat lots of carbs, others cannot.
Stan's Tip 7) Eat lots of natural anti-oxidants and anti-inflamatory foods. Tumeric, frankencense tablets, pumpkin/sunflower seeds, red year rice, basil, cilanto, parsely, acai, they're all incredible super foods and can lower blood pressure.
Stan's Tip 8) Be mindful of when you eat: no carbs before bed when you won't burn them off, for instance.
Tip 9) Get around people you can learn from. I did a year-long apprenticeship when I first started personal-training.
Tip 10) Dr. Axe has a great website, he's an athelte and medical doctor with lots of helpful nutritional information.


I thought I'd chime in and give me own advice as a beginner, too:

1) Get an exercise partner or work with a trainer: My boyfriend, AJ, is studying to be a trainer and I'm his willing ginea pig. I would not be where I am in my fitness journey if I didn't have him to motivate me to go and show me exactly how to use the machines or do different exercises. Got a gym-rat friend? Ask them for help. Find a partner, it makes you accountable.

2) It hurts like hell. Work through the pain. You CAN do it: I remember my first time on a treadmill. AJ said, "Just remember, whatever it feels like, your body can do this. It's going to feel like you can't, but it can." I knew this was gonna hurt. He had me start at level 3 for a minute then jump to level 7 for an minute, back and forth. Level 7 was an explosion of pain, my lungs hurt, I almost fell off the machine twice and it felt like my insides were on fire just seconds in. Now after a few weeks of doing this it doesn't start to really kill me 'til near the end of the exercise, and the pain is familiar yet addictive. It hurts, but it's a good hurt. Just focus and power through.

3) Make a Schedule. Guilt yourself if you miss it: Schedule your gym time and make it as imperative as getting to work on time. Don't make excuses, get in and do the work.

4) Keep track of your results: A fitness journal, before/after photos or monitoring how you look/how clothes fit will be incredibly morale boosting. Results really do come quickly and seeing is believing. Feeling/looking stronger will inspire you to work harder. You'll start to trust yourself and your training and/or trainer.

5) You'll Get Used to it: You can program this routine. I've never been active and have always been a physically weak person, but I'm getting stronger. I did a beginner fitness program and it was too easy, my training is working. When I first started the beginner program would have felt impossible. All you have to do is start, it gets better very quickly.

Watch The Cat Piano, it's brilliant. Sorry to illustrate this post with such a non-sequitor but I can't get that quote out of my head while I'm running!

It's still a little hard to believe I'm actually exercising consistently after years of inactivity. I can see and feel the difference and I'm going to keep at learning and moving about the best ways to do it for life!

Got any tips of your own on fitness to share? Questions? Let's discuss in the comments. I'm certainly not an authority and we can all learn from each other, there are so many perspectives to learn from.
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