In 1492 Columbus found the New World, but he’d be blown away if he could see my five-year-old daughter downloading 3D moving images of banshees from the movie Avatar on the little computer that sits on my office desk. His New World was a discovery, but the world has probably changed as much if not more in the last 15 years than it did in his entire lifetime!
This is not an article about great explorers, but it is about a new world and how you “fit” in. No, I’m not asking whether you tweet or twit or twerp or poke, and I won’t ask if you text more than you speak or videotape the world around you with your cool new cell phone. I want to ask a much simpler question.
How do you feel?
Yes, that’s my question. It’s a new world, and I want to know how you feel, right now?
If your answer was anything other than “great,” what are you going to do about it? Eat better? Hmmm. What does that mean?
Maybe you think you know what that means . . . but then again . . .
You have your turkey breast on whole wheat bread . . . but whole wheat bread may not really be whole wheat, and even if it is, you might be sensitive to gluten.
OK, forget the bread. Go with something you know is healthy. Have some yogurt. The “good bacteria” in yogurt ensure a healthy meal . . . unless you have trouble tolerating lactose. Hmm. If you can’t rely on dairy for your protein . . . you can’t deny that despite what your vegan friend told you, meats are good sources of protein, but aren’t they riddled with drug resistant bacteria?
Pasta’s good . . . or is it? It used to be hailed as an ideal food for runners, but what if you don’t run. Doesn’t it elevate triglycerides, and isn’t that going to increase risk of heart disease?
Fruits! Healthy? Sure . . . or are they too high in sugar, and even if it’s natural sugar, aren’t they grown in depleted soil poisoned by pesticides?
Healthy cereals aren’t healthy, healthy frozen dinners are laden with sodium and preservatives, and even our old reliable, seafood, packed with essential fats, are also sources of mercury.
OK, so there are a few food questions that need to be answered. That doesn’t make health all that complicated, does it?
Well, if those were the only questions, perhaps our population would only be partially confused, but what’s a trans-fat, and what’s a hydrogenated fat, and why are they in so many foods that taste so good? The articles and health practitioners have turned sour on high fructose corn syrup, but the new TV commercials say, “it’s made from corn . . . it’s natural.”
Are you ready to scream?
Suppose you manage to sort through all of the supermarket confusion and you learn to make better food choices. You’re on the right track . . . but then . . . there’s the exercise component.
Do you have to do 30 – 45 minutes of aerobic exercise in your “fat burning zone?” Why then, when you do that religiously, do you find you’re losing weight but retaining flab? Oh, because you have to also do resistance exercise, right? It’s a new world. It’s not as simple as having a couple of dumbbells in your closet. Now you have to make choices. Are kettlebells better than dumbbells, and is functional training better than the routine you used to do in the gym? Should you sign up for a bootcamp, or Pilates, and what’s this new cross-fit thing?
Ah, who knows if you even need to know the answers to these questions. Isn’t there just an infomercial device that works?
Is the Montel Williams juicer that crushes concrete really going to help you lose weight, and if so, is it better than the Jack La Lanne juicer? After all, you’re not likely to mix concrete into your protein shakes, are you? Then again, who needs a juicer at all if you can now take vitamins that provide the nutrients and “green” phytochemicals we’re supposed to get from eating or veggies?
So far I’m well into this article and haven’t provided a single answer. Why am I opting to pose question after question without sharing a single answer? It’s because I’ve shared the answer at least 100,000 times, and it’s the same as it’s always been. Synergy. The Right Nutrition, Moderate Aerobic Exercise, and Something to Challenge Muscle.
Did I now give you clarity? Probably not. There are two primary challenges. One is confusion, due in great part of information overwhelm. The second is . . . finding an expert who can help you understand how the “synergy” applies to your individual circumstance, what, in your case, you need to do in your strength and aerobic training, and what in the world the “right” nutrition means to you.
Many of my clients come to me after they’ve sought out solutions from the world of medicine. They have not only lists of medications, but also lists of doctors. Doctors are experts in medicine . . . or are they? Some may be, and some might have been, but to believe every doctor is expert in every realm of medicine is an unfair expectation. The drug releases come at a whirlwind pace, the drug reps resemble Hollywood stars hawking “hot new products,” and the doctors are often caught in as much of a headspin as the consumer.
Where do you turn if your belly fat is creeping up on you, your energy is dropping down, and you’re gradually losing that youthful sense of being unstoppable? Do you turn to medicine, fitness, or the health food store? Maybe there’s another option . . . not quite medical but better than the GNC.
Maybe the new “wellness” clinic has answers.
The new clinics will promise Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the solution. In fact, they’ll promise pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women that HRT can help to reverse bone mineral loss and prevent osteoporosis. Is it worth the risk, however, if these hormonal compounds that you’re asked to swallow or inject can increase your risk of endometrial cancer or breast cancer?
If you’re a man over 45, you get a prostate exam to see if you need meds to reverse prostate enlargement. If your prostate’s OK, but your libido’s down, there’s HRT for you as well. You can get a prescription for testosterone cream. It’s legal, it’s medical, and it can make you feel more youthful. That sounds good, right? Why, then, are those same people who believe it’s OK to replace hormones, who believe exogenously supplementing male hormonal production is therapeutic, critical of athletes who use steroids? The compounds are the same. The “labels” are different.
The questions abound, the confusion grows, and the population suffers for it.
I’m appalled by what appears to be forced or at least welcomed naivety of the “unwell” marketplace. It’s accepted that you want to intervene chemically (using drugs) if you have a disease, but today the drug giants have convinced the “not-so-sick-but-not-so-well” people of the world that there’s a pill that fixes whatever the condition.
“You’re not quite diabetic, but you’re pre-diabetic. Take a pill.”
“You don’t have osteoporosis, but you have osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis). Listen to Sally Fields on the TV commercial. She’ll tell you what pill to “ask your doctor for.”
How about prescribing drugs for thin people who are “pre-fat” or nice people who are “pre-angry?” We as a society accept the prescription of “calm down” drugs for kids who are told by school psychologists that they need medication for the ADD or ADHD, so why not medicate drivers with pre-road rage or irksome people who are “pre-annoying?”
OK, so you’ve sensed my frustration, and you also know me well enough to know, I’m going to claim many of the solutions lie in understanding and committing to a sound exercise routine. You may also assert that I make this claim only because exercise is my gig. It’s what I do for a living. It’s what I’ve done for 25 years.
I assure you, I make the “exercise is best” claim for one reason. Because it’s true. If you have a venereal disease, you need an antibiotic. If you have a viral infection, an anti-viral is a sound choice. If you have pain as the result of injury, careful use of pain management medication can help you ease unnecessary suffering. If you have recently had an organ transplant, a cardiovascular incident, or a malignant invader, you want to trust the doctor to treat you with the best pharmaceutical options.
If, however, you’re like most Americans, and you have discomfort, dis-ease, blood irregularities, fat accumulation, muscle loss, energy loss, reduction in bone density, arthritis, inflammatory disease, sluggish thyroid, mild depression, if you get frequent colds, if you’re subject to strains and sprains, or if you just don’t find it as easy to run as you used to, exercise is, without question, a vital part of the most effective therapy, and due to the two challenges I outlined earlier, confusion and difficulty in finding true experts, it’s all-too-rarely integrated in a sound and effective manner .
I shared these sentiments with a group of trainers I guide and consult with, high level fitness professionals who are extraordinary in their commitment and in the caliber of service they deliver. I urged them to step up further, to stand on a platform where they can be comfortably respected as experts, to recognize the two challenges and adapt to the new world we live in.
If you’re at all frustrated with the progress you’re making from your chosen fitness or health improvement option (doing nothing should not be an option), recruit a true expert in your corner. What should you look for in a fitness “expert?”
Of course you want to find a credential which would either be a four-year or advanced degree in a fitness related field and/or a credible certification from ACE, NSCA, NASM, or a handful of other respected agencies, but that’s only a prerequisite. You want to find someone who has worked professionally with people like you who have achieved that which you most want to achieve. You want to check references, and at least one of them should be a professional reference from someone with a medical or academic credential. Is this a lot to ask? Yes, and it should be.
I know some trainers reading this are already getting offended. “I’ve worked out for years and I’m an expert” is an overriding sentiment that allows ego to prevent true expertise. An expert must adapt to the changing landscape, and someone who was a valuable expert a decade ago might have lost some footing if they aren’t able to help clients discern between the virtues and the pitfalls of newest foodstuffs marketed as healthy and the old reliables that are as important a part of a health regimen today as they were 1000 years ago.
With that recognition, you can look further. If you are admittedly confused, or victimized by misinformation, if your beliefs about exercise have been shaken a bit, and if you walk through the supermarket wondering whether carbs are good or bad or whether good carbs include healthy chips or bad carbs include fresh cut fruit, you need someone who will take responsibility for empowering you, guiding you, directing you, and making you accountable for follow through.
Here’s the 10-point list I shared with those trainers who I know strive to maintain the highest positions of excellence:
A viable fitness expert with the power to deliver results in the 21st century will exhibit:
1. Influence power and a willingness to move past the “can’t,” and the “but” that indicate limiting beliefs in their clients
2. An understanding that our scope of practice extends into the realm of helping people stay healthy and is not limited by the walls of a weight room
3. A recognition that staying healthy in today’s society requires a different understanding than it did 20 years ago when exercise physiology was a new field limiting itself to cardiovascular and strength conditioning
4. An ability to provide nutritional information in a manner that empowers people to understand their intake, to manage their intake, and to match their intake with their goals without ever prescribing any type of diet or specific regimen (unless the fitness professional also has a valid nutritional credential, i.e. R.D.)
5. A commitment to deliver whatever results we believe possible in line with our clients’ reasonable wants and desires
6. An integration of psychology into the sciences we rely upon to help people find betterment, an ability to recognize mindset variances and motivation shifts
7. Responsibility for client adherence and outcome
8. A willingness to deliver extreme value in exchange for just compensation
9. An ability to respect medical professionals while recognizing and positively adapting to some of the shortcomings inherent in the medical field
10. An unrelenting want to do what’s right and the willingness to connect with proven protocols even when they challenge what is conventional
Personal responsibility is warranted today more than ever. It’s easy to listen to the first opinion aimed in our direction, but easy doesn’t serve people as much as expertise. Expertise can be acquired, borrowed, or connected with. Do the necessary homework. Don’t choose your expert lightly. Finding the right one is well worth the effort as it gives you power and control over your future health, fitness, and well being.
My ALIVE protocol is designed to empower people, to help them benefit from the workings of the experts I continue to learn from. I strive to make this resource accessible to anyone seeking physical betterment. It is not the only program that is founded in sound principles and proven science, but it is one I stand behind 100%.
Article complete, I must respond to my most recent text messages. The thought that prompts as I prepare to hit “send” on my cell phone is, “if only they’d find a pre-PMS drug (or a Pre-Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder drug) the new world would be a much better place.”