There it is again. That word. Results.
Before we tackle a word that has found far too much exposure inadsfor everything from weight loss creams to diet programs, let'sstart with arhetorical question:
Can ALL personal trainers deliver thrilling results for themajority oftheir clients?
It's a bit of a loaded question that summons up a few more, notthe leastof which is "what do we mean by 'thrilling results?'"
Let's take it a step further. Let's forget about "themajority," and replaceit with "all."
Can ALL personal trainers deliver thrilling results for ALL oftheir clients?I'd have to say no, but I believe every personal trainer withpassion, desireand the attitude of an eternal student can reach a point whereevery singleclient says "thanks" and walks away with asignificantly better life.
WHAT'S THE SECRET?
The secret doesn't come down to a sets-and-reps scheme, nor isit a questionof whether CrossFit is better than Super Slow Training. It comesdownto a simple and eternal concept... one that personal trainerswho work withless-forgiving bodies must come to embrace.
When I present to consumer audiences, I explain the concept of "Synergy"as I coined it 25 years ago, as an essential for positivephysical change."If you want to achieve results, you have to have threesynergistic elementsin place, and if any one is absent, results will provedisappointing at best.Those three elements are The Right Nutrition, Moderate AerobicExerciseand a Concern for Muscle.
That holds as true today as it did decades ago, but in and ofitself, it is buta glimpse of the full picture.
Let's consider a hypothetical scenario before I reveal what Ibelieve is theunderlying necessity.
Two 28-year-old women who seek to lose 10 pounds each embarkupon asix-week program. They follow a super intense training regimen,six days perweek, including a bootcamp-type training class followed by afour-mile run.One drops 10 pounds on the scale and adds two pounds of muscle.The otherwinds up exhausted, stressed out, moody, and... oddly... with agreater bodyfat percentage than when she started.
Possible? Sure. You've no doubt seen similar.
Shouldn't two similar people achieve similar results onidentical programs?
The answer comes down to the simple key:
Load must amply stimulate change; recovery must be adequate toallowthe change to take place.
In brief, it comes down to the balance between load andrecovery.If an exerciser trains hard but fails to recover, metabolicenergy is compromised;the systems of the body are underfed and there is a reduction inphysicalintegrity stemming from mitochondrial breakdown at a cellularlevel. OK,you notice we've taken a turn. This is going to get theslightest bit scientific,but if you grasp the science, the concept becomes simple tointegrate.
To date there isn't a truly precise measure of stress load andrecovery, butthat's just fine. There's always going to be a bit of trial anderror in zeroing inon an ideal program for any individual (which of course, intime, will have tobe modified), but with clarity as to "total stress load"and "level of emotionalpeace," you have a great head start.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
One of the challenges lies in determining how much metabolicstimulationthrough exercise is enough, and where the line crosses into "toomuch."
A well-nourished marathon runner likely has a very differentload/recoverycapacity than a weekend tennis player who sits in board meetingsMonday through Friday. What would be "too much" forone might be lessthan sufficient for the other.
You get that. I encourage you to now understand it at a deeperlevel.
I hear many personal trainers telling their clients, "toomuch aerobic exerciseburns muscle." That would serve to explain why one of thetwo womenI discussed earlier wound up with a less appealing bodycomposition, butlet's explore further.
For years I conducted seminars sharing the importance of thebalancebetween muscle-sparing energy substrates (carbohydrates andfats), energyoutput and protein availability.
There was a time when saying "too much aerobic exercise canmake peoplefatter" was shocking. Now it's understood, but it'soversimplified, and thatoversimplification is stated as "too much aerobic exerciseburns muscle."
If, considering the goal, the load/recovery ability, theexercise energy output,and the nutritional support, the exercise expenditure leads toan excessiveload, you've crossed the line of "too much."
How do you know when you hit that point? You measure, test andassess.Assessment must move into examination of lifestyle stress andhow wellit's balanced with rest, sleep, and positivity. That is not atthe expense ofconventional testing, it's an addition to it.
As the trial and error process moves forward, you seekimprovement inVO2 max, improvement in post-exercise recovery, improvement inbodycomposition, and the systems of the body, including digestivesystem, centralnervous system, endocrine system and immune system all operatingoptimally and harmoniously.
Everything from simple anecdotalassessments to more complex examinationsof shifts in biochemistry can provideclues into whether you'renearing or crossing the line of "toomuch." The reason the "too much burnsmuscle" statement is myopic isbecause the body has a host of options formeeting a load/recovery imbalance. Ifyou exercise beyond your body's abilityto meet energy demands from availableglucose, glycogen and fatty acids,amino acids can be converted intoglucose and in that, dietary protein canbe metabolized. If caloric need is sufficientto meet energy demand, and ifsome of that comes from dietaryprotein intake, it's OK, provided you'renutritionally prepared for recovery.Protein ingested above need can be justas muscle-sparing as carbohydrates. Itis, in fact, an energy option.
If, on the other hand, all options areexhausted, if blood glucose, serumamino acids, fatty acids, releasedadipose tissue, stored liver glycogen, storedmuscle glycogen and nutrients beingreleased into the bloodstream via theintestinal tract are all "usedup," the breakdown of muscle tissue allows accessto more of the branched chain aminoacids, leucine, isoleucine andvaline. Those amino acids are convertedinto our old friend glucose.
The risk of catabolizing muscle istherefore real, but is not a given in whatmany people would consider excessiveexercise bouts.
THE ANATOMY OF EXCESSIVE LOAD
I'll do the best I can to simplifywhat happens in a state of excessive load, so you,as a trainer, will develop greaterability to overcome "resistant client" challenges.
Emotional stress and anxiety, oftenexacerbated by use of stimulants tocreate a sense of energy, tax theadrenal glands. In order to maintain biologicalhomeostasis, it's important that theendocrine system, which dictatesthe interplay between other bodilysystems, has sufficient energy. Addhigh-exercise intensity and volume toa body already stressed out and therecovery need is significantlyheightened. Fail to adequately feed that bodyand fail to give it sufficient sleepand downtime and biological homeostasisis all but impossible. In order to "slowthe metabolism down," to better balanceenergy output and nutritional input,the thyroid gland has the ability tomake hormonal shifts reducingavailability of ATP. This leads to fatigue andsignificant energy compromise.
That's a simplistic, but importantview of how the body's protective mechanismscan limit the results of an exerciseprogram, and more importantly, whya trainer who understands the key,balance versus recovery, has the ability tomove past "resistance" andright into the realm of thrilling results.
Phil Kaplan guides personal trainersthrough a strategicgrowth curriculum in his Be BetterProject. Find detailsat www.philkaplan.com orwww.bebetteracademy.com.