2012 Resolutions: A healthier plan creates a healthier golfer
In the first GAP Fitness installment of 2012, Kevin Neeld tackles a cliché that arrives every January.
With the turn of every New Year, people, filled with an unbridled enthusiasm brought about from the power of their new resolution, flock to the local fitness center to get a new membership. For the consistent gym-goer, this time of year is both agitating and comical. Lockers are full, treadmills are taken, there’s a line at the water fountain and someone always has the weight you need.
Fortunately, things will return to normal by March.
The truth is that new training programs, very much like new “diets," are often abandoned with the same enthusiasm with which they were begun. Why is it that the overwhelming majority of people quit before they see any noticeable progress? Even more importantly, how can these people find a plan that actually works, and stick with it? That is the question I intend to address for you.
Step 1: Seek professional help
I’m biased. I co-own and run Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, N.J., so I’m certainly prone to highlighting the value of working with a quality “trainer” or coach. That said, real results take a real plan. This isn’t just true of fitness; the reality is that there are coaches for everything. Financial planners are finance coaches. Teachers are academic coaches. Mechanics are vehicle coaches. Who do you turn to when you need to fine tune your golf swing? A golf coach. It’s interesting that the only component of life that people hesitate to seek professional help is with their own body.
This hesitation likely stems from the reputation of general incompetence amongst personal trainers as a whole. If you want to make consistent, sustainable progress, you need to work with someone that knows what they’re talking about. The guy that holds the clipboard and counts reps for you while taking you through a machine circuit isn’t going to cut it. If Monday is “Chest Day” in your personal trainer’s program, then he’s likely relying on old school body building methods more than 50 years old. You wouldn’t want a heart surgeon to use 50-year old techniques; you shouldn’t want your personal trainer to do so either.
Your program should be designed based on your needs and goals as an individual. It should be written out in multiple phases that span several weeks to months. While there should be a degree of individuality, your program should likely include full body free weight resistance training exercises with some combination of steady-state aerobic work and higher intensity interval training as your conditioning.
Step 2: Fix your diet
Despite what the infomercials will have you believe, you can’t out-train a bad diet. That means no matter how hard you work in the gym, if you eat garbage, you’ll look and feel like garbage, too. The most important thing is to understand that a “diet” is not a short-term change in eating habits that you’re going to abandon when you get your first pizza/beer craving. Everything you eat is your diet.
Short-term changes rarely work because people default back to the same poor habits they had prior to starting the diet. This doesn’t mean you need to eat chicken and broccoli every meal for the rest of your life, but it does mean that you’ll need to develop more optimal eating habits for the majority of your meals. Here are a few tips to get you started:
• Don’t drink your calories. Get your fluids from water, green tea, and the occasional coffee.
|Line up your 2012 health plan and take action.|
• Eat real food — what can be hunted or grown, and rarely comes with nutrition facts. If you think of all food as existing on a continuum between 100 percent real (uncooked steak) and 100 percent fabricated (fruit snacks), do your best to eat the majority of your meals from foods closer to the 100 percent real side of the spectrum.
• Avoid going down the aisles when you grocery shop. Everything you need is along the outside — produce, meat, dairy, flowers for your wife, etc. You may need to dip into a couple aisles, quickly, to pick up all natural peanut butter, frozen mixed berries, and Ezekiel sprouted grain bread (freezer section), but that’s it. Get out of there as soon as you can!
• If the majority of your meals come from real food, then meal composition kind of takes care of itself. But in the interest of making things visual, picture each meal as consisting of a plate divided into thirds. One third of that plate should have a lean protein source (meat), one third should have a vegetable, and the final third should have either a complex carbohydrate (preferably after physical activity), another fruit or vegetable, or a quality fat source (nuts are a great choice here). Food isn’t always this categorical, but this idea should help you build quality balanced meals.
• Start taking fish oil. The research on the benefits of fish oil is becoming overwhelming, with marked benefits on cardiovascular disease risk, inflammation-based diseases (e.g. arthritis) and decreases in body fat. Carlson Lab’s is a reputable brand, and you can find their Elite Omega-3 Fish Oil for a reasonable cost at Vitacost.com.
• Understand that 100 percent perfection in eating under the above guidelines is not desirable (or socially healthy). You’re going to have your run-ins with nachos, pizza, beer, and any other “vices” you may have. That is fine. The goal is to not overdo these “exceptional” meals and to spend more time eating within the guidelines than outside of them. Some people find it helpful to devise a specific percentage. For example, 90 percent of your meals should follow the above guidelines and 10 percent can be exceptions. If you eat four meals per day, seven days per week, that’s 28 meals per week. Three to four can be exceptions, so 24-25 should follow the above guidelines.
Step 3: Make it Stick
It’s been said that the best training program/diet is the one that you’ll stick with. As I mentioned above, living an active lifestyle and eating quality food shouldn’t be exceptional short-term endeavors; it should be your lifestyle. The overwhelming majority of the diseases that kill Americans (and push healthcare costs through the roof) are self-inflicted. It’s time to make a change for the better, and there’s no better time to start than today. Making these adjustments can be difficult if you do it alone. Here are a few tips to help you groove these new habits:
• Ask your spouse/significant other and/or close friends for help. Nothing will derail your progress like an unsupportive network. If you tell them it means a lot to you and that you will need their help, they’ll view it more as their responsibility to help keep you on track. This step is essential.
• If you can, make a commitment with a partner or group of people. Support networks are incredibly important and will help hold you accountable. Find a gym buddy, and try to eat your meals with someone following a similar nutrition plan as you.
• Throw out the garbage. If you have junk food in your house, you will eat it. It’s not if, it’s when. Throw it out.
• Discover what you like. This applies to both training and nutrition. If you like mountain biking and hiking, then build your activity around that. Not everyone will be a gym rat, and while focused resistance training should have a place in everyone’s routine, it doesn’t need to comprise all of your activity if it’s unpleasant for you. From a nutrition standpoint, eating quality food doesn’t have to mean eating bland food. Experiment with different food combinations, spices, and cooking strategies and find things that you genuinely enjoy eating. Think back to the unhealthy foods you used to seek out and find healthier ways of preparing similar meals.
• Spend time each week planning your training/physical activity and meals. Sundays are typically a good time for this. Plan out what days and times you’re going to go to the gym (or do something else active). Plan out your meals for the week and prepare as many as you can (at least for the next 3-4 days). Failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s too easy to bail on a training session if it’s not put into your schedule, and to default to a quick fix meal (which are almost all junk food) if you don’t have a quality meal pre-prepared. Cooking a lot of meals at once also drastically cuts back on meal preparation time throughout the week.
• After you plan everything out, do not allow yourself an exception for the initial four weeks. The goal throughout this process is to develop new habits. The more frequent you rely on old habits early on, the less likely the new habits will stick. Aim for 100 percent compliancy for the initial four weeks.
• Find ways to monitor your progress. Posture pictures with your shirt off from the front, sides, and back are one way. You can also take girth measurements of your hips, waist, chest, arms, thighs, and calves. Having a trainer assess your body fat is probably the best option. If you do everything right in your training and diet, it’s likely that both your body weight and body fat will go down. That said, sometimes people experience significant reductions in body fat and desirable increases in muscle mass that lead to minimal changes in overall body weight. This can be discouraging if the only measure you have is the scale. Acknowledging your progress can be a huge motivator for continuing the new habits you’re engraining.
Most New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re nothing more than hopes. If you want sustainable results you need a quality plan, and you need to take action. The guidelines provided in this article give you the plan. It’s up to you to take action.
Kevin Neeld is the President, COO and Director of Athletic Development of Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, N.J. Through the application of training and injury prevention techniques, Neeld specializes in guiding athletes to optimal health and performance. For more information on training with Neeld, click here.