No Rest Day in Sparta: Interview w/ Trainer, Whitney M. Cole
Unbreakable Man Laws
As you can see, Whitney’s approach to fitness is both practical and humorous. In addition to maintaining a blog (www.fitnessandfuel-la.com) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/whitneymcole), she is the Health & Fitness Editor of men’s lifestyle magazine Dimensions Weekly, a recognized Fitness Expert on Diet.com and Health Maven at Wellsphere.com.
1. A sentiment I hear all the time in one form or another is: “I want to get in shape and tone up but I HATE the gym!” When you have clients who feel this way, how do you approach training for these people that wouldn’t be caught dead on a treadmill?
I ask a lot of questions to determine why this person hates the gym and make a plan to minimize their distain given the clients’ goals and resources. I train many anxious and time-strapped clients in their home to avoid the crowd. Equipment is not necessary, but I do bring light weights, stability challenging tools, resistance bands, the Bosu, etc. When I hear this from a client who is obviously just uncomfortable and overwhelmed by the gym, I do seek to break this self-imposed limitation. There are so many tools, classes and inspiring people that you get access for the minimal cost of a gym membership, often $30! Learning proficiency with the exercises and equipment breeds comfort and confidence.
For those who feel trapped indoors, I have a blast doing of outdoor individual and group training on the beach, Pacific Palisades Park in Santa Monica, along trails like Runyon Canyon in West Hollywood, in playgrounds… We do a lot more body weight only or light weight workouts with Pilates and military bootcamp inspiration, and I also like to add portions of many outdoor sports: running, biking, hiking, surfing, swimming, kayaking…when possible. One of my favorites is a land and water workout I call the “Surf & Turf.” Non gym environments provide unique elements like hills, sand, and water we can use to make the workout more challenging. If there’s a sport they currently or formerly enjoyed, I’ll incorporate moves and motivation similar to what they pull from the field to maintain focus. Clearly outdoor sports and training are weather-specific. Always have a backup plan. A weak man cancels because the weather, an unbreakable man or woman is resourceful.
2. Many guys, and probably Americans in general, take better care of their cars than their bodies. Why do you think this is happening? What can we do about it?
If the car has significant visible damage, we take it in for repair. To fix a massive dented or splintered glass in the windshield, we know the finest shoulder maximizing, gut minimizing blazer, tailored slacks, wrinkle cream, and Just for Men hair color ain’t gonna help. We each spend thousands every year on these little cheat fixers which to our own detriment, perpetuate our ability to hide what we don’t like about our bodies. The return on most of these investments sucks. Stop. Put your money to work on the real problem. Examine your budget and determine what you can spend on a trainer who will design a customized fitness program for you, even better if they can teach you nutrition too. If you can’t afford a trainer, I still recommend you pony up for a least one session. Be honest that you can only afford one and the trainer will work on developing a program that you can do on your own and ensure you know how to execute proper form before you leave.
3. Where can I go to get solid weight lifting/workout advice without being bombarded with supplement ads?
No shit. I hate those ads. I always picture those overpumped dudes farting their way around the gym as most lab-created supplements are really tough to digest and absorb. Stalling…that’s probably the hardest question, (all interviews like this are tough), given everyone starts at such a different place. Sadly, few people even, avid gym-junkies, reading fitness mags actually know how to cue the proper muscles in basic exercises without recruiting dominant muscles, commonly quads, traps, etc. Thus, it’s hard to not to write to the lowest common denominator to prevent people injuring themselves. Nail your basics (get a thumbs up from an expert) and then move onto the fancy stuff. Look at videos vs. static pictures to observe the full execution each exercise, and then practice in front of a mirror. Most stuff you find in print will be on the magazine’s web site in video. Never hurts to ask a trainer how your form looks. Assuming you’ve got the basics down, I do like some of Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness articles as they focus on one athlete and the program has been designed by his trainer. Go online to look at the video.
4. Many of us have 9-5 day jobs or jobs that keep us seated for long periods of time. A problem that I run into is keeping energy levels constant until I can leave work and make it to the gym. What nutritional foods can I use instead of coffee and/or caffeine pills to get me through the day without feeling starved?
Consistent fueling throughout the day (so as not to starve or overload). Yup, it requires planning, but that planning becomes clockwork in a week or two. Keep non-perishable snacks (unsalted nuts, peelable citrus fruits, apples and bottles of water) in the car, office, or anywhere you spend time. For items requiring coolness, buy a cool pack if you don’t have access to an office fridge or plan ahead where you can get healthy brain and body fuel nearby. For additional energy and focus, I do recommend drinking unsweetened (avoid real or artificial sugar) green tea (hot or cold) throughout the day switching to decaf as it affects your sleep.
5. I know you must get this question a lot – How can living healthy improve my sex life? Are there specific exercises or diets you recommend to clients to improve ::ahem:: performance outside of the gym?
Affirmative. A fit and fueled bod amps confidence, improves sensitivity and verbal and nonverbal communication. A natural healthy diet is key to making those workouts work for you in and out of the bedroom, I mean, gym. My clients’ diet, The Arsenal assumes that while man’s food choices have evolved, our digestive systems haven’t. So stick with what was growing or grazing in the field and swimming in the sea: veggies and fruits, eggs, lean meat and fish, nuts…and extra pounds won’t stick to you, slowing carnal pursuits.
5-6 workouts a week of different types will keep you tightened and toned. Look good in more than just candlelight. Don’t be the meathead that just lifts. Get your butt outside or on a machine for at least three 30min cardio sessions / week. Add interval training to improve speed and recovery time. You need your heart and lungs to be working efficiently. Seriously, add some Pilates in for spice. The increased range of motion will allow you to engage more muscles, even ones you didn’t know you had, in all activities: translation increased metabolism, coordination and add brute power too.
Yes, put fitness, fuel and better sex on your To-Do list!
6. Since you’ve been in California, have you met Ahhnold?
Nope, but Maria called yesterday when she was driving. I hung up. We Californians can’t afford to pay another one of her tickets.
7. For those of us thinking about hiring a Personal Trainer, what information should we go in there with? Is it realistic to think that we can go in there with a cover of Men’s Fitness or Women’s Health and say, “Make me look like this” ?
Genetics plays a heavy role in determining how we look, including how and where we put on muscle and store fat. That being said, there’s a lot in our control and it’s your choice to work out hard (and smart), fuel properly and lead a healthy lifestyle to look and feel your best. In always ask clients to bring a goal photo: of themselves when they “had it” or of a model / celebrity who’s bod they want. I can quickly confirm that’s realistic, sort out any head cases, or, point out any differences between the client’s and celeb’s body types, noting we’ll strive for the arms, chest, back, abs, butt in the pic and how they can expect their particular body type to respond and look. Again, YOUR BEST!
1. How soon after I kill my muscles can I work out? For example, I heard I should wait 48 hours before I work the same muscle group, but often they are still sore 48 hours later. Should I work them anyway, or is it important to wait until the soreness is gone?
Yes, for muscle growth, you should wait 48hr before working that same muscle group as hard to allow time to repair. Do however keep moving. Pain be more intense and longer in duration if you just stop. Stretch deeply immediately after that workout and over the next days to diminish soreness. You can definitely workout the next day, but do something different like cardio and/or Pilates.
2. What do you think about Perfect Push-Ups? Abs-Diet? P90X?
Perfect Push-Up – a great addition to an existing home gym, or way to sneak in 5-10 minutes of quick exercises at the office when you are slammed and know the gym trip ain’t gonna happen. Their exercises work arms, chest, and provide some corework, but remember it’s a complement to a more comprehensive fitness regimen. So what’s that plan?
From a nutrition standpoint, the Abs Diet is one of the better ones recently well-marketed to men and in fact has a lot of overlap with my clients’ diet, The Arsenal. While the Abs Diet reveals nothing new, the marketing is revolutionary, including the ever-present shrine of abs (the holy grail of fitness) and Power 12 foods spelling the acronym name ABSDIETPOWER. Seeing how almonds, spinach, raspberries, and turkey were singled out from their respective categories of nuts, greens, berries and lean meats for no reason except supplying a letter in the acronym, makes a dieter feel trapped in a lame game of Scrabble with a overly-strategic opponent. The Abs Diet is a great start for many people, but many people hit a plateau with the last 10-15 pounds or actually getting the abs, and that knowledge is where I’ve gotten an edge on the Abs (Diet).
P90X is about as inclusive a home-fitness routine as I have seen. I appreciate that the exercises get progressively more difficult and, as a proponent of muscle confusion, constantly change. However, it does require substantial time and emotional commitment for 3 months. For those reasons it has a high burnout rate in comparison with other face-to-face fitness programs where someone holds you financially accountable to showup and put out (effort). Additionally, as with any self-administrated fitness, no one ever corrects YOUR form. Creator, Tony Horton really does the best he can noting common mistakes made with each exercise, but most people at home are still unaware they aren’t using the right muscles to do many of the exercises. This creates or reinforces existing muscular imbalances which lead to injury. For these reasons of about a hundred people who have told me they tried P90X, only 1 has finished and was proud of the results. Of those who didn’t finish, they burned out as it was too aggressive and they got frustrated or bored, and 15-20 actually injured themselves during the workouts.
3. Should I stop eating Ramen Noodles?
Gross. They have no food value but do have about 380 calories, 15 grams of fat (half saturated), 54 grams of carbs and 1700 milligrams of sodium – which is over 70% of your daily recommended value. Who asked that? Take a lap.
4. How do you recommend getting back into working out after a long hiatus? Specifically, the best way that you would recommend easing back into a regular program?
Hmm. A long hiatus means something entirely different to a gymrat returning from an injury and a college athlete who hasn’t worked out in the decades since. Ultimately, no reason to reinvent the wheel assuming you did not injure yourself with this workout, causing this fitness hiatus. Recall your last workout and test a junior version with a 1 day on 1 day off frequency.
· Safety is the top consideration, especially if you haven’t been to the gym because you injured yourself. Do get your doctor or physical therapist to tell you exactly what to do and avoid upon returning to the gym. Get it written down with pictures of any cooky rehab exercises and show doc you can do his recos before leaving exam room. If you haven’t seen a doctor, you’re even more ripe for a chat with an expert. Seek a trainer who’s got a reputation for quickly rehabbing or with clients who have your issues: weak joints, bad back, big butt, bellies…you get the point.
· Avoid Burnout. Don’t kill it on Day 1 or during your first workouts you’re lucid on endorphins. You may regret it for the next week after the lactic acid kicks in. Do give yourself a day off in between workouts during the first week to recover and avoid excruciating tightness. Stretch on off days; returning gymrats can take a Yoga or Pilates class.
· Start with cardio. If you typically stayed on the machine for 30-45 minutes, try 15 today. Gradually add time if you’ve not been too sore/stiff since first workout. Start with low resistance and gradually increase it as you can maintain a steady pace. Stop and get some water if necessary, and start again. If first few workouts have gone well, start with intervals of 1 minute high resistance and 1 minute low challenge your recovery.
· Do warmup with cardio before starting weights.
· Reduce the weight you used to start with for each exercise, especially if it took you a long time to get to that amount. Start with just 2 sets of 15 reps at a weight that becomes slightly challenging toward the end of the set. Your goal in first week is mobility not a huge burn as we want you to be able to come back in 48hrs.
· Do stretch deeply immediately after and until your next workout. Bonus points for stretching during workout loosening during cardio or in between weight sets.
5. Do you have any advice when it comes to using high rep/low weights versus low reps/high weights? Regardless of whether or not you want to grow muscle or tone, should you interchange between the two?
We all can use a combo of the two, using the general rule of low reps/high weights for large muscle growth, and high rep/low weights for basic toning, use more of one to achieve your goals. For people with decent balance, add light weights to cardio pursuits such as hiking or running or bodyweight exercises, like pushups, plank rows, etc. I know few people that even if in great shape, wouldn’t like to shed a few more pounds, thus, I highly recommend applying the principles of muscle confusion. Switch up the exercises, add intense intervals, challenge all body parts in a session to launch your metabolism several hours post workout and chiseled results.