A Personal Trainer Answers Your Fitness Questions

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Let’s switch it up a bit today and talk about fitness! As many of you know, I work at a local gym, Bodysmith, on Saturdays, and through this job, I’ve gotten to know a lot of the personal trainers, who have answered all sorts of my health and fitness questions. Last week, I decided to sit down with Will, a longtime trainer, who was kind enough to share tons of knowledge with me and my readers (LOL-ing at the weights dropping in the background as I transcribe our recording!).

I asked Will how long he’s been working full-time as a trainer, and he could tell me the exact day–May 19, 1987! He said that at this point in his career, most of his clients “have a disfunction of some sort, like a hurt knee or a sore back.” But, as you would guess, many people also contact trainers because of a desire to lose body fat. “The misunderstanding I commonly see there is people saying that they want to lose weight,” Will says. “They need to change that language and say, ‘I want to lose fat. Because losing muscle is losing metabolism, and metabolism is your skeletal muscle. If you lose muscle, you have to eat less. People think deprivation is the key to losing weight, when it’s a matter of distribution.”

Will’s overall nutrition advice is simple: “If Mother Nature did not make something firsthand, do not eat it.” (Of course my reaction was, “Uh…ever?!”). “That’s tricky,” he noted, “because we’re in such an industrialized society. Paleo is a great idea, but eliminating carbohydrates is dangerous.” He mentioned in our conversation that eating five or six small meals throughout the day, rather than the traditional three, can help one lose weight. “It’s a matter of nourishment,” he explains. “If you’re only eating three meals a day, your body has to store all of those calories to distribute them over 24 hours. If you’re eating every three hours, you’re telling your body, ‘We are not starving; we are not in danger of starving,’ and it will get rid of the excess.” So what does this mean when it comes to trends like intermittent fasting? “Do it for a little while, see how it changes your body, but don’t eliminate a macronutrient like carbohydrates or fat or anything else, for an extended period of time,” Will stresses.

Generally, Will’s clients see the most success when it comes to strength. But, he emphasizes, in addition to doing movements properly, one shouldn’t look in the mirror when training. “You know where everything is on your body; you don’t need to look at yourself in the mirror–every time you look at yourself in the mirror, you’re out of position. Your head follows your eyes. Places like this gym used to be tiny, and they put mirrors on the wall to make them look larger.”

If you want to get stronger but you’re afraid of bulging muscles…what do you do? “Don’t be afraid of heavy weights,” Will says. “If you think that lifting weights is going to make you bulky and that’s not something you want, go up to the biggest person in the gym and ask them how long it took them to get that big. More than likely, it’s more than 10 years.”

And if someone isn’t able to work out with a trainer but wants to workout from home, what is their best bet? Luckily, it’s simple. “Move your body physically every day,” Will says.

Will also left me with what he considers to be the definition of fitness: “The definition of fitness is the ability–key word, ability–to meet the needs of everyday life with ease, maintaining a reserve for emergency situations. Fitness is an ability, not an appearance. Body fat management is a component of fitness, but it’s one of 15. Too many people focus on the appearance of their body before the functionality of it, and that causes a lot of problems.”

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