I was recently watching a video about a day in the life of 2016 Crossfit Champion Katrin Davidsdottir. For those of you who are not familiar with Crossfit, in short, it is a fitness competition and the winner is titled “The Fittest on Earth”. For Katrin’s training day she usually arrives at the gym around 9:00am. She begins with 10 minutes of belly breathing and a warm-up session that is longer than most people’s normal workout. She’ll spend her morning working on strength training or skills. After lunch it’s back to training. Her second session tends to be met cons. Met cons is short for “metabolic conditioning workouts” which consists of bouts of very high intensity exercises with intermittent rest. After that, (yep, still going) she continues with some kind of gymnastics or technique training. Katrín’s done with the gym about 4pm at which point she might have body work done or go and sit in the sauna for a little bit. (I’ve always said those who maximize their recovery will get the most out of their training.) As you can see it takes an insane amount of hard work, dedication, and consistency to be a champion athlete. I will not even get into her diet but you can expect the same consistency and dedication. There are very few people with that kind of will power and drive and most people do not have the goal of being an elite athlete. So what does it take for the average gym-goer to reach his or her fitness goals? I can tell you it does not have to be a 9-5 job like I just described but it does take consistency and hard work.
The first step is determining an attainable goal. ”If you don’t know where you’re going you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” For me, setting a goal of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger by next week is most likely not attainable (give me two weeks). Starting training for your beach body in April won’t get you to the results you want by Memorial Day. Setting a goal of fat loss is the goal I hear the most. I don’t like setting goals of body weight because the scale can be deceiving. People don’t necessarily want to “lose weight” but want to look better. If someone starts strength training and builds a little muscle while losing fat their scale weight may be the same even though they lost fat and look leaner. I like to use progress pictures or simply how they look in the mirror. We can set measurable goals with caliper readings (skinfold measurements) or circumference measurements but that isn’t usually necessary until someone is very lean. If someone has a goal of being faster or stronger, those goals become more measureable.
Once you figure out these long term goals you’ll be able to better determine what your training schedule should look like. How many days of strength training versus how many days of metabolic conditioning will be determined by what is necessary to achieve your goals. So how long does it take to get lean? That obviously has a lot to do with where you are starting. There are many factors involved in one’s fat burning abilities. Hormone levels, genetics, basal metabolic rate, starting body fat percentage, stress levels, diet, sleep habits are all factors to consider in fat loss. In training for fat loss, the most efficient program will most likely include 4 days a week including high intensity training and weight lifting with some low intensity low impact exercise on your off days. My personal “Two Week Arnold Transformation” may look a little different. In order to attain your fitness goals, it would be a good idea to consult a professional who will be able to set up a long term progressive program.
After a long-term goal is set, it is important to have short-term goals with specific plans. With a goal of fat loss what are the exact steps you are going to take to reach this goal? For most of my fat loss clients we start with a two week “Low Carb Bootcamp”. This helps to restore insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and set the stage for how someone should be eating on a daily basis. In this case, our short term goal would be eliminating high sugar carbs for two weeks. You can also turn it into a daily goal of eliminating these carbs. At the end of these two weeks the client is “rewarded” with a high carb “refeed” meal. It is important to reward yourself for reaching goals and sticking to a plan. In a previous article I wrote about keeping the mindset of having to earn and then reap your reward. It becomes easier to stay consistent if you have rewards in sight. Consistency is everything. It takes 66 days before a new behavior becomes a habit according to a study from the University College London. Once your workouts become a habit you are well on your way to your goals.
How fast you reach your goals is determined by how much work you want to put in and how consistent you can be. Katrin reached her goal with a lot of hard work, intensity, and amazing consistency. Keep working, your goals are well within reach. Talk to me in two weeks when I’m the next Governor of California.