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SANE 203 / Lesson 10

Personal Trainers, P90X, & Insanity

Carrie: This is Carrie Brown and Jonathan Bailor.

Jonathan: Woo-woo. I don’t know what I just did, but hello. How are you doing?

Carrie: I’m doing great. How are you? You’re clearly in a feisty old mood today

Jonathan: Apparently, I am in a mood. Let’s just say that it’s been a good week.

Carrie: Unfortunately, you are not wearing your t-shirt that warrants a photograph.

Jonathan: Nothing to speak of here, other than sanity and eccentricity.

Carrie: We love both of those things.

Jonathan: We love both of those things and we’re going to continue on our eccentric FAQ. I just said that ‘E’ so hard that my neck muscle spasmed a little bit.

Carrie: It did. I concur. It did.

Jonathan: I have a sore neck. I just eccentrically exercised my neck. I’m trying to get one of those big necks that you see those linebackers with. It’s a big neck, no neck, false. Don’t want that.

Carrie: What are we talking about?

Jonathan: You don’t like my neck commentary.

Carrie: No. Let’s move on. No more neck.

Jonathan: Let’s start with FAQ questions here. It has to do with personal trainers and specifically my thoughts about personal trainers. A couple of angles to this question and it’s a great question. I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to answer it because I think folks might think that I think something different than I actually think. What do you think about that, Carrie?

Carrie: If anybody understands how your brain works, Jonathan, it would be a miracle. That’s what I think. Not that you’re at all complex.

Jonathan: No, very simple, so simple. As we talked about previously, there’s a couple of ways the question is phrased. One is “Jonathan, are you trying to put personal trainers out of business? Because you’re saying you need to do these five exercises. That’s it, you’re trying to put personal trainers out of business.” or “What is the point of a trainer?” Another question is — that’s actually it. What do you think about that? A couple of things here, no, I’m not trying to put personal trainers out of business. I was a personal trainer before Smarter Science of Slim and personally I see the number one role of a trainer is to be a coach, someone that holds you accountable and someone that motivates you. I see a personal trainer almost a bit more as a life coach and I think good personal trainers are almost like a therapist in some ways. They’re someone that you are accountable to and that helps you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Carrie: There is absolutely nothing like a bit of accountability.

Jonathan: Right. Should you use a personal trainer? Anything that you can do to help you attain your best life you should do.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: Another thing that trainers are great for is they’re great to make sure that you’re doing these exercises properly. In fact, this is actually Jonathan Bailor going on the record. “I think everyone should do the following and this is going to be great for the personal training community. Before you start exercising eccentrically let go over the five exercises we talked about doing. Let’s talk about the gym ones and the home ones. The gym ones we talked about: eccentric leg press; we talked about eccentric pull up; we talked about eccentric chest press; we talked about eccentric shoulder press. That’s actually four exercises. Excuse me.

Then at home it’s the same thing except just with body weights. So, eccentric assisted squats; eccentric assisted pull ups; eccentric assisted push ups; and eccentric assisted shoulder press. Working with a trainer to ensure you got proper form on those things is a fantastic idea and everyone should do it and everyone can do it. Well, everyone who has a gym membership can because most gyms, at least every gym I’ve ever been to, will give you one free personal training session because it gives the personal trainer an opportunity to introduce themselves; to kind of explain to you what they do, that they will give you their service for free for generally an hour. If you went to them and you say “I read this book, I listened to this podcast. I would like to do these exercises but I’d like to make sure I’m doing it correctly.” The trainer will, free of charge, show you what to do with the hopes of garnering your business in the future. So that’s great.

The thing to I would say is be careful of — and there’s things to be careful of with anything in life, it’s not you need the trainers, it that the trainers want to help you. There are also trainers just like there’s new car sales people, that genuinely want to sell you a car that’s going to make you happy and keep you safe and there’s other car sales people who just want to sell you a car and don’t care about it. The thing that I would recommend is watching out for trainers who will over complicate exercise to keep themselves in business.

Now, if you want to be an elite athlete and you’re looking to shave one second off your sprint time or add one more pound to your bench press, a trainer is beautiful because they’re going to help you squeeze every last ounce of physical performance out of your body. But I feel like for a lot of our listeners, our goal isn’t to squeeze every last ounce of physical performance out of our body, it’s just practically and permanently be really happy with the way we feel and really happy with the way we look. And that’s really easy.

I think the role of a trainer in a SANE and eccentric lifestyle is one of accountability, one of coaching and one of almost friendship because, folks, if your goal is the goals we’re talking about here on this podcast, exercise really is simple and I would highly encourage you to be cautious of anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Because if they’re putting you on these balance balls and using these ropes, that’s just not necessary. Plenty of people achieve plenty of great results before any of those things existed.

Carrie: A lot of those things also — not that I’ve been in the gym for 20 years, but the likelihood or the opportunity for you to damage yourself using them is huge.

Jonathan: Yes. So, be careful not to let anyone overcomplicate exercise for you because it’s also the same thing with nutrition. So fitness has really — So let’s pop way out. The point of exercise. There’s two points from a science perspective when it comes to metabolic health. One is just general health and well-being. And we talked about things like just being active, so walking around, taking the stairs and being active. That is great. The body was meant to move. It needs to move. If you never move around, you turn into the characters from the movie Wall-E where they can’t even stand up because their bones have deteriorated, right. So we want to stay active and then when we talk about more intense and safe forms of exercise, all we’re trying to do is take as much of our muscle as possible and get it to contract. That’s it. Like all of this other stuff is just more ways to do that but, they’re just not necessary.

Carrie: Well, I think it depends. You got to figure out why you are doing something. If you’re jogging to lose weight, it’s never going to work. If you’re jogging because you jog with a girlfriend, and that’s your bonding time, fabulous! But, if you think that’s helping you to lose weight, you’re mistaken.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Carrie: I think you have to figure out why you’re doing whatever activity it is and make sure that you’re actually getting the result that you’re trying to get.

Jonathan: Let’s be very clear, folks. There’s exercise physiology. I’m never claiming to be the expert in that arena but when we talked about exercise physiology, I’m talking about people like physical therapist. People who could take a body that’s been broken and they can teach it how to move again. They are brilliant, brilliant people in this field and if you have an injury or if you have a pre-existing condition, those are great reasons to work with a qualified trainer or physical therapist and those are very specific circumstances and those people can help you.

If you have very specific goals like a specific sport or a specific movement, working with experts is a brilliant thing to do, but let’s remember that our goal here is very general and is very simple. Just like eating is very simple when our goal is just lifelong health and wellness because it has to be, because people were healthy and well long before anyone knew what a calorie was and then counted them and people were healthy and well long before gyms existed, let alone hung from balanced ropes on a ball with one leg in the air while your trainer makes you slim a ball against the wall or something like that.

You don’t need that so let’s keep it simple. Let’s keep it safe but let’s keep ourselves accountable and if your trainer helps you to do that without making you feel exercise is complicated, which good trainers will. Good trainers, people that are exercise physiologist, they know this. They’re not the people propagating these trends and gimmicks, but let’s not let the few, the minority who are doing that dissuade an entire industry because the personal training, physical therapist, exercise physiology industry is brilliant and does a lot of good for a lot of people. Let’s just make sure we go in with our eyes wide open.

Carrie: Good advice.

Jonathan: Make sense?

Carrie: I would probably never go to the gym but that’s okay.

Jonathan: Just one other thing to keep in mind in terms of buyer beware, understand that someone can call themselves a personal trainer after taking a two week course on the internet. Right? When I got married, you can become an ordained minister pretty easily. So, you also want to do a little bit of background like what kind of trainer they are. So just keep that in mind.

So speaking of exercise and trainers and things to be cautious about, something that is very popular now are, let’s call them ‘extreme exercise programs’. These DVD sets you see advertise on TV that are just, Oh my, look at how intense and insane this is. And it is just do an extreme workout. People have said, Jonathan, is that smarter exercise because it’s more intense? Carrie, what do you think?

Carrie: I think I don’t have a TV and I’m really happy about that.

Jonathan: Because you’re not seeing the…

Carrie: I have no idea what you are talking about but I can imagine.

Jonathan: Awesome infomercials. These come up at least once every five years. It’s pliometrics which is just explosive movements. It’s nothing new and the thing to keep in mind about these things is that you see all these ads about how effective they are. A couple of things to keep in mind. One, if you do anything that’s going to elevate heart rate extensively for 50 minutes a day, six days a week which is what most of these programs advocate, your body will change. The question is if that’s healthy and sustainable and if you will hurt yourself doing it or if you even can do it in the first place.

If you’re someone like me who has pre-existing injuries, I have a busted knee and a busted shoulder, or you’re not in great shape already or you’re a little bit older, it’s just immediately off the table. What I would say is, instead of me making some global proclamation about this is good and this is bad, I would advise you to consider three things before you consider any exercise program and that’s safety, sustainability and resistance. SSR.

Carrie: Always an acronym.

Jonathan: Let’s step through those one by one. Safety, when you’re deciding whether or not to engage on an exercise program, you got to ask “Is it safe?” You got to ask this before you think about anything else because if it’s not safe, run in the other direction because breaking your body’s ability to move a.k.a hurting yourself…

Carrie: It’s not good.

Jonathan: No, that’s…

Carrie: That’s insane.

Jonathan: We’re trying to be healthy here, not to hurt ourselves.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: If there are any unnecessary risks involved — so back to the trainer, if they’re asking you to stand on something that is difficult to stand on while you do bicep curls, you have to ask yourself why. That’s going to enable me to do less weight while I do bicep curls. It also has a higher risk of me falling over. Does it help me with my balance? Who cares?

Carrie: So what?

Jonathan: How often do you need to stand on one leg during the course of the day? Sure, it helps you, and rubbing an eraser back and forth on your hand will help you build a callous up, but why do you want a callous on your hand? It’s not a relevant thing. So it’s got to be safe. That’s why we love eccentric training. That’s why we love smarter interval training because it’s extremely safe.

Carrie: We love that.

Jonathan: Make sense?

Carrie: It makes sense.

Jonathan: Okay.

Carrie: That’s why I always say, be good. If you can’t be good, be careful.

Jonathan: Be careful, exactly. Sustainable, this is similar to safety but it’s not actually the same because we want to do — we talked about this before. Whatever we do to make our body healthy and fit, we have to keep doing or we won’t be healthy and fit anymore.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: Just like if you push the accelerator on your car to go 60 miles an hour on the freeway, then take the foot off the accelerator, we shouldn’t be surprised when the car decelerates.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: So whatever we are doing, it seems obvious, but it’s common sense but it’s not common practice because any diet or exercise program that’s, do this for X days.” When you’re doing it, you’re, Oh my god. This is so terrible. I can’t imagine doing this. Stop, because you’re going to stop. Whether you stop today or you stop at two weeks or you stop in two months, you’re going to stop. In two years, it’s not going to matter that you did it.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: It has to be something sustainable and it’s another reason why I love exercising smarter because one eccentric workout a week for some of us is all we need. For some of us, we add in smarter interval training, and of course we stay active. We take the stairs. We walk around. That is amazingly sustainable, in fact, a lot of people think it’s enjoyable.

Carrie: Wow. Exercise is enjoyable.

Jonathan: But it is important to keep that in mind.

Carrie: I know.

Jonathan: We’re told do this for 12 weeks, do this when it’s extreme. If it’s not sustainable, it will not deliver sustainable results by definition, therefore, why waste your time with it.

Carrie: Yeah, and then you’ll probably end up in a worst position than you were when you started and then you’ll be sad.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Carrie: We don’t want that.

Jonathan: We talked about safety, we talked about sustainability and finally we have talked about resistance, because resistance really is the key to the results that the exercise generates for us. We talked about this a lot but I’ll briefly recap. The amount of resistance we use determines the amount and type of muscle fibers we activate and we know that the more muscle fibers we activate and the “deeper those fibers are, the more of a clog clearing or hormonally healing response that triggers in our body” a.k.a the healthier and slimmer we become. If we’re going to do an exercise, we have to do an exercise, or let’s put it this way, we would be best served of doing an exercise that allows us to easily add resistance.

Now, that’s not the case for a lot of movements. For example, running. There is not a safe way to increase resistance while running. You could strap weights to your back or to your ankles but that increases the force on your joints. That increases impact so you can’t do that. If you want to do an aerobics class, you could do a longer aerobics class or you could do aerobics classes more frequently but that’s not going to work more muscle fibers. That’s just going to work the same muscle fibers over and over and over again. This is why we love resistance training. This is why we love cardiovascular machines that allow us to increase resistance, because we can just safely and easily increase the resistance.

We don’t have to do it more frequently. We don’t have to do it for longer periods of time. We can just increase the resistance. Before you pick any exercise program, I don’t care how intense it says it is, if there’s no way for you to, let’s say, infinitely increase the resistance as you get stronger in a safe way… You can’t just keep sprinting faster and faster and faster that tops out. Once you exercise seven days a week I guess you could exercise twice a day but that’s just silly. Why not just pick a form of exercise that will infinitely allow you to use more resistance and therefore it gets better and better and better. That’s what I say.

Carrie: That sounds so sensible.

Jonathan: It’s safe, it’s sustainable and it allows us to add resistance “infinitely and safely.” Getting back to the questions. It’s everyone is different, when people asked me about any exercise program, especially these infomercial type extreme programs, I say “Ask yourself three questions. How likely am I to get hurt doing this? Will I be able to do this consistently for the rest of my life? Can I increase resistance without increasing risk? If you answer no, you are likely to get hurt. You can’t do this forever. You can’t really add resistance without increasing risk.

Carrie: Don’t do it.

Jonathan: Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Keep it simple. Stay eccentric and get smarter with your interval training. Easy enough?

Carrie: I am a big fan of short, simple and easy, especially if it gives me the killer body.

Jonathan: And the killer feeling.

Carrie: And the killer feeling.

Jonathan: The next question. This is a little bit of a random one and it’s a little bit dated but it does come up. I don’t know if listeners remember this but I think two years back at this point. There was a story in the news about a professor who wanted to “prove that weight is just all about the calories in, the calories out” Conscious regulation of calories in and calories out, let me rephrase that so he went on a “Twinkie diet” and lost 27 pounds and said, All I’m going to do is eat junk food but I’m going to eat 1400 calories of it and look, I’ll lose weight and doesn’t disprove that…

Carrie: This calorie myth.

Jonathan: That it’s just conscious regulation of calories. The thing that I actually love about the story is it shows how twisted this whole conversation has gotten. It’s as if eating 1200 calories of Twinkies causes you to lose? Well sure, of course, just stop eating food entirely and you’re going to lose weight. You can chop off your leg and you’re going to lose weight. The question is “Are you doing something that’s enjoyable? Are you doing something that is going to help you live a long and happy life? Is it something that is going to achieve the long results you want?” Yes, this professor for twelve weeks or however long it was did this and lost 27 pounds but he felt like crap and he called it an experiment because it was. It was an experiment so the question…

Carrie: He didn’t expect to be able to or wanted to do it forever.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Carrie: He did it for a period of time.

Jonathan: And if you stop eating you will lose weight. Just to give you poor gasoline on your garden, no weeds will grow but you’re destroying everything else so the question is not — again folks, I think we all know this because hopefully you’ve listened to a couple of our podcast and maybe checked out the book. The goal of the Smarter Science of Slim is clearly not weight loss and I actually don’t think that’s our goal if we look a level deeper. Our goal is to long term be happy with the way we feel and be happy with the way we look. and just to be happy in general. Counting calories does not facilitate that.

Carrie: You mean you don’t love counting calories, Jonathan?

Jonathan: If a lot of exercise facilitates that for you, that’s fine. Go ahead and do it but let’s just remember our goal. An individual that I worked with who is a very, very smart woman says that “Weight loss is not an end, it’s a means. It’s something.” We want that because we actually want what we think it will result in which is a positive feeling about ourselves and we can achieve that positive feeling in much healthier and much more sustainable ways. So, when you see these things like “Can you eat 1,200 calories of Twinkies and lose weight?” Sure, it’s just irrelevant. Yeah, you can but why? Why would you? Who cares? Right I don’t get it. Maybe I’m missing something. I don’t know.

Carrie: No, I was just thinking what your colleague said reminded me that that’s just the best new reason to throw away your scale because it’s about being happy and when you get to that place where you’re happy with how you feel and how you look, the numbers don’t matter. The weight doesn’t matter and comparing yourself to someone else who may wear a dress size that’s two sizes smaller, it doesn’t matter. If you’re happy with how you feel and how you look, that’s all that matters.

Jonathan: Absolutely. And that’s one area that I’ll dig into. Being comfortable with the way you feel and the way you look, this is something that is to each their own but specifically, in regards to this Twinkie experiment, there are some things which we can’t look at with some objective certainty. For example, having a certain size waist circumference is predictive of some bad news down the road and having a certain level of HDL cholesterol to glycerides is unhealthy and there are things we could do to lose weight which are going to compromise all those other things.

So like health can be judge pretty objectively, so let’s have a strategy that enables us to feel great about ourselves while also honoring our body and delivering results which are pretty objective. That’s why we just got to watch out for these gimmicky, temporary weight loss things because they don’t help us achieve those aesthetic goals in the long term and they actually actively hurt those much more demonstrable scientific health goals that really in the grand scheme of things. They’re like “When you’re 85, you didn’t care how you look. You’re going to care how you feel.” Let’s make sure we set ourselves up for success.

Carrie: The irony is if you focus on health by default, you’re going to get everything else.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Carrie: If you aim for the health, your body will overtime, as Jonathan always told us, it will regulate the calories and the weight and the fat and all those other things and it will do it organically. Naturally, it will do it on your own, so if we focus on health everything else will come.

Jonathan: It may be very easy if you play this podcast for someone who’s unfamiliar with the science to think that what Carrie just said is just like woo-woo. “Like oh, your body will mystically take care of everything.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me give you a concrete example. We all understand that our blood sugar is regulated by our body. Like if you’re all familiar with nutritional science, if you’re familiar with blood sugar and you’re familiar with insulin and how when you eat food your blood sugar goes up, your body releases insulin and it releases insulin so that the blood sugar levels go down. That’s automatically regulated.

Nobody who is not diabetic is “Oh, my god! What are my insulin levels like? What are my blood sugar levels like? I need to balance them out.” Because a healthy body automatically regulates blood sugar levels. A healthy body also automatically regulates blood pressure levels. It also automatically regulates sodium levels and potassium levels and all these other things that we don’t think about for a second, and it also automatically regulates body composition. However, if we break our body, it starts to regulate our body composition around a different point. Just like a diabetic is regulating their blood sugar. It’s just regulating it around too high of a level, a toxic level.

And that’s why someone with hypertension, their body is still automatically regulating their blood pressure just add an unhealthy level so the body always works to achieve homeostasis and we all get this. And we all know that diabetes doesn’t disprove that blood sugar is automatically regulated any more than obesity disproves that body weight is automatically regulated. All those conditions prove is that if we have an unhealthy body, things that normally would be regulated around healthy set points, are regulated around unhealthy set points.

And to Carrie’s point, if you heal your body, it will automatically regulate you around healthy points. It’s not woo-woo. It’s actually as scientific as it gets. If you want to learn more about it, go to a site called Pubmed and type in homeostatic regulation of weight. You will find hundreds of journal articles on this very interesting subject. So it’s not woo-woo and it’s actually very, very exciting.

Carrie: It’s true.

Jonathan: It’s true.

Carrie: It’s all true. Focus on the health and everything else will come.

Jonathan: The one question though, that I think remains, Carrie, is that people say, Well, I’m healthy. This will be the last FAQ for this week’s podcast because I think it’s a good one, and on it will entice some things up. Is my body automatically working to regulate me and keep me healthy? What’s the deal with getting older? Because it seems it’s harder and harder and harder to keep fat off and out of the body as we get older, and if our body is automatically regulating us, why is that happening?” A couple of things we talked about, the set point is a fundamental condition of two things: our genetics and our hormones. As we age our hormones change. Right? Humans in their natural state — our genome is programmed, we were living a lot longer than our genes are used to living. Let’s put it that way. Over time as we get older, our hormone levels changed and as our hormone levels change it’s only because of, let’s call it social pressures. A female who weighs X amount of weight is not quote unquote heavy or slim outside of what society says she is, right?

Saying that it’s harder to be slim as you get older, well the body changes as we get older so what is slim for 50 year old, is not the same as what’s slim for a 25 year old. We’ve got two different people here with two different levels of hormones and therefore, the body is regulating them around different set points. If you want to get really geeky, fat or adipose tissue is actually an immuno organ in the body so there’s a scientific thought in the fact that as we get older, our body naturally starts to store more fat to protect us from disease, as the rest of our body begins to break down.

The key point here again, just like getting older, sometimes causes blood pressure to regulate around a higher set point or blood sugar to regulate around a higher set point, our body compositions to regulate around a higher set point. These are functions of hormonal changes in our body which are not inevitable and which we can most dramatically and easily control by changing the quality of our food and the quality of exercise. So, it’s nothing to fear, it’s just something to be aware of, that our hormones changes as we age. Therefore, we need to change our diet and exercise quality as we age to stay at the level of fitness and health that we want to.

Carrie: Having been on the dark side, adds a lot of analysis, have particularly the girls with all these hormones that we have to deal with, to me, it’s so exciting to know that we do actually control them. We can control them.

Jonathan: Let’s be very clear right now. A male who’s 80 years old will never naturally have the same level of testosterone in his body as he did when he was 18. It’s just this is not going to happen naturally and it’s okay. That’s okay. We’re not immortal, right? We’re not immortal, but we can do in leverage the best science has to offer to be the best “us” that we can be.

Carrie: At any given age.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Carrie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Just like we don’t dress the same as we did when we’re 18. Things change over time and that’s all good. Well hopefully, I was helpful, folks. It’s been a blast as always. Carrie Brown and Jonathan Bailor are eating more, we’re exercising less but we’re doing it smarter. Have a good week. See you soon.


This week:
– Would you recommend that I work with a personal trainer?
– What do you think about exercise programs such as P90X or Insanity?
– What about the professor who ate a Twinke diet and lost 27 pounds?
– As we age it seems harder to keep fat off. Why is that and is there anything we can do about it?