My Wake Up Call

My Wake Up Call

By: Ben S. Fogel

I think at some point in all of our lives, we will have a proverbial “wake up” call. Something that made you change course in your life.  

A near fatal accident in your car while driving and texting.

A health scare either caused by your lifestyle choices, or not.

A conversation you had with someone older and wiser then you that got you to make a change in your life. 

Or maybe at some point in life you made the choice to “wake up” to the fact that maybe your current actions are not in congruence with the person that you want to become.  Or maybe you haven’t yet, and if that is the case keep reading… 

It doesn’t always take a life altering event to make a massive change in a better direction.  

Although, in my life – it did.  

October 13th, 2015.  Yes, this was also Friday the 13th.  Coincidence, I think not.  

This was the day I received a call from my gastrointestinal Doctor after months and months of tests – poking and prodding – and after two liver biopsies.  He finally had an answer for what was causing me super abnormally high liver enzyme levels (think like a fatty liver, or what you can get with alcoholism).  

When he called the first thing he asked me was “Are you sitting down for this?”  I am now. 

Then he went on “The good news is we finally figured out what is causing all of this inflammation in your liver.  The last biopsy showed that you have a very rare form of Leukemia, Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia, and it has infiltrated your liver.” 

I. Was. Speechless.  

He went on “The bad news is, well, I don’t treat cancers but I do know a great Oncology team that I feel can help you.”  

That was the call.  I remember it so vividly.  I was getting my oil changed, and right there in public I had no idea what to do next.  

All the thoughts running through my head were “Do I call Amy (my wife) first, or my Dad? What about my Mom?  Wait, she will freak out, don’t call her.”  

Honestly, I didn’t know what to think at that moment.  So I just sat and focused hard in that present moment at what I had in my life.  

Two kids under the age of 3.  An amazingly supportive wife.  A brand new business venture that was less than 2 years old.  I had a lot of “new” things in my life, and now this was another “new” thing to deal with.  

This new thing was different.  This was my “wake up” call.  

(There I am after one of my Bone Marrow Biopsies.  Not the most fun time)

It woke me up to realize how valuable every moment in my life was, especially with my family and my kids.   

It woke me up to focus on all the things I could control.

My attitude.

My mindset.

My actions. 

My time (and how I used or abused it).

I had a very good reason now to put myself first.  For the 2 years previous to this that wasn’t the case. I was working “In” my business between 80-100 hours a week.  This was not sustainable.  I knew this.  But, if it weren’t for my wake up call, I may have stayed “in it” for much, much longer.  

At one of my first visits with my Cancer specialists, they told me how bad things really were.  “50/50 chance of survival, but you do have your age and health on your side.”  

That’s when I remember I saw this quote somewhere:

A person who has their health, has a thousand dreams. But the person that’s lost their health, has only one dream.” 

The average age of someone with the type of Leukemia I had was mid 70’s.  I was diagnosed at 35.  Also, I was 6 years removed from competing at World Cup and World Championship level in the sport of Bobsled (and was actually preparing a comeback to the sport, and it was a sports physical that found the initial elevated liver enzymes).  

Looking in the camera, Winterberg, Germany

I am saying all of this because the Doctor’s were right.  I did have a lot of things on my side.  But I was starting to rely on my genetics, and was “too busy” to stay as healthy as I was in the past.  

I needed to make a change, and this diagnosis forced it on me.  

What did I change?  A lot.  Here were just a few things:

  • My focus shifted from trying to work on “everything” in my business to asking for help from my staff and delegating much more.
  • I prioritized my sleep much more – no more days of 5 hours or less of sleep – I strived for 7. 
  • I focused on antioxidant rich foods (mainly working to eat vegetables at almost every meal) because I knew I was missing this, and had the control to change my nutrition.
  • I carved out time for self care.

This was a complete mindset shift, and the shift came from staring at my mortality straight in the face and saying “Wait a minute, I have some say in this.  Maybe I can’t control whether or not the medication works, but I can control all these other inputs in my life.”  

Fast forward and I was in treatment until October, 2017 and have been in remission for almost 5 years now.  

You don’t need a huge life event to make a change in your life.  All you need is that internal switch in your mind to go off and to tell yourself “Enough is enough, I am ready to focus on me now.”  

So take a moment, sit down and focus on it at this moment.  What can you do right now to make one tiny change in your life?  That tiny change may be the tipping point to a different future for you and your family, like it was for me…

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Why “Slow and Steady” always wins the race

Why “Slow and Steady” always wins the race

By: Ben S. Fogel

There are so many internet businesses out there that are spending millions and millions of dollars to buy your eyes and attention to purchase that next “quick fix” – the next “Magic Pill.”  

The more money they spend on advertising the next pill, potion, supplement, or challenge, the more money they make – AND the more people they lead down a path that is not sustainable.  

After spending over 16 years in the health and fitness industry, and working with thousands of clients, I can confidently say there is NO magic pill.  There is no quick fix that will target that “stubborn belly fat” or that will “melt away” body fat like never before.  

What all of these amazing marketers are not telling you is that the real magic pill is consistency over time and having the discipline to stay the course.  


(Are you the Tortoise, or the Hair?)

Actually, I have an equation for being able to create sustainable healthy change over the long term:

CONSISTENCY (HABITS) + DISCIPLINE + DESIRE = SUSTAINABLE RESULTS

My advice is this: stop throwing money away at the “next big thing” or some crazy supplement that your co-worker started to take and is telling you about.  Start investing in daily health habits that will build consistency over time. 

If all you did was drink plenty of water, ate adequate protein (At least .75 grams/pound of BW – see link HERE for more info.), and had vegetables at most meals you would be well on your way for just about any health, wellness, performance goal.  

Now, I will admit this equation above is simple, but not easy.  How do you start to build consistency?  By building small habits (Check out my article here all about how to make an “implementation intention” and to start to build consistency).  

Small habits then start to lead to “routine” and this is really the secret sauce.  The more unconscious we can make our habits lead into a daily routine, the more success we will have.  The more habits we can “stack” upon the others, the more likely we will start to “run downhill” as I like to say (Check out the easiest way to “habit stack” here!).

Next in the equation is discipline.  Can you remember a time in your life when you had a specific goal that you were working towards, and you had to get a little uncomfortable to achieve said goal?  

Maybe you had a goal to run a marathon and getting up every other morning to run a new distance got you a little uncomfortable, but you built the “discipline muscle” and did it every day because it was going to get you closer to your goal of running a marathon.  

Or maybe you were studying for an important final exam in school, and you knew you had to hit a certain grade to make the grade you wanted in that class.  So, what did you do?  You probably scheduled out time in your day (time you thought previously you didn’t even have) to study and work on the problems you knew were going to be on the test.  And then you succeeded.  

Discipline is a valuable character, and when combined with consistency, it can help you become unstoppable in accomplishing any goal you set in front of you.  

Lastly, but definitely not least is desire.  Desire is probably the strongest part of this equation.  If you don’t have a strong “Why” as we call it in the gym – a strong reason for WHY you are actually doing what you are doing, then it will be difficult to follow through with the consistency and discipline to get you there.  

Here are some questions you can ask yourself that will help lead you to your “Why”:  

  • Why is achieving this goal so important to you?
  • Why now?
  • What would happen in your life if you made this change, and achieved your goal?
  • What would be the consequence in your life if you did nothing, and made no change?

Build up your “desire” muscle strong enough that even when you do fall off the wagon, you can quickly jump back on.  

So next time you pull out your phone and see some fancy ad for a new fat loss strategy, or a new pill that is guaranteed to melt fat off your body, think back to all of the things that you have control over.   

You have control over your consistency (your daily habits), your discipline, and your desire.  Nobody can take those characteristics away from you!

Ready to start your journey of consistency over time?  We have a few spots left for our VIP 30 Day Experience.  Check it out before the spaces are gone!

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Play in the Present

How to “Play in the Present”

Time seems to be just flying by!  Can you remember March of 2020?  Doesn’t it feel like yesterday?  The Pandemic seemed to put us in some sort of warp speed, or time travel.  Where hours moved faster and the days, weeks and months just flew on by.  

Now more than ever is a time when we should be focusing on the present.  Being in the present moment allows so much more clarity in our lives, and will ultimately lead to so much more joy. 

But, it is much harder to focus on the present and actually…be present.  So today, I wanted to offer some insights on how to work on being more present and how this practice actually lowers stress and helps you feel much better.   

First off, if we are “dragging on” about the past, or “getting anxious” about the future we will tend to lose focus on the “right now.”  One of the first things that increases stress in our lives is stressing about the past or the future.  

I love this definition of stress with this amazing quote from Eckhart Tolle:

“Stress is the desire for things to be different than they are in this present moment.”  

Read that line above one more time…let it really sink in.  

Here are a few steps for lowering stress:

  1. Acceptance – Accept that what is going on around you is outside your control.  Stress doesn’t come from events and circumstances; rather stress comes from our response or our resistance to those events and circumstances.  Remember, it is not the events in our lives that define us, it is the meaning that we attach to the event that matters.  
  2. Victim mentality – We are no longer a victim to the events going on in the world.  We get to choose our response to each situation.  Remember, you always have the “keys to the car.”  Pull yourself away from having the “victim mentality.”
  3. Applying Focus – Take a moment, in the moment to focus on the present and to take a deep breath and be grateful for the moment you are in.  This can be something as simple as counting 10 deep breaths and only being focused on your breathing, and nothing more.  

One of the best quotes I have heard for the definition of living in the present moment is this:

“To be where your feet are.”

Once you have focused on lowering your stress levels, here are 3 steps for being able to “play in the present moment” and to be where your feet are:

  1. Just focus on the next “play” in your life.  Don’t worry about the play that just happened, focus on what you are going to do next in this present moment. 
  2. Focus on what you have control over.  I love to say “Control the Controllables.”  Focusing on your own attitude and effort can be the two biggest levers you can use to play big in your present moments.  
  3. Focus on the process, not the outcome.  

I want to dive in a little bit more on why focusing on the process is so much more valuable than purely focusing on the outcome.  

First off, I want to say that focusing on outcome based goals can be a good way to focus on more short term goals.  For example, if you have a wedding you want to get ready for in 6 weeks and want to look and feel a certain way in that wedding gown, you may have specific nutritional habits you will focus on or you may also be working out more intensely until your “moment” comes.  

In sports, having short term, outcome based goals happen all the time.  

When I competed at the highest level nationally and internationally for 7 years in the sport of Bobsled.  The outcome goal every 4 years was to win a gold medal.  Even though I never won a gold medal, looking back it was actually the process of showing up day after day and training for 6-8 hours each day that made that part of my life more fulfilling.  I would even argue that by me learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable and doing hard things made me more resilient in my life right now.  

I know a lot of athletes that medaled at the Olympic Games – this was the ultimate outcome based goal – and when they reached the top of that mountain, they had no idea what to do next. In fact, they felt lost, depressed, even defeated for not knowing what next steps to take next in their life.  

This is where having process based goals are so important.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination.”  

I know this is one of the most overused quotes out there, but it is true.  Joy is not always found in finishing a goal, but actually in the processes it takes to get you there. 

If you can get one takeaway from this post, this might be it:

If you can detach from the outcome, and just love the process and the work involved to get you there, you will be well on your way.  

On the other hand, when outcomes and results in your life start to define your self-worth, that is when you will invariably start to have problems – mentally, emotionally and physically.  

The “One Brick at a time” Analogy

If I was tasked with building a brick wall, I feel I have the confidence that I can build a brick wall.  Even though I have zero training in building a brick wall; I have no masonry training, and have never done it before.  But I am still highly confident I can do it. The reason is, I have trained myself to not worry about the end result – not to worry about the finished product of the brick wall.  

Instead, I am going to put all my focus into laying each and every brick – one by one – with care and precision.  If I can take one brick, and set it exactly where it needs to go, then grab the next brick and set it exactly where it needs to go – and if I do that consistently and over time, the wall will just take care of itself.  I don’t have to be worried about the wall (the outcome), I just need to be focused on laying one brick at a time (the process).  

The brick wall analogy really hit home personally for me.  It helped me realize the piece that most people are missing in the equation when they are looking for results – and that is TIME.  Time helps compound your results, and when you keep your effort level the same, and compound it with time, you will always do better than looking at short term fixes, diets, fads, cleanses (or anything else in your life, really!).   

Here is the equation I love to use when thinking of a process based goal:

Effort x Consistency x Time = Results

Time is usually the one missing variable in goal setting, and in feeling better about enjoying the process.  

Outcome based goals in action

Our Epic Fitness Rockstars are being challenged to complete 100 workouts between July 1st and December 31st.  It is the halfway point of the year, and so much of the time we look back at the last 6 months and think, “What happened?”  Remember that New Year’s Resolution?  How did that work out for you?  That was more than likely an outcome based goal.

The 100 Workout Challenge is a processed based goal and challenge.  We want all of our members to focus on the process of consistency, and when paired with effort and time, they will be rewarded with a body that can do more for them than when they started on day 1.  

Want to learn more about the 100 workout challenge, or even do it with us?!  Check it all out below, as we would love to be in your corner during the next 6 months of your fitness and health journey.  And if you are a member, don’t forget to sign up in person at the gym!

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Fitness After 40

Fitness over 40 – How to thrive as you age with your fitness and health

By: Ben Fogel

I was recently asked by a client about this topic, and more specifically questions around these 3 categories of fitness for folks over the age of 40.  Here were the questions we are going to answer today. 

How does a body over 40:

  1. Work out as effectively and efficiently as possible while avoiding injury?
  2. Gain muscle and flexibility?
  3. Work out for the best cardiovascular health?

How does a body over 40 work out as effectively and efficiently as possible while avoiding injury? 

The secret as you age lies in the adage “little and often over the long haul.”  Being over 40 myself, I am constantly reminded of this.  When I was in my 20’s, intense workout bouts (often two-a-days) were the norm when I was competing in the sport of Bobsled.  Then, as happens more often than not, life (and life goals) change.

Looking in the camera, Winterberg, Germany – 2004

Now, at 42, I am prioritizing my recovery from workouts that are far less frequent.  My goal is to strength train 3x/week, and this is also what we recommend to all of our clients at Epic since it is the most attainable and achievable.  It is also what we find to not only be the best “minimum effective dose” and helps our clients get the best results.  

So, we recommend strength training 3x/week along with prioritizing great sleep, supportive nutrition, and even soft tissue work.  In this way, we are able to hit our workouts with great effort each time.  Trying to go all out every single day is not at all what we recommend.  Although we do support and recommend some sort of movement every day (whether it be walks, rucks, metabolic classes, etc) we don’t recommend training at an all-out intensity every day.  

In addition to this, your workouts should be structured in a way in which you are changing your volume and intensity on a weekly and monthly basis, which will help enhance your recovery and help you stay your strongest as you age.  At Epic Fitness, every member has their very own custom program that will progress in volume and intensity each month.  

Lastly, and probably one of the most important points here – Warming up is often the most highly overrated part of the workout, but is truly the most important piece.  Your body needs the extra time to “ramp up” and prepare for the strength training session.  Elevating your heart rate, and getting your joints mobilized may be the best thing you can do each and every time prior to your workouts.  

How does a body over 40 gain muscle and flexibility?  

Gaining muscle as we age can have many roadblocks, but it is not impossible to accomplish.  As our hormones change, along with many of the other factors above, it can be very hard to realize strength and muscle gains.  However, the best way to maintain (and gain) muscle is with a consistent strength training routine.  

So, to answer the question of if you can actually gain muscle over 40 – we say a resounding YES – but with these qualifiers: 

  • Your level of training volume and intensity is appropriate (3x/week strength training)
  • You are eating sufficient protein daily (at least .7 grams and up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight).
  • You are getting minimum 7 hours of sleep a night
  • Your calorie intake is sufficient (not in a calorie deficit of over 200 calories per day)

When it comes to flexibility, the quality of our tissue changes over time.  As we age, our muscles and joints need a little extra TLC to maintain mobility.  Training movements with a full range of motion, along with prioritizing your warm up and tissue quality all become massively important here.  

How does a body over 40 work out best for cardiovascular health?  

For cardiovascular health, one of the best things you can do is strength training.  What you sometimes don’t realize is that when you strength train, there will be large variations in your heart rate.  This is what we want for cardiovascular health, lots of peaks and valleys with your heart rate. 

During a training session, the more you can bring your heart rate up to 75-85% of your max, then recover between 15-20%, the more efficient your heart will become.  In addition, one of the most overrated exercises that you can do ANYWHERE is walking.  Especially when you add some hills, and maybe even a backpack on your back (also known as rucking!). 

As little as 15-20 minutes of walking a day can have such a positive impact not only on your cardiovascular health, but also on your sleep, your mood (catching those Vitamin D waves!) and your overall health.  

Final Thoughts…

I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about how your mindset plays a huge role in all of this.  You can truly improve both the quality and quantity of your life by adopting these lifestyle habits we touched on above.  

It also feels like the entire conversation about aging should be changing for the better.  At this moment, in 2022, there are scientists out there (Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard has written a landmark book about this called Lifespan) that has proven if you live into the next 10 years, science will have changed so much to change the human lifespan by decades!  Yes, you heard that right.  What we thought were our final years in our 70’s or 80’s will be more like our 100’s to 110’s!  Cell regeneration will be a thing – just imagine every cell in your liver being able to regenerate to the day you were born… this IS the future.  

The reason I am bringing this up is because you STILL have to take care of your body, as you only have one.  Working out, eating healthy, and recovery are all a massively huge part of living your 70’s and 80’s like it is your 40’s and 50’s.  Because, by the time we get there 30 years down the road, that is what we should be ready for.  No longer will we be calling this our “Golden” years, but our likely our gold years where we are still thriving and feeling amazing!  

At least this is the future that I am looking forward to.  I look forward to my next workout, because I know how much it will help me feel great at 85, and still move and feel my best.  

Now, the only question I have for you is this:

Are you with me?! 

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Fundamentals of Fat Loss Part 4 – Protein

Fundamentals of Fat Loss Part IV – Eat Plenty of Protein

In Part I found here, we talked about an overview of what we need to do to lose fat. In Part II here, we covered burning more calories than what you take in (a calorie deficit).  In Part III found here, we discussed  the secret weapon of fat loss: strength training. Today, we will be talking about how to up your protein game.   

As a reminder, you need to consistently do 3 things to make your body burn fat:

  • Burn more calories than you take in
  • Strength train 3 days per week
  • Get plenty of protein
     

To start, let’s uncover what protein actually is. Protein is an energy containing macronutrient that is responsible for or has a hand in virtually every process in the body. For the purposes of this post, it is vital in repairing and restructuring muscle and other tissues.

Outside of that it is important in other cellular structures, immunity and enzymatic processes. It’s an important part of optimizing body processes, including fat loss. Common protein containing foods are things like chicken, beef, beans, soy, and dairy.

When you start as a new member at Epic Fitness,  we give some baseline guidelines for calories and protein. Calories, to manage weight appropriately depending on the person’s immediate goals, and protein as a starting point to help folks understand it is a priority.  We also call this being in a “positive nitrogen balance” on a daily basis, especially when you are strength training.   

Here is the basis for why we want to be in a positive nitrogen balance, meaning we are eating enough protein to help us towards our goals of fat loss/muscle gain/maintenance (fill in the blank!):

  • First, remember that fat loss is about cannibalizing your own body’s tissue for fuel because of a “fuel shortage”
  • Your body will make up the caloric deficit from its own tissue – Fat or Protein – You get to choose!  You will cannibalize your protein stores if you are not getting sufficient amounts of protein.  
  • You get to direct the Tissue Cannibalization – By creating a Positive Nitrogen Balance.

Now, you may be asking “How do I create this positive nitrogen balance?”  It is as simple as these 3 steps:

    1. When you eat protein, your body breaks the protein down into amino acids.
    2. Those amino acids are then used to repair and grow new muscle fibers.
    3. When you consume an adequate amount of protein, your body will experience a Positive Nitrogen Balance.

The next question always is, “Well, what is adequate for protein intake then?”

Well, there are a lot of bad recommendations out there. The RDA (Registered Dieticians Association) recommendation is .8g/kg of body weight is around HALF of what you should actually be getting in your diet as an active, healthy adult.  You should be closer to 1.6 g/kg BW. 

But let’s actually make this super simple and talk about this in pounds of body weight (since we are the last country to be doing things imperially!)

Our baseline recommendation for protein intake is 0.75 g/pound of your current body weight.

So, if you weigh 160 pounds, start with 120 grams of protein per day. We use this number because it is approachable and attainable, and has some room to move up or down. That way, as you get going you can track how you are doing, adjust, and find your sweet spot as you get better at eating alongside with your strength training.

Note: This recommendation would change with someone who is looking to add size/mass or for someone who has a significant amount of weight to lose, as it would be simply unrealistic.

A common question we get is, “How do I increase my protein intake?”  There are a lot of ways to do this, but here are 3 general concepts that can help:

  1. Double up on protein you are already consuming:  Choose 4 eggs instead of 2 (24 g vs. 12g). 2 palm sized (3oz) servings of chicken at lunch on your salad, versus the 1 you used to eat (48g vs 24g). If you did the same at dinner, you’d be around 120-130g of protein, and that is only with meat and dairy examples!  You will still get some smaller amounts of protein from most foods. We use this concept with clients when it is clear that they under-eat at breakfast and lunch, then it usually makes dinner less controlled.  By emphasizing high protein at both of those first meals, we encouraged satiety so that you can make better decisions in the evening, as well as recover from your morning strength workouts. 
  2. The Rule of 10: Try and ask yourself how you can add another 10 grams of protein to each meal. So, maybe it’s another egg and some nuts. Another chicken sausage, 2 pieces of deli meat. Half a can of tuna. Half of a protein shake. A yogurt on the side. By the end of the day, adding an extra 10 grams of protein at each meal will get you another 30 grams. Over time this will pay huge dividends in conjunction with keeping your calories in check. Maybe this adds some “variety” to your meals, too! If this helps you hit your protein for the day, it’s going to lead to better results.
  3. Supplementation: There are tons of options out there, and thanks to modern food technology, most protein supplements taste MUCH better than they used to. We primarily want to get our protein from whole food sources; there are more nutrients, there are less ingredients, and they are generally more bioavailable. 

For most of us aiming to hit goals in the gym, supplementing can be a game changer in terms of rounding out our protein intake. Think about it this way – protein supplements are a way to always have a solid source of protein on hand, whether we are on the go or need a quick meal to get us to dinner. There are many varieties: whey and casein (dairy, fast and slow digesting), egg, plant based, collagen – they can all work just fine based on your preference. 

We typically suggest supplementing with protein immediately after workouts at the gym to fasttrack recovery and start refueling for the next workout. Or, if you want to add more to it, you can use frozen fruit, yogurt, or other ingredients to blend your shake into a full meal. This can help curb some calories too. All in all, protein supplements are a great way to get another 20-40g of protein each day.

We hope you found this information valuable and useful!  Want to have a chat about how we can help?  Click the link below to jump on a quick 5-10 minute discovery call to see if we could be a good fit for you!

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Fundamentals of Fat Loss #3

Fundamentals of Fat Loss – Part III

The Strength Secret

Welcome to Part III of the Fundamentals of Fat Loss!  In Part I, we gave an overview In Part II, I broke down what nutrition needs to look like.  In Part III we are going over the secret weapon of fat loss: Strength Training.  

As a reminder, you need to consistently do 3 things to make your body burn fat:

  • Burn more calories than you take in
  • Strength train 3 days per week
  • Get plenty of protein

So why strength training?  Why not any form of exercise or activity?  What defines strength training?  These are all the questions we will be answering below.  Strength training, is in fact, the “cheat code” to fat loss among many other things.   

If you aren’t getting measurably stronger over time, then it isn’t strength training

A lot of things get marketed as strength training.  Very few of them actually track your progress or make you measurably stronger over time.  Yes, most HIIT style classes say they’ll make you stronger but the reality is, speed is the priority in that training setting.  After 3-6 months, you’ve gotten all of the strength you’re going to get out of that format and now it’s just cardio.  The same light to medium weight training doing the same type of exercises quickly will only go so far. 

What Progressive Strength Training looks like

It is called “Progressive Resistance Exercise” for a reason.  When you start, it looks like a goblet squat with a 26 pound kettlebell, after a few weeks you’ve worked up from 26lbs to 53lbs.  Nice!  Now we might give you a more challenging variation like squatting with two kettlebells in a front rack position.  After a few weeks you’ve worked your weights up in that variation as well.  Now we might progress your variation to a barbell front squat and continue increasing your load.  There are other variations and other progressions but you get the point.  

(Here is Gwen deadlifting “The BEAST” (106 pounds).  She didn’t start here…)

You are always challenged and that brings continuous increases in strength and continuous adaptation to the challenge.  Without that progressive overload, you will stall out and stagnate.  We track all your progress and update your training routine as you get stronger every 4 or so weeks thanks to our customized digital programming app.  

Now that we are on the same page about what strength training is, let’s tell you why strength training is the fat loss secret weapon, the “cheat code” to fat loss.  

Progressive strength training preserves and builds lean muscle  

When you are burning more calories than you are taking in, your body needs to cannibalize its tissue to survive.  If you just do a bunch of cardio while you’re in a calorie deficit, you will lose a lot of muscle along with fat.  It’s because your body will try to cling to its energy stores unless you tell it that muscle is important.  That is where strength training shines.  

It sends the signal to your body that muscle is important and can’t be cannibalized as fuel in that calorie deficit.  When you prioritize strength training, and when protein as a primary fuel source is present (we will get more into this strategy in the next blog post!), your body has no choice but to start burning off your excess fat.  

This is the most important part of this strategy: The combination of a calorie deficit, strength training, and getting plenty of protein FORCES your body to burn fat.  

Progressive strength training burns comparable calories during the workout to other modalities 

The idea that cardio burns more calories than strength training is based on junk science with two massive blind spots.  

Blind spot #1 –  Heart rate monitors have been used to measure calories burned during a workout.  But that’s not what they measure.  They measure your heart rate, make an estimation of how much oxygen you’ve used, and then estimate how many calories you’ve burned.  But remember, this is just an estimate.

But what about calories burned without the use of oxygen?  AKA – Anaerobic Training (also known as Anaerobic Threshold training).  The monitors can’t measure how much sugar is in your blood or liver or how much ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) in your muscle cells you’ve burned.  It’s measuring only one piece of your body’s energy puzzle.  Without real time muscle biopsies (ouch!) it’s impossible to know exactly, but you are likely burning comparable calories to cardio when you are engaging in challenging, progressive strength training.  

Blind Spot #2 – Progressive strength training supercharges your metabolism  

The other MASSIVE blind spot is that it’s not about how many calories you burn during your workout.  It’s about how many calories you burn AFTER your workout too.  This is known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) or the “after burn”.  The point of strength training for fat loss is not just the calories during your workout.  The recovery from that progressive strength challenge turbocharges your metabolism and your body pulls from its fat stores to get the energy needed to recover your muscles.  

With wearable technology like smartwatches, whoop straps, and Oura rings, you can see the difference.  Rather than just measuring the calories during the workout, these devices are also using heart rate variability to track your metabolism all day.  For the last 4 weeks I have alternated between strength training days and cardio days.  My days are 60 minutes of strength and conditioning 3 days per week, and my “cardio” is 2 rucks (a fast walk with 25-30 pounds on my back) per week.  During the strength training workouts, the calorie burns were similar, around 500 calories average for each.  The big difference?  Overall, when tracked on my Oura ring, I burn 300-500 more calories total on my strength training days than on my cardio days.  That is a massive difference!  This is 100% due to EPOC, your body’s ability to burn extra calories even after your workout.  

Progressive strength training has a lower injury risk than other forms of training

When you have a program customized and  written for you, you have corrections in place for injuries or movement deficiencies, and when you have a personal trainer watching and guiding you every step of the way, strength training is incredibly safe.  Compared to the high injury rate of running, there is no comparison.  Getting you moving well and getting you strong throughout your ranges of motion helps you avoid injuries with the other things you do.  

While we want you working hard, it’s also lower impact than other forms of training.   If you’re a female over 40, the high impact nature of an hour of HIIT style training can have a negative impact on hormones like cortisol, further undermining fat loss goals.  

Getting stronger makes you more confident (Maybe the most important of ALL!)

The last reason strength training is key for fat loss is how it makes us feel. The problem with excess fat isn’t just the fat or extra weight itself.  It’s what it does to how we feel.  When clothes don’t fit right and we don’t feel like we can physically keep up with what’s important in our life, it kills confidence.  Strength training builds confidence.  Every time you master a new movement or you hit a new personal record, your confidence skyrockets!  It’s a beautiful thing.  Let’s face it, no one ever felt more confident after a bout on an elliptical! 

If strength training is so great, why not do it more than 3 days per week?  

More is not always better.  Because the recovery from the workout is so important, when you get  much more than 3 days per week of focused strength training, it’s harder to recover properly.  At three, especially if you do some active recovery the day after, you’ll be able to push yourself hard all 3 days, recover for a day, and then you’re ready to get after it again.  This is also what we have seen truly work the best for our hundreds of clients that come in week after week. 

We help people finally get fit, feel confident, and have all day energy even if getting everything done is a constant struggle. When you are ready to see what personal training can do for you, click the link below to schedule your complimentary discovery call with us.  We look forward to chatting with you real soon! 

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Fundamentals of Fat Loss – Part 2

Fundamentals of Fat Loss – Part 2

In Part I, we went over a short overview of the 3 principles of fat loss:

  • Burn more calories than you take in (Calorie deficit)
  • Include strength training 3x/week
  • Eat plenty of protein

The goal in part II is to dive into how to actually create a healthy, sustainable calorie deficit without starving yourself.  When you zoom out and look at the body of knowledge from a nutritional science perspective from a 30,000 ft. view, a very simple truth emerges.  When it comes to body composition management, when you control for 2 variables, virtually any way of eating works the same.  

What are those 2 variables, you may be wondering??  Calories and protein.  We will get more into protein and the importance of that in part IV of this series, so for now we will focus on calories.  

By creating a caloric deficit of between 200-400 calories per day, you will be able to see sustainable change for longer periods of time and without starving yourself.  This size of deficit has been shown to help move the needle enough to continue to help fuel your workouts and activity without the negative side effects of feeling lousy eating too few calories.  When your deficit is too high, your workouts will suffer, your sleep will be worse, your body will cling to its fat stores and you won’t have the energy to do the things that you love.

So, how the heck do you consistently stay in a caloric deficit for the long term.  This is where lifestyle modification comes in.  You have more than likely gained a small amount of weight consistently over a long period of time from staying sedentary, and from eating (or drinking) those extra 100-400 calories per day, on average.  

So many new clients that have joined Epic Fitness recently report that their exercise and activity levels dropped to almost zero over the past 2 years of the pandemic.  This makes sense because so many of us were burdened negatively with the lockdown, and not being able to stick with our normal routines that included exercise. 

So, where do we start?  Burning more calories from simply increasing your steps per day is a great way to start.  Another way is to include strength training in your routine (we will go over this in part III of this series).  

Being in the fitness space and being a coach for over 15 years, you would think that I would be partial to exercise and activity as the “cure all” for fat loss.  But, actually, that is not what I believe to be true.  At Epic Fitness, we still tell our members that the hardest workout they will do will be the chopping and slicing of all the vegetables and fruits and preparing for their weeks with proper nutrition.  Nutrition is probably about 70% of the puzzle of fat loss.  

When it comes to getting your body into a calorie deficit, there are really two nutrition strategies you can use.  Check out the 2 strategies below, and see which one (or combination of the two) that will work best for you.  

Method 1: Simple elimination

By making certain foods “off limits”, ideally for a set period of time, you are reducing your total caloric intake pretty much instantly.  Paleo, intermittent fasting, low carb/low fat are all types of elimination diets but they aren’t what we recommend to our clients. 

Far and away the simplest way to do this is by extracting out the three worst offenders of overconsumption:

  1. Added Sugar
  2. Alcohol
  3. Junk Food (you know what I am talking about here!)

Think of what will happen to your total caloric intake if you merely took out these three worst offenders above.  By making foods that are easily over consumed off limits temporarily, we restrict intake and make it easy to focus on fruits, veggies, and lean meats.  This means we can eat to satisfaction while still staying on track. 

As an example, when you compare a Big Mac and fries to Salmon, cooked vegetables, and brown rice, which meal do you think will bring your fullness level to satisfaction faster?  The Big Mac?  Not at all.  It is the caloric “density” of the food that matters to keep you satisfied and fuller for longer.  Lean protein, dense vegetables and healthy carbohydrates will do just that.  

This may look satisfying, but it won’t keep you satiated and full and feeling your BEST

Here is what I like about this method.  You feel way better, FAST.  You may realize very quickly how much of the added sugar and alcohol that you didn’t really miss in your daily routine, after all!  We recommend doing this “Elimination” of the three worst offenders of overconsumption for around 30 days.  It’s not a bad way to start to get feeling better fast and establish some momentum in a very healthy direction.  

Here is where I caution clients with this method.  You MUST keep this short term and understand that strict elimination is not sustainable.  Have a transition plan from short term to long term.  If you try to do it forever you will crack, catch a case of the “screw-its”, eat too much of all the wrong things, feel like a failure, and lose all your momentum.  Keep it to no more than 4 weeks.  By week 1, you WILL feel great.   By week 3, you know what you will keep doing and what you’ll relax a little bit.  After 30 days, you can start to slowly bring things back into your “lifestyle” without falling back into the unhealthy overcomption mode.  No alcohol can turn into a maximum of 3-4 drinks per week pretty easily.  No added sugar can turn into one dessert a week and you’ll do great.

Method 2: Counting Calories

With this method, you track your calorie intake inside a calorie tracking app (like myfitnesspal).  You just need to stay within your daily calorie limit.  This is where the quantity of foods becomes very important.  A good knowledge of serving sizes and accurate food logging is helpful.  We like to calculate your daily caloric target based on data from our InBody Body Composition Analyzer, but a quick and dirty rule of thumb is your body weight times 10 for fat loss.  That can vary a bit based on where you are starting so remember that’s a rough idea.  

Here is what I like about this method.  It’s honestly the most scientific.  Eat within your calorie limit.  That is it.  Does this mean you can eat whatever the heck you please, just as long as it is within your calorie limit?  Not exactly.  We still want you to think of the best option for food choices.  And surprisingly by limiting the three worst offenders of overconsumption, you will find yourself to get much closer to your calorie intake goals (and you will FEEL so much better, too!).  

Here is where I caution clients about this method.  It takes some work, knowledge, and experience accurately measuring and logging food.  If your log shows a calorie deficit and after a few weeks your weight isn’t down, you really aren’t in a calorie deficit and your log is off.  Common issues are underestimating servings or forgetting to log liquid (sugar) calories.  

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.  Finding what works for you is key.  You get to enjoy your food while you fuel and nourish your body.  Starving yourself is not okay, it won’t work long term, and you deserve better. 

Ready to have the support, accountability and actionable framework over the next 30 days to make sure this time a new habit of changing your lifestyle for the better will work for you?  Look no further!  Our 30 Day “Memorial Day Meltdown” Program could be a perfect fit for you.  Check out more information below, and you can save up to $100 if you take action NOW.  

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Fundamentals of Fat Loss – Part 1

Fundamentals of Fat Loss – Part 1

“I have tried every diet, and nothing seems to help me lose this stubborn fat.”

“What is the best way for me to lose fat, and keep muscle?”

“Where do I start when it comes to fat loss?”

These are a lot of the questions that our team gets asked at Epic Fitness often.  There seems to be this unknown surrounding losing fat (and keeping it off healthfully) that every “diet” out there doesn’t do a great job answering.  

The question we should be asking is, “What are the top 1-3 things I need to focus on to lose body fat and to keep it off for the long term?”

Well, you are in luck!  That is exactly what this 5 part series will be all about.  We will start by laying out the 3 principles of fat loss that will always stand the test of time.  

In order to lose body fat and keep it off, you need to:

  • Burn more calories than you take in (Calorie deficit)
  • Include strength training 3x/week
  • Eat plenty of protein

For those of you staring at the above principles and are thinking, “What else?”  That’s it!  Doing these 3 things on a consistent basis will help you lose body fat, gain and maintain lean muscle which actually in-turn helps tremendously with increasing your basal metabolic rate and keeps you in a healthy calorie deficit (we will get more into this soon).  Now is the time to stop the “yo-yo” process of starting and stopping every fad diet out there.    

What EVERY diet has in common is that each and EVERY one of them has a start and end date.  We want this to be a lifestyle switch you can start and continue to do for life.  That is why over time, and once you reach your main goal of losing fat and when you get to a healthy body fat and weight for you, then there are only 2 principles to follow to maintain lean body mass:

  • Include strength training 3x/week
  • Eat plenty of protein

That’s it!  It is this simple.  Notice how I said “simple” but not “easy.”  

This can definitely be a tough switch to turn on, and to stay consistent in doing it every day can be hard as well.  Simple, not easy.  There are 500 reasons why we don’t start, and 500 other things that can get in our way and derail our success.  

Making the choice to start today may be the best choice you ever make in your life.  Also, never placing an “end date” to this lifestyle shift – since this is NOT a diet – may turn out to help you make the biggest transformation, both physically and mentally, you have ever made.  Ready to learn more?!  Here is a quick overview of each of the 3 principles of fat loss.

  1. Burn more calories than you take in 

This is also known as a calorie deficit.  Does this mean you need to count calories?  No, not necessarily.  We will go over all the strategies part II of the series.  Here is something fun to consider: 

If you burn more than you take in, your body won’t care if you counted them.  

Counting calories and/or food logging can be a great strategy to get you there.  Using either of these strategies can be very flexible as well.   We will discuss these strategies in a later blog.  

But here is the deal – If you don’t want to count calories, don’t despair!  You can cut out the three worst offenders of over consumption.  Wondering what these are?  Here you go:

Three worst offenders of overconsumption:

  1. Added Sugar
  2. Alcohol
  3. Junk Food (you know what I am talking about here!)

When you focus on pulling out these three offenders, you really do end up consuming less overall, which will in-turn lead to placing you in a small calorie deficit.  You can focus on eating fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to your satisfaction.  After a short, stricter period to start, you can transition to a less strict, more long term strategy.  We are not suggesting to take out these three offenders forever, but just long enough to help you increase your awareness of the overconsumption.  

  1. Include Strength Training 3 Times Per Week

Strength training is critical to fat loss in 2 ways.  First, working out isn’t just about the calories you burn during the workout.  It’s also about the calories you burn after the workout, or what is referenced as EPOC – Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (we will get deeper into this in one of the next blogs!).  That’s where the real results will take place and where progressive strength training, or what we love to call Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) reigns supreme in stoking your metabolic fire.  

Second, if you are in a calorie deficit and just performing cardio, your body will be cannibalizing body tissue (mainly protein) to make up for the gap in energy.  By just performing cardio, and not implementing a strength training routine, you aren’t sending a strong enough message to your body that your muscle is important.  Your body will naturally want to preserve the fat and cannibalize the muscle.  With strength training, your body will preserve and build your muscle. 

  1. Get Plenty of Protein

Protein is a huge contributor to fat loss, muscle gain and weight maintenance in two ways. First, it is very satiating.  One serving of protein will keep you much fuller for much longer than say one serving of pasta.  Second, protein helps you repair and recover your body from strength training.  You have probably heard that amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  Amino acids are super important for the repair of tissue when you put stress on it (ie – strength training) and for recovery.  

At Epic Fitness, we like to say that your workout is only as good as the recovery that you take afterwards.  

In Part II, we will go more in depth on some nutritional strategies we have seen work the best.  Part III will be all about the best forms of strength training for fat loss.  Part IV will be tips about how to get plenty of protein without eating too many calories.  In Part V we will troubleshoot common mistakes, do a little myth busting, and share the mindsets that guarantee success! 

If you like what you just read, and want to learn more about Epic Fitness and how we can help you, you can schedule your discovery call with us below!  

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Broccoli and Deadlifts

Why Broccoli and Deadlifts can save your life

Have you ever been so excited about starting a new exercise or diet program only to find it too confusing or hard to follow?  You may have started off with some great intentions, only to learn the hard fact of what we have come to know as “decision aversion.”  When we are given too many choices or options with a nutrition plan or a workout program, it becomes too hard to choose what to do or where to start.

Ultimately when we are faced with too many options, we usually choose nothing at all. 

With nutrition, if you have to count every calorie of food you eat, weigh and measure every ounce of protein, how likely are you to stick with this plan?  We actually know how long because we have tested it – about 10 days!  Ten days is all you will get when you are forcing your brain to do all of this unnecessary work to figure out your “Macros” and count your calories.

What is the alternative then?  We actually like to keep it relatively simple.  A very well-known strength coach, Dan John, once told me, “If you got all of your clients to eat protein, veggies and drink water 90% of the time, you would be the most successful fat loss expert in the world!”  If we look at this advice as “simple, but not easy” then we are off to a good start.  As we look at nutrition for our clients much more simply, there is more clarity as well.  This is where broccoli comes in.

Why broccoli?  You may ask.  Broccoli has been called by many nutritional experts one of the world’s healthiest foods!  It has a great source of Vitamins C and K which can help healing, collagen formation and protect you from free radicals. Broccoli has also been cited for anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties as well as a great food in the battle against cancer.

Therefore, when you eat broccoli, you know you are doing something absolutely great for your body.  Think of the last time you ate broccoli.  Did you have the urge to eat more than what was on your plate because it had “addictive” qualities like potato chips or french fries?  Absolutely not!  What is great about this vegetable, and just about every vegetable in that case, is that you will become fuller faster and you won’t overeat – which is really the #1 cause of obesity in the world!

Eat more broccoli and you will become in charge of how much you eat which will lead to fat loss – we love that idea! 

Now let’s talk a little more about exercise and how to simplify this part of your life, and where deadlifts come in.  There are more exotic training methods out there than ever before (thank you Instagram and the Internet!).  What we are really looking for is not more choices on how to perform a fancy squat or sexy “core” exercise – what we really need to do here is simplify.

What has worked really well for us, is setting our clients up for success by giving them options throughout the year based not only on the time of year it is, but also on their goal.  We know we can’t work on fat loss 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year – it is just not sustainable.  Can we work on fat loss for 6 – 8 weeks at a time though?  Absolutely!  This is where a lot of our in-the-gym challenges come into play, and we have 3 – 4 of them a year to really push clients closer towards their goals.  But that is only about half of the year.  What do you do the other half of the year?  You keep moving forward and continue to “punch the clock” to sustain those results you achieved during the challenges.  We write our programs based off of an annual plan with all of the challenges in the gym and any roadblocks you may encounter along the way.

Ok, back to deadlifts.  Why deadlifts?  Deadlifts are really what we have found to be the “biggest bang for your buck” exercise in the gym.  Since you pick up and set down things pretty much every day in your life, why not get better at this very functional exercise. It is a total body lift, requires strength from the upper and lower body and you will notice as you do deadlifts more often, you will be able to lift more!

(Here is Rockstar Member, Gwen deadlifting the “Beast” – 106 lbs)

If you are a woman the next thing you may be asking yourself is, “Won’t lifting weights – especially doing deadlifts make me bulk up?”  The very short answer is no.  This article isn’t meant to dive into this topic too much.  The truth is at Epic Fitness every woman that does strength training adds lean muscle to their body, and in turn lowers body fat.  Then this funny thing happens – their waistline shrinks!

This is no miracle, it is just the power of strength training and adding total body, multi-joint movements into your routine, just like deadlifts.  I would even argue that eating broccoli daily (or really any green, fibrous vegetable) along with deadlifting once a week and strength training three times a week could actually change your life in a way that could help you live a longer, more vibrant life!

Here is my plea to everyone out there – let us work on making the world of nutrition and strength training less confusing and not such a polarizing topic.  Let’s continue to make it simple (not easy) and start a routine to stay consistent for many, many years to come!

Are you ready to start a routine and looking for a guide to help you get started with a very reasonable, tested and trusted process?  We would love to be in your corner.  Click below to schedule your FREE Discovery Call with us to learn how we can help you reach your goals.

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The REAL Magic Pill

The Real Magic Pill

If exercise could be put in a pill, it would be the biggest blockbuster medication of all time. Here’s why:⁣⁣

Better insulin sensitivity- Exercise makes your cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin so you don’t need as much. Less insulin means less belly fat.⁣⁣ This is why exercise is the #1 preventer of type 2 Diabetes.

⁣⁣Reduced stress-  I often hear clients say a good workout relieves excess stress. That’s because exercise reduces cortisol – the stress hormone. Too much cortisol and you become insulin resistant and store belly fat. Too much cortisol also makes you crave sugar and carbs and seek comfort food.⁣⁣  The lower the cortisol levels, the more likely you will steer clear of the comfort foods and make better daily food choices. 

⁣⁣Improved brain health-  Your brain on exercise performs so much better. Exercise improves memory, learning, cognition and concentration. Vigorous exercise is a better antidepressant than Prozac. Exercise helps to improve your mood, boost your energy, and reduces overall stress in your body and mind.  How’s that for a win/win!⁣⁣

⁣⁣Reduced risk for chronic disease-  Exercise does this through several mechanisms. It protects your heart and reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke. It reduces inflammation (the cause of almost every disease of aging). And it balances hormones, therefore reducing breast and other common cancers.⁣⁣

⁣⁣Enhanced detoxification- Besides stimulating the colon, intense exercise allows your body to release toxins through your skin. It boosts the detoxification of environmental chemicals. Vigorous exercise will help you work up a sweat, but gentle exercise keeps your circulation going and flushes out all the toxic fluids that build up in your lymphatic system.  Want to try something easy to help flush out the lymphatic system?  Just lying on your back and putting your legs straight up against the wall for 20 minutes can make a huge difference. ⁣⁣

(This is Gae, my grandmother who just turned 95!)

Slows the aging process-  If you want to turn back the clock figuratively, exercise becomes absolutely crucial. My Grandmother, Gae just turned 95.  When I asked her what her secret was, she responded by saying, “That’s easy.  I walk around this mezzanine in my building 10 times every day, and I know that is close to 1 mile.”  She literally hasn’t allowed her age stop her in any way.  She also is known to wear high heels regularly (they are actually stilettos!) and is still sharp as a tack! 

Ready to start taking this magic pill?!  We would love to show you how to start with the right doses so you can make it a repeatable habit for a very long time!  Book your discovery call below to share your story with us, so we can be your guide in helping you get 1% better starting TODAY! 

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