One of the more exciting requests Lya handed me this past year was the task of creating a workout regime for her. Not only was I to draft the plan, but I was to help her implement it too. In other words, she was asking me to be her trainer. Now Lya was never one to take working out very seriously, so to see her move in this direction on her own volition was like having your best friend tell you they wanted your help quitting cigarettes. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. This is the kind of stuff I live for after all. I spent my whole life in athletics and over the years devoted many hours to building a paradigm for athletic performance that I currently use in my boxing training. Now I had a guinea pig other than myself to test my acumen on!
The first and most obvious question to ask was, “Well, what are your goals?” Without this utterly important question, you cannot begin to design a program for yourself or anyone else. Assess the needs, then apply the tools. For Lya, and most people who decide to take it upon themselves to begin exercising regularly, she wanted to be healthier and more “fit.” Maybe at this point people start saying “oh well you have to do weights and walk long miles and yadda yadda yadda.” But equally important to my initial question was the follow-up question, “what does ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’ mean to you?” For sure my standard of what constitutes fit and healthy is more extreme than the average person. The last thing I wanted to do was imprint all my beliefs onto someone who is just getting started, ultimately sucking the joy out of something that should be fun and relaxing yet challenging. After some deliberation, Lya gave me a clear idea to work with: she wanted to tone her whole body, not get too muscular, and have more energy during the day.
To make it much easier for her to obtain these goals, I asked that she agree to a few principles. It’s the low-hanging fruit we are all well aware of but so often justify avoiding: get sufficient sleep, eat nutrient-dense foods, and be consistent in your program. In the end, abiding by these principles would not only help her achieve her goals but would make it easier. So collectively we devised a morning routine to stick to six days a week, with the seventh day being a cheat day. Our routine is as follows:
+0:00 – We wake up together at whatever time our bodies feel ready to wake up, grab some water, and head out of the door.
+0:10 – We take a brisk 20-minute walk around the pond to warm her body up. I am a big fan of walking outside first thing in the morning. This helps to wake the body up and get the muscles lubricated without fatigue.
+0:30 – We step into our gym for what amounts to a 20-minute workout. Why 20 minutes? Because in 20 minutes 6 days a week, we can cover myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, cardiovascular strength, and muscular endurance. In other words, everything Lya wants to achieve. 20 minutes is also a good place to start for a beginner while you figure out your eustress zone. This equates to the amount of effort that falls between pushing yourself too little (and therefore getting little to no benefit) or pushing yourself too much (overexercising can cause significant stress to the central nervous system and has been demonstrated in various studies to cause early aging).
+0:50 – After the workout is complete, we do a short cooldown walk, stretch out any bothersome tightness. Thanks to her sleeping and eating habits, Lya rarely has any issues. In fact, a chiropractor recently commented on how symmetrical and well balanced she was!
+1:00 – With the hard part of the day in the rearview mirror, we settle down to some home cooked breakfast by yours truly. I love a high-fat, high-protein diet following a workout. Not only does it avoid the inevitable lull that comes with eating carbohydrate rich foods, but it provides the body with plenty of the only two essential macronutrients. (Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not a required nutrient. What little glucose is required by the body can be made through the process of gluconeogenesis. For performance, however, added carbohydrates is a good plan, we just prefer them at dinner when we are ready to veg out).
And that’s it! I’ll leave the specifics of her workouts for another blog post. Or maybe she’ll want to write about it. Until then, you have a general idea of The (Lya) Process.