Before you can ask yourself if you are ready to begin any training program, it is extremely important to ask yourself why you want to start training, and what your real, long-term goals are. Where do you want to be in a year, in five years, and in twenty years. Because, if you are just trying to lose 20 pounds in 30 days, you will succeed in the short-run, but if that was all you wanted from life, losing 20 pounds is not the solution, and soon it will be put back on.

It is also extremely important to understand the physiological benefits of strength and cardio training, flexibility, and nutrition, so you not only understand how to train but more importantly, why.

By recognizing what stage of activity you are currently in, you will be able to determine what level of training is appropriate. By attempting to jump from stage 1 to stage 5, you are setting yourself up for almost certain failure and a reaffirmation that you are not capable of moving out of the comfort zone you are stuck in. The solution for each stage is only designed to get you to the next stage. The time it takes you to get to the next stage is up to you.

Stage 1 (The Couch):
You are basically stuck on the couch. You are deep in your comfort zone and the couch is the most comfortable spot in that zone. This usually accompanied by a very large flat screen t.v. and a well stocked fridge. You most likely feel that exercise is not something you are capable of.

Solution - Get moving! Not running, not destroying yourself at the gym. Just get moving. Then, add one of the Super Foods to your "diet". Don't go on a diet, you know this doesn't work.

Stage 2 (Walking):
You are able to move beyond the couch at times (maybe even most days). You go for nice walks, you eat a salad with dinner, and you keep the deserts to small portions. You believe that you are doing enough to get in shape but don't understand why you are not. You are still in a very comfortable zone that is extremely difficult to break free of.

Solution - Walk more and make it steeper, then introduce jogging/running (just a little at a time). Jogging/running is always better than walking. When someone, even experts, tell you that walking is as good as running, they are telling you exactly what you want to hear. That there is an easier solution to getting the benefits of cardio, without all the "pain". What you need to understand is that in most cases this "pain" is just the initial reaction to a new level of activity and is something that your body can and will overcome if it is just given a chance. Most people quit just before their bodies begin to adjust.

Begin removing the "bad" foods from your diet. This is not going on a diet and I repeat - Do not go on a diet! Remove one food at a time and after a couple of weeks, if you can say "I am comfortable eliminating that item from my diet for life", then move on the the next item to remove, and repeat.

See Phase 2 Training below.

Note: "Training" isn't supposed to be fun. If it was, we wouldn't call it training, we would call it "playing"*. You can have "fun" moments while training, but I would suggest that this feeling is more like the feeling you get when you are accomplishing something, or enjoying the benefits that you know you are getting from the "dis-comfort" you are putting yourself through. The problem is that if you are trying to make your workouts "fun", you may succeed in the short-run, and you may even get some early results, but eventually, you will plateau and the fun will begin to fade. And when this happens, you will stop training because it is no longer fun. If you can't treat training like a part-time job that is sometimes enjoyable, usually rewarding, but most of all, something that has to be done, then you are not really ready to commit. 

*Playing, the kind that burns calories and you don't even realize it, is very important, and is a must for long-term success. But, it should be considered a supplement, not a replacement for your training regimen.

Stage 3 (Ready to Launch):
You are getting to the gym on a somewhat regular basis, and you are jogging a couple times a week as well. This is a perfectly acceptable level of training, and most likely a fairly healthy level too. I would categorize this as just carrying a few extra pounds. The upside is that if you can maintain this level of exercise and watch what you eat, you will live a healthy life from here on out. The downside is that you are probably susceptible to periodic backslides that sap the momentum that you have built up, and require the extra effort to get back into shape. Many people are completely happy with how they look and feel at this level, and that is great. But some people at this level feel that they are capable of more. Maybe they want to lose those last 10 pounds, or run a marathon, or just be able to do the things they are not quite physically capable of.
Solution - Start looking at your training as something that requires a temporary level of high-intensity that will feel uncomfortable with moments of pain. The motto "no pain, no gain" has received a lot of criticism in the past, but there is a level of truth to this. You need to be able to evaluate the difference between pain and discomfort. Discomfort can and should be pushed through. Pain needs to be evaluated and judged.

See Phase 3 Training below.

Stage 4 (The Ideal):
You are at the ideal strength and fitness level for lifelong health and fitness. Through resistance training you are achieving proper levels of muscle mass (which helps maintain proper metabolism levels), bone density (which will decline with age), and joint strength. Through cardio training, you are elevating your metabolism daily and keeping your heart in lungs in optimum working order. Through proper diet, you are eating to live, not living to eat and getting all the right nutrients without "most" of the bad stuff. And through all this, you are getting the side benefits such as:
  • Improved mental capacity.
  • Improved protection against disease (80% of all deaths are lifestyle related).
  • More energy, reduced stress, and better sleep.
  • A body composition that you are happy and confident with.
Solution: See Phase 4 Training below.

Stage 5(Elite Athlete):

How can I help?
Each of the following training phases are designed to get you from the activity stage you are currently in to the next activity stage in a positive, efficient, and effective manner. Remember, this is not about losing 20 pounds in 20 days, this is about lifestyle changes that will last a lifetime.

Phase 1 Training (Ditching The Couch)
The most important part of this phase is getting you moving and figuring out why you have been not moving for so long. Without doing these two things, any training program is doomed to fail. Trust me, please. This phase is more about figuring out what has been holding you back in the past, what has been keeping you from taking the necessary steps to get healthier, and putting together a health and fitness program that takes into account your personal needs and will set you up for lifelong success.

Video (coming soon)
  • Walking in a one-on-one and small group setting.
  • Introduce light resistance training.
  • Identify areas of the diet that need to be adjusted.
Phase 2 Training (Picking Up The Pace)
Walking has become very popular, which is a good thing. The problem is that it is seen as the solution (especially for people who hate running) and not just a step in the right direction. If walking was the solution, there is a good chance you wouldn't be reading this right now. Disclaimer - I love walking and I usually walk every day. But, walking is easy, and most easy solutions to a problem are not the best solution, and most likely, not a solution at all.

This phase will introduce an increased pace and intensity to your walks, with the goal of light running (jogging) at the end of the phase. You will also be introduced to the gym. Many people despise the gym saying that they would rather be outdoors. I agree wholeheartedly and train outdoors several times a week myself, but the gym has a purpose, a very important purpose:
  • It is a place where you can "go to work", surrounded by like-minded individuals.
  • Using the right equipment, the training is focused, effective, and efficient.
Our training at the gym will focus on selecting the proper equipment for our training goals, and using it correctly. We will start strengthening key areas in small, incremental steps in preparation for more extensive strength training in the next phase.

Phase 3 Training (Running, Cardio Circuit, and Strength Training)
  • Strength Training - Getting in an all-around workout to include big muscle groups.
  • Cardio Training - Training 3 days per week, working large muscle groups in a continuous, rhythmic fashion at moderate intensity for 20 to 30 minutes per session. Target 50% of max HR for entire session.
  • Proper Nutrition - Strive to increase the amounts of Protein, carbohydrates (complex and simple), fats, and vitamins and minerals. Decreasing the amount and frequency of "bad" foods.
  • Flexibility - Work on basic stretches, both before (dynamic), and after (static) after your workouts.
Phase 4 (Ideal Overall Training Regimen)
  • Strength Training - Strength training at least 3 days per week, working large, functional, and targeted muscle groups.
  • Cardio Training - Training 5 days per week, working large muscle groups in a continuous, rhythmic fashion at moderate intensity for 30 minutes per session. Target 70% - 80% of max HR for entire session.
  • Proper Nutrition - Getting the ideal amounts of Protein, carbohydrates (complex and simple), fats, and vitamins and minerals.
  • Flexibility - Keeping your muscles and joints flexible to maintain proper range of motion, reduce muscle pain, and decrease recovery times. 
Phase 5 (Elite Training)

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A Final Note
Years of battling the daily grind may have zapped those abilities that you once had, but the truth is, you still have it in you to get out and experience all that life has to offer. Sometimes you just need a little motivation. That's where I can help. By applying that adventurous spirit to proven health and fitness principles, we will make progressive lifestyle changes that will get you out there in no time and will last a lifetime. Whether you just need me for advice, to hold your hand, or kick your butt, I am here for you as your coach, partner, and teammate.

Now, get out there!

Jim Hobbs  |  Certified Personal Trainer  |  Health and Fitness Coach