The most important factor in any exercise program


Will you stick to the exercise program?  Nothing else matters if you don’t stick to it.   To increase your likelihood of success the exercise program should:

·       Be safe. If you are injured you are done.

·       Produce measurable weekly improvement.  If you don’t see real Improvement you won’t stick to it.

·       Address all aspects of fitness - particularly strength as this affects all the other aspects of fitness.

·       Incorporate breaks. Breaks prevent burnout and will actually increase results for certain exercise programs.

·       Not involve a lot of your time.

Using exercise studies as a starting point, the trainers at our New Orleans Strength Training  and Austin Strength Training locations have developed a 30 minute workout that anybody can do that produces weekly improvement. Commit to 30 minutes each week; you’ll improve each week, and over time your life will change, sometimes dramatically.  Changes our clients have experienced:

·       Client goes from five to one insulin shot a day

·       Client increases her bone density one standard deviation over two years

·       Client increases bone density 12.4 percent in twelve months.

·       Asthma patient increases air expulsion rate to highest reading in 12 years

·       After years of living with constant pain client now lives pain free

Thirty minutes of exercise a week (26 hours a year) is doable.  Without that investment of time and effort it is likely that your health will decline over the year, possibly drastically.  Major adverse health related events such as a heart attack or a herniated disc present setbacks that are often avoidable.  Is it worth 30 minutes of your week to enhance your well-being and lessen the likelihood of injury and sickness?  We think it is. 

When health clubs are really collection agencies disguised as health clubs 

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There are far more former members of health clubs than there are current members. The renewal rate at most health clubs hovers around 30 percent. In addition to the membership dues, health clubs offer personal training packages. You get a free training session if you sign up for a package. You buy the larger package to get the most cost effective rate. If you are lucky, you will get the personal trainer most suitable for you. Often that is not the case. At the end of year the only thing lighter is your wallet.

Health clubs often run specials. They waive the initiation fee. You sign for a year to get special rate, and the automatic bank draft begins. You are faithful at first, but eventually your attendance becomes sporadic. You miss a couple of weeks, and then you miss a couple of months. You might return with the intention of really buckling down, but for most this never happens.

You decide to cut your losses and cancel your membership; that often entails an expensive processing fee. You realize that there are just a few months left, so you ride it out cringing when you look at your monthly credit card bill for service you did not use.

In the fine print there is often a clause that states that the contract will be renewed automatically unless a letter requesting termination is received. You send a certified letter requesting that the contract be terminated with the thought that the bank drafts will finally stop - not necessarily so.

You call the health club to inquire and you are informed the following, "When you gave us written notice that you did not want to renew your contract we automatically switched you to a month-to-month membership". Now you decide to pay the processing fee.

Yearly health club memberships are a great value - if you use them. The fault lies not with the health club but with those who set themselves up with high expectations of consistent attendance that, for most, is not going to happen. It might be better to try exercising where there are no membership contracts first to see if you can stick to an exercise regime.

At our Austin’s Kelly Personal Training and New Orleans Fitness Training locations there are no contracts, and the first two sessions are free without signing up for a package.  Why two free sessions with no obligations? So you can make an informed decision to see if this is something you want to pursue. Without contracts we have to deliver results to keep people coming back. It might not be the conventional health club business model, but we think it is the right way to do business.

New Years fitness resolutions - for many the only certainty is the automatic bank draft

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This is going to be the year you get in the best shape of your life. You sign up at the health club for 12 months to get the special rate, and then the automatic bank draft begins. You faithfully go at first, and then you miss a couple of weeks and then a couple of months. You had good intentions to really buckle down this year. However, for most people this never happens.  The only certainty is the automatic bank draft.

Canceling the membership involves a large processing fee. You ride it out cringing whenever you see the monthly bank draft for a service you did not use.

Twelve months pass; you send a registered letter stating you do not want to renew.  The next month the bank draft is still being charged. The club informs you that they switched you from a yearly contract to a month-to-month membership.  This becomes a huge hassle; you end up canceling the credit card to make it stop. 

People have high expectations of regular attendance that, for most people, never happens. The renewal rate at health clubs is 30 percent. There are more former members of health clubs than there are current members. That is a lot of dis-satisfied customers. 

What good is a program that requires hours in the gym each week even if you don’t go?  If you lower the bar a little you might find that that you will stick with a program for the long term. Each week do a little bit more than are used to handling, and over time, you will achieve your optimal health.

Three steps to sticking to a program:

1. Engage in activities you enjoy. You'll more likely stick to things you enjoy doing. 

2. Make modest permanent changes in eating habits that you are willing to stick to.

3. Start a strength training program that will produce the largest return for minimal time spent exercising, 30 minutes a week.   You’ll have more time to spend outside the gym doing activities you enjoy (See number 1).  

At our Austin Fitness Training and New Orleans’s Personal Training facilities we are not out to see how much exercise you can withstand, but how little exercise you can do to produce the most change. There is a long list of health benefits and fitness benefits that will motivate you to stick to it.  Over time, the improvements will be life changing.  Also, there are no bank drafts or contracts. 

Lasting impressions: In six months I'll be doing the butterfly across that pool

In 38 years working at nine different health clubs I've seen a lot of amazing, bizarre, interesting, and sometimes disturbing things. I have seen thousands of people come and go. Most do not leave a lasting impression, but sometimes, even a brief encounter will stay with me forever.

It was January 1980. The price of oil was $37 a barrel that year, more expensive than it is today. The George Foreman Grill and other astounding leaps in technology had yet to be invented. It was my third month working at my first health club. The club was awash with new members armed with their New Year’s resolutions.

There was a man there who weighed 290 pounds. He had the look of a former athlete. Under that marbling there was obvious potential to be a well-muscled fit man. He was there for hours each day for five straight days. He told me in six months he would be doing the butterfly across the pool. Given how long he was there with such regularity that was definitely a possibility. I didn't see him the next week or the week after. In fact I never saw him again. But he did continue to pay the mandatory membership bank draft.

I often think of him as a proxy for all those who come to the gym with high expectations but never follow through. Initially people are highly motivated, but working full-time along with raising a family and then coming to the gym for one or two hours is not sustainable for most people. The diminishing return for all that time in the gym is not very motivating.

At our Austin Personal Training facility we don't start from the premise of seeing how much exercise you can withstand but try to find what's the least amount of exercise that will produce the most positive change. That will give you the largest marginal return for your time spent exercising, and it will be more motivating. You will be more likely stick to it for the long-term.

Had that man committed to making modest changes in eating habits, strength trained for a half hour once or sometimes twice a week, and on the other days done something he enjoyed he would have been more likely to have stuck to it. The weight loss would be slower but more sustainable. At the end of the year he would've been 50 pounds lighter and maybe would have been able to do the butterfly. The beauty of it is he would have spent far less time in the gym than under his attempted commitment.

The lady said, "We want decisive members"

Several years ago I walked into a health club; they were running a special offer. After the tour of the facility I told the lady that I wanted to think about it and that I would come back tomorrow. She told me I had to make my decision right then and there if I wanted to get the special rate. She said, “We want decisive members”. I made my decision right there and walked out. There is a reason yearly memberships are a bargain, and there is a reason they are always running specials. Many facilities bank on the fact that you won’t attend regularly. On average, only thirty percent of members attend regularly. So you take the bait and decide to join the health club. To get the discount you sign the monthly bank draft, and the automatic bank draft begins. If you are like most people your attendance is regular at first and then seldom. Cancelling your membership is expensive because there is a $200 processing fee, so you are stuck for a year. There is a reason the renewal rate at health clubs hovers around 30 percent. In many of the health clubs there are personal trainers who will offer you a free training session IF you sign up for a huge package to get the lower rate. If you are lucky you will get the personal trainer best suited for your needs, but often that is not the case. At the end of year the only thing lighter is your wallet. AtNew Orleans’s Personal Trainers and Austin’s Fitness Trainers there are no bank drafts or specials. We do offer the first two sessions free without obligations, so you can make an informed decision to see if this is something you want to pursue. It is a different business model that works for us.

Changes This New Year

I worked at quite a few different health clubs in my years in New Orleans. I am guessing that what goes on in New Orleans in no different than what goes on in other gyms around the country. In 34 years in the fitness business, this is what I have observed every January. The first two weeks, the gym is filled to capacity. There are a lot of new faces. I remember my first year working with a guy who was 290 pounds. He told me he would be doing the butterfly across the pool in six months. He came into gym for hours every single night for five nights in a row. The next week I didn't see him, and I never saw him again. The second two weeks, the gym thins out a bit. The second month, things are pretty much back to normal. There are the same faces you see the year round, plus there are some new faces.

The average renewal rate at health clubs is 30%. Those who use the club regularly are about 30% of the membership. The average stay with a personal trainer is about six months. People have good intentions, but very few people stay for the long haul. They have high expectations. When those expectations are not met they get frustrated and quit. They return to their former lifestyles.

They got out of shape gradually. One can easily gain five pounds of fat a year. Five pounds of fat for 20 years is easy enough to do. Pretty soon a 180 pound male will be 280 pounds and living a compromised lifestyle. During that 20 year period there were probably attempts to lose weight.

Try reversing the trend gradually. Lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat a month. Strength train once or twice a week for 25 minutes. Commit to sprint training on a stationary bike 8 to 15 minutes twice maybe three times a week. This will take a little over an hour of your time a week. Make modest changes in your eating.

A year from now you will have a lower resting pulse, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, you will be 15 to 20 pounds lighter, you will be wearing different clothes, you will look better, you will not tire as easily, and best of all you will feel much better. You could go for the big weight loss, but chances are you will gain it all back and then some.

What a difference a year makes!

It is time for New Years’ resolutions. Every year we have great expectations of improvement in our well-being, but few achieve those improvements. Here is the story of one man who did make significant changes:

Marcus was 72 years old. He could play nine holes but lacked the stamina to pay eighteen holes. He was slowing down; he could no longer play every day. He began strength training at New Orleans Ultimate Fitness Trainers(our other location - Personal Trainers Austin). He strength trained for about 30 minutes once a week for a year.

A year older one would expect a 73 year old to be doing less not more. That was not the case for Marcus. He would play 18 holes of golf, and the next day he would play 18 holes again. He was hitting the ball farther and enjoying golf again. Marcus had added quality years to his life, and it took just 30 minutes a week.

Marcus had increased strength, stamina, flexibility, and very importantly added protection from injury. He was playing hell of a lot more golf creating a virtuous cycle of increasing well-being.

Every time Marcus exercised he would do a little more. Each week he gave himself ample time to recover, and because of that, each week he would continuously improve. 52 weeks of continuous improvement add up.

Significant strength increases occur exercising as little as once a week IF it's the right exercise program. A properly designed high intensity strength training program starts with the premise of not seeing how much exercise one can withstand but with just how little one can get away with doing and still have significant results.

Of all the bio-markers of aging the most important is the loss of strength. Strength training is by far the most effective exercise in addressing the bio-markers of aging that effect not only how young we look, but more importantly, how we young we feel. Loss of strength ultimately leads to life compromising conditions such as herniated discs, osteoporosis, arthritis, type-2 diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease. People aren't put in nursing homes because they're out of breath; it's because they're too weak.

Our program is one that people can stick to for life - a life where one feels better, looks better, is free to enjoy life more without endless hours in the gym. Is it worth 30 minutes of week? We think that it is.