Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Defining health and exercise

One of the biggest misconceptions in the fitness industry today is that “exercise” is “healthy.”
Stay with me here.

The problem lies in separating terms and assigning definitions. First let’s define health as the “absence of disease and injury.” That’s a good starting point we can all agree on, right? Next we’ll use Dr. Doug McGuff’s — author of “Body By Science” — definition of exercise. McGuff defines exercise as specific movements that stimulate a positive physiological adaptation (i.e. improved strength, muscle growth) without undermining health.

This is where we need to separate the terms “activity” and “exercise.”
Under the definitions I’ve laid out, a lot of things most people consider exercise is actually an “activity.” For example, let’s look at running. Running or jogging undoubtedly has certain positive aspects, but long-term, this activity can have adverse effects on joint health, inflammation and can even lead to cardiac events.

So if our main goal is to be healthy, or absent of disease or injury, would you really consider running exercise?

I’ll use myself as another example. My two favorite sports are golf and fast pitch softball. I play them both regularly in the spring and summer and would consider both of them moderate to intense physical activities, but I would never consider them exercise.

Golf is not good for my health — at all. I walk for four hours straight, often getting sun burnt, dehydrated and stressed out if I’m having a poor game. The twisting and turning of a swing places an incredible amount of pressure on my spine and is horrible for my back, often leaving me laid up unable to walk several times a year.

In softball I play catcher, which is a constant ebb and flow of getting hit with balls, bats and baserunners. Jammed thumbs, bruised collarbones and sore knees are regular occurrences. Does any of this seem healthy to you?

You might be asking now, why on Earth would anyone do these things? Each activity a person chooses has a risk and reward ratio. Each person has to decide if the risk/reward ratio is beneficial for them, and then go forward with that activity knowing full well what they are getting themselves into.

This is true for everything including running, recreational sports and anything else someone might confuse with exercise.

So if none of these things are exercise, what is? Under these definitions, high intensity resistance training — a protocol that employs slow, safe and controlled movements — is the perfect way to increase your fitness without undermining your health. Resistance training is the only way to make meaningful adaptations in muscle size and strength, which can positively affect your ability to participate in the activities you enjoy, and allow you to participate in them more safely. This can be anything from competitive sports, going on leisurely walks or even just carrying in the groceries.

Any questions? Leave a comment below or drop me a line at train@hitmatt.com.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How I got here

I grew up eating pizza. As my friends will attest, I ate a slice of pepperoni pizza, washed down with a carton of reduced fat chocolate milk and finished off with a giant chocolate chip cookie every single day of my junior high and high school career. Six years of pizza.

Tiny Matt
I'd often come home and microwave some pizza for dinner. No one said I was a pizza snob. If it had cheese and pepperoni on it, I would eat it. It didn't matter if was a slice, on a bagel, in a bite, burnt, frozen, fresh — you get the point.

Did I mention I was rail thin? 

It's often said that kids think they're invincible. I was hit by a truck in a crosswalk when I was 12 years old on my way to watch Mr. Deeds (probably a sign from God, which I defiantly ignored when I saw the movie the next day). This translates in most skinny, pop-guzzling, pizza-gorging kids. 

When you're a teenager, there are no consequences. You feel good all the time, you get hit by trucks and are fine (at least me), it just doesn't matter. But it does catch up with you, and it caught up with me.

I don't know what I weighed my freshman year of college, if I had to guess I'd say in the 140-pound range. After four-unsupervised years of unlimited access to the worst food imaginable, I was no longer skinny. I started my first corporate job after graduating weighing in at about 185. 
Fat Matt

Throughout college I exercised plenty. I was incredibly active, participating in three or four intramural sports every quarter, lifting weights several times a week and playing basketball almost every night. Didn't matter.

The first loss

This was the start of my first journey into weight loss. From Nov. 2012 to March 2013 I lost about 45 pounds, getting down to 140. I was extremely dedicated to the process. I ate a low-fat diet, pretty much eating the same thing every day, which consisted of a home-made breakfast sandwich, a regular lunch meat sandwich, and a turkey burger with no bun for dinner. Every calorie was excruciatingly counted — in and out. 

Along with my trusty food diary I completed 90 days of P90X and 60 days of Insanity. While I saw results, I did not have fun. I was brutally strict about completing each and every day, driving my body into the ground further and further. 

At the end of that journey, despite being 45 pounds lighter, I was exhausted. My performance in sports suffered. I was so weak from the barrage of daily "cardio" I could hardly swing a baseball bat.

I then decided to "bulk up" in the gym, lifting heavy while eating what I thought would "pack on mass." I ended up putting on some muscle, but also quite a lot of fat.

Figuring it out

Training with a client
After about three years with several cycles of "bulking" and "cutting" (basically getting fat, then torturing myself to get skinny again) I'd had enough. A winter full of working out six days a week because I was petrified of gaining weight resulted in a sprained wrist, a sprained knee, and a bulging disc that was getting worse and worse despite physical therapy, steroid injections and deadlift upon deadlift. (Bro, you need to deadlift. Wait, no you don't.)

That's when I discovered the ketogenic lifestyle. Basically people were telling me I could lose weight while doing very little exercise. Since I was so injured I couldn't exercise, I thought why not. I needed to give my body a rest to recover from the three years of punishment I had been delivering to it with over training, so for three months I ate ungodly amounts of bacon, eggs, cream, cheese, mayo, steak, pork — you get the picture.

Three months later I was down 30 pounds effortlessly, eating as much as I wanted. It was a true revelation. Feeling rejuvenated and recovered, I went looking for an exercise regime to match my new lifestyle.

That's when I found High Intensity Training. 

I read Body By Science in a bout a week, which details the science, history and benefits to High Intensity Training. After applying it to myself for about two months, I was hooked. I was feeling stronger than ever and was allowing my body ample time to recover in between sessions. 

I then enrolled in the HITuni.com master course where I continued learning about the protocol and how it can be applied using machines, free weights or even body weight exercises. Since then training and nutrition have turned from something I dreaded to something I love. I can eat as much as I want and exercise as little as I need, all while effortlessly maintaining my weight. Isn't that all anyone wants?

Hopefully this has piqued your interest in a real food lifestyle combined with the potent effects of High Intensity Training. It's been a world changer for me, and can be for you too.