My Personal Training Experience

So I probably should have written this blog post earlier (when I actually did the personal training.) But one thing lead to another, and excuses aside, I'm trying to get back into getting fit and changing my lifestyle so I thought this would be a good time to write about this experience before I totally forget everything.

WHY DID I START PERSONAL TRAINING?

So earlier this year, in February I think, I started working out with a personal trainer. Funny thing is that it was my dad who told me to go. I don't think I'm obese or anything and neither does my dad, but we both know I'm kinda chubby. Or at least he has seen me get chubbier throughout the years since I started university. I was already trying to kinda diet and exercise, but it wasn't really working. I wasn't super consistent and not sure if I was doing the right things, so my dad thought going to a professional who can tell me exactly what to do would be better. Personal training can be pretty expensive though and there are so many options out there. I went online and through Groupon, I found this small gym that offers just personal training, I went in to talk with the guy and had a consultation and voila, I was on route for my first month.

 
 

The Process

(From what I can remember now 7 months later)  

DAY 1

The trainer started off by taking my initial measurements, body fat percentage, pictures, and a fitness test. We talked about my goals and what I wanted. Which was and still is to get toned, lean, but not super ripped or anything. I just wanted to lean out, have some definition, and lose a lot of fat. He asked me to run him through what I was eating (at the time I was already on a diet that I made myself), and he told me all the things wrong with my diet, what certain foods were doing to my body, and why I wasn't losing weight before, which was really insightful. :)

HOW IT WORKS

Every personal trainer has their own style, and since I only been with one I can't say if his method is wrong or right, but it's not unheard of. This is basically what he explained to me: I would train with him 3 times a week in addition to my diet. Those 3 times of the week are the only times I worked out. My body fat percentage was at around 28% and to actually see my muscles I need to get that down to at least 18% which would mean I would need to lose at the time around 24 pounds of fat. 

Step 1 for 12 weeks: lose around 2 pounds per week, get down to body fat of 18%

Step 2 for 10 weeks: build muscle, gain a bit of fat up to 20%

Step 3 for 3 weeks: cut back on the fat, back to 18%

Step 4 for 4 weeks: learn to maintain that body weight and keep body fat at around 20%

This whole process would have lasted 29 weeks in total, and of course, you know that I did not go through this whole process since I only trained for 2 months (I'll explain why later). This at least is the thought behind it all. All the stars are not going to line up perfectly like this, but this is the ideal path.

THE DIET

No Salt, No Oil, No Sugar (at least not added)

This was the initial diet plan that he came up with. Just to point out that this was not supposed to be forever and it would change. I would get cheat days later on in the process, but in the fat loss stage, this was the diet based on my lifestyle at the time.

10AM: Breakfast - 1 egg + 1 whole wheat toast

1PM: Lunch - A sandwich of 2 whole wheat bread, 2 slices of lean deli meat, as much veggies as I want, 1 tbsp of an acceptable condiment (there was a list but basically anything under 15 calories per tbsp and low sodium, I usually choose mustard)

4PM: Snack - 12 almonds or equivalent size nuts, or 1 small container of no fat yogurt

7PM: Dinner - 1 palm sized lean meat or 1 seafood item up to the 3rd finger knuckle, and as much veggies as I want

10PM: Snack - 12 almonds or equivalent size nuts, or 1 small container of no fat yogurt

And throughout the day I could eat as much veggies as I want, whenever I wanted. And when I say as much vegetables as I want I mean as much as certain vegetables, no tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, beans, beets, etc... the list goes on, mostly just green veggies.

So overall this diet is actually pretty filling, but the only thing is the seasoning part. Yes, I could eat as much vegetables as I want, but I either had to eat it like a salad with 1 tbsp of this no fat dressing or cooked somehow by steaming or frying with no oil and seasoning with no salt seasonings. Not the tastiest of meals. This diet also meant that if I were to go out, I was very limited with my options.

THE WORKOUT

3 times a week I would go to the gym and work out for one hour with him + 20 mins of HIIT Cardio. That was all the work out I did and all that he said I needed to do. During that time I would come in 20mins early to do my HIIT Cardio, and for one hour we would do a variety of exercise that was all HIIT style. I did some weights when doing some exercises, but the goal at the time wasn't to build muscle but to get my heart rate up and lose weight. We would do each exercise for about a minute than some rest and just on repeat. The great thing about working out with a personal trainer was that there was someone to tell me what to do, correct my posture, and change up the different exercises. Every day was a bit different and he'd mix up the exercises to what works for me and made sure I worked out every part of my body at least once throughout the week.

 
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MY 2 MONTH EXPERIENCE

So overall I lost around 12 pounds in that 2 months on personal training, and it cost around $2300-ish if I remember correctly. 

PROS: I think overall it was worth it. I learned a lot about dieting, different workouts, proper posture, etc... I lost 12 pounds, a lot of people were telling me I looked slimmer. Also because I was paying for this trainer I was more motivated not to cheat on my diet. My taste buds also changed. I don't need to add a lot of salt to something to make it taste salty, and the same thing for sugar.

CONS: During this time I basically had little to no social life, and when I did I was miserable about it. So when I would go out I basically could only go to places that served salad and even then I had to make sure the meat in the salad was not seasoned, was not cooked in oil, and the salad itself had no vegetables that I couldn't eat (refer to list above). I also brought my own dressing to the restaurant, because we all know how high calories some of those dressings can be. When my friends go to bubble tea, I would get brewed tea, etc., etc... My personal trainer did advise me just not to go out at all during this fat loss period, but I can't help it, gotta go out sometimes!

I would do it again if I had the disposable income, but for now, I want to see what I can do on my own. Working out with a trainer definitely works, but a big part of it for me at least is that there is someone holding you accountable, and paying someone so much motivated me to stick to that diet even more. 

WHY I STOPPED

So there are a few reasons that I stopped, but the main one was actually because I was job hunting at the time and wasn't sure where I would end up and if I would actually stay in Toronto. For the personal trainer, I would have to make a minimum one-month commitment, and by the third month I was waiting to hear back from a job not in Toronto, so I couldn't decide if I should continue, and thus I decided to stop till I found out. After the job didn't work out I decided not to continue even though I had a job in the city, one because the gym is quite far from my work and house, I use to bus one hour to get to the gym to work out one hour than bus home one hour... Not a very efficient use of time. Second, it's quite expensive, and my dad said if I wanted to continue I would have to pay for it on my own, and I have student loans still. Third, it was a little too much for me the whole diet, I felt like if I didn't stick to it, I was throwing money away, but at the same time, I was miserable. K. Miserable is a strong word. I was just unhappy. I wanted to be still able to go out, enjoy food with my friends, and not always make them go to a salad place just because of me.

WHAT NOW?

So recently I been slowly getting back into working out after reading the power of habit, you can read my blog post on why it motivated me here: The Power of Habit. I already started working out at least 5 times a week for the past 3 weeks, but I'm aiming for every day. Trying to get my diet together is a bit harder though. I'm thinking about going back on this diet, but not having it as strict where I can't eat normally when I got out. The good thing about this diet is that it's easy, doesn't require much prep. I know exactly what to make every day, and it's all pretty simple.

I'll update on my progress in a few month! 

 

Book Review: The Power of Habit

The first book review I'm writing on my blog after picking up my first book in a long time. ^^;

Ironically I picked up this book hoping to get into the habit of reading books but of course, because I haven't read this book yet it took me almost a full year and buying 5 other books later before I finally started reading this one. Now I have this waitlist of books that I was hoping this book will propel me to read. Which, I will say now that it did! This was the perfect book to start with, not only because it helped me get back into reading, but this concept can be the start of all the other changes I want to make in my life.

So The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is one of those books that's been on almost all of those "# of books you should read" kinda lists, and now I know why. Of course for a person to even pick up this book you must have some bad habits in your life you want to change or some good habits you want to add. This book is a step by step guide on how to do that!

I use to think about habits in a very one dimensional way. To lose weight I need to get into the habit of exercising or eating healthy and get rid of the habit of eating late at night or eating junk food. None of that is wrong, I do need to do that, but how I approached it was wrong.

Now if you don't want to read the actual book, you can just read this very crude summary from my perspective that I'm going to give you, more as reminders for myself. But I highly recommend you read it if you want to make some changes in your life!

SUMMARY

The book has 3 main sections. It starts off by talking about habits of the individual, then organizations, and lastly society. All very insightful, with real life examples and scientific experiments. I'm just going to talk about the basics of habits and the individual part. That's what is relevant to me right now and what I am trying to apply immediately in my life, but the other parts will definitely change your outlook on, not only your life but how corporate organizations work and the habits of society that cause some of the world's major events.

 
 

So the book begins by explaining the habit loop. This consist of:

  1. The Cue - Something that triggers a reward that your seeking
  2. The Routine - A physical or emotional action you take to get that reward
  3. The Reward - The satisfaction that you get from the routine

A fascinating example that he used was how people in America got into the habit of brushing their teeth and using toothpaste. Although there was a big problem with dental hygiene, people didn't start using toothpaste regularly and out of habit until one man named Claude Hopkins came into the picture. He advertised Pepsodent toothpaste to remove a film on your teeth that gives your teeth that off colour and by using Pepsodent you can get those pearly whites. So by telling people to run their tongue across their teeth, this gave them the cue to brush their teeth to get the reward of white teeth. This wasn't all, what contributed more was the fact that the tooth paste had mint in them unlike other brands at the time which gave a cool tingly sensation. People began to crave that sensation, and it became a sign that their teeth were clean. So this was another key component to note: CRAVING

It's the reason why when we see junk food it's so hard to resist because by seeing the cue of junk food or the golden arches of McDonald we're already imagining the reward of eating it and the satisfaction, making it hard to resist. It's the reason why our shampoos and tooth taste foam, the foam doesn't actually contribute to the cleaning process, but it gives us some satisfaction and sign that the product is "working."

The Golden Rule: To change a habit you have to keep the same cue and reward, but feed the craving by having a different routine. If every day at 2 PM you buy a snack because you're hungry. You may identify that your cue is hunger at 2 PM, your routine is to get chips, and your reward is feeling satisfied from the snack. Since you know this, to change it, you might prepare a healthy snack beforehand so that at 2 pm when you get that craving, you can get the same satisfaction without buying unhealthy junk food.

Similar applies if you want to create a new habit. First, you need to identify a cue to start a routine and make a clear reward for that routine and do it to the point where you crave that reward. The example given in the book is like working out right when you wake up and having a smoothie after. So waking up is the cue, working out is the routine, and the smoothie is a reward. This is, of course, all up to you and what you consider your cue, routine, and reward to be.

For most habits, this will work, but sometimes you need one more ingredient which is BELIEF. You have to believe you can change, to make a reworked habit loop permanent. A lot of times habits are broken at critical moments when you're stressed and reminded of whatever routine you had before to deal with that stress, but if you believe that things are going to get better and that you don't need whatever bad routine you had than you can make that routine last. This works best in group settings where you can see other people's progress and thus making the change seem more realistic and believable.

So now that we understand how habits work and how they can be changed, where do you start? Our whole life is made of little habits pieced together. But not all habits are made equal. What is critical are Keystone Habits or what you may also know them as "small wins." These keystone habits are hard to find, but by changing them, they create a new structure where change becomes contagious. The book has a really interesting section about how keystone habits help shape athletes like Michael Phelps and decrease infant mortality rates by teaching college kids biology!

The last thing that is important to know about how to improve your habits is Willpower. Willpower isn't a skill, but like a muscle that gets tired as it works harder and has less power for other things after. This is why a lot of people tell you to work out in the morning because after a whole day of tedious work your willpower to work out is going to be low. So when you learn to change a keystone habit, you're also working out your willpower. By making a small change like jotting down what you eat, you're working on your willpower, making it strong, and eventually, that will spill out on to other aspects of your life. To make exercising your willpower a habit you need to plan for inflection points. If you plan what you are going to do when you feel resistance or an urge to break your routine than you are less likely to give into the old routine and follow the plan you made before hand.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

So off the bat before reading this book some things I wanted to change in my life were:

  1. Exercise
  2. Eat healthy/Pack Lunch
  3. Read
  4. Wake up earlier/Sleep earlier
  5. Skincare routine
  6. Blog 2 times a week

Before I started this book I have tried and failed many times to implement all these habits .... all at once. With a plan to do it, but no plan for relapse, so when I failed to do one I lost all willpower for the rest of them. A common occurrence for most people I think. Like oh shit well I'm at this event, and there's cake, well there goes my diet. From there I get home late from the event, well there goes my sleep schedule. I sleep in and next morning, well no time to pack lunch, etc... I think you get the point.

So after reading the first 30 pages of this book one night, I got motivated again to start my journey to the perfect life. (this 30 page of reading was my first "small win" now that I think about it). I set my schedule for the next day that I was gonna wake up at 7:45 am, work out till 8:15 am, shower, pack lunch and leave for work at 9 am. Doesn't sound too hard right, a pretty reasonable time 8 am, since I start work at 10 am.

Well... I'm really not a morning person. For a whole week, my alarm would go off at 7:45 and I would snooze it till 8:45 when I had no choice, but to wake up to go to work. Now that I finished the book I know my problem:

  1. I tried to do way too much at once
  2. I had no plan for what I would do if I were tempted not to follow through
  3. I had no clear reward

So what is my plan now? I'm not sure if I found my key stone habit, going to have to test it out and see, but I'm just gonna start with 1 thing I want to change, and that is to wake up earlier.

New habit: No matter how late I sleep I will wake up at 7:30am.

Plan: I'm using the app where you have to take a picture of something to stop the alarm, so that will be how I will overcome the hurdle of going back to bed

The cue is the alarm, the routine is waking up, and the reward will be working on my blog (Which may not seem like a reward to some people, but to me, it feels very rewarding)

After writing all this, I realized maybe I already found my keystone habit. The day I decided to pick up this book and read for 30 minutes before bed. There are already some positive changes in my life that I didn't really plan to happen like the fact that I'm writing this blog post now (which I haven't written one in a while), I packed lunch once this week, and I started to read my next book!

Not sure if this whole post even makes sense if you haven't read the book, but have I made you want to read this book? What are some habits you want to change?