Whole9 guest post by Coach Rut, who has over a quarter century of fitness coaching experience and holds academic degrees in biology and physical education, and Master’s degrees in exercise physiology and sports biomechanics.
Today I would like to put you in a box. As a fitness coach, I like to put you in a particular place on my fitness continuum. By placing you in a particular place on my continuum, I can do a better job of assisting your progress. I don’t ask too much at the wrong time and I can also be aware of the pitfalls that may torpedo your progress. For many of you, this will be rather obvious.
The three places and labels on my continuum are the Slug, the Striver and the Integrator. Today I want to describe these labels with their characteristics and pitfalls. I also want to give you some strategies to continue your health and fitness evolution. My hope is that you will recognize something you are currently doing and this will help you reach the pinnacle of fitness and become an Integrator.
- EXERCISE: Getting the paper in the morning.
- NUTRITION: “We are all going to die someday.”
- LIFESTYLE: “I’ll catch up on my sleep when I die.”
This unfortunately is where the majority of people begin. Very low levels of fitness and absolutely so overwhelmed with what is involved to get things corrected they are most likely to push the “F-it” button. They are forever going to start on Monday but that Monday never arrives. Food choices are made 15 minutes before they eat them and their homes are stuffed with “franken foods” and food alternatives. Alcohol is a food group to the slug and it’s usually practiced on nightly basis. Very much a spectator in the literal sense. Spends anything to spectate on sports but thinks workouts and training are too expensive.
- Start out slowly. It’s like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time.
- Make it a goal to get out of bed on a schedule.
- Do a Whole30 to refocus and reset your eating habits.
- EXERCISE: 3-5 days per week but no make up. Still drives to pick up the mail.
- NUTRITION: Paleo modern, cheat meals, and/or entitlement mentality regarding food.
- LIFESTYLE: Strives to get 7 hours of sleep. Usually hurting on Monday from late weekend events.
This is most uncomfortable stage. I truly believe that ‘disgust’ is the only thing that moves people into this stage. Fear of lost health can have a limited impact, but looking really bad in your underwear or swimsuit is often more motivating.
The Striver goes through a very rough 3-12 months, and even then can fall back into the comfy role of the Slug. If they aren’t willing to be uncomfortable and surrender to the process they will falter. I could have retired twice on Strivers who return to Slugville.
Strivers will certainly make quick improvements with exercise training and will multiply their returns with a high quality nutritional plan. You might even find them freely handing out advice on social media as they wave good bye to the other Slugs and become full fledged exercise experts.
The food part is viewed as a diet and there is an emotional attachment. Clearly a component of the the Slug days. Cheat meals and falling off the wagon each weekend is an entitlement. “I’m an exerciser,” they chant.
Exercisers will disappoint themselves and their trainers with multiple missed training sessions and will defend their mishaps with a colorful list of excuses. The workout session is an appointment they see and nothing beyond that at this point. It is a chore, something to be done.
They will still pitch a fit when they can’t get the parking spot in the front of the store or the gym and they will most certainly postpone a workout for any reasonable excuse to hang out with some of the cooler slugs or to go to a spectator event.
If there is a slippery slope they are more likely to find it. Sleeping in late here, Tuesday night cocktails there and next thing you know its a Friday night and no good Slug graduate is going to miss a Friday night in booze town. Now there’s been no gym visits in a two weeks!
Strivers can stay in this state forever. They will have period of great success followed by disgust which cycles them back. Unfortunately, they still have some friendly faces in Slugtown so they sometimes go back.
- Start with a goal setting process. Make them measurable, realistic and public.
- Review them periodically and measure your progress.
- Share your experience with a Slug, encourage their progress but avoid being judgmental or sounding like a reformed junkie.
- When you backslide halt the shortcoming immediately. Don’t go completely off the rails.
- EXERCISE: 3-5 days per week with an understanding and appreciation for balancing easy & hard workouts.
- NUTRITION: Food is simply fuel. The right stuff will allow one to feel, look and perform better.
- LIFESTYLE: All activities consider additional movement.
The Striver that survives and advances usually becomes an Integrator. This doesn’t mean they exercise harder. In fact, it means they exercise smarter and maintain a consistent practice. They usually find ways to integrate more activity into their daily routine. They take stairs, the long way and they burn their desk in favor of a version where they stand up.
When they eat they don’t tell the restaurant that they are eating a Paleo meal.They simply eat wholesome foods that nourish their bodies for high levels of activity and superior mental function. It’s fuel, not their on-again-off-again boyfriend. Their home fridge is stocked with grass fed meats, vegetables and sauerkraut. The pantries have nuts, spices and healthy fat. The table might have some red wine.
Integrators walk or ride their bikes to the supermarket and find other reasons to get outside for sunlight in their eyes and experience weather extremes.They install pull up bars in their home so they can ‘get in a pull-up’ as they walk past and roll out on therapy balls after meals.
I’ve recently found integrators who have re-wilded their environment with more plants and even move landscaping indoors. The Integrater becomes an ‘evolved’ athlete and therefore is monitoring their fatigue and takes additional time to rest. They don’t look for more activity, they seek superior recovery.
Integrators sound robotic but they are not. They can go back down the dark rabbit hole to Slugness. It’s just that the trip is short and the integrator can return to home base more quickly. Integrators are closing in on coaching independence, but value the voice of experience so they have a mentor and a coach and for that I am grateful.
- “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
- Understand that others might not appreciate your diligence and that if you falter, they will surely let you know.
- Allow yourself to let your guard down. It will be good for your soul.
Michael Rutherford (a.k.a. Coach Rut) has over a quarter century of fitness coaching experience including working with competitors from the ranks of international, Olympic, collegiate, high school, middle school and elementary school aged athletes. Coach Rut also has worked in hospital wellness environments and rehabilitation clinics. All of these experiences have allowed him to bridge the gap between the needs of the competitor and those of the man, woman and child seeking enhanced personal health and fitness. Coach Rut’s Boot Camp Fitness program is the area’s largest and most established group exercise program and his training services have assisted thousands of Kansas City residents over the last two decades. Coach holds academic degrees in biology and physical education, and Master’s degrees in exercise physiology and sports biomechanics. He is a certified Club Coach by the United States Weightlifting Association and is a CrossFit level III certified coach.
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