Training Day: Q&A with five fitness experts on how to keep your healthy resolutions

Eggnog. It’s why  — both calorically and metaphorically — the gyms are packed every January.

Even if you don’t indulge, surely no single word so completely captures the excess of the holiday season as the word “eggnog.”

It brings together the Three Pillars of the Yuletide binge: sugar, fat and booze, with the minimum of physical exertion. Even rum cake requires the effort to chew. Feh!

Not that the holidays have a seasonal monopoly on our excesses and lethargy. But come January, they can certainly bring them into focus. Eggnog guilt, unlike eggnog itself, can be very motivating.

GA Voice reached out to five LGBT certified trainers from Urban Body Fitness, which has been a popular gym with Atlanta’s gay (and straight) communities for over a decade. We asked our trainers, Eric Pyne, Dylan Bolen, Nicole Gourdet, Guyton Maurice and Stephen Smith, to answer a set of five questions from which the responses below are drawn.

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(Eric Pyne works out with client Tim Conley. Photo by Tina Tian)

1. New Years resolutions and holiday food guilt always bring a surge of people into the gym in January. When starting with a new client, what are the signs of a person who is likely to achieve their goals … or not?

ERIC PYNE: Surprisingly, trainers aren’t swamped at the beginning of the New Year because most people are broke after the holidays. But I believe that all clients who come to you for personal training have some sort of desire and a willingness to achieve a certain goal. The differences are the ones who have a passion to work hard and to do what they have to do — whether it is fitness or nutrition or both — and to reach and achieve those goals.

That desire usually reveals itself about two weeks after starting a fitness program with me. Those clients who usually listen and obtain the knowledge come to the gym and sweat and work hard and put everything they have into every workout.

NICOLE GOURDET:  Sometimes it’s hard to tell because most people are excited and “motivated” when they first come to their decision to “make that change”.  It’s 1) when they start fishing for shortcuts to lose weight or get in shape, 2) they start looking at me like I’m crazy when I tell them how they can reach their goals or 3) when their goals don’t match what they’re willing to do to get there. For example, they say, I just want to look good but I’m not going to stop drinking beer. Or they’ll say I want to lose weight but I don’t like cardio. Then I look at them like THEY’RE crazy.

(Personal Trainer Nicole Gourdet with client Brandi Szen. Photo by Tina Tian)

However, there are those who have been working out inconsistently and just need guidance and to be held accountable. These people can usually be helped. One sign that a person is ready to change and is likely to achieve their goals is when their health or physical state becomes more painful than the work it would require to change. It’s usually unbearable pain or high motivation that causes someone to make a drastic and long lasting change in their lifestyle.

GUYTON MAURICE: I’ve been very fortunate to have very committed clients, but I’ve had a few “flings,” meaning short-term clients. I can usually tell by the second week whether or not they are going to stick to it. In those cases, it usually starts off with a bang of excitement, thrilled that they have finally made it off their sofa and into the gym . . . And then they begin to realize that this isn’t a quick fix.

In today’s culture of immediate gratification, people are genuinely shocked that this is truly a lifestyle change. It’s a change in schedule (you have to show up, first!) and a change in your eating, which requires effort away from the gym. All day. Every day. . .
A person who is going to stick to it, comes in with a realistic notion that they are there to work, they embrace it.

STEPHEN SMITH: Many times you can tell right off who will stick with training. Sometimes, the person you least expect is the one who works the hardest and continues training for an extended period of time.

Usually the person that comes across as overly zealous tends to fade away into their old unhealthy habits, as well as a person who brings in an unrealistic picture of what they want to look like . . . as well as a person training because someone else wants them to lose weight.

Individuals that stay motivated and adhere to their fitness goals are the ones you see regularly in the gym outside of their training sessions, a person who is open-minded to your suggestions, and a person who knows they need help and are willing to listen to and follow your advice!

(Dylan Bolen. Photo by Adam Carpenter)

DYLAN BOLEN: The main issue with New Years resolutions is they are always unrealistic. My clients and I set sensible quarterly goals that combine their ultimate goal with a realistic commitment level. It is that first step, that first mile that leads to the first marathon. Dealing with all clients this way keeps them interested and excited about how far they have come.

2. People often have wildly different ideas of what constitutes healthy nutrition, effective exercise, or reasonable goals. What are some common myths that people bring to the gym — or the kitchen — that sabotage their fitness goals?

ERIC PYNE: Common myths that lead to failure are, nutritionally speaking, [saying] there’s no difference between a glass of wine or a bottle of wine, or even drinking every day of the week. A big part is portion control . . .

As far as the workouts go, I believe intensity plays a big role in the gym. Working with or without the trainer, it is a myth to think that doing  six-to-eight exercises in two hours is the same as getting the workout done in 45 minutes.

NICOLE GOURDET: A common myth that people bring to the gym is that They’ll lose weight as long as they do “something” however small or ineffective. For example, they’ll take three classes a week, skip the weights, glide past the treadmill and think the classes will take care of everything.

A common myth that people bring to the kitchen is that they can start eating organic – in double helpings because it’s organic – and magically lose weight.

GUYTON MAURICE: I have said “It didn’t take three days for you to get this out of shape, it’s not going to take three days to fix it.”

“Reasonable” goals depend on many different factors: genetics, eating habits, attitude, stress level, etc. It is important to resist giving in to the myth that everyone can or should have six-pack abs and bulging muscles but it is important to believe that everyone can be fit.

Nutrition is key. . . You can work your arse off at the gym, and then undo everything by day’s (or meals) end.

DYLAN BOLEN: The most common myth people believe is that eating little calories and cranking up the cardio will help them lose weight when in reality it is messing up their metabolism causing their body to store every calorie intake.

STEPHEN SMITH: Just because a person goes to the gym does not mean that person is doing what’s right for their body.  I always tell my clients, “ It’s not how much you lift, but it’s how you lift!” Proper form, consistency, and hard work are the only way one will achieve their fitness goals!

With that mind, having a “WELL”-balanced eating plan is the number one way to truly reach your goal! It should be noted that not taking in enough calories a day to keep up with the bodies energy demands, can also lead to weight gain.  I try not to use the word diet with my clients because it tends to steer one towards restrictions! Life is too short, none of us are promised tomorrow, so do things in MODERATION!

3. How do you define fitness?  Is it possible for someone to be curvy or not have six-pack abs but still be fit and healthy? Do you work with people to love their bodies regardless of what it looks like?

ERIC PYNE: I believe a person doesn’t have to be ripped and toned or slim or built like a brick shithouse to be considered fit. Being fit is simply being active. Fitness can take place inside the gym or outside the gym. I believe fitness can take place in many different ways, shapes and forms.

NICOLE GOURDET: It definitely is possible for someone to be curvy or not have six-pack abs but still be fit and healthy. I do encourage people to love their bodies regardless of what they look like. Self-love is necessary for respecting our bodies and for making improvements that lead to all aspects of living well. We all undergo physical changes throughout our lives. It’s a journey we take as we grow. Practicing self-love under ALL circumstances allows us to appreciate the improvements that lead to our enhanced well being.

GUYTON MAURICE: Being fit is being healthy. For some, that may mean 6-pack abs, for others, that may mean living without back pain. Fitness models are a rare breed. Glossy magazines with air brushed bodies, paint a beautiful false portrait of the definition of ‘fit’. The true answer lies within the reality of your own body. Genetics play a large part, but so do breaks, accidents, medical conditions…none of these hurdles should be considered limitations, just extra challenges. I have seen people transform their bodies, and thus their lives, in extraordinary ways and in subtle ways, but the key word here is change because even the slightest positive change, can have the most spectacular effects!

DYLAN BOLEN: The definition of fitness is not one of aesthetics. It’s not a six pack, biceps, or a large chest, it’s feeling comfortable in the body one has worked hard for. Fitness is a glow of confidence.

STEPHEN SMITH: I define fitness as a lifestyle, this is “a choice.” Choosing a healthy lifestyle involves movement, motivation, moderation, and healthy eating!  Exercising regularly and staying active at any age will keep you young at heart, and helps with mobility as we age.  Stay motivated by working out with friends, going to fitness classes, or signing up for road races or activity runs.

(Stephen Smith. Photo by Adam Carpenter)

Do everything in moderation. Like I’ve previously mentioned, “Life is too short, none of us are promised the next day.” So eat bread, have those sweets, and have that glass of wine, but remember these things should all be done in moderation. Finally, choose healthy options when it comes to eating. In doing so, not only will you feel and look better, but this is by far, the fastest route to achieving your weight loss goal!

We all have different body types, and so it is possible to be fit without looking like a fitness model!  What I try to get across to my clients is be happy with who you are and that is why you are here doing what it takes to reach your goals. It may not happen as quickly as you want, but you are at least making the effort.

4. What’s one simple thing most people can do physically or nutritionally, regardless of their age or fitness level, that would have a surprisingly significant impact on their fitness?

ERIC PYNE: The easy solution is meal preparation. Preparing your meals for three days or a week in advance will help out in so many ways to achieve your fitness goals.

NICOLE GOURDET: Use food as fuel. This has profound effects on aesthetics, energy levels, mental clarity, emotions, sleep, overall health. The list goes on.

GUYTON MAURICE: Well, on paper it’s one simple thing, but in reality it’s not, and that is, to eliminate sugar & processed food.

DYLAN BOLEN: Drinking water is the most important thing anyone can do. Our bodies are made up of up to 60 percent water, this is where your energy comes from, it speeds up your metabolism and replenishes your body.

STEPHEN SMITH: MOVE, eat breakfast, and drink plenty of water!

5. Do you have a favorite success story, a client who surprised or inspired you, someone who overcame some obstacle or achieved some particularly impressive result? (It could even be your own story, or someone who inspired you.)

NICOLE GOURDET: I took on a challenge with a client who was 42 pounds overweight, after having two children. She had two C-sections and thought her abs would never look good again. She ate cake for breakfast – yes cake – had low-self esteem, refused to wear jeans or shorts because she didn’t like how she looked in them. She refused to do cardio for more than 10 minutes and would constantly whine to me about my workouts being too hard. It took a lot of creativity and patience to help her even begin to make the changes necessary.

Slowly but surely, she started to get the results she wanted. She began eating according to my meal program, replacing cake with cardio. She began applying then pushing herself, replacing her baggy pants with shorts and even more revealing clothing. I was especially proud when she sent me a family vacation photo in which she posed confidently in a new bikini.

Her weight continued to drop consistently, and her energy level and self-esteem soared. A new haircut and make over encouraged her to keep the weight off, and a new set of eating and fitness rules has become so second nature to her now that she looks back and laughs at how stubborn and resistant she was in the beginning.

GUYTON MAURICE: Well, I used to have a herniated disc and walk with a cane. The recovery road is what eventually led me to this point of helping other people. However, it is a current client who really inspires me. He came to me overweight and on high blood pressure, high cholesterol and low testosterone meds.

(Guyton Maurice. Photo by Tina Tian)

He was borderline diabetic and a former smoker. He was determined and fearless of the work, but extremely uncomfortable about being in a gym, let alone working out. In a relatively short, but healthy time, he has now lost nearly 60 pounds, and his doctor has taken him, one by one, OFF ALL OF HIS MEDS! I am SO proud of him and he looks amazing, but more importantly, he FEELS amazing!

DYLAN BOLEN: My most recent success story, that has inspired me to continue making a difference, comes from a really close family friend that has struggled with her weight for the nine years that I have known her before we started training. Seeing the confidence she now possesses is priceless. Every time we train she is always telling me to “feel her arms,” which have become her proudest accomplishment strength-wise and aesthetically.

STEPHEN SMITH: Since 2007, I have been training young ladies that compete in the Miss America and or, the Miss USA Pageant systems. Every year since then I have had one or more preliminary night swimsuit winners and or, the overall swimsuit winner in The Miss Georgia Pageant.

This year however, was by far my most successful year. I have been training the current Miss Georgia, Carly Mathis, for three years. In that time, Carly has not only lost over 30 pounds, but when competing for the 2013 title of Miss Georgia, Carly was not only a preliminary night swimsuit winner, but the overall swimsuit winner in the pageant.  In September, Carly competed for the title of Miss America where she was a top ten finalist, but the highlight for both Carly and I was when she the overall preliminary night swimsuit winner in her group.