Monday, September 28, 2015

Mission: Fit Monday | Fitness Feature:
Shawn Fleming

Shawn Fleming is a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer at Life Time Fitness in Fairfax, Virginia. He completed his studies at the National Personal Training Institute in Northern Virginia with a concentration in power lifting. With a history of playing college-level football at Alderson Broaddus University, Shawn also specializes in sports-specific performance training. Read on to find out the top three exercises he recommends, how to calculate your target heart rate for fat burning, and the equipment you should get familiar with at the gym (psst: no cumbersome machines!).

What does being “fit” mean to you?

Being fit to me means being able to perform day-to-day activities without any physical limitations. Now, that could mean different things to different people. Ideally, for an older man or woman, I would say it means being able to walk without difficulty for a mile and a half. And for someone my age, being able to jog a mile and a half at steady pace (roughly 5 – 5.5 mph).

What motivates you to stay fit?

Well, since I’m a trainer, I have to look the part. If I don’t, it’s like I’m not practicing what I preach. So, that’s a big motivating factor. But more importantly, I like the fit lifestyle. Being physically active without being limited by my body – that feels pretty good.

Do you ever feel unmotivated? How do you overcome that feeling?

I do feel unmotivated sometimes, but those are the days you have to give yourself an extra push. That’s where champions are made. Those are the days that are going to make the difference not just in your training, but in everything else you do. I think about the big picture and what’s at stake – all of my goals when it comes to fitness  which helps me get back into gear.

What are 3 exercises everyone should incorporate into their exercise routine? Why?

Squats – A total body exercise. It engages all of the major muscle groups and builds anterior chain strength. The anterior chain is comprised of the muscles on the front side of the body (i.e. chest, abdominals, quadriceps).

Dead Lifts – A crucial exercise that strengthens the posterior chain, or back side of the body (i.e. back, hamstrings, glutes, calves). It’s important to work both anterior and posterior chains.

Bench Press – A great compound movement, or movement that requires use of both arms (or legs). Most testosterone is released from your body during compound movements, meaning muscle fibers are tearing, which ultimately results in growth.

Note: These exercises can and should be performed at different progressions and/or regressions depending on your skill level and goals. Progressions are modifications that make the exercise more challenging, while regressions make it less challenging. For example, a squat progression could be transitioning from squatting body weight to squatting with a barbell, while a squat regression may be doing a squat while holding onto something for balance. (This is a good option for someone older or less advanced who wants to achieve depth while maintaining good form.)
What would your first piece of advice be for someone who is just starting their fitness journey and wants to lose weight?

When doing cardio, be conscious of your heart rate. When trying to lose weight, it’s not always about pushing it as hard as you can. If your heart rate is too elevated in the early stages of exercise, you actually burn more sugar instead of fat. Your fat-burning zone is roughly 65 – 75% of your max heart rate (220 – age).

For example, the fat-burning zone for someone age 40 would be 117 bpm (180 max heart rate x 65%) – 135 bpm (180 max heart rate x 75%).

Note: In the fat-burning zone, you should be able to hold a conversation with someone while engaging in the exercise.

How often do you recommend exercising in general to maintain weight?

It depends a lot on diet. If you’re incorporating a healthy protein, carbohydrate, and fat into every meal (healthy meaning no processed meats, no refined carbs, no processed foods in general), exercising twice a week should be sufficient. As long as calories in equals calories out, your weight will remain the same.

How often should you be exercising if you want to lose weight at a steady rate?

At least 3 times a week for one hour. That hour should consist of 20-30 minutes of cardio and 30-40 minutes of strength training.

Where is a good place to start for a first-time gym goer? What do you suggest someone do to feel less intimidated at the gym?

I suggest first working on balance using resistance bands, a Bosu ball, and/or exercise ball. Focus on body weight exercises. Then, transition to free weights or dumbbells to get familiar with certain movements.

Also, work on isolation exercises to achieve balance on each side of the body (ex. single-leg Romanian dead lifts or toe touches, single-leg step-ups, single-arm curls). You want to ensure each side of your body is equally strong so if you decide to start lifting more weight, you won’t overexert one side of your body to compensate for lack of strength in the other.

Are there any misconceptions or myths within the fitness world that you would like to set straight?

For somebody trying to lose weight, high intensity is not necessarily the answer. If your body is too heavy to handle the impact, you’ll risk doing damage to your tendons and ligaments. For people that are overweight, I recommend less intensive exercise to start. You don’t have to kill yourself every time you work out. It’s better to work smarter rather than harder.

Shawn recommends the following resources for videos on how to perform the exercises mentioned:

And, of course, YouTube.

Thanks, Shawn!

If you have any questions for Shawn, please feel free to leave them in the comments and we'll get them answered! 

xo – Sc

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