What does it take to see progress for your specific fitness goal? What is the right exercise program? What is the one thing that makes all your insecurities and problems with your body disappear? The answer isn’t always a one-time-fix-all solution because those don’t exist either.
In this episode, Matt and Lynn will lay it all down for us to figure out what strength training can do for your body and what are the things we need to reconstruct with our mindset for working out– all that and more in this quick run down from our experienced Bent On Better coaches.
What Does a Fit Person Look Like?
People seem to have this preconceived notion that if you were to become an active or physically fit person, you have to look a certain way; well, that’s not entirely true. Even bodybuilders don’t look the way they do during competitions in their everyday lives. Our coaches at Bent On Better are people who all look different from each other in the best possible way; different heights, gender, age, and backgrounds. This way, our members can see that with fitness comes different dynamics as well, and people will look different depending on their goal, which is to gain or lose weight.
“Fitness does not have a specific answer. There’s no specific look to fitness. There’s no specific expectation for fitness. Fitness has become this thing that people think it’s only one answer. If you look this way, you’re a fitness person. If you don’t, then you’re not. The wonderful thing about what we do is that we practice what we preach, and it just so happens that we have body types that allow for us to look a certain way that gives us the “fitness” look.” -Matt April
Confessions From a Former Athlete
It’s common knowledge amongst our members that most if not all of our coaches are or were athletes. As a woman who didn’t prioritize weight lifting in her days as a field hockey athlete, Lynn April found a significant change in not only her physique but also how she moved after strength training. Back then, she would focus more on spinning, which was essentially steady-state cardio and didn’t target a specific body part.
Although she went to spin classes and found it to be a fun activity, once she stopped spinning and started strength training, she began to see changes in her body that made her happy. How she looked wasn’t a top priority for her. What mattered most was how she felt and what she could now do with that body.
Matt April also participated in lots of sports back in the day, but the one that he fixated on the most was playing track as a sprinter in high school. He wasn’t very team-oriented back then, so sprinting allowed him to play individually, and there was no one to stop him from his goals. He knew the importance of weight lifting as an athlete but purposely lifted lower weights because he did not want to bulk up and get slower.
His perception changed during his senior year when he participated in a Chester County League, which included higher-level athletes from West Chester from better schools with more funding for their training. Matt didn’t have a coach that corrected his views on lifting weights, told him that he wouldn’t get bulkier, could get stronger and be faster, or have someone plan out a specific program. To Matt’s surprise, the athletes he saw at that time were huge and jacked-up men, and he felt that he looked like a little boy next to them. He took a step back to ask himself what the others were eating and drinking to get that way. Matt held his own during the competition but admittedly could not compete in that level of athleticism.
Importance of A Good Strength Coach
What set Matt apart from the athletes at West Chester back then was that the athletes prioritized strength training. Even now, the parents of young athletes at Bent On Better understand how important strength training is for their children.
Lynn looks back at a time in the summer before her sophomore year in college wherein she got a college student membership from her local gym. It was there that she focused more on circuit machines. She would incorporate running and lifting a few weights but never too heavy. When Lynn returned for preseason, her coach looked at her and deduced that she had been lifting weights. The first thing that came into Lynn’s mind was that she thought she looked bulky. It turns out, that season was when she performed her best at her sport. But that worry of looking “bulky” made her stop weight lifting. Lynn now wishes that she had a good strength and conditioning coach who could maintain her performance, but that’s where the Bent On Better coaches come in today!
Importance of Resistance-Based Strength Training
Most people who come into Bent On Better have no prior experience with strength or resistance training. So we try to explain to every new member what we do here and what they can expect with the program. It’s always expected that your body will feel discomfort during the first few days of training. This is a normal process your body must go through when experiencing something for the first time.
What’s happening is that while training, we are essentially making micro-tears in our muscles which is a good thing, especially when you have experienced coaches who prioritize your safety and health instead of just pushing and pushing. We try to look at things with a scientific, safe, and controlled approach.
So while your muscles are getting tiny damages from training, when you go home and prioritize sleep, that’ll be the time for your immune system to do its magic. If you are properly hydrated, the water in your body will ensure a good blood flow, making nutrients pass by all the areas in your body that need repair. Think of this process as putting a plaster on a wall; when that plaster hardens, so does the whole foundation. Over time the tears we’re making in our muscles will get repaired, they’ll get thicker and therefore build more resilience.
What It Takes To Look Like An Athlete
Another aspect that is an effect of our muscles building resilience is the presence of what seems to be weight gain in the first few days of training but do not fret, this is mostly water weight which you will shred over time. We have moms and grandparents who also get worried when they hear that we lift heavy weights at the Bent On Better gym because they do not want to get bulky. People forget that to actually see progress for their goals, they need that repair in their muscles and the longevity that comes from it. To be at the level of a fit person requires the same amount of time, energy, and food intake they do.
During one of our 5:30 a.m. workout sessions, Matt and Lynn were talking about the Strong Man Competition, wherein a man was seen clearing and having pressed a 245-pound dumbbell which was ridiculously awesome. The members then asked what it would take to get on that same level. The answer is that, if you are to do so, your life would have to be solely dedicated to working out and eating only food that is appropriate for those who are trying to beef up.
During one of their early morning workouts, Matt and Lynn discussed the Strong Man Competition, where they had witnessed a man clear and press a 245-pound dumbbell, which they thought was ridiculously awesome. The members then asked about the steps necessary to achieve similar success. If you really want to bulk up, you’ll have to devote yourself entirely to working out and eating food that supports muscle gain.
Lynn tried to make her muscles more prominent, but it never turned out as she expected. Even Matt, who joined a powerlifting competition, says, “there’s always a price to pay”. At that time, Matt was caught in a predicament of choosing Bent On Better as a hobby or as a full-time job. Eventually, something had to give. He had to give up flag football in an adult league to dedicate himself to helping other people with healthy weight management and teaching others about fitness.
He explains that powerlifting as a sport was between doing a deadlift, bench press, and squats. They had judges check that each lift with its different parameters were executed correctly. For the competition, Matt even hired a coach to help him. Powerlifters are enormous individuals, and while participating, Matt went from weighing 155 to 168 pounds while eating as much as he could stomach.
In his recent goal, which was to participate in two half-marathons, Matt intended to put himself in the shoes of the B.O.B. members who also used to be runners. He would spend a whole day running, still lifting weights, and eating a lot to make up for the energy he lost while running, but even then, he lost three pounds of muscle mass.
You must have a specific plan to get where you want to be. For Matt right now, it’s to bring back the muscles he lost while participating in marathons, and to most of our members, it’s to lose weight. You have to find a good balance between maintaining strength and weight lifting, even when you’re a runner, a former athlete, or just someone who considers themselves to be active.
Take one of our members who wanted to get better at running, she put in more strength training in her routine to strengthen her leg muscles and build resistance in her joints which led to her running smoothly and faster than ever.
“There is no limit to what you’re capable of, but remember that your habits outside your fitness journey or your routines have to reflect that of your goal. So if you are someone who wants to build more muscles, who wants to build a more sustainable but healthy body type, we need to prioritize your nutrition, sleep, water, recovery, stretching, mobility, stability, and strength– all those areas.”-Matt April
Even with the Strongman competitors, they did not get there overnight, it takes years of training, and it’s not just 3-4 days a week; it’s five or even seven days a week because that is their full-time job to compete for the grand prize since that is their source of income. So if you are worried about getting bulky from lifting weights, understand that strength training opens a whole other avenue of fitness, wherein you can either lose weight or gain muscle, but it all comes with your life habits. What strength training can do for you is give your body enough resilience to continue pushing for your long-term goals.
“If you align your goals with life, and vice versa, you will be more successful because you developed what works for you in that stage of life.”-Matt April
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