One of the big problems with being a Personal Trainer is that every day you get to see some really inspiring stories in the gym but it’s rare that you can even talk about them, yet alone publish them on a blog. The main reason for this is that most clients demand & expect a certain level of confidentiality, which of course I fully understand. Many don’t even tell their own families that they are working with me, such are their requirements for secrecy. Thus it came as a great and pleasant surprise that “Client A” agreed to tell her own follow-up story after 5 months of LIHF Living & HIT strength training with me, see below. I wrote about our initial meeting and her dietary changes last year and you can read that post here.
As I wrote back then Client A, a 54-yr-old menopausal female, was well-read, meticulous and organised and all it really took was for someone like me to come along to help her along the way. I had a good feeling about what was going to happen back then and I’m glad to report that I have not been disappointed! During the course of the last five months we have trained together once/ week at the local gym using the “Big 5” protocol as advocated in the Body by Science book by Doug McGuff, a total of only 16 sessions, with some of these being “split-routines” i.e. fewer exercises, usually just 2-3. [As far as I’m aware, so far at least, I’m the only approved trainer in Finland, perhaps even the entire Nordic region, offering this unique kind of personalised training.]
All of my clients are required to provide a full set of bloods prior to the start of the training program and it’s quite surprising/ enlightening for both me and them what can crop up from these. Some have unknown Vitamin D deficiencies (v common at high latitudes) and others, such as Client A, were surprised to learn that they were clearly insulin resistant, as testified by her high HOMA-IR score.
When starting out with my clients, my primary concern is not so much their strength increases as their waist & weight loss profile. For most (not all) clients weight and, more importantly, waist loss are more critical. This was very much the case for Client A. Under such circumstances, my aim is simply to achieve a waist/ height ratio of 0.5 as quickly & efficiently as possible. Only when this is achieved do the risks of the Big 5 “diseases of civilization” become insignificant. Clients report waist and weight readings on a weekly basis. Weight is only important to me as a trend; the overall value is insignificant.
Each week I meticulously record client performance. Performance plateaus can be quickly identified and the routine can be modified to suit using techniques such as split routines, segmented manual assistance, negatives only, etc. The data I collect from all my clients is proving to be an invaluable resource which helps to further improve the quality of the training on offer. I am constantly learning & improving and this heuristic process feeds back directly into my clients. Client A’s strength gains have quite frankly been astonishing. For the “Big 5” exercises they are as follows:
- Seated row: 60% increase
- Chest Press: 400% increase
- Pull Down: 60% increase
- Overhead Press: 100% increase
- Leg Press: 45% increase [130kg total, equal to or better than some male clients!]
Client A hit a small weight loss plateau at the end of December 2017 [see below] but reported no changes to her diet. At the same time, she hit a performance plateau, a clear sign that things needed to change. Using the above techniques, I was able to dial-up the intensity and force her into some deeper muscle in-roading and, sure enough, a couple of days later she reported a nearly 2 kg weight loss! The plateau was broken and weight loss continues.
From my point of view, the key to Client A’s success so far is that she has done EVERYTHING I have asked her to, without question. Her diet is pure LIHF and her attitude towards the training has been exemplary; she always shows up on time with a smile, well-rested and fully motivated to put herself through 15 minutes of excruciating mental torment. Her form on the individual exercises has been excellent throughout, even when approaching muscle failure.
So that’s enough from me and my role in Client A’s story so far. It has been an absolute delight and privilege to have worked & continue to work with her. I’ll leave the rest of this blog post to her and her own words..
1. What made you decide to start HIT strength training and what were/ are your goals?
I first read Nick’s story and found out about his HIT PT services on Dr. Antti Heikkilä’s website. I had never heard about this kind of training before but it only required one meeting with Nick, during which he gave his standard “new client” presentation, before I was convinced. In it he talked about his own weight-loss story, and the longevity benefits of going on an LIHF diet, with the addition of short-duration HIT training. It just seemed to be the right thing for me, which very soon proved to be the case.
2. You have had a personal trainer before. What kind of workouts did you do with them and how successful was this?
About 7 – 8 years ago I had a PT for two years, my goal was to lose 20 kg. The training was classic gym training, using free weights, kettle bells and a few machines, combined with some aerobic training such as running. I used to exercise 5 times a week for 1,5 hours as I believed that the more you do, the better the results. In the beginning, I also kept a detailed food diary and was counting calories. My diet at the time was the so-called ‘zone diet’ – 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. I enjoyed the training and managed to lose 20 kg, but I also became more and more bored. I felt I did not have time for anything else other than the gym and watching my diet. Finally, after two years I quit, as I have done several times before! By then I had problems with my lower back and, even though I was now quite slim and in good shape, I also had high blood pressure for the first time in my life. Furthermore, I felt hungry most of the time and the strict diet and calorie counting was a nuisance. Within a few years of quitting, and still being on the 40% carb-zone diet, and counting calories, I had gained back all of my 20 kg!
3. What kind of diet are you on now and how often do you eat?
I try to follow the LIHF diet, which is primarily ketogenic, free of all sugars, alcohol, grains and dairy. However, as time goes on, I find myself moving more and more towards a zero carb diet i.e. just plain meat and water, which may well be the “ultimate” Low Inflammation diet. Time will tell. My meals mainly consist of various meats, fish, eggs and good fats, most of the main ingredients being organic. Sometimes I add an avocado, some lettuce, cucumber, spinach or mushrooms. I do not eat any root vegetables because of their starch content, and I don’t touch fruit because of the fructose (I never was particularly fond of fruit anyway!). I take vitamin D and K2 supplements, as well as a pro-biotic supplement, nothing more. If I feel like a bout of flu is coming on, I throw in some ascorbic acid (pure vit. C). I normally eat twice a day, around 11:00 and 18:00 . This is NOT driven by the clock, just hunger. However, occasionally I feel that I need a small “something” in the mornings, just to keep me going. I drink water and organic coffee/tea.
4. Your weight started to fall even before you started training. What do you think was the reason for this?
I met Nick about 6 weeks before we started training together. He made it quite clear in his presentation that all weight loss starts with your diet – NO amount of training will effectively overcome a poor diet. By co-incidence, I was already beginning to cut the carbs in my diet, with the result that I had at least managed to arrest my continuous weight gain. Hence, around the time I was finally introduced to LIHF and HIT strength training, I was already following a low-carb diet. I had also read a lot about the disadvantages of our official food recommendations, and the benefits of keto, low-carb, paleo etc. Hence, it was not difficult for me to make a few small alterations to my diet in order to fall in line with the concept of LIHF Living. In other words, I did not have to start from scratch. The LIHF protocol immediately produced results and my weight started falling.
5. How much weight have you lost and, apart from this, what other benefits have you noticed?
After 5 months I have lost 17 kg in weight and 18 cm from around my waist and my weight is still falling. Furthermore, all inflammatory markers have disappeared such as morning coughs, swollen ankles, fatigue, gastric gas, heartburn, etc. My blood pressure is back to a normal 125/83 from around 170/95 and I have not been sick once during the last 5 months. I never feel hungry and I don’t have to count calories anymore. My sleep quality has improved and I now like what I see in the mirror! Last but not least, I feel incredibly healthy, which is probably the most important thing of all.
6. How do you find the workouts?
I simply love them! They are incredibly intense but also great fun and you get amazing results very quickly. Sounds perfect? It is! For me, this is absolutely the right way to exercise. In general, I never liked sports and I am lazy, so spending less than 15 minutes per week on exercise is just perfect. I am absolutely certain anybody can do this, regardless of age, gender or previous experience.
7. People say it is impossible to obtain any health benefits on just 15 mins HIT strength training/ week. What do you say to this?
That’s just a bullsh#t, old-fashioned way of thinking! 15 minutes per week of any other traditional sport would not get you anywhere, but HIT strength training is completely different. Being so intense, the body needs a week (or more) to recover, which simply means that less is more! I am living proof of the effectiveness of this workout protocol.
8. How do you view the relative importance of diet & exercise? Do you believe one is more important than the other and, if so, why?
I think diet always has to come first. You can exercise as hard as you like but if you continue on a poor diet, it will not get you anywhere in the long run. By adopting the LIHF protocol, you do not have to exercise in order to lose weight; the weight comes down by itself. LIHF is a lifestyle, not just a ‘diet’. LIHF combined with HIT strength training will simply increase the rate of weight loss, as well as making you strong and healthy and helping you to stay that way.
9. How important do you think a state of low inflammation is in achieving a healthy lifestyle/ health-span? Do you think you have achieved/ are achieving that state?
A state of low or no inflammation should be everyone’s number one goal in life. This will minimize the risks of getting sick, hence allowing us to stay healthy and off medication. I am convinced that I am reducing my inflammation and hence also my insulin resistance with each passing day, and I am looking forward to a healthy & fulfilling rest-of-my-life.
10. Do you intend to continue HIT strength training even after achieving all your goals and, if so, why?
Yes, absolutely. I will continue to do some kind of HIT strength training for the rest of my life, probably incorporating exercises such as handstands etc. in order to maintain my new-found strength gains, if nothing else.