Categories: Training
Tags: fitness

5 fitness fundamentals for every body | Tips from a pro

November 1, 2016

If there is one driving force to fitness coach Joe Yager, it’s his passion for helping people. People of every shape, size, age, and fitness level. Over his 20-year personal coaching career, he’s worked with ball clubs, teams, elite competitors, high school athletes, and seniors, among others. His universal objective for all of them is to see them succeed, whatever their goal.

We caught up with Joe on the road between appointments to get his take on fitness fundamentals that apply to everybody and every body. Joe said these 5 things serve as the foundation to any successful health and fitness program, whether you are just getting started or a seasoned athlete returning to exercise:

Get started with these fitness fundamentals

1. Start now

In Joe’s experience, you engage in fitness either because [a] you want to (good choice), or [b] you have to. Waiting until you “have to” because of immobility, disease, or health risks is never the best choice. However, Joe emphasizes that it is never too late to start. It just might mean you have to start small and work your way up to a better and better you. While a healthful diet and lifestyle may not guarantee a long or healthy life, it can often make the difference of living a pain- and medicine-free life versus one regulated by a pill.

2. Determine what motivates you

what-motivates-youWhether it is winning a race, losing weight, gaining flexibility, looking good in a bathing suit, or living a long life, knowing and owning your motivation is key. It is the magic bullet that will help you stick with your fitness plan. And knowing how you tick is also important. If you’re motivated by others, doing solo workouts in your basement might be less successful than doing group classes at a gym, having a workout buddy, or doing group runs.

3. Be aware of your physical limitations

Always be mindful of your health and well-being. If you haven’t participated in regular exercise before, but you’re otherwise healthy and don’t have symptoms for cardiovascular, metabolic or renal disease, you don’t necessarily need a professional medical check-up before starting light or moderate intensity exercise.

However, before you begin, you should always understand your fitness limitations and weaknesses. Do you have an arthritic joint? A bad back? A lopsided gait? Joe says that piling fitness efforts on top of some form of dysfunction (or doing a movement pattern incorrectly) can actually worsen your condition. Doing exercise without some form of assessment is a bit like a doctor prescribing medication without first giving the patient an examination.

So how do you assess your limitations? If you can afford it, it’s worth the cost to get a professional assessment done. For example, having a professional trainer perform a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) allows the trainer to identify your asymmetries and learn where you need the most improvement.

If a professional assessment isn’t possible, do a self-assessment. Check out your resting heart rate and blood pressure; do a mental body scan to identify your aches, pains, and weaknesses; record your weight, height, crucial body measurements, and BMI; evaluate your range of motion in all of your major joints; and look at your posture (Head pitched forward? Shoulders rounded? Pelvis tilted forward or back?). Even a rudimentary self-assessment provides you with a baseline so you can monitor how you are doing and if things are improving or not as you progress in your fitness plan.

4. Set realistic goals

set-realistic-goalsBeing overambitious about your goals can set you up for failure and derail your best intentions. Joe likes to start his clients by asking them how much time they have. Work within your available time windows. Whatever your goals (lose weight, be more active, eat a better diet), you should start with small, achievable steps. As you progress, you can increase your workout time, distance, or intensity and/or gradually decrease or change your caloric intake and diet.

Rather than just one big goal, it’s also important to have short- and mid-term goals as well. Your goal may be to run a marathon, but if you’re just starting, maybe your first goal is to run around the block, followed by making it up to 2 miles in 3 weeks. Having those smaller, incremental goals provides you with motivation and victories all along the way.

5. Seek out accountability

Being accountable to someone or something can make the difference between success and failure. It might be a friend you meet every morning for a run, a gym class you attend regularly, an app you use to track your exercise and nutrition, or an online community of like-minded individuals or friends. To make accountability tangible, keep a log. Record your workouts and caloric intake every day to monitor your progress and to stay on track. This also helps you make course corrections on your food intake or exercise without giving up in defeat if you miss a workout or eat too much.

Avoiding pitfalls with fitness

In his years as a personal coach, Joe says one of the biggest mistakes beginners, and sometimes seasoned athletes, make is overextending themselves and exceeding their body’s personal work capacity (i.e., what it is in shape for handling). This quickly sets the individual up for injuries.

To avoid this, you should:

  • Understand your limitations: Don’t force your body into anything it can’t or shouldn’t be doing.
  • Gradually build up your workouts: Doing too much too soon is a recipe for failure.
  • Avoid overtraining: More isn’t always better. Gradually build up distance, time, or intensity and always allow adequate recovery between workouts. Joe says a heart rate monitor can be a great tool for logging your workouts and monitoring recovery.

Joe’s fitness story

Joe understands hardship. It’s given him immense capacity to empathize with the challenges – big or small – faced by his clients and an intense desire to improve the lives of others.

Joe and his brothers grew up in a neighborhood that faced many challenges. Joe’s mother worked 3 jobs to support her boys and scrape by. She was Joe’s rock and best friend. She taught him right from wrong. Good behavior from bad. To arrive early and leave late. And to always be polite and appreciate what you have. Joe saw this wonderful woman suffer from being overweight and plagued by diabetes. Before Joe was 25, his parents and grandparents had all passed away. It was a hard, unforgiving life, but it was the fodder that drove Joe to better both himself and the lives of others. Joe’s mother was big on reaching out a helping hand and told him, “I’ve given you all the tools you need to succeed, now go out and use them.”

And so he did. It was hard, but he learned the art of persistence. He made the leap from being a struggling student to graduating with honors from college, where he pursued his lifelong interest in human movement. Seeing his mom suffer all her life, he wanted to help promote a better way to live. “If you feel good, you can do more emotionally, physically, and spiritually,” he explains.

Joe got rejected from several baseball teams before being recruited by Waubonsee Community College (Greater Chicago, Illinois, USA) as a pitcher. There he was voted the top male athlete, inducted into their hall of fame, and led the nation in strikeouts with fastballs that topped 90 mph. He went on to play for Upper Iowa University (Northeast Iowa, USA), where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology. At Upper Iowa, he played in the postseason but hurt his arm just 7 days before the major league draft.

Undaunted by having his baseball dreams crushed, Joe used his education and baseball training to continue his mother’s legacy. He assists others through his work and through his community outreach, helping teens find their way in the world. His advice for aspiring athletes has always been, “You’re going to be a human being far longer than an athlete, so you need to learn how to be part of a team rather than how to be your own superstar.” Like his mother before him, Joe is focused on providing these youths with the tools they need to succeed in life, not just athletics.

In the spotlight

Joe Yager

Joe Yager

Joe Yager has a BS in Exercise Science and is a certified personal trainer through the American Council of Exercise. In addition, he holds certifications in Functional Movement Systems, Myofascial Compression Techniques, Trigger Point Performance Therapy, TRX Functional Training, Cressey Sports Performance Upper Extremity Elite Baseball Mentorship, and EXOS (integrated performance training, nutrition, and physical therapy).

Joe is the owner of Perform Every Day, a fitness and performance center in Illinois (USA) specializing in human movement. Over the course of his 20-year career, he has worked with major league athletes (MLB, NFL, NCAA, PGA) and trained state and nationally ranked high school athletes.