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Simplicity Steers Success

Variety may be the spice of life, but too many choices prevented this client from losing weight.

client: Jennifer | personal trainer: John Parker | location: San Diego

Keeping it simple. Every day it seems there’s a new supplement, food plan or training program that purports to produce unparalleled results. But all of these choices can make it difficult for clients to make wise choices and remain consistent in their approach. That was the problem faced by Jennifer, a florist and part-time kickboxing instructor, and it’s why she reached out to San Diego–based personal trainer John Parker, CSCS.

“Jennifer had issues with maintaining a healthy weight,” Parker explains. “[Even though she had stellar physical conditioning and strength], not knowing what to do day to day left her overwhelmed, frustrated and unable to complete a program without exhausting herself. Jennifer’s mission in reaching out to me was to find a program that would help her gain lean mass and lose body fat.”

Assessing the challenge. Jennifer, who lives in Sanbornton, New Hampshire, and Parker met via a mutual friend and agreed to a phone chat to discuss her challenges and goals. It was an important fact-finding mission that covered her nutrition and exercise habits. Parker then asked Jennifer to complete a 60-minute assessment via Facetime. This way, he could understand length and tension in her lats, hip flexors and hamstrings; analyze her posture using a plumb line; and have her perform movement tests, like crawling, hanging from a bar and lifting heavy objects from the floor.

“Thankfully, Jennifer’s body was in excellent working shape without major discrepancies in her muscle tissue or pos­ture,” says Parker.

Parker had the information he needed to develop the right plan for his new client.

Six weeks to success. “We decided that we could eliminate all added sugar from her diet, instead focusing on fat adaptation,” Parker says. On the workout side, he recommended a 15-minute warmup followed by 45 minutes of “compound exercises that would provide the most ‘bang for your buck,’ eliminating ‘fluff’ exercises that she had seen in fitness magazines.”

The initial 6-week training program involved a mix of full-body exercises, such as deadlifts, squats, presses and chin-ups, to be performed a few times per week. This was supplemented by a few weekly conditioning sessions. Jennifer had mentioned that she wanted to “tone” her arms, so Parker would often program a mix of arm exercises at the end of the workout.

The emphasis on full-body training and eliminating added sugar from Jennifer’s diet appeared to be the right combination; her aesthetics improved quickly, says Parker, and she began to lose her sugar cravings. It was then time to shift the training focus.

“We’ve been focusing on conditioning and power,” Parker says. “We’ve used exercises like power cleans, kettlebell swings, kettlebell snatches, and even kettlebell clean and jerks. We have also been working on sprinting technique and hiking once per week to improve conditioning and central nervous system recruitment.

“We are very mindful of her stress,” he adds. “Jenn and I focus on close communication and adequate recovery between workouts. If she is feeling overwhelmed, stressed or tired, she will still engage in her workouts, but with the lower number of reps and sets listed. We will also drop the weights to a moderate level. She finds that moving is better than not.”

Determination and communication. Jennifer is currently focused on power and strength maintenance. Each week, she typically completes two sprint-based workouts that involve agility and technique work and two heavy-lifting sessions.

“We vary the implement every 6 weeks to keep her brain learning with her body,” says Parker.

Jennifer has also been working toward her goal of completing one unassisted pullup, which he believes she will soon achieve.

The trainer partially attributes his client’s successes to a willingness to follow his plans and trust his expertise. He also believes that consistent communication has helped maintain her focus.

“I encourage her to text me 24/7 with any questions, concerns or dilemmas she may be facing. Our communication has been our biggest success.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor, and IDEA's director of event programming.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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