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There is a Scientific Method Behind the Madness of Fitness

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"Everybody cares about how they look, but you also have to care about how you feel.” – Ethan Blair, strength coach and sport & exercise nutrition consultant

Part of building a fitness company involves meeting new people… a lot of new people. I am not a fitness expert by any means. I’m not a trainer. I’m not a doctor. I’m not an elite athlete. So, naturally, I am constantly seeking to learn from those who are real experts. I met strength coach Ethan Blair a few months ago. He’s provided early feedback on the Core Flyte, ideas for creative exercises, and feedback on training and group fitness programs that we are developing.

Like many who enter the field of fitness and athletics, Ethan was initially motivated to work out because he didn’t fit in. “I was tired of being called the skinny guy,” he recalls. “I got picked on a lot. I got beat up a lot… mentally and physically. I started working out for the wrong reasons. It was all about the aesthetics.”

Hungering for Knowledge
Over time, however, Ethan hungered for knowledge and not just muscle mass. He was following others’ advice and wanted to better understand the science behind fitness. “I got tired of not understanding anything related to exercise and relying on so many people. I trusted that they were providing me with accurate information, but I didn’t know.”

Ethan graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Exercise Science. Over the course of 15 years, Ethan has coached hundreds of clients on improving their athletic performance. His initial motivation to help others get bigger and stronger evolved into a desire to help others feel better. Ethan says, “I wanted to find ways to incorporate strength training into my lifestyle and share it with different people so that they can live more active lives and feel better.”

Trainers and coaches have different ways of approaching their clients. For Ethan, applying a science-based approach is paramount. He says 70 percent of his expertise comes from scientific research, while 30 percent comes from experience. As a result, he seeks to keep up on the latest studies to continue to build his knowledge base.

Science-Based Exercise Insights:

Everything comes down to the individual.
We get a lot of fitness advice that is meant for the masses from all sources: friends, television, and news media. “Everything comes down to specialization, Ethan says. “Every single person responds differently to different foods and different training protocols. You have to monitor that, and it’s going to take time before you realize something isn’t working.” This seems obvious, right? But most of us do not live our lives this way… not even close. A certain diet or workout regimen works for a buddy, but doesn’t quite work for us, and we get frustrated. There’s no universal approach. There’s no one-size-fits-all set of activities that works for everyone. To determine what works best for a particular individual, we must test and learn. If we keep it up, it’s working.

Structural balance is critical.
Over time, our bodies take a beating. We sit at a desk at the office and stare at a computer screen. We lie hunched over while watching TV. We sleep poorly. We play hard. It’s no surprise that there are areas of our body that are weaker than others. And it’s equally no surprise that often it’s not that easy to identify weak spots. Ethan says, “Test to see where your body is out of whack. It takes time to understand your body type and how it’s structured.” There are many exercises that can help identify strength imbalances. In addition, Ethan says, “People have different muscle fiber types – fast or slow twitch or both. These play a huge role in designing the right program.”

Mental health matters.
Discussions about mental health are still considered taboo in today’s society. Conversations about physical fitness are certainly more common. “Everybody cares about how they look, but you also have to care about how you feel,” says Ethan. “If what you’re doing to make yourself look better makes you feel tired and fatigued and overwhelmed with stress and anxious all the time, is it really being healthy or is just vanity?” He advocates that we do what makes us happy. Exercise elevates our mood. That is a fact. However, when we fixate on “fitness for looks,” rather than focus on the benefits of exercise, such as increased energy, better sleep, and overall happiness, we are fighting the wrong fight.

Proper nutrition is key.
We might fall victim to the idea that working out burns calories, and that, if we work out enough, we don’t have to concern ourselves with our diet. As we age, this idea grows more challenging to believe, since it becomes harder and harder to stay slim. “Most people work out really hard, but their body composition never changes,” Ethan says. “A really bad diet is gonna wreck all that effort.” The bad news is that trying to target specific areas to lose fat through exercise doesn’t work. “You can’t spot reduce body fat by working out. Certain areas of your body collect fat based on certain hormones that are out of balance. That’s a scientific fact. So, by adjusting hormone levels you can target specific areas where your body collects fat.” In addition, there are ways to game the system. Ethan says, “If you want to cheat and eat some excess sugar, then you should do it during or right after a workout. Your body can handle that excess glucose during those periods of time. Your body is better equipped to handle that then versus eating junk food after lying on the couch.”

Value technique over weight or reps.
It’s always nice to lift more and do more pushups or squats than you did during your last workout. However, Ethan says, “It’s not about lifting the most weight, it’s about doing it correctly.” He estimates that only 10-20 percent of people in the gym are actually performing their exercises correctly. Many of us try the latest and greatest workout we’ve read about in a magazine without using proper form. Therefore, we don’t get the value we think we’re getting out of it. A common mistake is heavy lifting during every workout. Ethan contends it’s important to alternate between heavy and light days in order to “recruit an effective number of muscle fibers in order to build muscle.” Otherwise, you’re just burning your muscles out. He points out, however, “there are exceptions to the rule. You see guys that train very poorly, their technique is terrible, their programs are terrible… and they’re big, they’re strong, they’re jacked. It’s just unfair genetics, but it works for them.”

Use Core Flytes to make yourself focus.
Ethan has used Core Flytes for a few months, and has mastered many of the basic exercises, and is now developing new exercises that challenge him further. According to Ethan, “the Core Flyte is great for central nervous system stimulation and recruiting more muscle fibers.” And he adds, “One of my favorite exercises when training at home is using resistance bands with the Core Flytes while doing pushups. You’re required to keep the Core Flytes stable thereby building more muscle more efficiently.” Core Flytes get a lot of use in the Blair household. Ethan says, “My wife uses Core Flytes for lunges and guiding range of motion and helping to progress just by using the Core Flyte itself. Because your foot is not fixed to the ground, it requires focus which builds proprioception, because it doesn’t allow you to go on auto-pilot. You have to focus when you use them.” This focus is often left out of our workouts. We do so many movements that can be done with no thought. Core Flytes require us to consciously ensure that we have control, rather than rely only on force, as we move.

We'd love to hear from you. Which of Ethan’s insights do you relate to most and why? Comment below or on our Facebook page at facebook.com/flytefitness, or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg
Co-Founder & CEO
Flyte Fitness