Whether you’re a regular gym bunny or just trying to make it to yoga more than once a year, we’ve all been inspired by the Summer Olympics. A few thousand flash bulbs reflecting off the bodies of world-class sprinters is enough to make some of us want to hit the gym! We’ve asked top trainer Holly Perkins to entertain our Olympic obsession by giving us some tips and insights into fitness training and strength training for women. While most women are not strangers to heart-pumping cardio, their running shoes are practically ripping at the seams before the benefits of weight-lifting are even given a second thought. Thank goodness for Holly, who sat down with TCM to dispel a few myths and share some pointers for weight lifting newbies.
The Chalkboard Magazine: How did you first discover fitness, and how did that initial passion morph from a hobby into a career path?
Holly Perkins: “I fell in love when I was in 6th grade. My best friend dragged me to our small town YMCA for dance aerobics classes, leotards and all. It was love at first sight. I loved the music, the way I felt afterward and the fun costumes. I don’t think fitness was ever a hobby for me. It was a part of my soul from the very first encounter.
TCM: Many women shy away from weightlifting because they fear getting ‘bigger’, don’t feel it is as effective as traditional cardio or are simply intimidated by how to use such a vast array of equipment. What do you say to women who are strength-training skeptics?
HP: In order to make real progress in your fitness level, strength training is essential. Cardio will only make you a smaller version of your same self. The benefits of strength training are well documented and include increased resting metabolism, improved mood, optimization of hormones, and the ability to truly remodel your body. If you want to really change your body, strength training of some sort is essential. If you follow a program of consistent strength workouts using excellent technique, a rep range of 12-15 for all sets and rest phases of 1 minute or less, it is physiologically impossible to ‘bulk up’ or develop large muscles. Strength training will change your life. It may feel overwhelming at first, but the internet is a great source for learning fitness tips as you go along. I do think it’s important to pay attention to whom you are paying attention. Choose your fitness experts wisely.”
TCM: You come from a background heavy in physiology and nutrition. What are three things people might not realize about proper nutrition and staying fit?
HP: “1. Your body truly reflects what you put into it. For women, diet is 80% of the battle. If you are someone who exercises regularly, diet is 90% of the battle.
2. Protein is ultra important to aid in recovery from workouts. I need an exceptional amount of protein for a gal.
3. Your body is designed for work. If you don’t ensure consistent exercise, your body will begin to break down on you. We are designed to be physically challenged, and everything about your mind, body and spirit will advance as you take steps towards higher fitness.
4. Many physical ailments can be improved by improving your structural strength. Many people think that it is the skeleton that holds the body in position. In truth, your muscles hold your bones together therefore allowing movement. If those muscles aren’t strong and balanced, your bones and joints won’t be either.”
TCM: There is so much controversy about when to eat – three meals, six meals, breakfast, no breakfast, etc – such a simple task can become so confusing! What is your take on how to time out meals for optimum fitness? For weight loss? For the average on-the-go multitaskers?
HP: “Almost all health and fitness goals come down to one thing regarding diet: it is absolutely imperative to keep your blood sugar balanced. With so many different diet structures, it is absolutely confusing! First, you need to establish what your goal is. Then you choose your diet structure.
Optimum fitness: You are fueling a machine here. The more active you are, the more frequently you have to eat. The more muscle mass you have, the more frequently you have to eat. Aim to eat every 3 hours.
Weight loss: In some cases, this diet structure could be similar to optimum fitness above. However, many folks focus on heavy cardio for weight loss and therefore, they will most likely have a little less muscle mass and perform less strength training. This means that the metabolism may be a little slower than an athlete. It’s still important to keep blood sugar stable, but here you can eat every 3.5-4 hours.
Average on-the-goer: Because your fitness energy needs aren’t as high as for an athlete or avid fitness warrior, you can eat a little less frequently. To keep energy levels high and blood sugar stable, you should aim to eat every 4-4.5 hours. Going longer than 4.5 hours between meals or snacks (my go-to is the Promax Fit ‘n Crisp) often spells unnecessary hunger and food cravings.”
TCM: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from fitness?
HP: “The absolute more important thing I’ve learned as a Promax DOer is: 1) You must “stress” your body beyond its current ability in order to make improvements in fitness and, 2) Related to that, after you have sufficiently challenged your body, you need to ensure proper recovery. Moderate exercisers usually recover over the 24 hour period after workouts. However, if you are exercising strenuously, you may need more strategic recovery. If your body doesn’t fully recover from workouts, you will never achieve your full potential for fitness.”
TCM: What is your favorite healthy meal?
HP: “This kind of question is so hard for me, because I truly love healthy food. I honestly look forward to and crave kale, brown rice and sweet potatoes! Right now my favorite meal is egg whites, oats, ground flax seeds and raspberries all together baked as a ‘cake’ of sorts.”
TCM: Favorite no-fuss grab-and-go bite (bar, shake, etc)?
HP: “I always carry snacks with me. In fact, I pretty much always have a cooler of food in my car. Because of my erratic schedule, I always have a few Promax bars in my cooler. I pick and choose which bar based on my energy needs. If I need a light energy snack before a workout, I eat a Promax Fit n Crisp Vanilla Marshmallow bar. It tastes just like a Rice Krispy’s treat! If I need a substantial recovery food after a workout, I get really excited to eat a Promax Crunch bar in Coconut Chocolate. It is the perfect combo of coconut, dark chocolate, salt, crunch and chew, all wrapped up in a brownie-like bar. I have to limit myself on these, though, because I can eat 3 per day!”
TCM: Favorite piece of exercise equipment and why?
HP: “Ooooo, this is a tough question – I love every piece of equipment! For strength training, I think I would choose the Leg Press sled. It may be one of the best movements to strengthen the lower body without having to incorporate postural issues. For cardio, I’m deep in a love affair with the old school step mill. It’s one of the only machines that gets my heart rate up!”
TCM: Favorite way to work up a sweat and why?
HP: “I am a runner at heart. Therefore, my first choice would be a long, slow run at the beach. I also find yoga transformational and feel incredible after a long, challenging class. I’ve had some yoga classes that were harder than a 10 mile run.”
TCM: Favorite fitness clothing brand?
HP: “New Balance hired a new design team a few years ago and their women’s apparel is amazing. I live in the Spree Capri from their Anue label. The fit and fabric is unparalleled. I’m really excited to try their new line of sports bras coming soon. I got to see the sample styles and they are going to be awesome!!”
TCM: Personal motto?
HP: “Learn to embrace and welcome the uncomfortable. Challenge is what will change you and make you better.”
Do yoga and kickboxing using a heavy bag count as strength training as well?