Jesse Johnson makes his living working as a master trainer at VIDA Fitness (U Street location) but he agreed to share some of his tips and advice with us for free.
The U Street location is one of five of the gay-owned chain’s D.C. locations. A sixth is slated to open this spring in Ballston (Arlington, Va.). Johnson is 33, gay and left a career in corporate staffing to join the VIDA team in 2011. He averages between 50-60 clients in mostly 30-minute sessions per week. Find out more at vidafitness.com. Free introductory classes are available this month. The offerings are listed at vidafitness.com/uniqueclasses.
Johnson’s comments have been slightly edited for length.
WASHINGTON BLADE: How much does the coaching you give your clients vary from year to year as new studies and findings are made available? And how do you know if something is just another fitness fad vs. something we should really heed?
JESSE JOHNSON: There are always going to be fitness trends, that’s a given. However before we alter what we tell our clients, we look to peer-reviewed literature. One or two studies doesn’t give much evidence — that’s not enough proof. We definitely pay attention to what is trending and we try to stay as current as possible, but we don’t incorporate it until it’s been through a more rigorous review process.
BLADE: What trends have you seen of late?
JOHNSON: In the collective big picture, there’s been a big uptick in group training. The term that’s thrown around is fitness cocktails where somebody may do a couple classes back to back, some cardio, maybe some core body work, different muscle groups — there’s been an uptick in that. And also more of what we call functional training. People want to be pain free and strong. Sure, there’s always the aesthetic benefit of lifting weights, but what people really want is to be functionally strong into their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
BLADE: Anything else?
JOHNSON: I think workouts are becoming more mindful as people use technology — apps and wearable tech to be more aware of what they’re doing. From a metric-tracking standpoint, it’s easy now to tell your heart rate, number of calories burned, number of steps taken in the course of a day with Fitbit, Myzone, the Apple watch, to the apps themselves like the Peloton apps are pretty innovative and help people be more aware of what they’re doing, how frequently. There’s more mindfulness in working out. Also people see going to the gym as more of a club or social space among millennials and Gen Z. They work out with friends, it’s seen as more social, not punishment after a weekend of drinking.
BLADE: How much does the industry really change? For instance, would you say there’s anything significantly different you’re telling your clients today vs. what you might have said when you started at VIDA nine years ago?
JOHNSON: Well, knowledge has increased dramatically and a lot of it is due to the fact that this industry didn’t even exist 40-50 years ago. People didn’t have the same needs then they do now. But a lot of the basic fundamentals are the same — keep moving, stay active, eat purposeful and do things you enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing it, it’s easier to make it a habit. I’d say we take more the sniper approach today vs. the machine gun approach. We target more instead of just spraying a bunch of bullets hoping something hits.
BLADE: So often with nutrition it seems you’ll hear one thing, then five years later the exact opposite is what experts are saying: don’t eat eggs, no eggs are good. Stuff like that. Does fitness advice change that drastically as well?
JOHNSON: Not as much. A lot of it has to do with whether people are already moving or not. We don’t take them right out of the gate to a high level of intensity. We let them work up to it. But no, I can’t think of any particular exercise we were advising a few years ago we’re saying, “No, don’t do that one anymore” or anything like that.
BLADE: What do you do if you see people working out on their own using improper technique? Can you really hurt yourself with bad form, like lifting with your back and that kind of thing?
JOHNSON: Well we try to be as polite as possible. We’ll only approach someone if we thinkg they’re about to injure themselves. But knock on wood, I haven’t seen very many injuries at VIDA and I like to credit that to the large staff of personal trainers we have on the floor. There is an inherent risk to working out — you can hurt yourself, but it doesn’t happen very often.
BLADE: Is it better to stay at a weight level at which you can maintain excellent form or push yourself out of your comfort zone with heavier weight even if your form suffers a little?
JOHNSON: Numerous studies have found if you take a lighter weight and do more reps but push yourself to your failure threshold vs. doing fewer reps of a heavier weight to failure, the outcome is the same. And there’s a higher risk of injury with heavier weights. We like to focus on form and technique before we progress, especially if somebody is just joining the gym and they may not know much about resistance training. You can always add weight later.
BLADE: How many of the New Years resolution folks really stick with it? Do you see many of those same faces by March or April?
JOHNSON: Almost all my new clients stay with me for months, sometimes years. However statistically within the industry, the number is very low. The honeymoon period on average is about six weeks and it’s a shame because often you see your best results 12-16 weeks into a program. You’ll see more immediate results sooner but that’s when it starts to get really spectacular.
BLADE: How bad are the wait times for machines at VIDA? Is it pretty crazy at peak time?
JOHNSON: I’m not gonna lie, the gym is very busy and there are peak times. But the U Street location is more residential and we have between 50,000-60,000 square feet of space so there’s not a lot of wait time for many of the machines. And people tend to be pretty aware. They’ll let you work in with them.
BLADE: How gay is it?
JOHNSON: I’d say 50-60 percent of our clientele is gay.
BLADE: Some lesbians and trans folks as well?
JOHNSON: There are lesbians. I don’t personally have any trans clients but we have 30 trainers on staff so there may be some but yeah, it’s mostly gay men. Obviously everybody is welcome.
BLADE: Has that ebbed or flowed much over your years there?
JOHNSON: No, D.C. is a pretty good city to be a gay person in. I haven’t seen any major change.
Why a personalized diet can help you achieve better results
One size fits all is not the best approach when it comes to eating and fitness
From custom-designed sneakers to tailor-made sunglasses, the trend of personalization is going head to toe, and for good reason, making its way to the world of weight loss and wellness.
Specifically, researchers have been studying two converging topics in recent years. One is the importance of body type in determining the combination of fats, carbohydrates and protein that will provide the best results for a given individual. The other is the variability of results associated with a single diet — the idea that if two people start the same diet at the same time, their results could be drastically different.
On top of that, consumer research shows that people overwhelmingly prefer personalized experiences. Sixty percent of consumers agree that personalization is essential to weight loss and overall wellness.
Here’s what to know about why personalized diets are becoming so popular and how to find the right diet for you:
The importance of body type
The places your body stores excess fat may be the single greatest predictor of health outcomes. This is the concept behind Nutrisystem’s assessment of the four most common body types: “Apple,” “Pear,” “Hourglass” and “Rectangle.”
“We’re going a bit old school here, because these categories have stood the test of time for a reason. They provide crucial information on how you respond to food intake and can help you to adjust what you eat based on your goals,” says Courtney McCormick, corporate dietitian at Nutrisystem.
Body type can also influence how macronutrients like fat, protein and carbs are processed. To fulfill your individual needs, first determine your body type, food preferences and goals, then look for a weight loss plan that takes these important factors into consideration, such as Nutrisystem.
One size does not fit all
The DIETFITS study, a large, randomized research study comparing low-fat versus low-carb dietary patterns found no difference in weight loss between them. But drilling down into the data, one can see great variability. Some dieters gained weight while others lost a lot. But it’s not always about weight outcomes, as recent research has shown that factors such as body shape may play a bigger role in the determinants of health risks than body weight alone.
For instance, a woman who is apple-shaped tends to carry her extra weight in the mid-section. She would see best results on a lower-glycemic nutrition plan that is lower in refined carbs and higher in healthy fats and protein.
“Research shows that one size does not fit all when it comes to weight loss and disease prevention,” McCormick says. “That’s why we’ve created a unique, personalized approach that’s easy to follow and designed to help participants lose weight and get healthy.”
For more insights on how to personalize your diet and maximize results, visit leaf.nutrisystem.com.
While it’s no secret that achieving one’s weight loss goals is challenging, personalizing your plan can help make things easier, ultimately providing you a greater chance of success.
Al Roker blasts Jillian Michaels for criticizing Keto diet
The fitness trainer says the ‘personal attacks’ were ‘bizarre’
Jillian Michaels revealed she “hates” the increasingly popular Keto diet but “Today” show weatherman Al Roker slammed the fitness trainer for dissing the high-fat, low-carb diet.
Speaking with Prevention, Michaels says she doesn’t like the diet because “There’s no calorie restriction;” “You may miss out on important nutrients;” and “It could shave years off your life.”
In response, Roker, who is a fan of the diet, called out Michaels for her aggressive reputation as a fitness trainer on “The Biggest Loser” on Twitter.
“So @JillianMichaels says #Keto is a bad idea. This from a woman who promoted on camera bullying , deprivation, manipulation and more weekly in the name of weight loss. Now those sound like bad ideas,” Roker tweeted.
Roker further defended the Keto diet, which he says he has been on since Sept. 1, on “The Today Show.”
“My point is, what works for you, works for you,” Roker explains. “There’s science on both sides that says it’s not a great idea and science that says it is a good idea.”
Michaels responded by posting a video on Twitter saying she didn’t appreciate Roker’s “personal attacks”
“It’s bizarre, it’s unnecessary, it’s beneath both of us,” Michaels said. “Read my book, ‘The 6 Keys.’ I’ve extensively researched everything in that, and nutrition is about way more than weight loss.”
Make 2019 your year for fitness
Classes, tracking devices, food journal all good steps to a better you
You get an opportunity every January 1st to re-write the health and fitness page in your life story. The new year is here. Last year might have been your best health year or maybe one of your worst. Either way, as the year wraps up it’s time to focus on your 2019 “healthy you.”
Here are some tips to jump start the new year:
If you bite it, write it
Begin your new year by tracking your nutrition. I’ve trained about 20,000 sessions and there isn’t a secret exercise I give my clients to lose weight or gain muscle. It all starts in the kitchen. Write down everything you consume (eating and drinking) and you may be surprised by what you see. Food can be a pretty intimidating subject for most of us, so seeing it all written down is a great start to making one or two changes. We are the result of our own habits, so take a good, hard look at your nutrition tracking and take action.
We have so many tech toys in our daily lives, why not have one for fitness? Having a piece of equipment that tracks the number of calories you burn, the distance you’ve run or the heart rate zones you’ve maintained while working out is extraordinarily motivating. You have trackable progress. Most heart rate monitors have an app and many reward for your hard work. Use it as a “barometer” for your efforts in the new year.
Be part of the group
Exercising by yourself is great “you” time, however, when it’s bitter cold and the workday has dragged on and on, having a workout partner or a class to attend keeps you motivated. The accountability of simply “showing up” is 80 percent of the fitness battle. Working out with a friend or spouse is a simple, effective and socially beneficial method to nailing your workouts. And remember if you and your workout partner don’t feel confident on a weight room floor, take a class. From pilates to yoga to spin, the options in D.C. are endless. You’ll walk out of the class healthier than you arrived and maybe make a friend in the process.
Imagine starting a race but not knowing where or when the race concludes. Sounds crazy right? Your “healthy you” race began Jan. 1 but when are you going to hit your goal and complete that race? The sun will rise and set every day, so there needs to be a firm date that you give yourself to aim for. Don’t worry if you have some hiccups along the way, it happens to the best of us. Just remember to pick yourself up and continue working out to get to your goal. It’s often said “We miss one 100 percent of the shots we don’t take” so write down your deadline somewhere you can see it daily and stand firm with your intentions. Don’t be afraid of messing up here and there along your race. Write it down and stick to it.
What’s your reward?
Working out is hard work. There’s no denying that a significant effort is needed to physically change. In addition to being healthier (and happier, of course) by hitting your goal, what is your prize for getting there? Is there a getaway trip planned where you might be in a bathing suit showing off a little skin? Did you buy a fabulous outfit that you can only fit into if you hit your goal? How about running your best time in an event because you’ve dropped those extra pounds? There isn’t a bad reward to give yourself for putting in the effort and doing something that you may have never done before. You have to believe that this change in 2019 is worth it. However “dangling a carrot” in front of you as you’re working hard is another reward to get you closer to your goal.
Now is the time for change. Take a moment to do a mental exercise and realize that with the changing of the year, you are going to make changes. Incremental or massive, change is always worth doing. Sweating is worth doing. Responsibly eating is worth doing. Being proud of who you are becoming in this process is worth doing.
It’s 2019, so go do it!
JESSE JOHNSON is a personal trainer (and gay!) at VIDA Fitness.
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