Episode 16: Breaking Through the Fitness Noise! Your Common Questions Answered with Eliza Spencer

In this episode, we speak with Eliza Spencer, Certified Personal Trainer and owner of Break Thru Fitness, about the different kinds of exercise, benefits of both cardiovascular and strength training workouts, letting go of what you are currently doing to see different results, the myth of spot reduction, and post workout recovery meal options. 

Eliza Spencer can be found at:
Instagram: @Eliza Spencer
Facebook: Breakthru Fitness by Eliza
Email: elizanelsonfit@gmail.com
Website: https://breakthrubyeliza.com/

Episode Resources: 

Hi, welcome to the show. Hi. Nice. It’s nice to finally meet you. So we’re going to really dive deep today in talking about different kinds of exercise. And as you’ve heard all the things that Eliza is specializes in, we’re just going to kind of review that. 

TS:  I think to get started, what are some of the different kinds of exercise that you would recommend people to do? And why are they important? Like I know out there there’s like HITT training and there’s cardio and there’s weight training. Are they, do they yield different, like different results and just what’s the difference?

ES: Yeah, sure. I mean, I always start with just asking somebody what their goals are and then I kind of l work backwards from there. It’s also important to think about what things that they enjoy. So, for example you know, if someone hates yoga, like they hate just sitting there and not doing anything, I would never suggest that to somebody, you know just stop, right? So you want to have a combination of what is appropriate for that person, what is something that they’re not going to absolutely hate? And then what is something that’s appropriate for whatever level that they’re starting at and then kind of go from there. For the HITT training, you mentioned that that’s like a huge popular thing now where, you know, you go all out, all out, all out and then you rest. But most people can’t, they don’t have that capacity to do that safely. I would never like to start somebody off who’s maybe, you know, 45-50 on like burpees and then pushups and things like that easily want to start and meet them where they’re at and then kind of go from there. So we would work on increasing their endurance and their strength and their form and their neurological adaptations. And then we would eventually get there if that was beneficial. 

TS: When you talk about cardiovascular exercise, what kinds of things are you talking about? And then the same with weight training, can you kind of go a little bit, like deeper dive into that so that if people don’t know what that is, you’re able to kind of clarify for them. So, like what’s the benefit of doing like weight training and endurance or cardiovascular training? 

ES: Yep, sure. The important thing, and I like to bring this up with a lot of people, is that they really like to work well together. A lot of the times you need a little bit of endurance and some cardiovascular health in order to get a good weight training session in. And then when you weight train, it helps you with your endurance because it increases things that will help you be able to do the cardio better. You kind of want to be able to do both. The difference between weight training or resistance training and cardio. With weight training, you’re using resistance, you can use your body, weight or bands, dumbbells, things you have access to, it’s going to increase your muscle mass.  And then your cardio is going to be things that are, you know, maybe you go for a run or you go for a fast walk or you cycle, things that’s more using your heart and your endurance systems.

TS: Yeah. I think that from muscle mass, I don’t think that people understand that the more muscle mass that you create and that you have,  it will also help increase your basal metabolic rate, meaning what you will require for energy at rest. 

ES: Yes, it increases your metabolism for sure. And that’s something, you know, people worry about like, well, I don’t really want to, you know, get bigger muscles. That’s not something I really care about. And that’s something I hear a lot because the majority of my clients are women. And I say, well, it takes a lot of time, consistency, and effort. A lot of hours in the gym while eating a lot of food in order to really gain muscle. I mean, women typically take quite a bit of time to put, to put muscle mass on. So what muscle is going to do is it’s going to make you a little bit more sculpted and tighter. It’s not going to make you bigger.

TS: I hear women say, Oh, I don’t want to get big. I don’t, I don’t want to gain a lot of muscle mass, but you’re saying it’s important to gain muscle mass.

ES:  It is, it is. There are so many cool things about, we could really  geek out about this forever, but there’s so many benefits to increasing your muscle mass or the amount of lean tissue that you have. It increases your ability to deal with carbohydrates that are circulating in your system. The more muscle you have, the more capacity or houses for those sugars to go. So, if you’ve had an ice cream, let’s say, instead of that sugar circulating and then being stored as fat, it’s more likely to be stored in your muscle fibers. Ice cream may not be the best example, but it increases your ability to keep your blood sugar stable, which is going to give you a better mood. It’s going to give you better energy. It’s going to help decrease things like the stress hormones, like cortisol, things like that, that can cause you to store fat in your adipose tissue and your midsection. It helps you sleep better. I mean, there’s so many things. 

TS:  I know that you’ve talked about the benefits of cardio and then also so many benefits to resistance training or building muscle mass or strength training  it sounds like also, maybe at different periods in our lives, there may be a different requirement of what we should probably be doing, it may: It may vary from what we did when we were like in our twenties, as opposed to when we’re in our forties or fifties. 

ES: Yeah. I mean, I really could come at this from, from a multitude of angles. I think one thing you want to think about is how trained is this person was who was a little bit older. If someone is coming to me and they’re 50 years old, they have maybe, you know, done some light, group exercise, or occasional, walks, bikes, things like that. I’m going to give them something completely different than I would somebody who’s been, you know, an athlete in their twenties. And then they were doing pickup softball in their thirties and forties. You know what I’m saying? Yeah. So you really want to meet people where they’re at. You know, if you have injuries, you want to make sure that you’re structuring your workouts sort of around those. So as far as like, Oh, is it appropriate? Should we be doing different kinds of things later in our life? Potentially if you have an injury that keeps reoccurring, maybe you want to have a little bit less high-impact stuff, right? If you have a knee injury you probably don’t want to be jumping around and doing a ton of squats, you know, you want to be mindful of that and just doing things to support those injuries or to be mindful of those.

TS: Yes. It sounds like you’re saying that the cardiovascular component, well, as you know, building muscle mass is important, but it sounds like those would have to be modified by what you do. Depending on, you know, what your fitness level is and according to how active you are, and then also maybe according to your age, right. Is that kind of what you’re saying? 

ES: Yeah. Yeah. And I should say too. I mean, when you get into, like, I don’t want to put a number on it, but when you get into, like, let’s say your fifties.

TS:  I know you keep saying 50 and I’m like a girl… I’m 5 years away from that. Oh my god.

ES: No, it’s funny. My dad is 60 something at this point, and he’s fitter than most 30-year-olds. But he started to go to the gym. Right. So he ‘s taken him a little bit, a little bit of time. It’s his birthday today.

TS:  Happy birthday to Eliza’s dad. 

ES: But what I was going to say is that you probably don’t want to be working out as frequently and as far, so even if there’s somebody who’s been doing it for a long time, you probably want to stick to like three to four days a week of strength training, you know, 20 to 30 sets ish, right. For the whole workout. Right. So, like maybe, you know, five sets of squats and five sets of overhead press, you know, things like that I want to do.? Your volumes should decrease a little bit over the course of a week, just so your body can recover. Because a lot of times I find when I work with older populations, they tend to, 

TS: Wait, you’re defining older as over 50, clarify that. Right?

ES: People who are more experienced and mature and wise and we’ll call over 50. Yeah. You want to like, be mindful of that frequency, but I was going to say too, like a lot of people in that old little bit mature, more mature demographic, they tend to under eat. And so if you under eat and you’re training a lot, you’re just going to be spinning your wheels. You’re going to be increasing your stress hormones, and you’re not going to be recovering. And when you go into muscle building or any, anything that requires work from the body, you want to be able to recover from it. And that’s, that’s a problem across the board is people just aren’t covering they’re living stressful lives. And then they’re doing stressful workouts. And you know, and then having wine at night, not, you know, that’s messing up their sleep cycle. So even if they are sleeping eight hours, they’re waking up, you know, three or four times a night.

So, I always look at the whole picture and say, how’s your sleep? How’s digestion. And then kind of go from there. I mean, you, you, you deal with this all the day. Oh. You know, all day, every day probably with nutrition clients are, but I think it’s, I think it’s a good point.

TS: I think to your point, yeah. I mean, I think a lot of us, like, we just go like, okay, we’re going to work hard and then we’re going to work out hard and then we’re going to do all these things. And then we just have these cortisol levels that are increased in our body. And then it’s just like this constant state of inflammation. So I wonder then, is it doing, are there things that you can do in terms of exercises that you recommend to do, like yoga or meditation or something like that to kind of help counterbalance that a hundred percent? I guess if you like it, right. Or you find something that’s lower, I don’t know. What is that like a lower impact, lower stress, lower stress? 

ES: Yeah. I mean, again, I kind of like to look at the whole picture. So some, so if I say, add in yoga, you want to do more yoga, a lot of women. And I don’t want to generalize here, but a lot of women, if they’re into the exercising thing, they’re, they’re clutching onto it. They don’t want to let it go. I mean, I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had, who, you know, they run five times a week, five miles. They need to get that in, or they’re going to gain weight. And when they’ve trusted me and like, and I said, listen, we’re going to cut it back to three days a week of running, you’re going to run two miles.

You’re going to add strength training. It’s going to be you’re in and out of the gym within 45 minutes. We’re going to look at what you’re eating, making sure that your blood sugar is good. And you’re recovering. We’re going to look at your stress levels. We’re going to try to find the answer to your question: ways to sort of decompress and get into that like rest and digest state, right? So maybe something like, you know, don’t have your phone with you during lunch. You know what I mean? So that you can eat and have that food actually digest you know, winding down finding a nighttime routine. And when, when people follow that protocol, it’s very hard for a lot of people. Their body just completely transforms and they’re doing less, they’re eating more and they’re feeling more calm and they can like let go of that need to exercise every single day. And I deal with all different kinds of people, but that’s been a population that is very hard to change their lifestyle or what they think is working for them when it actually sounds like it’s more beneficial for them because instead of just doing five days of cardio, they’re doing, they’re working in their bodies in different ways, developing lean, like different muscle groups. 

TS: It sounds more efficient for them and more balanced. But at the same time, I, I know what you were saying. Like people want to do what has always worked for them. And it’s probably easier for them to go through and do the same thing that they’ve always been doing as opposed to taking the time and creating and doing something different. Even though in the long run, it’s more beneficial. 

ES: Yeah. And you know, what’s interesting is, and people are shocked and they’re kind of like put off.

Because they think I’m this sweet person. I’ll be like, like, well, this works for me. And I said, but is it, is it working for you? Like you’re coming to me, you’re coming to me because something isn’t working. And I said, and sometimes I’ll say like, you can always go back to the way you were doing it. If what I suggest doesn’t work for you, or if you hate it, I’m like, you can always go back to that sweater that you, you know, always wore. You know what I mean? Just try this on, see how it feels. Trust me. Like, I, I want you to do was, well, I want you to do as well, just as much as you do. And then when they follow that through like, Oh, this is like so crazy that I can do so much less, and I have all this free time now. Like I’m not in the gym twice a day, you know?  Yeah. And it’s nice. I mean, I think that’s the thing, it’s like a control thing. Right? Cause they’re paying you; people are paying you for your services, but then it’s probably hard to give up control even though they know they need your help to do something. 

 TS: I think that’s yeah. Yeah. That’s a hard thing. I think for people, cause for a lot of us, that’s like really all that. Like there’s so many things that we can’t control, especially right now. And that’s something that hang on to it, you know? 

ES: Yup. Yup. And that’s when I really, I try not to, you know, bring my own you know, personal stuff in it. Cause you know, whenever I’m training somebody it’s about them. It’s never about me, but if I can help them and say, listen, I’ve been there before. You know, I, you know, I’ve been through periods of my life where I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, eating less, you know, doing cardio every single day. And it was very hard for me to like start to open up to the idea of eating more and not being afraid of carbohydrates and like going into the gym and being in and out, you know, within an hour, including warm up, you know what I mean to, to trust that it’s very scary. It’s a scary thing.

TS:  And I think that another thing I feel like we see a lot in the fitness industry is this like all or nothing attitude. And I think like, what do you do for that? I mean, we obviously see it in nutrition with eating too, and there are different rules with it. And I’m guessing that that all or nothing kind of attitude is pervasive in with people as well as routines,

ES: Oh yeah. I mean, that’s something that I deal with all the time and I have to be a perfectionist too. I mean, I’ve dealt with this. Like I, you know, I think it’s just part of being human is if you, if you can’t do something well, then just don’t do it. You know what I mean? We don’t want to be, we don’t want to make mistakes. And especially now you bring it up during this time where like so much is out of our control things that aren’t going well. Like we can’t afford to do something else from wrong and to make another mistake and to, to not do something else. Well so with the all or nothing, you know, I mean, okay. So to give you an example for myself, like back in the day, if I, if I, you know, was starting my day and it was a perfect start to the day, and then I ate something that wasn’t on plan, right? Let’s say that someone brought in brownies to work and it had a brownie, then it’s like, then you start to feel bad about having that brownie. Then maybe you have another one. Cause you’re like, well, I’m not going to work out anyways. Cause I don’t want to look at myself in a gym mirror knowing that that’s what I had earlier. So then you don’t work out that day. And then the next day you have a sugar hangover because you’ve eaten the wrong things. So, it tends to be a domino effect that hangs around much longer than that brownie. Yeah. And I think so when I, when I, when I bring that up to somebody and I say, well, what happens if you have the brownie? And then you just go on with your day, it doesn’t change what you’re going to have for dinner. You don’t try to like having a lettuce leaf for dinner. You actually have a balanced meal and then you get up the next day and you just continue on with your life, what would happen? And you know, so I just encourage people to like, look at it differently. Like, don’t like, you know, the, the, there’s a phrase that like if one of your tires blows, like you don’t get out of your car and like slash all the other ones. Right? Like it doesn’t make sense. And you just step back logically, you’re like, Oh yeah. Why would I do that? But that’s what we do to ourselves all the time. TS: Well, I think too, like the fitness part of it, I think it’s one of those things where it’s like, okay, like, so you mentioned like you ate something. So to say, you feel like you overate, right. And now that self-deprecation starts to kick in and then it’s either, I feel like it’s either this like, well, I’m going to skip it. I’m not going to do anything today in terms of fitness or it’s the other end where I’m going to punish myself and do so much more because I want to make up for something that I did that was perceived that I shouldn’t have done. And I’m guessing that you see that in your population as well, too.

ES:  Oh, a hundred percent. And what it’s, it’s such a, there’s such a mental and emotional aspect to like the fitness and wellness industry that I feel like there are people addressing it more today than there was maybe 10 years ago. But when you eat the brownie or you eat something that you’re not supposed to do, the problems come, I’ve seen when it’s, Oh, it’s reaffirming to yourself, I’m not made up. I’m not cut out to do this. So you have the pizza. And you’re like, well, I’m not somebody who should be doing this, this isn’t, you know? And so I encourage people to say you, if you have a piece of pizza, it doesn’t mean that you’re somebody who can’t get fit. And it’s, you know, it’s impossible. Look at those core beliefs, look at those, those things that you believe about yourself and really assess them, in fact, check them so that when you do something that doesn’t align with your goals, it doesn’t mean that it says anything about you as a person. It just means that you made a decision and then that’s it.

And then you can walk away. But if you make that decision and it’s against what you are trying to become, then you take yourself out of the running, you take yourself out of the race, you know, you know what I’m saying? 

TS: Yeah, totally. Yeah. And then another thing that I hear in terms of the whole like fitness and people are trying to work out is the whole, like, I want to lose weight, but I just want to lose it in my stomach and I just want to lose me in my thighs. So, can you speak to, to and provide clarity on, on that line of logic and questioning that I think a lot of us find ourselves in.

ES: Yeah, well, everybody is different. Everybody’s different, everybody’s different. And we all hold body weight in different areas. Some of it, so I’ll say it right up front, there’s no way to spot reduce. There’s no way to reduce it. One thing you can do is you can create more shape underneath the area that you’re trying to improve. And then that can, you know, change the look of it as you’re losing body fat, if that’s your goal. But body fat accumulates sort of all over. Right. And that’s why, like, for example, I tend to hold more of my body weight in my lower, in my lower half, which is fine. It’s something I accepted. And, you know, I know that about myself. So, what’ll happen is, if I’m, you know, I’m losing body fat, I’ll look, you know, shredded on top. And then I still have a way to go in the bottom. You know what I mean? And I’m doing the same workouts that I would be doing if I was the other way around. So it’s just a matter of holding on if you want it, you know, really improve that area, just keep doing what you’re doing. And eventually that will come up. But if you’re somebody who tends to hold it and you’re like your stomach, let’s say, you know, there are some people who are just born with abs, you know what I mean? Like my husband, we joke and it’s like, he’ll, he’ll walk up the stairs. And I’m like, Oh great. He’s going to have a six pack instead of some people just pulled it differently. So it’s just a matter of like, you know, following the plan, stick with your nutrition and plan your workout plan and, and be excited about the areas that you, you see improvement that you love.

You know what I mean? Don’t wait until the end of the race to be like, Oh, wow, look what I’m doing. You know? 

TS: Yeah. I think in terms of weight loss and weight gain, it’s, we don’t just gain it in one place. It’s distributed differently, each body, so it’s the same and we’re trying to lose it. And then it sounds like also when you’re trying to work out, there’s going to be things that you can do for different body parts, but ultimately it’s going to be, you’re going to lose weight all over. And then over time, it sounds like what you’re saying is if you stick with your fitness routine and stick with eating, you know, not eating a lot of junk food and things like that, then you’ll kind of get to where you need to be, but it’s just continuing to do it.

ES: Right. Yeah. And to touch on something that you just, you just kind of brought up you know, if there’s an area that you’re, you’re really wanting to build and improve on. One thing that I see people do is, they go in and they work on their, let’s say like their glutes, their butts, like, that’s a big thing right now. So, they go in and they work their lower body every single day. And, you know, cause that’s the part they care about or they do abs every single day or they don’t really want bigger arms.

They want bigger shoulders. So they’ll just lift shoulders every single day. I used to be one of those people. And what you do is you end up setting yourself up for making no changes in those areas because your body, your, your glutes, you know, you can’t work them out every single day and have them change. If you’re, if you’re, you know, just hitting them every day, you have to let them recover. So, you know, working extra hard on a body part, isn’t going to necessarily give you any changes in those body parts. You have to like, let them recover in order to see the change. Do you know what I mean? 

TS: So, what’d you recommend? Like just kind of doing something every other day. Like, what do you recommend, like one time a week, do you have a lower body, one time of the week doing upper body? What do you normally recommend? Well, if you’re just the basics and getting started, what would you recommend getting started? 

ES: You probably want to be lifting three to four days a week. 

TS: Really. Okay.

ES: And so that could be upper body or lower body. Yeah. There’s, there’s a lot of different approaches. And again, this is, you know, it goes against my philosophy, my code altogether to be like, and this is what you should do because totally because it’s individualized. But for example, you could do something like a, you know, upper lower, upper lower, or you could do an upper body, lower body, full body, upper body, lower body, full body. I mean, it, it really, really depends. But you want to have enough stimulus in the muscle in order to make the change. And I think a lot of people think this is something I ran into when I first started training people, you know, training is not cheap. So, someone would come in, you know, once a week to train with me at this corporate gym. And they would work really hard, but then I wouldn’t see them for a week. And you know what I mean? So that’s why I always give people homework and things to do in between in order to see the changes. So, if you want to, you know, strength train one day a week, it’s better than nothing just for your body. But in order to see those changes, you know, you, you’ve got to be doing strength training more than twice a week. And then the other days are you then doing something like cardiovascular? So you’re having a balance of both of them. Not even necessarily, I mean, movement is great just for circulation. You know what I mean? So, I mean, we’re all sitting more now. I mean, I used to be standing all day. I have to force myself to get up, so you want to make sure you’re getting movement in, but you don’t have to get on an elliptical machine every single day in order to see change is you just want to make sure you’re, you’re trying to stay active, maybe go on a short walk, but you don’t have to do cardio every day. 

TS: Okay. Yeah. That’s helpful. And then, and then one last question, before we wrap up, I want to talk a little bit about the post recovery workout.? I feel like some people will work out and they’re just doing like, not really an intense workout and then they’re drinking like a whole bunch of Gatorade and probably things they probably don’t even need. So, what do you recommend typically for your clients in terms of a recovery meal? I know some people do this Shakeology and different things like that. So, I, I know that we can probably find things that are around and a little bit more present or hassle then Shakeology yeah. 

ES: So, you have, so I like to think of the workout window as kind of the before and then the after. So I like to kind of see what’s happening before, before the workout and after, so before the workout, you want to have something that’s going to really fuel you and carry you through the workout. So something with a quick carb source is great. Like you know, if you’re working out in the morning, maybe a banana with a Greek yogurt or protein shake or something like that, someone’s going to digest really quickly and fuel your muscles to work out. And then afterwards, what you want to do is depending on how hard you’re working, working out, that’s when you would determine how many carbohydrates you want to have now, after if you’re going to the gym and you’re doing a light workout, you don’t need a ton of carbohydrates before and after. You want to have carbohydrates, and protein. And we are, you know, typically very low in our protein as Americans, you know, throughout the day. So, you want to make sure you’re getting between like 30 and 50 grams of protein and that’s enough to kind of stimulate the muscle to create that muscle protein synthesis. 

TS: So that could be something like a Greek yogurt or like having like an egg and a piece of toast.

ES: Right. Something like that, honestly. So yeah Actually, an egg has like seven grams of protein, which is like, so disappointing.  So honestly, you’d probably want to have, if you were eating like whole eggs, you’d probably want to have four eggs. A couple.

Yeah. So that’s, you know, you really want to help that muscle recover and there’s essential amino acid called leucine, and you want to have like 2.5 grams of that, you know, post-workout and you need, TS: what would you recommend to put that in? 

ES: So, leucine is just it’s a, it’s an amino acid that it’s a building block of proteins. So, you want to have, you know, like 30 to 50 grams of protein after you work out in order to really help your body recover from that muscle damage. Cause that’s, that’s what you’re doing when you’re working out, you’re creating like little micro tears in your muscle fibers and then the carbohydrates that you would have, post-workout like a banana or rice or potatoes, something like that. That’s going to help replenish the glycogen in your muscles from the work that you did. And typically you want to have something a little bit lower fat post-workout because the lower fat is going to help. If you have too much fat, it’s going to slow the digestion of your protein and your carbs. And you want those things to go right to the right, to the body so that I can use them for energy. Right. So having like a big salad, post-workout, that’s a lot of fiber and it’s going to take a long time for your body to like break that down and like distribute it where you want it to go. And post-workout, you want to just recover as fast as you can get those nutrients right in. 

TS: So, I guess you could even just do a shake, shake, shake? Because most of those have like 20 grams of protein. It has some carbs depending on the shake that you do. 

ES: Yeah. A shake would be fine if you’re in a pinch. 

TS: Well, that’s wonderful. Well, I can’t thank you so much for coming on today. I feel like all the knowledge that you’ve just provided is just really helpful and it’s just, it’s just really nice to get an approach that’s just so individualized and that’s kind of like, it seems like it’s doable.

ES: Yeah.  I mean, my best advice for somebody who’s just starting to work out is to  find a plan that you can really like and stick with. You know what I mean? Don’t make it too complicated. Don’t still set yourself up to, you know, to fail. Don’t say I’m going to go work out every single day. Realistically, how many days can you, can you make it? And then, and then try to make it those days. And maybe it is only three days a week, but that’s when you build the confidence and that like, you know, that’s that self-efficacy to keep going. 

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