“Small bites” and “resistance” are a couple of things you might think of if you are among millions of folks resolving to drop some weight or get healthier in 2021. But you might be surprised to hear a local, long-tenured physical trainer using these terms even though in his context, they have absolutely nothing to do with dieting.
In a recent chat with The Newtown Bee about how to — and how not to — approach resolutions to get healthier and lose weight, Kevin Cleary of the Athlete Factory says it is not about committing yourself to salads and plain chicken for the rest of time.
“Absolutely not — that’s just not sustainable,” Cleary said.
Instead, the 30-year personal and weight trainer, who also spent a dozen of those years running a gym, says a “structured program that requires 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week,” will yield positive results for most people.
“To be successful in sustaining a fitness program that can serve you for the rest of your life, it’s more about taking small bites. But I’m not referring to what you eat as much as how you exercise,” he said. “A program that involves relatively short workouts and revolves around resistance training has the best chance of succeeding in terms of fitness and weight control, as well as becoming part of a structured routine you can incorporate for the rest of your life.”
Cleary, a USA Weightlifting Federation sports performance coach as well as a certified strength and conditioning specialist with distinction who say he “plans to live to see my 125th birthday,” is familiar with the limitations of a cardio-only fitness program.
“The science shows with cardio, you’re only burning calories when you’re working out, you’re not altering your body composition,” he said. “But with resistance training, especially for weight loss or to mitigate natural weight gain in aging, you’re going to need to engage the [gluteal muscles] — the main calorie burning engines of your body machine.”
Short And Simple
Cleary said the worst thing someone aspiring to get healthier should do is start the New Year pitching themselves into a “gung-ho, seven-day-a-week, highly caloric restrictive routine with daily cardio.”
“That’s not a program most people will carry on for the long term. The key is to adopt a doable, sustainable program and gets results,” he said. “Everybody can fit 20 or 30 minutes into their life three times a week.”
Cleary said over the three decades he’s been coaching people to do this, those who are most successful keep it simple.
“The most successful people follow a plan that involves resistance training — that’s the most important thing. All the studies show if you break down muscle tissue using resistance, you decrease your body fat and build more muscle. That means we’re getting stronger and more vital, we can be more active, and by decreasing our body fat, we’re decreasing our risk of disease,” he said.
The local trainer said most people will get a substantial cardiac benefit from resistance training, many to the extent that they may not need supplemental cardio-centric workouts..
“When you’re lifting weight, you are using your heart and lungs to pump blood and oxygen to the working muscles that demand it. So you can certainly do interval training, which is a set of eight to ten exercises you do in quick succession — your heart and lungs will benefit from it,” he said.
“But especially for us baby boomers and older adults, resistance training is what’s going to help you get up the stairs, and be able to bend down and pick up and play with your grandkids. It prevents you from losings functions you might naturally lose as you age.”
‘Goblet Squats’ & ‘Thrusters’
Among the exercises Cleary frequently teaches to clients, whether they are stepping away from their work station for a few minutes or as part of a more involved resistance workout, are the “goblet squat, the “renegade row,” and the “thruster,” which can employ anything from dumbbells to cans of soup for upper body resistance as they squat and lift, engaging the hips and glutes.
“That’s a total body movement that will break down muscle tissue [and] produce more testosterone, which builds muscle tissue and burns body fat,” he said. “Additionally, if older folks, especially women, work their glutes and quad muscles, calcium is brought to the bones. That means more dense bones and less of a likelihood of osteoporosis.”
If squats are not your style, no problem.
Even those who can only make time for or who are in shape for casual walking can engage the glutes effectively by adding a couple of flights of stairs to their thrice-weekly jaunt, or simply picking routes that mix flat stretches with inclines or hills.
“Walking is certainly good for your mental health — you get fresh air and it helps clear your mind,” Cleary said. “But if you’re trying to be healthier, live longer, and hedge against natural tendencies to gain weight while aging, you need to break down muscle tissue with resistance.”
Athlete Factory clients all receive a lengthy analysis of their physical condition and their goals before their trainer begins customizing their program. Cleary utilizes a app called “TrainHeroic” that holds their customized program, including videos.
He also finds success in his own structured lifestyle that includes tracking his sleep patterns and daily meditation, and he gladly shares the apps he uses for those activities with clients as well.
For more information or to schedule a physical assessment, contact Cleary at Athlete Factory by calling 203-313-9022 or visit athlete-factory.com.
When talking with friends and potential clients about foregoing resolutions and committing to fitness for life, Kevin T. Cleary, director of Newtown’s Athlete Factory, LLC, says one key component is incorporating a program of resistance training at least three times per week. —photo courtesy Kevin Cleary
Kevin Cleary a local USA Weightlifting Federation sports performance coach and certified strength and conditioning specialist who operates Newtown’s Athlete Factory has seen the long-term benefits of resistance training for most of his 30-year career. —photo courtesy Kevin Cleary
Kevin Cleary’s Athlete Factory helps clients achieve a doable and sustainable lifestyle change that incorporates — first and foremost — 20 to 30 minute resistance training sessions just three times a week. —photo courtesy Kevin Cleary
Local trainer and former gym operator Kevin Cleary is flanked by some of his student-athlete clients, from left, Hunter Cobb, Matt Dubois, James Knox, Jack Mulligan, and Ben Mason. Cleary has spent more than three decades working with hundreds of clients offering science-backed insights that can also help non-athletes achieve their fitness goals.