Find a deeper meaning to why you want to change in the first place. A great tool for finding that meaning is coming up with a goal, then asking yourself ‘why’ a few times. It’s a little more insightful and adds more layers to your initial ‘surface level’ answer.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Fairman.
Ryan is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist (EP) and his mission is to improve the health, wellness and fitness of individuals in the most effective, efficient and appropriate way possible. He mainly helps busy professionals start and maintain a structured exercise program to fit within their hectic schedule, so that they can move better without constant aches, feel better physically and mentally, and continue to do the things they love! His main hobbies include spending time with his baby boy, playing guitar, cooking new recipes, running, working out, and trying new restaurants.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I’ve always been into health and fitness ever since I can remember. Sports were a big part of my life growing up, so I always had a knack for movement and exercise. Once I got to school and had to decide what my career path was going to look like, I knew fitness and wellness was the perfect fit. Not only could I continue to learn about exercise and the human body, but I would be able to utilize my knowledge to help people with their own fitness and wellness. I’ve learned so much over the years and it’s been a great experience. If I had the opportunity, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Although it might not have much novelty on the outside, the most interesting story has been a client of mine that I’ve been working with for about 7 years now. Not only have I grown and progressed over those 7 years, but she has as well. The main takeaways from her achieving a wide variety of goals are:
1.To stay consistent (we train 2x/week and she misses ~4–6 weeks/year)
2. Have patience and trust in the process
3. Know that you’re not going to be 100% each day, but that’s ok and you can still accomplish your goals
4. Have fun! We see each other quite a bit each week, so making things interesting is necessary. Yes we work on very specific health and wellness goals, but we also know how to take a step back and enjoy our time together.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
Oh man, where to start?! There were so many in the beginning and even some today (although not nearly as drastic). I would say one of the most memorable would be making a client do about 50 lunges in a session. I had gotten a workout from a ‘trusted’ source online and took her through it. Where to begin on what I’ve learned since then?! I now have a thought process and think about every intricate detail within a training session and training program. That includes evaluating/assessing the client and creating a custom exercise regimen that will fit their specific goals, current fitness levels, injury history, etc. Thankfully I don’t just take a random workout online and hope for the best. *face palm*
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I pride myself in using an evidence-based approach with my clients. I attend a monthly research review group at a gym in Chicago where we scour through different research articles and provide an analysis at the end of each month. The cool thing about this process is that you find out science is evolving (as it should) and that the way you approach training or coaching a client should never stay stagnant. There are usually more efficient ways to accomplish a goal. Now this doesn’t mean that I disregard everything else that I’ve learned up until this point, but it does allow me to improve upon my foundation and always try to improve my coaching process.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My two biggest mentors up until this point have been Martin Kimpston and Michelle Amore. I was lucky to find them early in my career. They are lightyears ahead of me and I’ve learned so much from them over the years, not only with improving my skillset in the health and wellness field, but also on the business side of things, since they are both very successful business owners. If I didn’t have them pushing me to grow and continue to learn, I think I would have gotten out of the field quite some time ago.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
Through my experience of coaching clients, I’d say it boils down to a few simple, yet effective things:
1) Find a deeper meaning to why you want to change in the first place. A great tool for finding that meaning is coming up with a goal, then asking yourself ‘why’ a few times. It’s a little more insightful and adds more layers to your initial ‘surface level’ answer.
2) Now that you have a meaningful goal in mind, figure out the simplest, most doable habits that will get you to your goal. Once way to measure this is to use a 1–10 scale. If you’re not at a 9 or 10 with your confidence level, then scale back your habit until you are. Example) Goal: I want to improve and maintain my strength, so that I can keep up with my children as they get older. Habit: Resistance train 3 times per week — 7/10. Resistance train 1 time per week — 9/10. A higher confidence level will usually lead to higher compliance.
3) Finally, consistency is key. Everyone is excited the first few weeks/months that they start a program. But what about the next 6 months or years? That’s where the true proof in the pudding lies. Anyone can do something short term, but to see real results or adaptations, one must stay consistent with exercise, nutrition, recovery, etc. for the long term. Easier said than done of course. Tips to accomplish this include choosing exercise you like to do, seeing results — even if they are short term initially, and having someone or something hold you accountable (trainer or check in program of some sort).
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
If I had to choose “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing” they would include:
- Exercise is specific and not one ‘type’ is best or the only one you should do. Combat the headlines and the trends (HIIT, bootcamps, etc.) and add variety to your exercise regiment. This should include low intensity aerobic exercise, resistance training, and occasionally medium or high intensity aerobic exercise. This will ensure that multiple systems in your body are being trained appropriately, which will make everything else you do more efficient.
- No pain, no gain is a huge myth. If you’re ever in pain, especially with exercise, then you need to reevaluate what you’re doing or see a qualified practitioner to get evaluated. Now, you eventually need to be slightly uncomfortable during exercise to elicit specific adaptations (when you’re ready of course), but it shouldn’t be to the point of pain.
- Calories matter and your metabolism probably isn’t damaged. The energy balance equation holds true and in the simplest terms, if you’re in a calorie excess, you will gain weight, if you’re in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. Now it is way more complex than this, but be wary if someone is selling you a product or program stating that the reason you’re gaining weight is due to the fact that your metabolism is damaged or that calories don’t matter.
- Don’t forget about quality sleep. In an ever connected world, it can be hard to unplug sometimes. This can often lead to poor sleep hygiene, since there usually isn’t a routine or proper environment for quality sleep. This a very necessary component in recovery, which will help with the majority of goals you have.
- More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to exercise. This can fall within the no pain, no gain category as well, but I see it far too frequently. An ambitious individual comes in and wants results yesterday, so they have the mindset that more is better and they will make up for lost time. This can be very detrimental to progress since your body needs proper recovery to adapt (strength, muscle mass, endurance, etc.) If that’s not happening, not only will progress stall, but there is also a high chance of injury. On the flip side, if you’re not doing enough, then it might be necessary to increase frequency, volume, or intensity.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
Im a true believer in the ‘Exercise is Medicine’ movement, so I’m glad to see that others are starting to realize that there are more benefits to exercise than weight loss. And it’s been show that exercise alone is a pretty poor intervention for weight loss (going back to that calorie blurb). If I had to choose 3, they would be
Improved strength — appropriately providing a stimulus to your musculoskeletal system improves your muscles ability to contract. Improving contraction is the epicenter to eliciting specific adaptations within the muscle; strength being one of those. If you’re stronger, then most other activities will be easier and more enjoyable. And not only will improving contraction help with short term strength gains, but it will also help maintain your strength as you age, which means you can do the things you love longer!
Prevention or management of chronic disease — one of the best interventions for a wide array of chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and hypertension to name a few.
Better mood — Life is stressful and there’s usually no way to avoid it. But through strategic exercise intervention, you can improve the ability of your nervous system to handle that stress. You’ll feel better and won’t endure a lot of the negative effects that come with high stress.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
This is a tough one because it really depends on the individual’s current fitness level, injury history, likes, dislikes, etc. but here a some general recommendations.
1) Resistance training — major muscle groups at least 1 time per week
This would include leg press, chest press, shoulder press, lat pulldown, seated row, step ups to name a few. But again it all depends on one’s ability level.
2) Some type of low intensity aerobic activity
Walking, biking, leisurely sport — this is a great one for the mind as well as the body
3) Isometrics — a valuable tool for increasing mobility in a safe, effective manner without improvising joint integrity (which can happening with traditional static stretching)
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
This is always a tough subject. I understand the desire to play sports and exercise at a high intensity, but the body, specifically the tissues (both contractile and non contractile) can only tolerate so much. Professional athletes understand this, which is why they’re the best. They’re able to periodize their training regimen to balance just enough stimulus to progress and proper recovery, all while still performing at their highest for their sport. In my opinion, this does not translate well to the general population. All we see are the small, intense snippets on social media and falsely determine that’s what is necessary to perform at that level. Far from the truth. Most of the athletes or high intensity people that I’ve trained, usually perform better with strategic recovery sprinkled into their program (funny how that happens). It’s just explaining to them why it’s necessary and what will happen if they don’t (injury, poor performance, overtraining, burnout). I think all the gadgets, interventions, or therapies out there that claim to shorten recovery time are anecdotal at best and won’t allow for the ultimate recovery method, which is time. The cool thing is that most general population clients have lives, so there is usually vacations, holidays, etc. planned through the year that allow for adequate recovery time.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I don’t follow a diet, per se. I try to make veggies and lean protein my staples at most meals with some smart carbs (especially post workout) and healthy fats. I’d say I try and stick with that strategy for 80% of my meals during the week. Outside of that I will enjoy snacks, treats, other meals, as long as it’s within reason. For most of my client’s I try and figure out what they like and what they enjoy. From there we come up with strategies together that they feel confident they can stick with for a few weeks. We continue to add habits/strategies if they’re comfortable in doing so until they’re at a pretty reasonable ‘diet’. As long as they’re reaching they’re goals, the possibilities are endless.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
‘Switch’ was a great read and helped me reevaluate my though process when it comes to dealing with clients. I had a solid skillset when it came to exercise and nutrition, but getting clients to stick with it long term was difficult. This book helped bridge that gap and help with my EQ, which is vital in this industry, since we are face to face with our clients.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would say what I mentioned earlier, the ‘Exercise is Medicine’ movement, would have a huge impact on our society. People would be healthier, happier, and more able, along with the decreased reliance on our health care system.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One that has always stuck with me is ‘one day at a time.’ I remind myself of that most days, especially the tough ones. It also ensures that I stay in the present, enjoy the moment, and not get stuck in the past or future, which can happen quite often.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Such a great question. Consistency and longevity have always fascinated me. Someone who can be at a top level for so long is admirable. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan come to mind. It would be such a life altering experience to be able to pick their brains.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
LinkedIN, Facebook or Instagram — Continued Performance
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!