Aaron Williamson is a health advisor and fitness trainer to the film industry. He has helped craft the physical transformations of Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained, Zac Efron in Neighbors and Josh Brolin in Oldboy. He recently finished molding Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke into legendary action heroine Sarah Connor for Terminator: Genisys. Find out more at aaronwilliamson.net.
What is one of the biggest mistakes women make at the gym?
One of the biggest mistakes I see and I hear about on a consistent basis is the fear women have of doing weights and resistance training. It’s the misconception that they’ll become bulky and put mass on. And that’s just not true. Women naturally have a lot less testosterone in their body. Therefore, for a woman to put on mass, they would have to eat an excessive amount of food. There’s no way they’re going to eat that much food unless they’re training extremely hard. And when I say food I’m referring to good, wholesome, clean food. Not junk that’s full of empty calories. Of course that would make anyone big & soft…and fat. The reality is, when a woman lifts weights, they’re actually going to strengthen the muscle, maintain the muscle mass they currently have and that’s going to help them burn more fat. Cardio is a good addition to weight training, too. I tell all my clients to alternate it because you get the benefit of both worlds: you get the lean, toned look and you get the fat burning effects of cardio. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice on the equipment at the gym!
The next question ties into the fear that women are going to bulk up. How often should women train?
A good rule of thumb is thirty to forty-five minutes at a time, three to four times a week. Going forward, it ultimately depends on your lifestyle. Do you have five days a week to train or do you have three? Or is it better to try to fit in one or two days during the week and catch up on the weekends? What one person who works in an office all day would need to do for her health & fitness goals is going to be different from someone who is on their feet all day being active. Especially from a nutrition standpoint. The person who’s on their feet all day is going to need to eat more than somebody who is a little more sedentary behind a desk.
Another tip might be to alternate the intensity of each workout. You might go in the gym on some days and be wide open with energy. You’re going to have a better training session on those days. Then, there will be the days when you’re going to be a little tired so just do some low intensity cardio instead or something that still pushes you within the range of energy you have. Or do a little bit of abs or something that’s not going to be so taxing, but will still bring you heart rate up and help burn fat.
What if you are juggling kids, a significant other, a full time job and other responsibilities? What if you only have half the time needed and can only do twenty minutes?
If you have that amount of time, you’re probably not going to be able to get to a gym, so you’re going to have to do a workout at your house or somewhere convenient. You have two types of training: you have high intensity interval training (HIIT), or you have low-intensity, steady state (LISS), which is a light jog or walking on the treadmill, or similar. Mix those two up. High intensity interval training has been proven to burn fat at a very fast pace and brings the body to the threshold very quickly. Alternate some jump ropes or burpees or mountain climbers. Try full body movements that are going to get your heart rate up quickly and do them in little increments. Jump rope for thirty seconds and go as fast as you can. Then rest for thirty seconds, and then do it again. You’re going to get a full body workout and get your heart rate up so high that you can’t even breathe. That’s going to make you feel better, maybe not at the time but more in the long run post workout. You’ll get the endorphin rush and you’re going to bring your metabolism naturally to a higher point. And you can do that at your home with minimal equipment and just your body weight. I thought I was in shape until I started jump roping and that was a reality check for me!
What’s the best way to stay organized with your training each week?
If you can have a visual layout of what you’re doing, what you’ve done, what you need to do, it’s going to help a lot. You can see a blueprint. Hang a calendar on your fridge and start to write down what you’re doing for the week. You’ll know that on Monday you have twenty minutes before you pick up the kids. On Tuesday, maybe you can make it to the gym for 45 minutes after you drop them off at school. You’ll know in advance that on Monday you’ll do jump rope, sprints and burpees. And on Tuesday at the gym, you’ll lift some weights. It’s an accountability journal. From my experience, helping women get more creative and responsible with their planning helps them tremendously. It’s allowed them to really build it into their lifestyle. Even with only short periods of time. The key to success is to build fitness into your schedule & lifestyle. Otherwise, there will always be an excuse why you can’t get it in.
What are some easy pre-workout and post-workout snacks that women might find appealing?
Pre- and post-workout snacks are very important. Proteins are good, whether in the form of protein powder or something else. Yogurt, mixed nuts or some grapefruit. Good proteins, good fats and even some good carbs from brown rice or a brown rice cake; something light. Going into the gym ravenously hungry is not a good thing & can make you feel off negatively affecting your training. Similarly, you can’t drive anywhere if you’ve got no gas in the tank – same concept. These things will prime your body for training and then also help your body recover after you train. Your body naturally just wants to eat better when you train. When you give it food that your body should have and should want, the cravings are going to get cut down. You’re going to slowly want to eat better because you feel better. Eating (or drinking) greens post workout will also help put your body back into positive pH balance. That’s extremely important for people who have a very acidic body. I like to do the green smoothies or the green shakes with kale and spinach. Those are my main two that I mix together. And I eat a lot of broccoli. Find a place that has cold pressed juices that you can quickly pull from the fridge if you’re rushed on time. All these little things will add up over time making you feel so much healthier while boosting energy so you’re able to train effectively without feeling so sluggish.
What are some of the best exercises to do after having a baby?
Depending on how your pregnancy went and how your recovery is going, I think a lot of doctors will recommend women be careful with physical activity for the first six weeks until they go back for a check-up. What you can do during that time is try to get your body back into the rhythm of movement. Start going for walks. Just go at a pace that’s comfortable for you. When you begin to feel more comfortable, start to increase the pace a bit. Try to bring your heart rate up more. Yoga and pilates are both very good, too. Strengthening the core will be very important in getting back on track as quickly as possible; it’s the base of all movement.
Pregnancy is a tremendous physiological change to the body. And not everyone has a smooth pregnancy. Not everyone is able to go to the gym and train while being pregnant. A lot of women fall behind on their physical health because of that. Getting mobility, flexibility and stretching in will help realign your body post-pregnancy.
How do you recommend that women stay motivated?
I’m actually working with a client right now and she’s a little on the negative side. Very concerned all the time about everything and she was extremely intimidated to get back into the gym. She got out of shape and then felt bad about herself. She was worried about everybody looking at her. When you go into the gym, you have to get rid of any negative thoughts. You are going in there for yourself. You’re not going in there for anyone else. Go into the gym and think about your goal, why you’re there and what you want to accomplish. That should allow you to keep your head on with confidence. Maybe somebody’s looking at you, but it doesn’t matter.
Put a photo of inspiration on your fridge or in your car. Somewhere you’ll see it every day. Start to manifest positive thoughts about your goals. The more you can see it & think about it, the more likely you’ll be to succeed at making wise decisions when it comes to nutrition & pushing yourself. Fitness should be something that’s fun, not stressful. I look at the gym as a place of peace, a sanctuary. You can tune the whole world out & go into your own personal zone where nothing else exists but you & your thoughts. Now that’s motivation!
And the gym you choose should help your mindset, too, right?
Absolutely. Find the right gym that you feel comfortable in. Go gym shopping. Belong to a gym that’s a place where you can walk in and feel at home. If you’re not comfortable, chances are you’ll always find an excuse not to go. I love the feeling I get when I’m in the gym because it’s a release. You’re taking care of yourself and you’re making yourself feel better. It’s a great place to be and there’s no reason why you should feel intimidated or stressed by it
For more health and fitness tips, visit Aaron’s personal website at aaronwilliamson.net.