When it comes to weight loss or results in the gym, the most important thing you need to understand is progressive overload. And progressive overload is doing more every time you go into the gym. So here’s an example that was taught to me a while back to help you understand progressive overload. So we’re in the winter at the moment, and let’s say you decide that you want to have a tan. So you go down to the solarium and you decide to pay for 10 minutes, front and back. Now that night, let’s say it’s Monday night, you’re a little bit of a pinkish, browny colour. However, that’s not the colour that you want. So you decide for the rest of the week, all the way till Sunday, you’re going to do the same 10 minutes on the sunbed. So come Sunday, you’ve gone from that reddish, browny colour to a nice golden brown.

Now geed up by your results, you’ve decided, “Okay, well for the rest of the month I’m going to go and do that same 10 minutes every single day.” Now my question to you is, what colour would you be at the end of the month? Would you be the same, darker or lighter than you were at the end of the first week? Well, the answer is you would be the same colour. Most people think, okay, you’d be darker. But if you think about people who live, let’s say in Africa, they’re not like pitch-black colour. The skin only adapts to the stress that you put it under. So once the skin is used to dealing with that 10 minutes, it gets to a colour and it stays at the colour. The results are not cumulative. People don’t seem to understand this.

Now when it comes to exercise, you need to be thinking that if you’re doing the same thing, week in, week out, so the same 5k, the same class, the same weights in the gym, your results are going to get to a point and not progress any further. One of the reasons or one of the ways at Salecca we prove that our Stronger By Design system works really well is that all our clients are strong. So the only way you can prove that you’re doing well in the gym when you’re doing weights especially, is that the weight is getting heavier and heavier.

And if you’ve been going to the gym for a couple of years and you can’t lift, let’s say, a hundred kilos off the floor, or your trainer isn’t pushing you, or you’re not pushing yourself to lift heavier and heavier, you’re not getting anything out of the gym. Nothing at all. And by the way, I’m talking men and women should be able to lift a hundred kilos off the floor. And you’ve got to think that because your results aren’t cumulative, you’re staying the same way you are, as soon as you stop or you have a break, you go back to zero.

Being strong is proof that you’re putting the hard work in. And it’s also proof that the program that you’re on is effective. If you’re still piddling around with the little weights, the colourful weights or the one-kilo weights, or you’re in some Bodypump class and you haven’t got past 30 kilos, you’re wasting your time. You need to stop being lazy and start putting some weight on the bar. So you might come back to me and say, “Okay, Sal, that’s a little bit harsh. I’m now in the advanced class from the intermediate, or I can work at a higher heart rate, or I can go into a higher gear when I’m in my spin class.”

The reality is, one if you don’t measure it, it doesn’t mean shit. Getting fit, getting strong, getting healthy is a science. It’s not how you feel. If you work in, let’s say, the accounts department of a business and you tell your boss, “I think we saved more money this year,” rather than showing the data, he’s going to laugh or probably even fire you. You have to have the data. Progressive overload is about showing where you were at the beginning of the month, at the end of the month, or even the end of the year and end of a decade.

How you feel has nothing to do with it. And I would even argue that being fitter or having better cardio is useless to you. There is no benefit to being able to run 10k, half a marathon, a marathon. There’s no time in your life when you’re going to need to be able to do that. The guy that can run a five-minute mile is not 26 times less fit than the guy that can run a marathon. People seem to think that more is better when it comes to cardio. If you’re afraid of having a heart attack, just lose some weight and eat better. The weight on the bar is the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to going to the gym, seeing your results, and ultimately that’s leading to losing fat.

A few more things if you’re serious about losing weight and seeing results in the gym you need to be doing the same thing for a continual amount of time. So you need to not change what you’re doing every time you go into the gym. Classes are notorious for this. You go into a spin class, you do a different thing, different tracks each week, maybe even each session. Same thing for boot camps. They just sort of make it up and you just run around and you get sweaty.

In fact, my number one pet peeve, or the way that you can tell if you have a really shitty personal trainer who doesn’t know crap is that he is changing the program every time you come in, or he’s making it up as you go along. I go to a gym a couple of times a week and I like to watch the personal trainers because sometimes I like to do some recruiting, and I just want to know who else is in the business. And when I see someone just going from here to there, not writing down what the client is doing, it’s lazy, it’s unprofessional and potentially it could be dangerous for the client because you might overegg the weight that you’re doing that week.

Because when you are weight training or you’re doing something in the gym, you’re looking to make structural changes to your body. You are creating an artificial growth spurt. So there’s the obvious. You’re going to increase your muscle mass, decrease fat, you’ve got better brain function, denser bones, more testosterone secretion, and you haven’t had a growth spurt probably since your teens. That’s a major structural change to your body. Nothing else comes even close when you’re doing some quality strength. The same way if you’re making structural changes to your house, like an extension. You couldn’t just pick up bricks and just put them anywhere or just decide today you’re going to do a new door. There has to be a structured plan which you follow to get a healthy result. Otherwise, your house is all wonky and crooked and a bag of shit.

Okay, so the last few points, if you want a successful training program, is you don’t want to change everything around. Nobody got good at anything through variety. If you want to get good at the piano, you do the same scales again, again and again. If you want to get good at tennis, you practice the same backhand again and again until you become an expert at it. And that’s the same with the gym. If you want to get healthy knees, back, hips, you’re going to squat again and again and again. Maybe even three times a week you’re going to squat. And then you’re going to get good and then the results happen. There is a lie out there where people say you need to change things. You need to confuse the muscle. It’s right. If you confuse the muscle, the muscle doesn’t know what you’re asking it to do. The same way if I’m studying for an exam and I read one paragraph from one book, another paragraph from another book, a page from another book. You have to be consistent with what you’re doing.

Now, that might sound boring to some people, but the gym isn’t there, or training isn’t there to entertain you. If I’m Usain Bolt and I’m trying to win the Olympics, I’m not going every session to try and be entertained. The entertainment comes when you win, when you win at life. Having better sex, more energy, more sleep, better status. And that all happens outside of the gym. If you want to do something different and you want to see a change, you have to become an expert at what you do. You can’t just clock in and clock out when you go to the gym. “Ah, at least I did something today.” You have to take ownership of what you’re doing. You have to know why you’re doing it.

And the final thing you need to understand when it comes to training is to stop trying to get sore or stop holding up how sore you are as a mark of honour. If anything, it’s a sign that you’re a moron. Soreness simply means you’ve done too much volume. You’ve done too many reps. You’ve pushed yourself too hard. There are diminishing returns. The harder you push yourself, the closer you are to injury, the closer you are to not recovering for your next workout. It’s also a sign that you’re really deconditioned. If somebody has not done anything for a while goes to do something in the gym, they’re going to get sore. You are deconditioned. It’s not a cool thing. It’s a little bit like if you play football and you grade how your performance was not on how many goals you scored, but on how sore your knees were at the end of the game. All your mates or your teammates that heard that story would just think you’re a bit of a twat. And that’s exactly the same when you talk about how sore you got from your barres or your Pilates.

This is the story of Norm and Harry, two highly successful professionals in their 50s.

Both work for top firms in the City.

Both are at the top of their careers.

Both have raised great families, have money in the bank, and are financially set for their retirement a few years off.

From the outside, their lives look equally well set.

But while Harry sees his 50s and beyond as one of the best times of his life, and is looking forward to retirement with optimism and enthusiasm for his kids’ weddings, his grandchildren’s’ rugby matches, the travel and adventures he and his wife have been planning for years….

Norm feels bombarded with reminders that he’s getting older and slowing down. His brother recently had a heart attack, he sees his colleagues and peers getting greyer, people offer up their seat on the train. He secretly fears he won’t be there to see his daughter’s wedding.

Or his grandkids’ graduations.

Harry and Norm are leading two very similar and successful lives, with one main difference:

Harry has been investing in his health along the way. He knows age is really about how old you feel…. And he feels great.

Meanwhile, Norm has been working himself to the bone, putting his own health last – from what he eats to how little he moves throughout the day. And while it hasn’t yet slowed him down in this career that he can tell… it’s taking its toll on his personal life in a big way.

Harry and Norm are based on real people I meet as Director of one of the top fitness studios in Moorgate.

As you hear their stories – who do you relate to more?

If you’re being honest with yourself, how do you feel?

Not “How are you” (all right)… but how do you feel?



Feeling… old?

But what do any of these things have to do with your investments?

As a former City professional myself, I know many of those feelings all too well. Especially the “who is that out of shape man looking back at me in the mirror?!”

I was becoming a “Norm,” and it was hard to imagine I’d ever been fit enough to be a paratrooper in the IV Battalion Parachute Regiment. That life seemed very far behind me.

Most nights after a gruelling day in the office, I’d decide “it’s too late to cook dinner” and order a takeaway after work. Combined with 10-12 hours a day at my desk, the combination was wreaking havoc on my waistline, my self-esteem, and my overall health.

At our studio, the clientele is essentially made up of two groups of people:

• The Harrys, who are determined to excel at both their careers AND their health. So they found a studio that made it possible to fit their fitness goals into their real lives (instead of “living in the gym”)
• And those whose health has taken a dive, leaving them no choice but to address it. This group believed they didn’t have time to prioritize their health… Until they had to.

Unlike the Norms from my story earlier, this second group of clients at our studio have decided to take action.

They may be playing catchup on their health investments…. But much like our finances – late is always better than never.

The amazing thing is, most of us know that our retirement funds and our investments are our insurance towards our futures.

Yet few people view their health the same way.

To that, I can’t help but wonder will you be able to enjoy that retirement, if you haven’t been investing in your body as well?

Many of our clients come to us with serious physical and/or health concerns:
• Heart conditions and high blood pressure…
• Joint problems…
• Back pain and injuries …
• Or old, chronic injuries that have slowed them down for years…

All things that could have been resolved years before, if they had known they didn’t have to choose between their physical health and their career goals.

“When You’re Young, Fitness is Sport. As You Age, It’s Necessity.”

The World’s Leaders And Top CEOs Put Their Health On The Top Of Their To-Do List

Choosing work or health isn’t about picking one over the other. The world’s top CEOs and leaders, from Barack Obama to T. Boone Pickens use their physical health to drive their successes and support their demanding schedules.

They know their physical health is one of their best investments, even in the short term, so they can keep up and perform their best through gruelling meeting schedules, constant travel, cooking up new innovations, making key decisions on national security, or leading some of the most innovative brands in the world.

In The 4-Hour Body, author Tim Ferriss shared a story about travelling to Necker Island with Sir Richard Branson. Someone in the group asked the Virgin Group founder how they could be more productive.

He answered with two words: “Work out,” reporting that exercise gave him an extra four hours of productivity a day.

Branson, who is nearing 70 years old, competes in triathlons, rock climbs, and puts movement into his mornings every day.

And he’s just one of many leaders who count prioritizing fitness among their top productivity hacks:

• Best-selling author & marketing mogul, Gary Vaynerchuk, famously hired a personal trainer after the realization hit him: “If I don’t fix this, I’m going to die. I’m going to lose.” His routine? Short daily workouts focused on building strength.
• Former US President Barack Obama woke up early 6 days a week and trained 45 minutes at a time. He mixed cardio with strength training and credited his morning workouts as the spark that set his day on the right path.
• Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously begins each day with a gym session that he credits, not only with his physical health, but with minimizing his stress, so he feels at ease most of the day, even with his demanding schedule.

• 90-year-old American business magnate and financier, T. Boone Pickens, starts each day with a workout that focuses on strength training.

Pickens even authored a LinkedIn post titled, “When You’re Young, Fitness is Sport. As You Age, It’s Necessity.”

And that’s ultimately the point of this post.

Your Strength is the Best Investment You Haven’t Made (Yet)

What all of those leaders have in common is a heavy focus on their strength.

Strength is your hedge for the future – it’s the bullion bar of fitness, because it’s your muscles, ligaments, and tendons that hold your body together, protect your joints, and maintain your body’s structural integrity. (That’s why one of the early recommendations for back pain is typically to strengthen your back and core muscles).

Because of the role they play in your body’s structural health, if your muscles have enough strength in their reserves, you can just about guarantee yourself a certain baseline of physical health until you pop your clogs. If you don’t, your body is likely to be struggling long before that.

Most people focus on cardio as the key to losing weight and getting fit, but in doing that, they neglect muscle tone and strength. Whilst focusing on cardiovascular fitness as the holy grail of fitness, you are missing how to actually improve your life on a practical level.

• Lugging shopping bags
• Working in the garden
• Hefting up grandkids (or simply keeping up with them)

These things all require strength.

The thing with strength is that similar to your financial investments, the longer you wait, the harder it is to catch up.

That’s why we say when speaking to fitness trends like Bootcamps and Crossfit, it’s not how hard you pushed in that one workout…. It’s what you can sustainably do, month in and month out, that ultimately makes the greatest impact as a long term investment in your health.

That goes for how much your body can withstand and how much time you can sustainably dedicate within an already demanding schedule.

You Don’t Need 4 Hours A Day To Be Healthy

Speaking of timing – while most of the moguls I mentioned earlier find time to workout 5 – 6 days per week, the truth is that with a strength-based fitness program, that’s optional.

You only need a couple of 50-minute sessions per week to get (and maintain) results – no matter how many milestones you surpass.

Contrast that to cardio-based fitness, where the only way to continue progressing is to keep extending the length or distance of the workout. It becomes a time-suck very quickly, without delivering the structural strength benefits of proper weight training.

A great example: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg works out just three times a week (what most of our clients do, even at 50+), to start his day on the right foot.

It’s enough to keep his mind and body performing their best, so they can carry him through the week.

At 34 years old, Zuckerberg is “keeping his tub full” now, as an investment in his future, and no matter your age – just like your investments – it’s never too late to start.

If the busiest men in the world can find the time… Most of us can find 45 minutes a couple of days a week.

Will you?

Message Sal here on LinkedIn or click here to take the SALECCA health scorecard

Sal Kassam is the co-founder and Managing Director at Salecca, a Moorgate fitness studio that helps the City’s busiest professionals restore their bodies, regain their fitness and manage the stress levels of a demanding career – even if they’re working through injuries, limitations, or other health issues – in just a couple of sessions a week.

For many of Salecca’s clients, this results in the ability to eliminate medications linked to stress and the physical effects of sedentary work life, as well as reducing back pain, fatigue, and other common complaints.

Salecca is known for taking a holistic perspective that focuses on building strength and utilising personalised physio plans alongside a deep understanding of the human body and the psychology necessary for success.

Wondering if one of their programs might be right for you?

Message Sal here on LinkedIn or click here to take the SALECCA health scorecard

And How To Achieve Great Results Regardless

Training in your 50’s is hard – most of the articles are written for the 20 year old whippersnappers who only have to look at a dumbbell or a bit of kale and they lean out in a matter of days. Couple that with the fact that most PT’s in the gym don’t know any better than pushing you towards the closest treadmill, making you run for your life…

At best you can wind up with no results, at worst – you get injured.

Read more