Strength coach Mike Boyle shares his best fitness and diet advice

Mike Boyle has been coaching and training people for years. He has worked with clients ranging from total beginners to world class athletes such as the Boston Red Sox and Bruins.

The founder of Body by Boyle is in his 70s, but he is still more active than many trainers decades his junior. Boyle is also still seeing a lot of success. His philosophy is simple: the client as a person is more important than the objects being moved or the preferences and ego of the trainer.

Boyle offers some advice he learned in his younger years that he carries with him today throughout his career as a trainer and coach: “We don’t coach weights, we coach people.” Boyle shared that good advice with MHalong with some more insights on nutrition, exercise and more that can help many people save steps on their path to wellness.

Who would you consider a fitness mentor, and what was some advice you got from that mentor?

Johnny Parker was a longtime strength coach for the Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I remember him saying, “we don’t coach weights, we coach people.” I really remember that because I was young and I realized that connecting with people will make you successful. That’s lacking in fitness, because far too many people are in themselves. We tell our coaches all the time to be with the clients. If you pay more attention to the needs of the client or the athlete, you will be quite successful.

What is the first piece of advice you would give to a new customer if that person wanted to lose weight?

This is going to sound incredibly stupid, but eat less. Many people think that there is something drastically wrong with them, such as a metabolic disease or something unique. What we mostly found is that people just eat too much. The most important thing is to make the conscious choice to eat less.

Is there a particular diet or nutrition plan that you think more people should try to lose weight?

I am especially a fan of intermittent fasting. I’ve given several presentations over the years and unfortunately when you say “eat five small meals a day” they hear “eat five meals a day”. They don’t hear the word ‘little’.

While people with intermittent fasting can and will be against it, if you tell people to eat less often, you have a good chance of reducing the total number of calories. That is ultimately what will put you in the right direction.

What is one mistake that could stop people from seeing positive changes?

Another great piece of advice I’ve been given is not to drink your calories. We’ve had really great success with people who hadn’t noticed the amount of liquid calories going into their system. It can range from beer to wine to coffee. There are many ways calories end up in your diet without you thinking you are eating.

What is one thing people could do to increase their chances of success?

Many people do not get enough protein. I think that’s because they don’t know what protein sources are. They don’t explore the unadulterated world of proteins. Difficult people probably don’t understand that they should have protein at every meal.

Would you rather people eat their protein sources or do you think protein shakes are an acceptable form of calorie drink?

I think protein shakes are okay as long as people can understand that the shake is the meal. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re trying to restructure your relationship with food. It’s incredibly psychological. There is a big difference between a double mocha latte and a protein shake.

I really like John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition program. Getting people to change their behavior, such as accepting that a protein shake is a meal rather than a part of it, is what it takes to be successful. That’s as opposed to putting them on a diet or telling them to eat this alone.

What is your personal favorite protein shake recipe?

I like a combination of vanilla whey protein, frozen bananas, ice cubes, a little almond milk, organic psyllium husk, glutamine, and a vegetable product that won’t make your shake taste like grass clippings. It’s not easy to find, but they are there.

How can people new to fitness find out which information is correct and which should be ignored?

You have to develop a filter as you try to learn. Really try to look for reliable sources. A friend of mine likes to say, “You need to find someone who’s been there, done that, and still does it.” That’s a really good way to qualify the information you’re studying. Look for people who have had success in this, not only with themselves, but with other people as well. They also have to be involved.

What is the biggest myth or misconception you think needs correcting when it comes to losing weight?

The biggest misconception is that you can exercise to lose weight. For women especially, they feel compelled to do hours and hours of cardio without looking at the calorie consumption of what they are doing.

I think people should do a total body workout every day.

A year ago I posted a photo on my Instagram of a ball hammer and sledgehammer. I wrote that diet is the sledgehammer and exercise the hammer. Most people have it all backwards. I’m a believer in exercise, but people have believed it to be a great weight loss tool, and it really isn’t because it takes a lot of effort to burn a small amount of calories.

You have worked with clients ranging from beginners to elite athletes. What is one exercise that you think the vast majority of people should do, regardless of their experience?

This will surprise a lot of people because I’m seen as the “anti-squat” guy, but when we talk about general fitness, I would say a squat† If you want something that’s going to be great value for money, a goblet squat is a really good place to start.

Why aren’t you a fan of the traditional barbell back squat?

I don’t think it’s a great exercise from a spinal stress standpoint. However, a goblet squat can be beneficial for beginners or those looking to improve overall fitness. The goblet squat is great because you have to use the upper body to support the load. In the back squat, the bar is on the shoulders. Even though you’re holding it, the upper body isn’t as involved.

What do you think is the biggest mistake beginners make at the gym, and how can they correct it?

They work on the mirror muscles. Since this is Men’s health, we will talk about men for this. They run on the treadmill for five minutes, hang out on the couch, do a few curls and then go home. Realistically, you couldn’t think of a worse program than that.

As for correcting, I think people should do a total body workout every day. I think they should stop body part training. There are still way too many people training like it’s 1985. With our adult customers, it’s total body sessions every workout.

What is the format you follow with these total-body workouts?

Basically, we push, pull, legs, core. If we can get someone to go in there and do one push, one pull, one lower body exercise, and one core core exercise, we’ve hit all the bases.

Now if you went in one day and did chest, then shoulders, then arms, but you don’t go back for the rest of the week, then you missed the back and the lower body. As strength coaches, we fight against human nature for a living. People will always be drawn to what they like or what is easy. Our job is to take them to things that are good for them. Just letting people do things like a total body workout will make a big difference.

Do you have any cardio workouts that can help people challenge themselves without taking up too much time?

I like the air bike myself. I’m talking about the ones that kick and the levers go back and forth. You can do a lot of work in little time. Someone starting out may start with 10 seconds of vigorous exercise, followed by 20 seconds of rest. Do that eight times in a row and within four minutes you’ve done a pretty intense workout. That’s the Tabata workout backwards. People who are more advanced could do that workout the other way around with 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.

What should people do every day to maintain or improve overall well-being as they age?

I think everyone should foam roll and stretch when they go to the gym. The recommendation I like is that they should do that one day for every decade they are alive. A 40-year-old should stretch and roll four days a week, someone in their 50s should do that five days a week, and so on. I like it when people roll on the cuffs – hip cuffs and rotator cuffs. Those are two areas where we keep tension. Those rollers and the T-backbone would do a world of good. As for stretching, I like the seated “v,” where you sit with legs as far apart as possible. Most people lose their ability to move in the frontal plane. We also like to do pigeon variations like in yoga. In general, we want people to stretch their hamstrings, adductors, hip rotators, and hip flexors.

What strategies can one use to determine if a personal trainer is good to work with?

I think you’re stalking them a bit. Go in and check them out if they don’t know. That’s easier to do in a large box gym than in an environment like mine. Are they into the customer or themselves? Are they paying attention or are they on their phone? I think too often we choose trainers based on how they look. It’s not a beauty pageant. You want to find someone who can really help you. You want someone who want to help you get better.

How important is goal setting and what type of goals are most important?

I think it can be very important, but you have to know what the goal is. If you look at the research, people who set goals are more successful than people who don’t. Most people have very unrealistic goals. If I were the one the client was working with, the goal I would focus on this month would be eight to eight. Come twice a week for the next four weeks without missing out. That’s goal number one. If we can start the habit of entering and not missing, then we will make great progress and can think about goals that most people think are tangible.

Many people struggle with motivation and training on days that aren’t perfect. How do you suggest people move on when such a day comes?

I call this checking the box. You don’t have to set the world on fire. Make sure to at least check that box today. Again, this is fighting against human nature. Someone thinks, “I don’t feel great.” What does that person do? Skip the workout. In fact, that’s the worst thing you can do. Whatever you do, don’t leave that box unchecked. There have been times when I literally told my athletes to just go through the moves. That can be counterproductive in the eyes of some trainers, but sometimes it can be helpful to just go in there, do a few pushes, a few puffs, a leg exercise and something for the abs. Just don’t miss a day. It just keeps coming back to just show up.

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