If you are like me, you may have just realized just how quickly summer is approaching. My usual dietary routine and fitness program don’t have me feeling quite ready for bikini season so I looked to Countdown Fitness founder and head trainer, Anel Dzafic, to get my butt in gear. Anel pointed out that my weekly gym sessions, which have been the same for a good part of four years, have me at a plateau. In order to drop pounds in a few short weeks, I’m going to have to do something different, like his slow-burn high-intensity method. I had my first training session with him and I am hooked. Read along for his all-in guide to getting the body you deserve.
How did you dive into the world of personal training?
My entire life I knew that I wanted to help people. I was an EMT and fireman in Queens and was practicing as a health coach for a few years, but had the itch to get into fitness. I started working as a personal trainer in NYC six years ago, and haven’t looked back since!
There is no better feeling than when a client tells you I don’t have back pain anymore or I lost 20 lbs. and finally feel comfortable in my body. To know that I contributed to their success, whatever that means, is wonderful.
We are looking to shed pounds and get toned for a summer-ready body. What is the first step to the process?
The first step is to start working on your diet—a weird first step coming from a trainer, I know! But remember that no matter how hard or how often you work out, you won’t shed pounds without cleaning up what you eat. The exception to that rule is if you’re training for something like a marathon and running 50 miles a week… but who has that kind of time these days anyway?
You specialize in working with people who want to lose weight quickly. Can you give us a five-step program to follow?
- Eliminate processed sugar from your diet completely for two weeks. You can slowly bring it back in once in awhile, as long as you don’t overdo it.
- Eliminate refined carbs from your diet completely. You can eat whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and sprouted grain bread, but white rice, pasta, and bread should be out of the picture.
- If you are working out already, increase the intensity to stimulate your body and force it to get stronger and leaner. If you’re not working out already, get started!
- Drink more water. Try to drink half of your body weight in oz. of water per day. So if you weigh 140 lbs, you will drink 70 oz. per day. It will feel like a ton of water at first, but strive for that goal!
- Be consistent. Set reminders in your calendar to workout at least once a week, and don’t give up on your diet during this time. Consistency is key.
You are also a holistic health coach and nutrition expert. Which foods and beverages should we be avoiding in our diet if we are trying to lose weight and tone?
Sugar is the most important one. Simple carbs, fruit juices. This is pure energy, and if you don’t use it, the body stores it as fat. It’s as simple as that.
What foods and drinks should we be adding to our diet if we are trying to loose weight and tone up?
Eating whole foods and nothing out of a box will help with weight loss. If the food looks like it does in its original form, you’re in good shape the key is to burn the stored fat as fuel. If you eat good wholesome foods like proteins (from meat, beans, or nuts), vegetables, and plenty of water, your body will have to burn fat as fuel.
Can you give us a brief overview of how Countdown Fitness compares to other workout methods and what the main benefits are?
Countdown Fitness is a once (or twice) a week high-intensity workout. We do a full-body workout in each session, hitting all of your major muscle groups.
When we lift weights, we move them at a pace of 20 seconds per repetition (which is a lot harder than it sounds!). Moving this slowly gives you a super high-intensity workout without the risk of injury. It’s safe and it’s incredibly effective.
Since we are gearing up for bathing suit season, let’s break it down. What are the best exercises we should be doing?
TO TONE ARMS:
Push-ups are a great way to tone the arms, shoulders, and chest!
Push-Ups: Place your hands under your shoulders and bring them each two inches outwards. Take five seconds to lower your body down and a full five seconds to bring it back up (yeah, I know it’s hard). Modification: Do the same thing with your knees on the ground if a full push up is above your level.
TO LOSE BELLY FAT & TIGHTEN STOMACH:
One of the most underrated core exercises is a plank. Add a side plank and you’ve covered the entire core.
Plank: Balance on your forearms and toes, keep your elbows directly under your shoulders, and keep your core tight and strong. When the going gets tough, put a smile on your face
TO LIFT & FIRM GLUTES:
Properly done squats, with a combination of glute bridges, will give you a firm bottom.
Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your core and upper back tight. Start slowly squatting down, engaging your glutes and quads. Don’t let your knees go too far forward. Squat until your knees are at about 90 degrees. Repeat for 90 seconds. It should burn!
Glute Bridges: Lie on your back with your hands at your sides. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Push through your feet to lift up your hips and engage your glutes. When you get to top, slowly come back down until your butt touches the floor, then slowly come back up. Repeat for 90 seconds.
TO CREATE LONG, LEAN LEGS:
A good combo to do is a lunge with one leg followed by a wall squat and a lunge on the other leg. Hold each position for at least 1:00.
Wall Sit: Lean against a wall with your feet in front of you. Squat down so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Press through your heels into the floor. Raise your toes one inch off the floor for the last 10 seconds—this is no joke, folks!
Lunge: Place one leg in front of the other and squat down into a deep lunge so that your front leg is at a 90-degree angle. Keep your front knee right above the front ankle at all times. Keep your back foot on its toes at all time. Slowly lower and raise your back leg (only about three inches of movement total). Take five seconds to lower your back leg and five seconds to raise it back up. Repeat for one minute.
For a great full-body workout you can do at home with only yourself and a mat, check out this 20-minute routine.
Once we reach our goal weight and are perfectly toned, we would like to maintain our new physique. What methods do you suggest for keeping off the weight?
The key is to stay consistent with your diet and your exercise routine. When you reach your goal, it’s easy to get back into bad habits again, but maintenance is essential. Generally, if you are exercising, you also want to eat well and vice versa, so stick with both if you can.
Most of us tend to travel frequently during the summer season. How can we keep up with our workout regimen while on vacation?
Most hotels have some kind of a fitness center. You can go there to use the machines. It will help keep you motivated and not fall off the track. It’s also fun to ride bikes and walk or run on the beach during the summer. Get that heart rate up between weight training sessions. It will motivate you to stay healthier on the trip.
You also have your body which is weight and can be used to work out. I created this high-intensity workout that you can do in just 30 minutes from anywhere at anytime.
How much water should we be drinking per day when we are training more than our average amount?
It’s important to hydrate before you exercise. If you are dehydrated prior to the workout you are zapping your strength. Drink at least 8 oz. of water 30 minutes before the workout and 16 oz. after the workout. During the workout, you should be drinking 16 oz. per every hour of training. Sip on it slowly if possible.
What three items do you always keep in your gym bag?
A water bottle, headphones, and a protein bar. I like RX Bars because the ingredients are clean, and they taste great.
Are you on a fitness program? Please share!