Photos Courtesy of Lake Country TrainingMatthew Meyer is a personal trainer and owner of Lake Country Training
By Patricia Puccinelli
High-intensity interval training. Keto. Weight loss drinks. Bedtime belly fat reduction products. Wearable devices. Smart bikes. There are a dizzying number of products, approaches and equipment targeting people who want to lose weight, gain muscle and become physically fit. I tried many of these for years and failed to reach my goals. Then I met a fitness specialist whose flexible, common sense approach, tailored to my specific needs and abilities, fueled my success to achieving a healthier lifestyle.
Matthew Meyer is a personal trainer and owner of Lake Country Training. Matt has trained, coached and consulted hundreds of people ranging from 8 to 87 years old, particularly in Waukesha County’s Lake Country. He has been an American Council of Exercise (ACE) nationally certified personal trainer for over 20 years. Focus Waukesha recently spent time with Matt to discuss his perspectives on several fitness industry trends and asked him to share a few tips on living a healthy lifestyle.
Focus Waukesha (FW): How did you begin your career in fitness services?
Matthew Meyer (Matt): My middle school teacher had bypass surgery after a heart attack. I wanted to help him, to somehow give back to him for his patience and the way he encouraged me. He became my first client. Then, when I started working at a golf course, golfers began asking me about form, technique, stamina and physical fitness. I quickly learned many people are searching for a fitness plan and routine to improve their overall health. So, I launched my business specializing in personal training, youth fitness, sports performance and nutrition coaching. All programs are customized to client needs, wants, limitations, likes and dislikes to help them build confidence.
FW: According to the 2020 census, 41% of Waukesha County’s population is over 50 years old. What advice do you have for people in this demographic who want to stay fit?
Matt: Age is less of a factor than a person’s ability and what they want to achieve. Ability can range greatly. Some young people are far less flexible than their elders. Most of my clients are working toward the same goals—gaining muscle, losing weight and enhancing their lives. Regardless of their age, the key is to first discover what activities will keep people interested and motivated to stay fit. Then, they need to consistently block their schedules to dedicate time to work out to keep up their routine. Accountability fuels success at any age.
FW: How do you keep your clients interested and motivated in their fitness journey?
Matt: I encourage my clients to exercise outdoors year-round as part of their routine to keep things interesting. We’re fortunate there are countless ways in Waukesha County to integrate the environment—water, trails, parks, hills—with individual fitness practices. Clients and I have walked the two-mile route around Fowler Lake, biked around Lac La Belle or run on the Glacial Drumlin Trail. We’ve set up boot camps at the Fish Hatchery in Delafield or in clients’ yards. We can choose to walk, hike, run, bike, swim, kayak, ski, snowshoe and more in every corner of the county. Fitness is about learning what works, and what doesn’t, for each individual to help them achieve and sustain their goals.
FW: “Garage gyms” spiked in 2020 with the first wave of the virus lockdowns. What are your recommendations for starting up a home gym?
Matt: There’s no need to make a large initial investment in home gym equipment. I recommend starting with a suspension trainer (webbed straps hung from the ceiling which leverages body weight to create resistance) and a yoga mat on the non-slip floor covering. It’s important to start small and understand what works over time to avoid having an in-home gym become a storage closet. Some of my clients who have been the most successful in achieving their fitness goals have an open space, a stability ball, free weights, and maybe an indoor bike.
Our own in-home studio gym evolved over time. We offer it to clients who don’t have a home gym but want commercial exercise equipment in a private workout space. We also work with clients who already have gym memberships but need help designing and maintaining a fitness regimen that works for them both inside and outside of the gym environment.
FW: Are there any supplements or health products currently on the market that you would recommend?
Matt: There are many well-worded, but inaccurate marketing campaigns popping up daily for diet and fitness products, especially on social media, and I recommend people steer clear of them. Some companies are leading people to believe they need multiple supplements to augment their dietary needs. Magical drinking water is being promoted to accelerate health benefits when it’s simply tap water and salt wrapped into a pyramid scheme. And, if a person is tethered to buy a product to start a fitness program—I suggest they run far away.
No supplement, no special water, no single product will help a person with bad habits—eating out too often, excessive alcohol consumption, inactivity. But some companies try to convince people they can become fit without hard work. Not true.
To realize and sustain the most benefits from working out, it’s best to keep fitness practices simple and to use common sense—maintain balanced, healthy nutrition, get good sleep, drink plenty of water and exercise in some way every day.
FW: The demands on people’s time are increasing. I read that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is time-efficient and burns up to 30% more calories than other exercises. What is your perspective on HIIT versus standard interval training?
Matt: HIIT pushes people to nearly max out their cardio limits. For example, HIIT is biking the absolute maximum for 30 seconds, pedaling slowly for two minutes, then repeating that sequence for half an hour. While HIIT releases stress-busting endorphins, it may not be the right choice for some people. I encourage my clients to not do too much, too soon to avoid injury or demotivation due to HIIT’s extreme intensity.
Standard interval training is jogging or running hard, but not at max, for one minute, then slowly for two minutes—work, rest, repeat. Interval training can be more impactful because it trains the heart to recover and mimics several sports where people need bursts.
If lowering calories is the goal, consider this. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. If a person creates a 500-calorie deficit per day, it’s possible they could lose one pound in one week. Consider eating healthier meals to simply avoid calories. People tend to overestimate calories burned and underestimate calories consumed.
FW: How do you view technology’s impact – for instance wearable devices – on fitness services?
Matt: Technology absolutely is a helpful tool in an integrated fitness plan. Baselining with data and measuring progress and results consistently helps determine if an individual’s plan is working. As needed, based on a client’s data, we can then adjust their workouts and nutrition plans to redirect toward individual fitness goals.
Using dependable wearable devices or fitness apps can promote healthy activity, foster competition and motivate people to achieve their fitness goals. I encourage my clients to not get hung up on “chasing” a particular number of steps but to use data provided by the technology thoughtfully to hold themselves accountable to continually move in the right direction.
FW: What do you mean by “common sense nutrition?”
Matt: Establish another baseline. Start by recording what and how much is eaten between and at each meal. Accuracy matters. Go to the grocery or farmers’ market and choose lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables. Cook at home. Keep in mind that convenience food probably is not a friend.
Then work on downsizing portions and adjusting amounts and calories consumed. Rather than having a 500-calorie chocolate bar, substitute a 200-calorie strawberry yogurt to avoid the extra 300 calories. It’s a progression.
There are many fad diets out there and most likely there always will be. Have you heard of the potato diet? It claims a person can lose a pound per day by eating only potatoes. A healthy, balanced nutrition plan contains both macro and micro nutrients. Macros—carbs, proteins, fats—to provide energy. Micros—vitamins and minerals— for healthy metabolism and bodily functions. Most fad diets fail because they aren’t balanced and people don’t change their behavior lifelong.
People are the compounding effect of their choices. Remember, one Starbucks banana chocolate chip muffin is 400 calories of fat and processed sugar. Common sense nutrition is about enjoying healthy, sustainable nutrition habits that become a lifestyle.