The Fitness Academy

Diet and Nutrition, Mental Health, The Fitness Academy

How To Set Yourself Up For Inevitable Success On Your Health/Fitness Journey


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Most of us have been on some sort of fitness, health, or weight loss journey. Unfortunately, the majority of us feel like we’ve been on this never ending road of dieting and working out without ever really reaching our destination. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you feel this way too. Have you ever asked yourself, “what is my destination?”

If you’re setting off on a health/fitness journey, whether it is to lose weight, tone up, gain more confidence, or just feel healthier in general, you need to have a specific, measurable, and achievable goal.

The following steps will help you DEFINE and ACHIEVE the specific outcomes you’re looking for out of a new health/fitness program or any change you’re making in your lifestyle.

Step 1: Think about what you want and why you want it.

First, what do you want? What is the outcome you’re looking for from this new program or lifestyle changes? In other words, if you could wave a magic wand and get anything you wanted, what would that look like? Be as detailed and specific as possible with your goal/s, while also making sure it’s realistic. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds in a month, you’re not being realistic, or healthy, for that matter.

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Secondly, ask yourself “what will having or achieving this goal do for me? How will it improve my life?” You may have to ask yourself this question a few times before you land on something really important to you. Often times, the initial goal (i.e., losing 50 pounds in 10 months) is not about the weight itself at all but about something much more meaningful, such as being confident enough to do something you’ve always feared doing (i.e., starting your own business or going on a trip to your dream destination.) If you’re a parent, you may want to set an example for your children by leading a healthier lifestyle. Knowing the WHY behind your goal is just as important as the goal itself. It is your motivation.

Step 2: Write it down.

Once you have your specific goal and the why behind it, write it down on paper. It has been proven that writing things down works. In a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, on the science of goal setting found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.

Step 3: Anchor your motivating factors.

An anchor is something physical in your environment that will remind you WHY you’re doing all of this and putting in all of this effort. It should be something that uses one or more of your five senses. For example, a favorite song you like to hear, a piece of jewelry you can touch, a note or picture you can look at, or a specific candle or essential oil you love the scent of.

Your anchors will act as little daily reminders and they come in quite handy when you’re lacking in motivation. Anchors can act as pattern interrupters, something that stops you when you’re tempted to make a choice that may not be in alignment with your goals. Having an anchor will also give you an influx of positive energy from time to time by making you proud and excited to make good choices, no matter how small these choices may be. They all add up to help you eventually reach your desired outcome.

Step 4: Find someone to keep you accountable.

Having someone by your side to help guide and motivate you, as well as hold you accountable, throughout this journey will not only make it more enjoyable and fun, it will make you 10x more likely to achieve your goal. Sure, this can be a workout buddy, friend, or family member, but having a good coach by your side would be your best bet. Depending on your goals, find a health coach, personal trainer, nutrition coach, or someone who does it all. Why? Because a knowledgeable and caring coach will not let you quit on yourself. We will make sure you stay motivated, consistent, that you feel comfortable and confident with every changes you’re making or the exercises you’re doing, that you’re always progressing towards your desired outcomes, and that through all of this, you’re having FUN!

We know this field can be very confusing and saturated with conflicting information about what to eat, what not to eat, what workouts to do, when to do them, what diets work, etc. Skip the google search and the failed attempts at cookie cutter diet plans. All of this will only deter you from your goals and make you feel defeated until you finally throw in the towel. Having a coach will remove the guesswork so that you can focus on doing what you have to do to reach your goals.

Before you set off on your next health/fitness journey, follow these steps and you WILL be successful. It’s easy to be excited about starting something new and maintaining it at first, but then as the weeks pass by and you begin to lose motivation and patience, it is inevitable that you will fall off track. And as we all know, getting back on track is no piece of cake. This is just human nature. However, if you set yourself up for success by clearly identifying what it is you want, why you want it, writing these down, setting up little reminders (anchors), and having an accountability partner/coach to support, there is no room for failure!

Diet and Nutrition, The Fitness Academy

Getting In Tune With Your Body’s Hunger and Fullness Signals


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Before we change WHAT we eat, we have to look at HOW we are eating. How many times have you stuffed your breakfast down your throat on your way to work? Have you ever eaten so much so fast that your stomach felt like it was going to explode? We’ve all been there…

It’s important to honor our internal hunger and fullness scales because when we are able to be more in tune with our bodies, we save ourselves from endless moments of regret and frustration. The way in which you eat – fast, slow, distracted, etc – is just as significant a factor in your health as the foods you eat. 

So, what exactly is the hunger/fullness scale? Look at your body as if it were a brand new, beautiful car. Would you drive that precious vehicle on empty for miles and miles? Probably not. If our hunger scales are on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being just noticing your hunger, and 10 being starving/ravenous (below empty in the gas tank), we should start planning for food at a 2. This is when we’ll make the most sound, healthy decisions for our bodies. On the other hand, on our fullness scale, 10 is stuffed and 1 is starving. Typically, we want to aim for a 7 or 8 max on the fullness scale when we finish a meal. We want to feel nourished, energized, and satiated, not stuffed.

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Seems simple enough right? Start planning for food when you’re at a 2 on the hunger scale and stop eating when you’re at a 7 on the fullness scale. For many of us, putting this into practice may be a bit more challenging than it seems because our eating habits have kept us so out of touch with our internal hunger/fullness scales. Sometimes we eat when we’re bored, sometimes we don’t eat at all, sometimes we shove food down our throats in a rush, sometimes we overeat…We’ve confused our poor bodies so much, no wonder we’re so out of touch with our hunger and satiety cues. It’s time to re-train our minds to be more in tune with our bodies by changing the way we eat. How do we do this? See the list of steps below!

  1. Give yourself more time at each meal. If you normally eat breakfast in five minutes, give it 10. If you normally take 10 minutes, bump it up to 15. For lunch and dinner, give yourself at least 20 minutes. Why 20 minutes? That’s how long it takes the receptors and hormones in our stomachs to communicate with the brain and say “I’m full.” Don’t have the time? MAKE the time. Rearrange your home and work schedules to give yourself more time. Get your family and coworkers involved too!
  2. Eat slowly. During these meals, make sure you are thoroughly chewing and savoring each bite. Eat with all of your senses! Enjoy the smell, taste, texture, etc of your food.
  3. Eat stress-free. When we’re stressed out and we eat a meal, it doesn’t matter if it is the healthiest meal in the world, our bodies will not absorb those nutrients properly. In a stressed state, the body puts digestion on pause. And if your body isn’t digesting the food you’re eating, what happens? Acid reflux, bloating, stomach pain, the list goes on and on. Here are a few tips on eating stress-free:
    1. Take 10 deep breaths before you eat.
    2. Eat with no distractions or stressful external stimuli – no work, no TV, etc.
    3. Focus on the meal in front of you and be grateful for it (eat with all the senses.)
  4. Eat for energy and satiety, rather than comfort or fullness. Remember, you want to be at about a 7 on the fullness scale. When you’re done eating, make a physical gesture that your meal is complete by pushing your plate away, putting a napkin over it, or crossing your silverware. If you’re eating with other people, state out loud that you are full or done.

Implementing these action steps will make your eating experience much more pleasant, allow your body to more efficiently digest and assimilate nutrients, and prevent you from making some “hanger”-fueled choices, such as yelling at a spouse for no reason or eating an entire jar of olives. When you’re in tune with these signals and you honor your body by feeding it when it’s hungry and stopping before you feel overly full, you’re showing your body self-love. This will pay off when you do begin to start looking at WHAT you’re eating and making some changes to your diet. You’ll notice that the body will respond better and perhaps quicker than usual to certain dietary changes.

The Fitness Academy

My Fitness Journey


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Hello all, welcome back!

Someone had suggested I speak a little bit more about my own personal fitness journey that I have been on since 2005. I have to start off by saying my first inspiration from the fitness world came from my father. I can remember growing up in our small apartment in Hoboken, NJ. In the corner of the master bed room he had one of those all in one gym stations. It was a flat bench that could raise up for incline with dip handles behind it. It even had a cable attachment for lat pulls and leg extensions in the front of it. He was a true mans man at the time. Metallica blasting, no shirt on, constantly going over to the mirror to check his “gains.” He even had a camcorder and started filming his workouts. This was WAY before Facebook and Instagram. The energy in that tiny bedroom was infectious. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was hooked. I wanted to feel like that! I wanted to lift heavy weights and build a huge chest! However, I came to realize in my early teen, overweight years that it was not as easy as it looked. “You mean to tell me one day of bench press won’t give me the chiseled pecs I’m looking for?” “Is it supposed to be this difficult to lift 15 pounds?” “What is this soreness!?” Needless to say I didn’t last very long with that mindset. I went through the rest of my teenage years including high school very quiet, self conscious, insecure, overweight, etc.

Fast forward to 2005, I just graduated high school and got a job at a local gym where I started out as a life guard for their swimming pool. I wasn’t even old enough to workout there without a chaperone. When I finally turned 18 they allowed me to workout by myself. This was my first time showing any consistency working out and boy, did my body adapt quickly. I saw and felt my chest getting bigger and stronger by the month, my arms were starting to show definition, my confidence was through the roof. It was not controlled, I was downright cocky. I also knew nothing about nutrition or how the body worked. This will come back later in the story.

So over the course of about 7 years working at this gym I ended up working in every department. I worked the front desk, I became and online certified trainer (which is a joke and a disservice to the fitness industry if I’m honest), I headed over to the sales department and even had my hand in the marketing department. At some point this gym I was at started to rent out space to a personal trainer trade school, this will also come back later. At around 21 years old I tore 2 ligaments (ligaments attach bone to bone) in my right ankle playing basketball. I had no health insurance, my uncle had to pay out of his own pocket for me to get an MRI. No health insurance meant to surgery, no rehab. My ankle is currently being held together by scar tissue. I had crutches and stayed off that ankle for months, testing it each month to see how it was healing. This was a dark time for me. Unable to work, I stayed home all day, every day taking prescription pain medication and eating all day long. Hello, weight gain and depression! As soon as I was able to start putting weight on that foot, I did and I returned to work against their wishes. I started to rehab myself, picking the brains of anyone that seemed like they knew what they were talking about. I wanted to play basketball again, I started to work on my cross over, slowly and painfully. I can remember still being on crutches, hobbling over to the bench press and getting in as many sets as I could during the 30 minute lunch break I had. The soreness had never felt so good.

As my ankle got closer to 100% I started to work with a personal trainer that free lanced at this gym. It changed my life. I had never been stronger and the education on lifting that I received from him is a huge part of what I apply to my business today. After working with him for over a year I eventually had to discontinue due to the fact I had decided to go to school to become an RMA (Registered Medical Assistant). I was working at the gym during the day and going to school at night. Finding time to workout became difficult and remember when I said diet would come back into this story? Well, here it comes.

Your body will talk to you. It will send you signs that something is not right. I never put much thought into what I was eating or how I was living. So that meant late night diner trips after spending a few hours at a local bar. There is about 3 different fast food chains within a 1 mile radius of my town, I even had picked up smoking cigarettes! I had asthma, I literally could not leave my house without a pack of tums due to acid reflex and I was taking 4 – 8 Advil every single day due to stress headaches. Side note, pain medications do not work for stress headaches. I felt horrible every day, I was getting sick every few months. My wake up call came when I went to the doctor for a check up. My BMI told me I was obese, he wanted me to fill prescriptions for a daily asthma inhaler (I had only had an emergency pump to this point), he wanted me to see an orthopedist for all of the pain I was in (my body aches were terrible when I was sick) and a neurologist for my head aches. I did none of what he asked. I refused to accept this as my new life. I stopped smoking and got my obese @$$ on a treadmill for my heart and lung health. I changed my diet which amazingly stopped my antacid use and I quit my job, I woke up the very next day headache free. I also started taking zinc to help boost my immune system. Thanks, doc.

From that point on I never looked back. I had realized that between rehabbing my own injury, putting myself through school (and graduating) and doing an complete 180 with my health that I could do anything I put my mind to. Anything. So, that’s what I have been doing ever since. From owning a dance studio to driving trains for the HBLR. Putting myself back through school to become the best fitness professional I could be. The school I am referring to of course just so happened to be the personal trainer school that was located inside of the gym I started working at when I was 17. Now if that’s not full circle then I don’t know what is! The Fitness Academy will be turning 1 year old in few months and none of this would have been possible if not for all the pain I had to endure both physically, mentally and a  whole slue of other wild stories not mentioned in this blog.

So, that’s my story, or at least part of it. The message behind it? Embrace your pain, never fear change and believe in yourself. Let your heart lead you, it’s way smarter than your brain.

Peace & Love,

~ Matt G.

The Fitness Academy, LLC

If you’re seeking change in your life and need help to get started feel free to reach out to me. Change starts within the mind and your first session is always on me!

FitnessAcademyNJ@Gmail.com

@FitnessAcademyNJ on Instagram

201.983.3510 (call/text)

The Fitness Academy

How this all came to be…


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Hello and welcome!

For my very first blog (ever) here is a quick little introduction about myself.

My name is Matt Gabriel, I am the owner of The Fitness Academy, LLC. I have been involved in fitness since I graduated high school back in 2005. One of my first jobs was at a local gym in my area where I actually started out as a lifeguard. I worked my way over to the front desk, then decided to go online and get one of those cheap – “pay us $100, take this test as many times as you need and then boom, you’re a certified personal trainer.” *Side note for a future blog, one of my many pet peeves about the fitness industry.*

Anyway, after becoming “certified” I started to pick up clients, not thinking much of it past just an extra source of income. It was not the type of gym that made a lot of money through its personal training program so I soon moved into yet another department, sales and marketing.

This all happened over the course of a 7 year span. In-between this job I had actually gone to a trade school to become a Registered Medical Assistant where I worked at an Ear, Nose & Throat doctors office. The doctor I assisted specialized in vertigo and equilibrium imbalance which I found to be fascinating. It truly is amazing to witness what our bodies are capable of.

It was after my time as a R.M.A. I had met a woman who had a hunger for success and to create her own path in life that, at the time my brain could not even comprehend. I had always had the dream/fantasy about starting my own business. Little did I know what was in store for me. This woman (who we will call Vivica) and I had grown very close. This was also during a time of unemployment for me. Vivica had told me about how she was in the process of starting her very own business, a dance studio for children and adults. She was actually just days away from signing a lease at a location just a few minutes away from where I was living at the time. With the bond and trust that we had developed for each other she had asked me if I wanted to partner up with her. So there I was sitting at a Barnes & Noble across from this new person that had just entered my life like hurricane asking me if I wanted to be apart of her business. I tried to play it cool but it was a no brainer, I was in!

Fast forwarding, I ended up walking away from my dream of being my own boss for “the safe bet.” I picked a career with great health benefits, outstanding pay with all the overtime someone could ask for and job security. I was now driving trains for the Hudson/Bergen Light Rail and I had never been more miserable in my entire life.

Constantly in the thought of “what the hell am I doing here, and how do I escape this “prison sentence?” as I used to refer to it as. Feeling like I had 40 more years of this before retirement. One night while operating the train it hit me like a jolt of lightening to the brain. It was that “ah ha!” moment. I had realized all of my past jobs revolved around people in someway. (some jobs not mentioned here believe it or not) At this time I had also found my only outlet for all of my stress and anxiety was exercise. So, when you take a love for fitness and mix it with a love people you get…

The Fitness Academy

Within almost no time after that moment had embedded itself into my soul I enrolled myself into NPTI, National Personal Training Institute to get myself a REAL education. I once again found myself in a classroom as a full time student. Needless to say I graduated from NPTI with a diploma that lasts a lifetime. No silly certification that expires. I have a thorough education in personal training, anatomy, kinesiology and nutrition. NPTI truly creates fitness professionals and I am ever so grateful for the time I spent there.

From the moment that I had on the train and the time I spent with Vivica I knew the end goal was to open my own personal training studio. However, to get even more experience I decided to work at a high end gym in north Jersey after graduation. It was a great experience that allowed me to test out my new education and skill set. It was there I realized about myself that I love to educate my clients. I believe the “why” is what gives reason and purpose to everything. So, while I’m working with my clients I always make sure to give the “why” behind each exercise and movement instead of just saying, “Do these 20 burpees.”

And therein lies the philosophy behind The Fitness Academy. You’re not paying me to train you, you’re paying me to change your life. I’m not there to count your reps, I’m there to explain to you why I have you doing 15 reps instead of stopping at 10. I’m there to explain to you why/how your diet is negatively affecting your progress. We will also spend time teaching you how to create small changes that begin the snowball effect of healthy life style habits that honestly goes beyond just exercise and diet.

Well, that about wraps up my introduction. I hope this gives my viewers a little better insight on the kind of environment you will be in when you decide to join The Fitness Academy.

If you’re looking for even more information follow me on social media @FitnessAcademyNJ on Instagram

If you would like to contact me directly, please feel free to e-mail me at FitnessAcademyNJ@gmail.com

The Fitness Academy is located at 47 E Ridgewood Ave. Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Your first session is always on me!

Why? Because I always like to make sure I connect with my clients. I like to make sure we are on the same page about everything and that we are working towards the same goal.

Until next time!

Peace & Love,

~ Matt G.

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