TOTimes interviews the authors of DEEP FITNESS – The Mindful, Science Based Strength Training Method to Transform Your Well-Being in 30 Minutes a Week
Yes, you are reading that correctly—a strength training method designed to transform your well-being in 30 minutes a week! Written by Toronto experts Philip Shepherd and Andrei Yakovenko, DEEP FITNESS: The Mindful, Science-Based Strength Training Method to Transform Your Well-Being in 30 Minutes a Week offers a proven approach to building strength and whole-body health. Called “Mindful Strength Training to Failure (MSTF), this strength training method involves lifting weights to the point of momentary muscle failure. It’s a science-based method that can reverse muscle loss and improve overall strength in just 30 minutes a week.
Sound too good to be true?
“Yes, people may think it’s too good to be true, but it is true,” says Andrei Yakovenko, owner of New Element Training in Toronto and founder of the NET Method training which is the foundation of this book. “It comes down to the style of this specific training. We have put it to the test with clients over the years and we’ve seen people transformed. Many of my clients only come once or twice a week.”
Co-author Philip Shepherd says he is living proof that the DEEP FITNESS method works. Shepherd is an internationally recognized embodiment expert and author of New Self, New World. He travels the world teaching people how to ground their thinking in the calm, deep-dwelling intelligence of the body.
“I am 68 years old, and I have valued fitness all my life, but about six years ago I began touring intensely and teaching workshops and my fitness routine suffered,” explains Philip. “Then I met Andrei and started training at his gym, and since then I have been getting stronger and stronger. To this day I am still getting stronger. I feel the difference every single day. I don’t want to look like a body builder, but I do want to feel like an athlete. I play singles tennis and love chasing down balls. In six weeks I lost 6 pounds of body weight, but when you look at the body scan, I had lost 12 pounds of fat and I gained six pounds of muscle. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn.”
When Philip and Andrei met, Philip shared his mindful embodiment practices with Andrei, and Andrei shared his fitness expertise with Philip, and they found the two practices fit together and supported each other. From that marriage the idea of writing DEEP FITNESS was born.
With more than 30 full-colour exercises Mindful Strength Training to Failure can be done either at a gym using machines or at home using your own body weight and an exercise band. “The trick is to minimize the time, so you do an exercise to failure and move quickly to the next machine or exercise, taxing your cardio availability,” says Andrei.
Philip describes the science behind pushing yourself to failure, or MSTF: “In this mode of training, whether you are using a machine or your body weight, you move a weight very slowly until, at a certain point, you find you are incapable of lifting it again. When you hit that point, then you just hold it there as long as you can until, despite your best effort, the weight lowers itself. You have reached ‘momentary muscle failure.’ You have taxed your muscle and your body gets the message that the environment is presenting challenges it can’t meet, so it summons its resources to rebuild the muscle and make it stronger.”
DEEP FITNESS is the combination of mindfulness together with strength training, according to Philip. “Something magical happens when you combine the two. The experience of going to failure is as much as an exploration as any mindful meditation is. And the fitness you achieve is a metabolic fitness in that it helps everything you do. It’s not just that your flexibility is better, or your strength is better, or your cardio improves. Your entire well-being improves because you are strengthening the foundation of your health. We used to think muscle had one main function, to move the body. But it turns out it has two main functions because when it works it’s like a hormone factory that creates messenger molecules that go through the whole body and affect every organ and every tissue and can help strengthen your immune system and help ward off things like diabetes, heart disease or osteoporosis. It improves your overall metabolic health.”
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the gyms were closed for several months, Andrei developed a virtual home coaching program. “We designed a program to coach our clients at home using body weight and exercise bands and it worked! After seven or eight months when clients returned to the gym, we did tests using the same weights they used previously, and the clients who followed the home program had maintained their muscle strength. For those who didn’t follow a home routine, we had to decrease the weights about 20 to 30 percent.”
You may think that losing muscle is only a problem related to age, but in DEEP FITNESS the authors state that “on average in the West, people start losing muscle at the age of 30 at a rate of a half a pound a year.”
“Once people understand that they are losing muscle mass just by the way they live their lives, the paramount question for their metabolic health is how to stop the body from losing muscle and build back our strength?” Philip states. “To be able to do that without leaving your home, in 30 minutes once or twice a week, is like a Godsend.”
The DEEP FITNESS training method has really caught on at Andrei’s Toronto fitness centres. “The secret to success is to be open minded, and to work hard,” says Andrei. “We really have a niche market where our motto is ‘strength training for lifelong health.’ If you follow the elements of the program and work to failure, it really is bullet proof! When we train, we move slowly which is less impactful on the joints, but highly effective at the same time. “
Philip adds: “My takeaway message is that anyone, no matter what their condition, can get stronger and healthier. I hope people feel empowered to try this safe, effective and mindful program. I am living proof that it works! My family motto is ‘live well that you may live well’ and that helps keep me going.”
DEEP FITNESS: The Mindful, Science-Based Strength Training Method to Transform Your Well-Being in Just 30 Minutes a Week is written by Philip Shepherd and Andrei Yakovenko, published by North Atlantic Books. Cover and authors photos by Allyson Woodrooffe. Medical Disclaimer: Please check with your family doctor or health practitioner before starting this or any other health or exercise program.
by Laurie Wallace-Lynch