Frequently Asked Questions

All about MVF Protocol and Methods

Program Structure Value Metrics Fitness Nutrition Success, Motivation, and Health

Program Structure

Tell me practically, what does my program look like exactly?

Over the 16 weeks, you can expect a ramp up period in which we acclimate you to eating habits and exercise routines, several weeks of adjusting to new dietary guidelines and basic exercise protocols, a month of diet reinforcement and progressive exercise adjustment, a mid term progress assessment, a month of tactical diet training (including advanced lessons in managing travel, drinking, and diet derailment) and finally advanced workouts. Your program will take place entirely online.

Our product includes a private client dashboard, a full content curriculum, and a community group-training experience. You will be trained through both a personalized exercise and nutrition program tailored towards your individual goals (fat loss, strength gains, improve conditioning, etc) as well as part of a group in our social discussion forum. The course format incorporates a weekly curriculum (sent to you via e-mail as well as posted in the forum), a private and personal client dashboard incorporating your all of your fitness and nutrition data (which your trainer will monitor and update based on the personal goals you have set and your progress towards them), and in a private online discussion forum.

Tell me about a typical week.

You should expect, at minimum, to read a weekly training e-mail from us (typically anywhere from 5-10 pages long) that has new material, past lesson reinforcement, a list of action items to accomplish and a round up of links to your personal client dashboard and training hub which will include your weekly nutrition goals and exercise program. The material progressively builds and we will expect you to input data to your personal client dashboard either via automatically linking certain account or by manually inputting weight, measurements, food logs (picture or by food tracking program like MyFitness pal) and exercise logs. Over a seven day period we will ask you to workout three times for 45 minutes each as well as share with us your daily nutrition based on goals we set up ahead of time for you during the week. At any time during the week you can post to our community forum for support (assess a meal, take a look at an exercise, help you prepare for a night out, look at a menu if you are going to an event, etc) or e-mail us if you think a question is too personal or specific to be helpful to the wider group.

Tell me about my typical day.

Because our goal is to impede your daily life as little as possible, a typical day will hopefully not involve thinking about us too much! That said, we will ask you to track your nutrition each day (either via sending in pictures of your meals to a food log stored in your private client dashboard or by using a calorie tracking app) based on a predetermined nutrient plan. We will be assessing your nutrition, making suggestions and helping you adhere based on these daily logs. Some days may be workout days in which case please allocate 45 minutes to going to the gym. If you have questions about a specific meal, any concerns about an upcoming event or generally require support you can post to the group or e-mail your trainer.

You are going to keep me on track right? I need a lot of support

Yes we will be with you 100% of the way! We love clients that ask for the support they need to succeed. You can write to us any time of day or night with questions, concerns, or general angst. If you are struggling, you can reach out to us. If you have a question just ask! As strange as it sounds, we love answering questions and in depth. We will happily go down science rabbit holes with you. If you have a bad week don’t shame yourself or feel guilty, just send us an e-mail and we will help you get back on track.

And if you disappear on us for a few days you can expect a few “hey where did you go” e-mails and maybe even “we are missing some data e-mails”. Every week of the curriculum includes action items to accomplish and because we are keeping track of any number of your metrics, and together we will do our best to make sure you are accomplishing them. Our one caveat? Don’t go completely AWOL on us and then grump at us if you don’t make progress. We get that you are busy, have a demanding life, and that things can get off course. That is why you reached out to us to help. We get it. But chasing down clients is never fun so we hope you will help us help you! We can only help you succeed as much as you let us. But if you let us we can work wonders with you!

You aren’t going to pester me constantly right? I’m a self starter!

While you can expect weekly e-mails and regular check-ins from us to make sure you are adhering and progressing towards your goals, we are happy to let you intake the information, apply it by yourself, and reach out only when necessary. Just let us know how much contact is too much and we will adjust accordingly.

Why is it 16 weeks?

Real change doesn’t happen overnight. Building habits takes time, especially when you have existing behaviors and patterns that are not always helpful.

And even when you do form a new habit old behaviors linger and getting derailed is a regular occurrence. This is normal and we expect to see lots of ups and downs over the course. Our goal is to give you enough time to see meaningful change in your body even with the slip-ups of your regular life, so that when the course is finished you are confident that you can continue on for the rest of your life. We’ve found that a month just scratches the surface of the material while showing you improvements, two months is enough to get you excited about seeing bigger changes, three months helps you become advanced in incorporating diet and nutrition in the world, and four months sets you up for long term success.

Value

$149 a month seems cheap, I’m used to paying $100 an hour for a trainer and $30 for group spin classes, is this really a high-quality experience?

Great question! Since we cater to business professionals, start-up founders, and others who are always curious about things like our margins, we appreciate that you’ve noticed a thing or two about costs in the health and fitness industry. We’ve collected, collated, and organized years of knowledge, research, and experience and made it virtual enabling you to get the best in nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle coaching at reduced costs through efficient scaling. So you are correct that $149 is a steal as you are correct to assume it would be thousands of dollars a month to hire and manage all of these skilled professionals. Because we make certain assumptions about our clients goals, expectations, and lifestyle limitations we’ve organized the material such that we can deliver it extremely efficiently by preparing much of the common questions, concerns, and pitfalls ahead of time. That way we keep curriculum quality high while the costs we do incur are based on managing you (and your metrics) remotely so that our focus can be entirely on helping you reach your goals rather than on managing the overhead of an in-person service based business.

$149 a month seems like a lot. What am I getting for it?

In the big picture, we’re giving you a new framework for improving your health without having to change your whole life. In a concrete, program-basics sense you will be getting a 16 week instruction course delivered via e-mail, virtual access to a dedicated trainer including regular personal follow ups, a progressive exercise routine designed to take as little of your time as possible, a personalized nutrition plan structured for a busy lifestyle, a moderated community board for Q&A populated with other busy individuals that will understand your unique lifestyle challenges, and a host of resources on topics ranging from how to travel to how to eat when out-and-about.

You are getting the combined knowledge of fitness and nutrition professionals who know what science to rely on with the power of experienced entrepreneurs who have overcome tremendous lifestyle hurdles. This means you are going to get the advantage of years of institutional knowledge without the cost of hiring a personal trainer, nutritionist, lifestyle coach, or therapist by the hour. Not convinced? Imagine the time it would take you (think about your own hourly rate for a moment) to find these people, manage time effectively, and cobble together their shared knowledge into a curriculum that best leverages all of their expertise to get you to your end goal most efficiently. We are confident the cost/benefit analysis works in our favor in these scenarios. Even by the standards of other online training and weight loss programs we are well within industry standard for costs. To boot, we are about as expensive as those fun info-mercials DVDs but with exponentially less insanity. We prefer sanity, thank you.

Can’t I just download a few apps and do this by myself?

We don’t know, can you? If you believed you could achieve your fitness and nutrition on your own, we imagine you probably would have achieved it already. But if you haven’t it isn’t a failing on your part. You aren’t lazy, stupid, or a failure. It just means that sometimes DIY isn’t always the approach and help is required. We can help make the apps you already use set you up for success. And, to add a little psychology to the mix, the incentive to stick with something because you’ve invested hard earned money into it helps.

I’ve paid for exercise apps and tried to do this myself in the past how are you going to help me succeed where they failed?

Far too many diet and exercise apps and programs have you you focusing on the wrong indicators. Quantified self is an amazing thing but if you don’t know what you should be measuring how can you make it better?

Many of the indicators you rely on to help you determine if you are being “healthy” or “on track” are poor indicators for long term success. Did you sweat a lot? Are you in pain? Are you under some arbitrary calorie limit. Are you hungry? Do you feel deprived? Did you walk 10,000 steps today? We can help you make sense of what indicators matters (not sweating a ton or being in pain as it turns out) and which ones do not.

Metrics

I’m a numbers focused kind of person, what are you helping me keep track of exactly?

Optimizing the wrong inputs doesn’t help you get the output you want. That is true in business, engineering, and certainly true in fitness. The trouble is you may know what metrics to look out for in your own business but you are likely focused on the wrong ones for the fitness results you want. We will help you keep track of the metrics that matter from your nutritional intake to your fitness progress to help you lose fat, gain strength, and keep progressing.

I love quantified self, what are my options for tracking?

So you want more details, huh? We will happily incorporate your Withings, MyFitnessPal, Fitocracy, Fitbit (though we don’t care much about steps), your waist measurements or any other tracking device into our client dashboard and program, assuming that it is relevent to your fitness.

Fitness

Do I have to join a gym?

We strongly recommend that you join a gym when signing up for Minimum Viable Fitness.

It is possible to do the first month with the dumbbells you may have at home, in an apartment building gym, or in hotel fitness center if you travel frequently. However, because our clients progress very quickly in their strength and conditioning it will become necessary to have access to a gym with equipment like barbells, weight racks, and dumbbells. Why? When training with us you will progress more quickly than you anticipate.

We’ve have one client go from being unable to lift a 45 lbs barbell to deadlifting 160 pounds in just four months. And she was a 120 pound woman!

Can I really see results with only 3 workouts a week?

Yes! When it comes to fitness, less can be more. In fact, you hit diminishing returns with workouts very quickly. Research suggests that working out for longer provides little additional benefit when it comes to losing weight, since your body will make you want to eat more for every extra minute spent at the gym. Plus, when you are juggling multiple obligations and intense demands on your time, trying to make the mental bandwidth for one more thing (in this case a longer workout) can impact your motivation and ability to succeed.

What kind of workouts are we talking about?

We focus on only high ROI exercises like compound lifts and resistance training. What does that mean? Our workouts will focus on barbell lifts and other full body workouts. Through the course, you will progress rapidly and learn about the benefits of our workouts from a variety of perspectives—including how diet, hormones, sleep and other physiology question come into play.

Additionally, our exercises are intense but include quite a bit of downtime throughout the workout. Many of our clients find that gym time becomes an opportunity to catch up on the latest news, tweets, and Instagrams in between their exercises, making it a very pleasant experience. We promise you won’t dread your workouts!

Are you expecting me to workout alone?

Your in gym training will be done by yourself. For those of you that think fitness (and motivation) can only derive from working with a personal trainer during every session, we’re about to save you a lot of time and money. Contrary to popular belief, your body is intelligent and intuitive enough that worries about having someone to constantly check your form (beyond helping you set it up in the first place and the occasional adjustment) are largely unfounded. We will make sure you are provided with specific exercise instructions, repetitions, and form tips.

Concerned about not pushing yourself and needing someone with you to get a good workout? Don’t be. We will set up workouts that are designed to make you progress without you having to use a trainer to motivate you to do whatever vomit inducing workouts you may associate with progress. In fact, studies from Obesity and Health Communications show that these types of workouts actually mentally hinder your progress, self image, compassion and motivation. We aim to promote your own internal motivation so that regular workouts become not only a routine but an enjoyable one.

I’ve never lifted weights before, can I still join?

Yes! We love complete beginners. We will help you learn the basics through careful instructions, videos, and form tips as well as provide you with personal modifications based on your experience, comfort, and any past injuries.

I’m scared, I’ve never lifted before and I don’t want to hurt myself.

Lifting isn’t as scary as you might think! If needed, we can help set you up with a personal trainer for a single session to learn the lifts, but we are confident that with our instructions and trusting your own body you will be OK. Because we focus on slow, linear progression you are much less prone to injury than in types of classes that like to push you to your limit. We believe that overdoing it is a foolhardy approach and one that often ends in accidents and/or injury.

I’m a girl and I’m afraid of getting bulky. Can’t I just go to spin class for my three workouts?

Spin class is a ton of fun! Any excuse to listen to a lot of up-tempo music while sweating and you can count us in (but that might just be Julie). However, because our focus is on getting you the best possible results with a limited amount of time and cognitive overhead, all while fitting sustainably into your real life, we are going to be asking you to do the exercises that help you achieve that goal. In this case it means you will be lifting weights.

The science on this is quite clear so please don’t listen to Tracy Anderson. We promise. Women don't have enough testosterone to get bulky (and if you really wanted to get bulky it would require bit of extra hormonal help, if you know what we’re saying). And just like men, you don't “bulk out” overnight. Honest. No, seriously. If you are feeling bulkier it is far more likely to be the fat than your new muscles. And we will help you get rid of that with our nutrition plan. We hate to say “trust us” but you probably aren’t going to enjoy reading all the PubMed articles we would throw at you if you really wanted to get into the science.

Can’t I just “move more”?

Well, you could. But...you’ve probably got another few hours of work, your to do list is out of control, you need to deal with your dry cleaning, maybe your kids are signed up for one too many after school activities, your board of directors is really anxious about that Q2 forecast, you’ve got yet another pitch to yet another VC fund, there is a bug in your code you can’t seem to fix (and no one has any concrete answers anywhere on StackOverflow), your significant other is complaining about needing more “couple time”...... wait sorry what was the question? Oh, sure, you could move more. But if you had the time, energy, or motivation you’d probably be doing it—and it still wouldn’t get you where you need to go.

Do I need to do anything besides the workouts?

Yes—we will ask you to track your nutrition and follow the recommendations we give as closely as you can. We will ask you to track various metrics like your weight and body measurements, as well as keep a food log. We also appreciate if you keep in contact with us and comment in the community forum as we all learn from each other!

Can I do more than just the workouts you give me?

You really want to workout more, don’t you? Yes, that’s fine, but only after you get a feel for the program, how it works, and have developed the right habits. We are focused on long-term habit building, not crash dieting or exercising, to get you fit and keep you fit. Building habits works. Forcing yourself into additional exercises, long cardio sessions and other “calorie burning” habits you may have from past programs will actually hinder your progress for a host of reasons you will learn about in the course materials.

No seriously, I need to do more!

You will! And we will help you do so—sustainably—so when you want to do less or more, you know how to maintain your physique. And we will set you up so if you want to go beyond “minimum” you are equipped to modify your diet, habits and routines. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Or so we hear.

Nutrition

What am I going to be eating exactly?

For starters, probably more than you imagine you will be! No one goes hungry in MVF. We will be teaching you what, how, and when to eat. We recommend a balanced and nutritious diet that is sustainable so that you can reach long term goals from losing fat to gaining muscle. There are no good foods, bad foods, or superfoods: just nutrients that have differing impacts on your body depending on how, when, and in what quantities you eat them. This means that you will eat your proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in Minimum Viable Fitness. This isn't Atkins Diet. We can work with vegetarians and vegans, but because of our recommended protein intake it can be more of a challenge for non-meat eaters (but still totally doable).

I’m a vegetarian or vegan, will this work for me?

Yes! We can (and have) trained vegetarians and vegans. It can be more of a challenge, as limiting food types means you may have to work a little harder, but it is completely possible to train with us and not eat meat.

There are however plenty of vegetarian protein sources that we can suggest (vegan can be more challenging but we are up for it) including diary, eggs, nuts, tempeh, seitan, tofu, meat substitutes (we personally love Beyond Meat) and whey protein. With our vegan and vegetarian clients we do ask that you be proactive with us in helping you set up your nutritional plan as we want to make sure you have the knowledge and choices to help you succeed.

I have strict diet restrictions, can this work for me?

Yes! We can work around virtually any restriction. We’ve had gluten-free, diary free, wheat, free, sugar-free, vegan, and vegetarian clients. We won’t lie; some types of dietary restrictions can be more challenging than others when training with us, but chances are that if you have lived without some type of food you will be equipped to find workarounds, solutions and alternate meal types.

As long as you don’t use it as an excuse for failure (we’ve seen it all) we can help you build an nutrition plan that works for you. There are however plans or philosophies that our nutritionists strongly recommend you avoid such as paleo, no-carb or low-protein diets. There are a host of research for us not supporting these types of diets in Minimum Viable Fitness and we are happy to get into the dirty details of them if you want to train with us. But, we do require that you be open to eating a target amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins when training with us.

I work a ton, travel a lot, and don’t have any consistent schedule. How are you going to help me eat with these limitations?

We’ve sure been there! Our co-founders are entrepreneurs and founders and have lived through the fun and excitement that comes with harried and inconsistent schedules, impossible obligations, long days, and regular extended travel. We have strategies mapped out for just about every scenario you might encounter, including: what to pick when you are eating in communal setting with fixed menus, how to prepare for a night when you know you will be drinking heavily, how to cope with stress eating (it happens), eating at the airport and on the road, damage control strategies for when you’ve gone off the rails (late night pizza delivery anyone?), and how not to act like the jackass that is on a diet when in a social setting. We know you’ve got deals to close, businesses to run, and a life to lead. Everything we do is about setting you up for success when operating within a set of constraints. Give us a scenario and chances are we can find a way to succeed within it!

I have kids and/or a picky spouse.

Eating the Minimum Viable Fitness way is a great opportunity to help your entire family learn to eat better. Don’t worry: we won’t suggest that you make entirely separate meals to adhere to your impossibly strict diet while leaving your family out to fend for themselves. And suffering through a tiny terrible meal while your kids enjoy their mac and cheese is not in your future—that’s a recipe for disaster! The more you learn about how nutrition impacts your own body the better equipped you will be to help your kids and significant other learn to eat better too. Plus there are plenty of MVF style meals that kids love. Remember, we are all about making sure that our program improves the quality of your life and your family is a huge portion of that equation.

Am I going to be hungry?

No! In fact many of our clients find that they are eating more than they are accustomed to as they get started with our program. This can psyche a lot of people out as we tend to be believe that “less” is more when it comes to weight loss but in reality there are many factors that go into you losing a pound of fat and the efficiency with which you can do so.

Your activity level, the types of activity, your hormones, your sleep habits, and the balance of nutrients that you are consuming all play a role in how you lose what type of weight. We will be focusing on the ways that help you shed fat for the long term. And being hungry is not a sustainable long term behavior anyone can or should engage in. If it were a sustainable behavior that led to long term success we suspect that we wouldn’t have depressing reports showing that 90% of The Biggest Loser participants gain the weight back.

Can’t I just “eat less”?

Yes, you can just eat less… for a while. But your ability to do it for an extended period of time is limited. And even if you were able to consistently eat less it will impact your ability to lose weight and sustain fat loss in the future. It is important to understand all the factors that go into building your success sometimes the simplified truism like “eat less” have terrible long term consequences for your metabolism.

I find eating healthy intimidating, can you just tell me exactly what to eat?

Yes we can and will, if necessary. We will ask you to show us what you eat (either via photos or through your nutrient tracker of choice) and make recommendations to help you improve. However we would prefer that you learn how to eat without us! That way you can find ways to incorporate healthy eating into any situation as no one knows your life, limitations and preferences better than you. We want to equip you to succeed on your own terms.

I like a lot of variety, you aren’t going to make me eat exactly what you tell me right?

No, we most certainly won’t. In fact we recommend that you get a lot of variety in your diet. At no point will we force you to eat any one type of food. We will however teach you how to think about different types of foods and how it will impact your body. From there we believe you can make the decisions best suited to your lifestyle.

Am I going to have cheat days?

Our program is not structured to have deliberate “cheat days” like some other diets. The moralizing of “good” and “bad” when it comes to food that pervades so much of our fitness and nutrition culture does not engender positive behaviors. Habits like restricting yourself heavily during the week only to binge on all the foods you deprived yourself of all week is not healthy mental mindset. For some people this type of habit can even trigger disordered eating. Our goal is to reorient your thinking when it comes to nutrition so that you can be empowered to make decisions every single day that promote your long term goals and also have the knowledge to know that when you indulge (and you will) that this is completely fine and can actually promote long term adherence. The more knowledge you have on how various foods, nutrients, and eating structures impact your body the better off you will be.

I juice. Is that cool?

Totally fine—in context of the program, we may limit your juicing (or, you will find out how to time time your juicing more appropriately.) But, we do not recommend “juice cleansing” or prolonged fasting during the program. You will learn, in much more depth, the mechanisms related to how this impacts your metabolism and hunger hormones and may find that you wish to eschew the practice entirely going forward.

Success, Motivation, and Health

I have complicated feelings about diet and exercise thanks to mass media culture’s incessant moralizing expectations of how I eat and look. Can you help?

We’ve been there. Unpacking the complex feelings that arise when tackling any issue related to your body is a difficult process and one potentially fraught with peril for many of us. We’ve all had “the feels” about how we look, what we eat, what we “should” eat and whether these failures make us a bad person (newsflash: it doesn’t and don’t let anyone tell you that it does). It is an unfortunate reality that many of us have come to associate fitness and nutrition with issues that tie back to guilt, laziness, willpower, and other fun character “flaws.” And don’t even get us started on what constitutes beauty, sex appeal, or physical desirability. Failing to hew to dominant aesthetic standards has consequences for how people perceive you. (Crazy, right?) You could say that our modern culture has some issues to work out.

So how does that relate to MVF? Well, if getting fit were just about eating right and working out we probably wouldn’t need to exist because you would just need to learn some basic facts and go on your merry way. But, the reality is much more complicated. We recognize that depending on where you are in your journey, eating right can be an extra few minutes of thought a day, or it can be constant struggle. All of MVF’s founders used to experience this in some capacity every single day. Some of us still do.

Sound bleak? It isn’t. Just ask Julie! She’s gone from treating food as a “constant source of concern” to finally freeing herself from viewing food and exercise through the lens of cultural emotional baggage enabling her to live in her own body anxiety free. We know that food and fitness can be a loaded topic for many men and women and we’ve experienced many of the issues that may plague you. Through our course we can help arm you with the knowledge to see food and exercise free of the social, moral or emotional contexts that may have tripped you up and instead learn to eat (and move) for your goals and for your own enjoyment (sans guilt or worry).

We believe you should live a life free of shame.

I’ve lost weight before, but it always creeps back on

If it really were as simple as “eat less, move more” or doing “one weird trick” America (and parts of Europe, for that matter) wouldn’t have have an obesity crisis. But we do and we don’t happen to believe that this generation of Americans is lazier, stupider, or more morally bankrupt by an order of magnitude than those that came before it (much as we do love trend pieces on all those topics). The reality is losing weight is actually the easy (well easier) part. Keeping it off is much more difficult. We aim to help you build the habits that keep the weight off even when your willpower is low, your time is constrained and your life is chaotic. Because life is always full of surprises and the only diet that works is one that you can maintain for the long term.

I want to lose 20 pounds FAST. Can you help me do that?

Yes...but we won’t. Most programs (we’d like to say all but we don’t like to deal in absolutes) making bold claims about fast weight loss are taking advantage of you. What you don’t know can, and will, hurt you and nowhere is this more true than in weight loss. It is very possible to lose weight quickly but the downsides are often never worth it. From little annoyances like depleting limited resources of willpower to very real concerns with permanent metabolic slowing, rapid weight loss has major downsides.

That said it is entirely possible to some lose weight quickly and we can even show you a few tricks professional athletes, fitness models, and coaches use to achieve results quickly. But, without the knowledge of how to sustain it you will rebound and can potentially harm your health for the long term by engaging in some of the more dramatic practices for fast weight loss. So, can we help you lose 20 pounds during the 16 week course and set you up to keep it off for life? For many people: yes, definitely.

I want to add 50 pounds of muscle—can you help me do that?

Unlikely. After you’ve put some initial lean mass on your frame, the fastest pace at which you can add muscle is about half a pound a week, and there are real genetic limits to how much muscle you can put on over a lifetime. But we can definitely help you gain lean mass, improve your lifts, and improve your body composition so you can use and showcase those muscles more effectively!

I have no idea what success looks like.

This is actually a positive thing. Culturally accepted ideals of “success” can saddle us with unrealistic expectations and ideals. What's worse, believing these impossible goals constitutes success, we subconsciously give ourselves an “out” because when we know the goal is out totally out reach we don’t have to bother trying. And, we want to be brave enough to try.

Wait, hold up: what is “healthy”?

We are so glad you asked! For us, healthy means engaging consistently in behaviors that help keep you lean, strong, conditioned and mentally balanced. That means there are no good foods, bad foods, or moralizing sermons on the one true righteous path to health. Rather, we believe in behaviors and strategies that are based in sound science that help you keep your health markers where you want them, your desired aesthetics within reach, and your activities and diet manageable for the long haul.

What are you helping me improve?

You tell us! While we are focused on helping you improve all your health markers we can help educate and train you to improve what you think is most important. Some people want to gain strength and mass, others want to loss fat and look better. Others still want to lose a significant amount of weight, and some just want to reinforce the right habits. If you don’t know what you want to improve we can help you decide. Chances are its some combination of fat loss and fitness gains.

Did we not answer your question?

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