Beachbody coach Eric Thomson on digital health and why burpees are trash

First a disclaimer: Eric Thomson didn't always look like he did today – and he'll be the first to tell you. In high school, he weighed 250 pounds. He had never set foot in a gym before. He had no idea how to create a fitness plan or what clothes to wear when exercising. His fitness journey started out as a total outsider, but that's exactly what helps him connect with beginners: he knows where they're from.

"I was on both sides of the spectrum," he says of Men & # 39; s Journal.

Thomson is now a certified fitness trainer, but he's not your typical fitness trainer. In addition to his personal training, his résumé includes many years of experience as a professional opera singer, during which he toured the world in various productions. wadays, he advises his clients individually and recently joined the virtual fitness revolution as a featured instructor on Beachbody's new BODi-On-Demand fitness platform (where he uses his high-performance talents, albeit on a completely different stage). This detour shapes his approach today: helping people of all sizes and abilities to make fitness a part of their lives. We met him recently to learn more about his fitness philosophy, why motivation is BS, and more. Check out our conversation below.

Men’s Journal: You started your career as an opera singer. How did you get into fitness?

Eric Thomson: When I graduated from high school, I was extremely overweight. And my doctor said to me, "If you keep going down this path, you will get diabetes." I've always wanted to go to the gym, but my parents aren't gym people so they didn't understand the desire to do so. I went on a family vacation and somehow hit rock bottom. When I got back, I started my personal fitness journey.

But it wasn't my career. It started when my opera colleagues couldn't keep up because the shows are much more physically demanding than they used to be. It used to be called "Park and Bark". Opera singers would just stand and sing. w the shows are a lot more involved. During the tour, my friends asked me if I would help them lose weight, so I started exercising. When I was in Salzburg we went down to the river and did laps and bodyweight training. And when I lived in Canada, I started helping people at the gym.

The turning point came during my last round of auditions in 2013. I got “no” everywhere. It's not uncommon, but I got tired of breaking doors just to get a job. I had just married and had to pull my weight. My husband encouraged me to take my fitness certifications. And the rest is history.

Did singing prepare you for your current job at all?

Yes, 100 percent. From a physical point of view, as a professional singer, you are in great contact with your body. You understand how your body moves and functions because your body is your instrument.

And in terms of performance, I use my singing experience every day. Standing in front of people like that really helped me keep fit. Most of my work in my fitness career has been group fitness – I've taken people into indoor cycling, HIIT classes, step classes, and whatever. My opera experience is very well suited for this.

Why is it so important for people to make fitness a part of their lives?

Because fitness makes you happy. Your body is a battery, and if you don't properly charge your battery and take care of your battery, the battery will drain. And then somehow you want to throw away the battery.

w I'm super fit, but I was the fat kid. I was also the fat adult who was struggling to lose weight and really didn't like who I was. When I first went to the gym, I felt completely embarrassed.

However, if you take care of yourself physically, you can not only get better physical health results, but better mental health as well. I tell the people who take my classes and my clients at the gym, “How you face the challenge here is a direct reflection of how you face the challenge out there.” Believe it or not, it really is true.

Yes, the physical benefits are nice, but the mental strength, self-confidence, and emotional security that I now have within me because of the fitness are really the most long-lasting gifts.

Image used with permission

How do you motivate people to keep up a workout?

It's funny, I heard that the other day and it sounds true: Motivation is pretty much rubbish. Instead, it's about helping people hold themselves accountable. That's why I love group fitness so much, because you become part of a community. I try to create a community in my courses where people feel welcome. You feel seen. You feel heard. You feel important. You create this community where people say, “I didn't see Theresa today. Is Theresa okay? "

Suddenly you have this whole network of people who are counting on you. Teamwork is essential as individual motivation disappears very quickly.

What possibilities does virtual fitness offer?

The greatest chance is to attract a whole new audience of people who never thought they'd work out or set foot in a gym. The hashtag for BeachBody is #EverybodyIsABeachBody. And I have people of all sizes taking my classes. It's our chance as instructors to make sure they feel just as important as the front row person doing it like the Energizer Bunny.

People freak out when they go to the gym. They worry about not having the right shoes, not wearing the right outfit, or moving around the wrong way and making fun of them. But in my virtual workouts you don't have to worry about the social pressure or what you are wearing. You just focus on work. This is the opportunity that digital fitness offers.

Did you have to change the way you teach fitness to adapt to digital platforms?

t necessarily. The great thing about the BODi platform as opposed to Peloton is that people can actually flock to class and I can see them and interact with them: talk to them, correct their shape, play around with them. I really didn't have to change my style in that regard. In fact, it's just getting better somehow. You have to work a lot harder to communicate through the camera, not only to demonstrate the exercises and make sure people understand your cues, but also to create communities through a lens and make people feel part of something to be.

What is there about running a virtual class that most people probably wouldn't know?

I plan the training sessions. I do the playlists. But it's a 50 to 70 person project to run a beachbody class. You have the backend with streaming technology. You have the lighting team and the camera team. You have the production team. You have the fitness and nutrition results team to help you complete the workouts. To be honest, as cool as it is to be in front of the camera, the most important people are behind the camera. Without it, I would sometimes not be able to tell my left hand from my right.

What makes you different from other coaches? Do you have a distinctive style or fitness philosophy?

I put it this way: movement should stimulate you, not destroy you. Many trainers take pride in giving extremely tough workouts. I don't believe in that. You should be able to train anyone anytime and meet them wherever they are. It is my goal that my clients and course participants can train independently. I want to empower you to own your body and your fitness routine. They should be sure of their abilities because I've done my job teaching them how to do it for themselves – for the rest of their lives too. Exercise shouldn't be a time in your life. It should be every fucking day.

This is where the phrase “stimulate instead of destroy” comes into play. If I've destroyed a customer, then I haven't done my job well. That doesn't mean you aren't working hard or pushing yourself to your limits. But you shouldn't come to the gym broken. That is not healthy.

What are your favorite exercises and your least favorite ones?

My favorite pastime is indoor cycling. I love teaching indoor cycling classes and I love taking indoor cycling classes. It was my first certification in the industry and it inspired me to become a fitness professional. One of my best friends and mentors is a fitness trainer and one day I took her cycling class and said, “This is what I want to do.” It's the combination of performance, music and fitness in one place. I'm a happy camper when I'm out on a bike.

My least favorite exercise is a burpee. Most people can't support themselves in a push-up position – and with a burpee, you're asking them to compensate for that. I think it's a total rubbish exercise.

How do you choose your music for class?

I always plan my workouts first, then I have a music library on Spotify that I use. The music I like to bring to class is remixes, mashups, EDM, generally energetic music. And I'm looking for songs that not only go with the workout, but also take people on an emotional journey. These songs provide inspiration and motivation, especially at times when I know they'll work a little harder. Hopefully the words will carry it through.

What are your favorite songs or artists for workout classes?

According to Spotify, my favorite and most-used artist is probably David Guetta. I just love the energy in his music and it's good for fitness classes. He also works with really good artists and a lot of the lyrics are perfect for helping people take on the next challenge.

And then Britney Spears. It's just me – I've loved their music since I was 12 years old. I always tell people in my classes, "At some point, the living legend itself, the only one, Ms. Britney Spears, will grace your ears."

Eric Thomson wears a gray t-shirtImage used with permission

How does nutrition fit in with fitness? Any important tips for a healthy diet?

You can't overwork a bad diet. Diet is king when it comes to seeing the real changes happening in your body. For me personally, I've gone through all the diets – the Mediterranean Diet, the Atkins Diet, Keto. The only thing I've noticed in the past 10 years is macro counting. food or drink is taboo, just everything in moderation. I use food scales and measure my food. It's not a punishment; it just keeps me accountable for my goals and what I have to do for my body.

I don't believe in limitation. Limitation leads to binging and non-compliance with your program. Instead, it's about creating a calorie deficit. I always tell my clients, "Wouldn't you rather eat pizza and lose weight than eat cardboard for six months just to be likely to gain it again?" That's my whole thing: learn to lose weight while You eat the foods you love.

CBD products for athletes have really picked up speed in recent years. What are the benefits of CBD from a health point of view? Which CBD Products Do You Use?

I am using Sky Wellness CBD cream for recovery. I like to rub it on my joints, especially if they are a bit sore or after a workout with more plyometric movements. It's calming and calming, but more importantly, it helps stimulate muscle damage repair. That's the main reason I use it.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in fitness?

Start low, go slow. Pick two to three days a week that you know you can commit to exercising. It doesn't have to be heroic. It can be 20 minutes. Just start building the habit of loving your body where you are today.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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