Ask the Expert: Personal Trainer, Mattie Wakeman

We all know that exercise is good for us. It strengthens our muscles and bones, controls weight, increases flexibility, and improves quality of life. But, getting into a good fitness routine can be difficult and frankly a little overwhelming.  I sat down with personal trainer Mattie Wakeman to get the scoop on how to best set yourself up for success and also debunk a few common myths. If you’re new to working out or maybe you just like learning about exercise, have a read!


Q: What is your background in exercise science and nutrition?
A: I graduated from George Mason University in 2012 with a B.S in Exercise Science and a minor in Nutrition. Upon graduating I got a job training and teaching group exercise classes at a local gym. I furthered my education by obtaining several PT certifications including one of my favorites: TRX!
Q: What is the number one thing you think keeps people from returning to the gym?
A: Motivation! It takes a while to form good habits! A lot of people think that going to the gym once or twice a week will do it. That’s just not true. 1.) You will never become consistent. 2.) You probably won’t notice much in the way of body metamorphosis by only going once or twice a week. It is a lifestyle change. I always tell my clients that 4-6 weeks is how long it’s going to take you to make this a habit, something that you MAKE fit into your schedule 3-5 times a week. I also think a lot of people just aren’t sure where to start. Entering a gym for many people can be intimidating so people just don’t do it. This is where Personal Trainers and Group Fitness come into play
Q: How many days a week do you recommend the average person work out?
A: I guess it depends where you are starting…if you NEVER workout and are just getting into it then telling you to go 5 days a week is never going to happen. On average though 3-5 days a week is GREAT! Especially if you are really pushing yourself and making your workouts worthwhile!

Q: If someone is crunched for time and only has 30 minutes to workout, what do you recommend?
A: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is always great if you’re in a pinch and really want to maximize calories burned AND work on your strength. There are HUNDREDS of 30 minute workouts you can do and really break a sweat and leave feeling like you got a good butt kicking.

Q: When at the gym, is it better to do cardio or weight training first?
A: I get this question ALL THE TIME. And honestly the answer is “it depends”. If you are looking to lose weight and burn calories, then you want to start with weights (after a warm up of course) and end with cardio. This is because by the time you start your cardio your body will already be in the “fat burning zone” so you can maximize your cardio. On the flip side- if you’re like me-and your goal is to build muscle then you probably don’t want to do cardio after a heavy lift. Chances are you will be too tired anyways!
Q: What is the importance of a “rest day” and do you really need them?
A: SO IMPORTANT! Yes, you DEFINITELY need them! Your body needs time to recover from workouts! Muscle growth occurs when the muscle is worked and then heals. When you weight train, you are essentially tearing muscle fibers, so without proper rest days your system to repair you will not see the benefits of your workouts.
Q: How soon should you eat after a workout? What should you eat?
A: I always recommend eating as soon as possible after a workout. You have just set your
metabolism on fire and your body is going to be looking for energy to refuel your systems. I suggest starting with a good protein shake immediately after a workout and then having a decent size meal containing healthy carbs and protein about an hour after that.
Q: Should you stretch before or after a workout?
A: Simple answer: BOTH!
Q: What is more important, diet or working out?
A: Its 80% diet, 20% exercise for weight loss. You can work out 7 days a week but if you are eating garbage you aren’t doing yourself any favors. You’ve heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen. You can do crunches until you die but if you go home and eat mac and cheese and fried chicken for dinner then those abs are never going to turn any heads. If your goal however is to build strength and muscle, then obviously the only way to do this is through exercise! Find a healthy balance of both, that’s my suggestion!

Q: What is the best way to burn fat on the belly, thighs, and butt?
A: Oh man- I wish “spot training” was a real thing- if that was the case I’d have the most chiseled 6 pack and the tightest glutes you’ve ever seen. Burning fat is a whole-body process! However, compound movements (like SQUATS and DEADLIFTS!) target the WHOLE body and are an awesome way to burn calories!

Q: What are some of your favorite workouts and why?
A: I am ALL about weight training. I enjoy powerlifting: squatting, deadlifting, bench pressing, etc. I do a lot of accessory work on cables too. Weight training is what sculpts your body, plus the more muscle you have the easier it is to burn fat!


We’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite workouts? Still have some questions about exercise? Drop a comment below.


Mattie in a figure competition
Mattie graduated in 2012 from George Mason University with a B.S. in Exercise Science a minor in Nutrition. Soon after graduating she started working at a local gym personal training and teaching group fitness classes at several gyms in the area. She loves weight training and Olympic lifting and competing in figure competitions. With a full gym in her garage with equipment ranging from row machines and squat racks to kettle bells, bumper plates and plyo boxes. Her favorite thing to do is workout with her husband in the warm weather! She provides customized workout plans catered to your specific goals at a reasonable price to encourage others to reach their full fitness potential!

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