Sparked The Fire | Courtney Ustrzycki

“For years I had been resistance training and what I deemed to be ‘eating clean’ yet wasn’t really seeing much changes in my body. I always felt a little soft and was missing desired muscle definition that I knew I should have had. When I went for my very first session in the Bod Pod (which is an air displacement measurement system) I was extremely shocked to know that my body was 30% fat (and that’s a lot for my body!) That was by no means acceptable for myself, and that was Day 1 of change.” -Courtney Ustrzycki

A wake up call sparked a little fire in Courtney and the flame hasn’t dimed ever since. Her approach to fitness is simple, yet very effective. It has helped her to achieve her desired results and maintain it over time.

Training

Courtney’s approach to fitness shows that you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym to achieve results. Fitness is more so about learning your body and finding what is effective for you. “I find my training methods to be simple: stick to the movements that are effective and build up weak areas. I don’t partake in those “new and improved” fitness scams or booty-builder leg press pyramids. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups; those are the guts of my training programming and I build from there,” Courtney says.

However don’t get me wrong, Courtney can definitely turn up the heat if she wants. While the core is always simplistic, there are many variations that can provide you with more of a challenge if that’s what you are looking for. “As a powerlifter, I focus on squat, bench press and deadlift as my primary movements. To improve those three lifts I will incorporate variations of those exercises in order to compliment and crank up the intensity. But ultimately I stick to the foundation. As I always say, K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid),” Courtney explains.

Mind

Working out isn’t the only element in Courtney’s fitness routine. Keeping a strong mindset is also very important. “Mindset is everything. Mindset is what can make or break a person, whether it’s in the gym, in the kitchen, or in the office. Your body can push through anything; your mind will give up before your body does. It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of anything that we really don’t want to do. But we need to remember WHY we chose to do this. WHY we need to lose weight or improve our nutrition. There’s always an underlying factor that forces us to make this ultimate decision to start. It takes time to build up the motivation and the dedication, that’s not going to show up at your door every morning. You need to develop that on your own. It starts in your mind,” Courtney declares.

Advice

Courtney has had much success on her own and she seeks to inspire others as well. I think we all could learn something from Courtney, so I had to ask if she could give me or anyone else looking to make some healthy changes to their life. And of course, she delivered. “To someone just starting to improve their overall quality of life through nutrition and exercise, I would always recommend to start small. Start with small changes over time, because those are the ones that are going to be most impactful and you can adhere to. Going all-out on Day 1 is usually grounds for an overload and usually a crash and burn, and we never want that. For example, when I begin guided programming with clients, we take their current nutrition plan (or what they usually eat on a regular basis) and make small modifications to a few different things. Keeping it simple and sticking to things that the beginner likes will make the changes much more appealing and likely to stick to in the long term. I always say that nutrition is going to trump training when it comes to starting and trying to make a change. The workouts are the easy part, it’s the nutrition that’s crucial for any success. What we put into our bodies is what we can expect to get out of it. To me, it’s not 80% nutrition and 20% training; it’s 100% of each. You need to commit your entirety into your nutrition and training. So even if you only go for a 10 minute walk at the end of the day, don’t only do 9 minutes. Do the whole 10, do the 100%. Commit and follow through,” Courtney advises.

In your opinion, what are the most overrated and underrated exercises?

In my opinion, the most overrated exercise is the burpee. How many people actually benefit from it? The burpee was originally created as a testing method and was only to be performed about 4 times in total. So when I see people being programmed to do 20, 50, 100, at once, I just shake my head. Why does someone who has a desk job need to do burpees? How will that improve their quality of life? I always consider my own programming and programming for my clients with the best intentions; I will create based on their needs and goals, not just how much I can make them sweat or feel like they’re dying. I think the most underrated exercise is the deadlift, and I think that’s because most people do it wrong (hurt their back), which deters people from performing it. It’s one of the most fundamentally sound exercises that requires your entire body to output energy. And in my opinion, it’s one of the most empowering yet humbling for women. Because who wouldn’t want to be able to lift three times their body weight?

What are your go-to snacks when you’re on the run?

My go-to snacks on the run are either Canadian Protein sample protein packs or Bounce Balls! Both so very healthy, nutrient-packed and satisfying!

What’s your beliefs on performance diet like?    Do you prescribe to a particular philosophy on diet (example: Paleo, Gluten free, etc…)?

I believe that everyone is individual in terms of nutrition. There’s no one best way that I would ever recommend. I follow a flexible dieting approach where I can really eat what I want while achieving specific macronutrient ranges on a daily basis. I fuel my body for performance and my workouts. I don’t put foods off limits because having that ‘good food versus bad food’ mindset I find to be very unhealthy. I do avoid foods that I have been tested to be sensitive too (cow’s milk, wheat, peanuts, almonds), but other than that, I think it’s all about a healthy balance that works for each unique person. When I work with clients, I customize their nutritional goals based on both their past and current lifestyle, nutritional needs, goals, any limiting factors like digestion issues, and habits. The single most important bit of advice I can give for the ‘best’ diet is: whatever truly makes the person feel good.

Courtney Ustrzycki

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