Michelle is the author of Exercise For Your Muscle Type: the Smart Way to Get Fit and creator of Prevention Magazine’s ULTIMATE FLAT BELLY DVD series. She currently runs Lovitfitness, a Beverly Hills based training company that is known for getting clients in remarkable shape. Her background in Exercise Physiology is why her methodology and results reside in heart rate based training. Michelle’s signature training method, Train Smarter Not Harder, gives her clients educational tools that help them understand their bodies, lose body fat, get stronger, stay motivated and enjoy a better quality of life. She has a loyal following and a reputation for getting her clients in remarkable shape.
This is an excerpt of my Instagram Live conversation from Feb. 3, 2022 with Michelle Lovitt. It has been edited for length and clarity. For our full conversation, click here.
Starting your physical health journey can be daunting, especially when the fitness industry seems to encourage intense workouts that are not realistic for the beginner. Even for the advanced person, the industry can elicit a cycle of guilt for not doing enough or not pushing past your limits. In this conversation with my personal trainer, Michelle Lovitt, we discuss the right way to start exercising and how to set expectations. We also talk about how Michelle and I worked together to create a fitness routine that helped me transform my body without triggering flare ups of my autoimmune conditions. She has such a wealth of knowledge and I’m so excited to share this conversation with you!
Carrie Ann: So I just want to start talking about your philosophy and your background. You were the first ever female strength and conditioning coach at three different universities – Fresno State, Notre Dame, and USC. So that’s big guns, my friend. How has that shaped your philosophy on fitness and how you train clients today?
Michelle Lovitt: It’s interesting because when I started at 22 – which is kind of scary thing to say that I started in that business 30 years ago – what I knew then to what I know now, there’s such a huge difference. Sports science and nutrition evolve every day. And that’s why I love what I do so much, because it’s always a continual learning process. And hopefully everyone in my field continues with the learning process as well, because no one knows everything about everything. So it’s always fun to learn from other people.
But what I’ve learned working with athletes – and then working with people who have had hip surgery, or somebody that is wanting to get in shape for the first time in their life, they’re going through menopause, they’re 40 and they’ve never done anything – those challenges and educating people have become my passion in life rather than just getting someone to run 100 meters fast. I appreciate the speed. I appreciate athleticism, but for me, it’s all about education and really teaching people that fitness and nutrition are doable. Even if you do it for 3 minutes a day, or you read about different things. Just keep yourself informed on what things could be good for your body, because you’re one person, you’re not like everyone else. And I think that’s really important for people to understand that when they look at those 22 or 52 year old fitness models on magazines, that they’re one person, you’re another person, and you have to work with what you have. And don’t be intimidated by that.
Carrie Ann: We have a question from a viewer – “I’m 62, how can I start working out?”
Michelle Lovitt: Oh, my gosh, I work with 85 year old’s that have never worked out in their life! And they are so fit and so happy because they never thought they could. Their doctor suggested it to them and then they’re like, “oh, maybe I should, what does that mean?”. And I’ve learned more from them then they’ve probably learned from me because they’re the most interesting people I work with. Because of the history and the knowledge base that they have acquired over the years. But 62, come on, 82, 92, and 102. I encourage everyone to work out.
Carrie Ann: Speaking of 62, I’m 54. And when you started working out with me, that was about just a few years ago that we started working out together, I was in a state of really being unable to do anything. I had been in chronic pain, and the pain was pretty much unbearable at the time. I have autoimmune conditions, which meant I was susceptible to flare ups. And every time I would start a workout routine, I would fall back into not being able to work out because I would hurt myself. And then we started working out together. In the beginning we would work out, and then we had to adjust. And adjust again. And after a while we found our way. There’s a lot of people in the 50s out there. So how is working out with someone like me different than working out with an athlete?
Michelle Lovitt: Oh my gosh, they’re similar and they’re very different. Because training an athlete is like fine tuning a Ferrari. But you were an athlete your whole life because you were a dancer. The trick with you versus working with somebody who is coming from a completely non-compromised state, it’s not that I can’t push them a little bit and know that they’re going to be sore, but I can’t cause a flare that sets that person back for three or four days. That’s the difference. I know that muscle soreness, when somebody who is healthy and doesn’t have any autoimmune issues, is okay. What we discovered together is that your soreness was different. Because if we pushed you past a certain level, you would have a flare in one of your joints. You had an injury in your right trap and your right shoulder from when you were dancing that would always cause a flare, and because of that we had to watch everything so closely. And then because you are a dancer and the moves are so beautiful, that was also tough for me at first because I would watch them go “oh, that’s a beautiful squat, that’s a beautiful shoulder fly”. And then go “wait a minute, that’s really going to hurt her because she’s extending her shoulder right out of the joint”. So making modifications with you was a constant, day to day thing. And just really understanding that some things that would cause an issue with you may not cause an issue with somebody else. I went in with kid gloves so we could figure it out, and it took a little while to do it. But we did find out that your body was born to move, it loves to move.
Carrie Ann: My body does love to move. But you know, I really do believe that everyone’s body loves to move but some of us are struggling, right? And then what happens is we get in these places where we’re afraid. We’ve been trained to think, either by society, by our parents, or the voices in our own head that we can’t move. And then we kind of get stuck in this place where we’re frozen and we can’t get started. So I want to ask about motivation. There’s just so many reasons why you could lack motivation. So, for people who are unsure how to get started, what would you say to them?
Michelle Lovitt: Well, the first thing is that you’re right, everybody can move. I think a lot of people have been taught that if you move – I’m going to refer to women in general – you’re going to get bulky, you’re going to get big muscles, you’re not going to be attractive, you’re going to be this, you’re going to be that. Women can’t develop muscle like men, they just can’t. They can get strong and beautiful and lean, but they will never get big and bulky. So get that out of your head to begin with. And then, thinking about the benefits of exercise, if feels good just putting on your shoes and going “okay, I’m going to get out and maybe I’ll walk to the end of the driveway and back because there’s a blizzard on the East Coast. And that’s as far as I can go today”. But you did it. So that’s a huge accomplishment because you did move your body. It’s not about the quantity of exercise, it’s about the quality of exercise. And really understanding how you should start and where you should start is key. That could be just starting with little movements like pulling in your core, for example. Little things make a big difference.
Carrie Ann: This is what was so shocking and so different about you and your approach, and what has helped me so much is that you were open to going slowly. You know, most trainers say “no pain, no gain”, right? But what I’ve learned is these intense mantras can be unhealthy. You have to listen to your body, you have to honor where you are. And yes, there’s a little bit of pushing past your finish line, but that’s for growth, and not to the point where you hurt yourself. And you’ve been so great at helping me understand that. And I thought that was so impressive, it’s really helped me get back to my own physical fitness.
Michelle Lovitt: The one thing that people need to really think about is that this is the only thing that you have going through this earth. You have your body and that’s it. So take care of it and don’t do bad things. I believe everything in moderation and being kind to yourself, and not berating yourself for doing these things that the fitness industry puts out there. Like you need to work out for 60 minutes at 70% or 300%. I think that’s hard to understand. Because this is what I’m supposed to do, this is what they say, I read this magazine. And there’s so much misinformation out there that I think it’s about doing your homework and figuring out what works best for you, not everyone else.
I truly believe that if you’re just starting a fitness program, buy a heart rate monitor. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be $20 at Walmart, Kmart, Amazon, any of those. Wear it and see what your heart does. When you start to walk, if your heart rate shoots straight up and stays elevated for a while, then you don’t want to go a long period of time. You want to do a couple minutes a day and add on. As your heart gets stronger, it doesn’t shoot up as fast. So just knowing what you’re doing for a workout and having a map. You wouldn’t drive to your friend’s house in the suburbs that you’ve never been to with a blindfold on. And that’s what it’s like without knowing what you’re doing for exercise and knowing truly what it means to burn 200 calories when you’re walking on a treadmill. That gives you meaning to your workouts. I think that having something to quantify what you’re doing is everything.
Carrie Ann: That’s huge. You know, in the original episode of Carrie Ann Conversations, we spoke to Dr. Amen, who’s a psychiatrist and brain expert. And he talked about how psychiatrists do a lot of work without actually seeing the brain. So kind of like what you’re saying is a lot of trainers just start training you without heart rate monitors. And they don’t even know what your level of where you’re actually burning fat is. For a beginner, if they buy a heart rate monitor, what range should they try to get into where they’re burning fat?
Michelle Lovitt: You know, it’s tricky because it’s age dependent. But for women to find out what their maximum heart rate is, or find the zone that they should be in, there’s a simple equation. 220 minus your age and then take 50% or 75% of that number. And that’s how high you should get your heart rate. And I’m being very simplistic what that.
Carrie Ann: Can you repeat that?
Michelle Lovitt: Take the number 220, subtract your age from it, and half of that number would be close to where you want to be. But you know, the best check of your heart rate is if you can carry on a conversation.
Carrie Ann: And that means you’re still in a good, safe heart rate.
Michelle Lovitt: If you’re out of breath, you’re working too hard.
Carrie Ann: That’s helpful. We’re all talking to ourselves during the pandemic. So just keep talking to yourself and when you can’t talk to yourself anymore, you’re gone too far past your heartrate.
Michelle Lovitt: I think the funniest thing with some of my clients is that they say getting in shape with Michelle is hysterical, because you just go in there and talk, you’re working out, you don’t even know you’re doing, and then you leave and all of a sudden two weeks later you’re fit.
To view our full conversation, head over to my Instagram pages @carrieanninaba @carrieannconversations! Michelle has so much information on all things fitness and our live conversation was filled with helpful information. Leave a comment below if you learned something new or want to hear more from Michelle! Be kind and stay well.
For more information on Michelle and her training techniques, follow the links below:
Her book – Exercise Your Muscle Type