10 Things I Learned in 2009 (aka YAYYYY I finally get to write one of these!!!!)

January 8, 2010

Feeling a little under the weather these last couple days, has helped make me AWOL on the blog, but a week into 2010 means that I should get this bad boy published. Hopefully there will be something on here that isn’t on everyone else’s “things I learned” article. Thanks for reading!

Since the start of 2007, there’s a New Year’s tradition I look forward to: Eric Cressey’s article in the things he learned in the previous year. I’ll include some links if your curious (they’re great reads anyways): 2006, 2007, and 2008. The reason I mention Eric is that he was one of the first guys I read when I found sites like T-Nation and from those articles I got an idea of what a smart person could do in this industry. Until then I just had the same prevailing notion as many about trainers being meatheads, so I was lucky to have found these websites to learn from these guys who broke that mold.

Since he started writing those articles, I always thought “when I am going to learn enough things to fill in a whole article”…how young and naive of me…

But lo and behold 2009 has come and gone, and do I ever have stories to tell!! But first a little tangent. (Patience little grasshopper!)

Every year when I reflect on the past year (at least since I started university), I would realize how much I learned about myself. The same thing happened after the summers of 2007 and 2008 after interning/working at SST between academic years. And after each of these subsequent periods I would feel as though I learned more than in the previous year/summer. The point of this side-thought is that I’m not saying that THIS year!! Not sir, not me! Because the surprising thing to me will be if I ever STOP learning.

With that said, let’s get to the good stuff! (And just so you know, this will include both training based ideas and my self-improvement)…Now we’ll begin:

1. Systems make life easier!

I’m a fan of anything that makes my life easier! I’ve been working on developing a system around my training philosophy as that will make training results much more predictable. As well I will be able to see any changes in results after I make a change to the system, thereby allowing me to analyze whether the “experiment” worked or didn’t. Also in business: I do have the entrepreneurial spirit even though I didn’t take a business course until my second year of university. Since then, reading and listening to people who run successful gyms, I’ve realized they all want to use systems! Its the same as the rationale for a training system — it tells you what works, what doesn’t, and how your changes affected the business. Also systems = organization, which I now see the value of crystal clear!

2. Death of squatting? Welllllll, maybe…

Coach Mike Boyle brought up a great point in his death of squatting video (part of his Functional Strength Coach 3.0 product. I guess I’ve always agreed with a lot of what Mike says because a) he backs up his ideas with good rationales and b) I’ve had back pain and other injuries from training and my baseball days. Anyways, the point being all squats aren’t bad. There’s a difference between bodyweight squats and heavy squats.

3. Think Critically!

This year I started using this skill which I think I started learning in university but wasn’t a regular at applying it in those days. Regardless of what anyone says, they have their own population of clients who naturally aren’t the exact same as mine, so I may like their idea but that doesn’t mean its going to work out for me and my clients. I need to think about my clients and our situation because the good idea may not be feasible at all, or it may be feasible after being changed to suit my clients.

To expand on this further Coach Boyle has a quote in the front of his 2nd ebook that says “Don’t believe everything you read”. Until this year I just took this as a word from the wise, but it didn’t mean anything to me. This summer for whatever reason, something clicked and I began to understand the difference. It has made my continuing education since then much more valuable and much more challenging. Go figure!!

4. Have a training philosophy

Since I became a personal trainer I wondered how long it would take me to do this. Unfortunately I found out that the training philosophy fairy doesn’t hand these out automatically once you get a personal training certification or after a summer or two of interning/working. Finally this year I have really started to see my own philosophy develop as my ability to critically think has improved. Concidence?? I’m going to wager a “probably not”.

5.  I’d coach for free!

Its unfortunate because the way I became even more passionate about coaching was based on some unfortunate events this year. However as a result, I was able to make great strides as a coach and in my interpersonal skills, which meant that my clients have received a higher level of service from me. It was a tough way to learn this lesson, but I don’t think it would’ve happened as quickly any other way.

6. You don’t need much equipment for a good training program

Just like the heading says. A coach with good creativity can get the most out of limited equipment — this is something that unfortunately isn’t taught in personal training certification courses. In my opinion the best two pieces of equipment are dumbbells and space.  One’s training philosophy will dictate the importance of different pieces of equipment as well. The ones at the top of the list would be ones that would serve mutliple needs in the program.

7. Networking

I’m definitely not going to rehash the networking post from December, because it was one of the longer ones I’ve written on this blog. It was that big of a realization for me though; that I had a crappy approach to networking at the start of the year, and my network reflected that. It only took me 3/4 of the year to learn the proper approach to networking, but it could always have been worse.

8. What’s basic to me probably isn’t basic enough

I touched on this with my split squats post which was fueled by my foray into personal training towards the end of the year. I always thought anyone could start with split squats because they are a basic single leg exercise requiring less motor control than single leg squats or deadlifts. What I realized is that about half of my personal training clients couldn’t do a proper one even towards the end of the first phase. So whats more basic than a split squat? Bilateral squats/deadlifts baby! That’s right, for these beginners double-leg exercises will be easier to learn and evoke a strength increase through a full range of motion. Also by the second phase, I will have been able to also start working on flexibility (ie. the hips as most people’s are horrendously tight) sufficiently giving people a much better chance of mastering the exercise more quckly.

9. I’m already using multi-planar training — A Lot!!

This was an Ah-Ha moment after watching Coach Boyle’s FSC 3 dvd’s. I fell into the trap of thinking that multi-planar training meant performing exercises in different planes of motion, for example doing both forward and lateral sideways) lunges. What I realized was that multi-planar training can involve movement in a single plane while counteracting forces in other planes. An example: 1-arm DB Row. Your arm and back muscles are moving the weight in a forward-forward direction, while you core muscles to prevent rotation.

10. My 3 week rule of exercise technique

Good enough form isn’t good enough, plain and simple. That said, I do not give every nuance of proper technique the first session because information overload results, nor do I expect perfect technique right away; learning simply takes time. On the other hand, if perfect form isn’t nailed down after 3 weeks, I’ve got some re-evaluating to do! What cues did I use? Did I use too many cues/not enough? Did I provide a poor visual demonstration? Were any of my cues unclear and/or contradictory? OR back to the split squat idea from above: is there an issue with the exercise progression?

You may be wondering though, “Why 3 weeks?”

Logistics, my dear Watson! I prefer 3 week training phases, so in week 4 I’m either switching to a more advanced progression or to another movement variation.

So there’s the ten, which is by no means an exhaustive list of everything I learned. More so these had the biggest impact on my continuing development as a coach this year. 2010 is a week in already and will continue to prove to be exciting and filled with opportunities. May your 2010 be the same!

CB

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One Response to “10 Things I Learned in 2009 (aka YAYYYY I finally get to write one of these!!!!)”


  1. Awesome blog! I’m a Toronto personal Trainer, and I completely agree with your outlook on fitness, cardio, and lifestyle topics.

    Sebastien Rahman
    Personal Trainer Toronto


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