Same blog, new direction

September 9, 2010

I’ve been mulling this over for the past little while:

Do I start this blog up again, do I get a new one, does it only need a new name, new look, different url, do I need to think more about branding, do I have enough unique information to blog again…

And in thinking up how I was going to start this new direction, I ended up reaming off a reflection type piece similar to what was done before. Ironic no?

Now I may have aspects of the above things as I turn the leaf over on this bad boy, but the main difference is simply providing more thought on how I’m piecing together the training information I’m learning and how things I’m learning are leading to results for my clients.

Maybe this isn’t a huge redirection from some of my past posts, but I’m thinking of it as a new beginning just based on the fact that I’ve let this thing slide for the past year or so. So here’s to an honest effort and a fresh start!

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!


To weigh or not to weigh? Tis the question indeed

I used to think that a scale was a pretty evil piece of technology because people would obsess over a number instead of enjoy the experience or focus on the changes they were making in their lifestyle habits, but I have since become aware of other factors which lead me to reconsider my stance.


Sure this can happen, but its our job as coaches to help our clients see that a number isn’t everything. As I have learned slowly but surely, a little interpersonal skill does wonders!

Anyways here’s why my mind has changed:

1) I need objective feedback – A number tells me if a client is making progress in fat loss or muscle gain. If I’m not re-assessing, how do I know if both my program and client are on the right track? As you probably guessed, I can’t know under those circumstances; I’m just guessing. ‘Nuff said.

2) I need objective feedback OFTEN – Yes this warrants its own point. This point is based on accountability. If I weigh my client once a month, technically they can haphazardly follow my advice for the first 3 weeks then put some effort on the last week or weekend (or just fast on that last weekend) since they know weigh-in day is coming. Even if scale weight is down in this case, I haven’t done anything to ensure long term fat loss success. What this point comes down to is fighting human nature, which is such a large part of any body composition transformation goal.

3) It tells me what adjustments to make AND the magnitude of these adjustments – If the client is paying me to help him or her lose fat, is the scale going up or down since the last measurement? How much has it gone up or down?

Its not enough to know whether a client is progressing or regressing relative to their training goals, I also want to know how much they are regressing or progressing. For example, a high school athlete is trying to gain 20 pounds of muscle over an off-season, and one week I find they put on 5 pounds. Physiologically you can’t build muscle that fast, so we’re getting some added fat gain. At 5 total pounds, this would be more fat gain than I’d be happy with, especially since I don’t want this type of weight gain to become a habit. So even though the scale is moving in the desired direction with this individual, there are still adjustments that need to be made. If I’m not weighing this individual (or using some other body comp assessment), then chances are I notice they look a little bigger and think I am doing a wonderful job training him or her — the devils in the details.

Another example is a client who wants to lose fat. There’s a difference in the recommendation I would make if he or she gained 1 pound in a week versus 5 pounds.

Bottom line is that I have learned that a scale can be useful in a training program simply because I have changed my thinking about it as a tool.  I still don’t want my clients becoming fixated on a certain number, but their are other benefits to regular weigh-ins which I believe play a larger role in my system for delivering results.

Anyways enjoy your Monday, and I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday parties going on right now! Definitely a fun time of year!!


2009 Mistake #1

December 9, 2009

With it being down to the last month of 2009, I’ve started (early) with planning things for how I want to improve my career moving into next year. Strange thing has been that I’ve never really thought like this before since I’m NOT a new years resolution-type person. I think the difference has been that I have gained some perspective in many areas. And as a result of seeing where I’ve made good progress, I’ve also been able to see some of my main areas of improvement which I think should be next on my radar.

The one that really stands out is networking.

Its funny because I look back to the start of this year: In February I went to my first continuing education event, and looking back I realize just how “green behind the ears” I was there. As much as I tried, my introverted nature still managed to creep up even though I managed to make some good contacts and have some good coversations. I came back feeling like I had accomplished a little, but not as much as I wanted. Another question I has upon my return was, “Now what?” — I wasn’t geographically close to many of those I’d like to network with, so how I could I prove to them that they should let me in on their inner circle? (hint = foreshadowing)

Needless to say I quickly got discouraged because my efforts weren’t working, and this discouragement lasted until probably 3 or 4 weeks ago — just shortly after I began my new job where I was virtually out on my own. Since that light switch went on in my brain, I’ve been motivated to make progress in this area in the next year — but the “I-want-everything-now” generation member that I am felt like why shouldn’t I just get a head start on 2010 in late 2009, so here I am. Here’s the thing though: I’ve stopped looking at networking as I have to prove myself to leapfrog over someone else to be worthy of networking with others. (Yes, this statement reaks of past insecurities, self-esteem-type issues). What else is strange to me is that I didn’t have to consciously change my mindset when I started realizing this; it just sort of happened naturally.

From many professionals I’ve heard of the abundance vs scarcity mindset, and what I realized was in the past I had a scarcity mindset when it came to networking: If I network with someone, that means someone else can’t be in their network. Or: I have to prove I’m smarter than someone they already know, to start getting into that person’s network. What it was was me putting myself before everything else and thinking that someone had to lose for me to “win” — no wonder it didn’t work, I think I sound like a jerk while writing this!! Of course, I’m very happy that I have seen the error of my ways and have been surprised with the little effort it took to adopt an abundance mindset instead.

Since I’ve changed my viewpoint, I have really enjoyed the process of starting to get to know people in my field. Even though its over the internet, I consider it a start — I’m no longer trying to hit that networking home run the first time I contact someone. Also, my approach is now focused on the other person. So instead of trying to sound as smart as I possibly can in the hopes of scoring enough brownie-points, my efforts have been about trying to add some benefit to the person I’m contacting: whether it is appreciating a job they did or how something they wrote helped me re-think a part of my program, etc. At the end of the day I now have something that is allowing me to enjoy this process rather than be overwhelmed by it. Though I wish I could’ve realized this even earlier in my career, I am happy that I’ve come to this realization now rather than later as it has given me one more challenge and one more thing to look forward to in the coming year!! CB

Yesterday was just one of those days…

5:20am getting on the road for a 6am training sessions = flat tire

10:30am appointment at car dealership to change said flat tire…might as well get that oil change I’ve been holding off on too

3:30pm get out of car dealership as 2 tires are finally changed

This goes without saying, but who doesn’t love sitting around for five hours??!! I was ready to pull that tv out of the wall!! (There’s only so much CBC Newsworld I can take, and apparently I found my limit = 3 hrs MAX)

Anyways this blog is really about things I’m learning during the early stages of my career, so I might as well pass on some things that I chose to look at as opportunities during yesterday’s festivities:

1. There ain’t no rest for the wicked! — Probably some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in a song from 2009. Yes I have a new job, yes I’m working on starting my first business, but am I doing enough? Probably not. I could stand to get more out of these endeavours if I put even more into them. Which goes into problem #1: Its easy to be motivated when you’re feeling an intense emotion (yesterday’s = somehwat pissed off). Its a different thing to keep that motivation when the emotion has subsided. Last night I had an excellent trainign session with a couple of my clients, and naturally I felt good and happy afterwards. I had to keep reminding myself to stay motivated and not lot my better mood push me back to resting on my laurels.

2. Another example of customer service. At the dealership there were moments of good customer service and there were times of poor customer service (which in my opinion outweighed the good). Point being, everything’s a lesson. Do I want my clients ever feeling like I felt during the times that I received poor customer service? Obviously the answer is no.

3. Don’t stress the things out of your control. Did getting the flat tire bother me? Honestly no. Shit happens every now and again. As my car was getting fixed this became more difficult though as my time at the dealership was the epitome of unproductive  — nevertheless how quickly the car got fixed wasn’t in my control no matter how frustrating it got.

Have a great day!


Show and Do

December 3, 2009

This was one of the nuggets of gold dropped on the forums! I know I’ve written about keep excerise coaching simple, but I was still talking to much! Mike Boyle is the one that enlightened me (and many of the young strengthcoach members) with this idea.

He said that most people get bored and/or confused if you explain — besides most are visual learners anyways! Common sense after he says it of course!

The gist is that a good demonstration will work very well — at least better than words. I’ve been focusing on making my explanations as simple and minimal as possible since last summer, but like I always say: I love simple! (as long as its effective). And this idea of “show and do” is just more simple and based on some notable coaches’ feedback, more effective than my previous approach. In the week since I learned this, I’ve been trying it out with my clients and so far I’m a believer! There appeared to be fewer looks of confusion and less frustration from the clients resulting from misunderstanding or not comprehending the explanation.

Have a great weekend everyone!!


The Human side of training

December 1, 2009

On the weekend, I met up with my friend and mentor Pat, who I haven’t had the privilege to converse with on a daily basis since I left SST 6 weeks ago. We chatted for quite a while (which usually happens anyways), and our conversation eventually went to training. And it started getting pretty philosophical — which ended being a great benefit to both of us as we were both able to gain some insight from our unique perspectives.

One thing we talked about was getting results in clients — be they the young athletes or the soccer moms we worked with at SST or the personal training clients I have now. And we agreed that there are basically two general aspects to getting results. There’s the technical side — referring to the training program which is designed for a specific result. On the other hand, there’s the human side. This refers to that old saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. The best results we have seen in our careers have been in people who not only show up to do the program, but also have that experience where things just click. Where a person switches from a sort of faux motivation to a genuine real motivation to succeed. The thing is this happens at different times for everyone.

Of course this is something that can’t be found in a textbook either — its all learned through experience, so as a young coach in the field, it is an area where I stand to improve extensively as I continue to coach.

Anyways thats just a tidbit from our conversation, but its one of those Ah-ha moments because results aren’t just about the exercises, sets, and reps written down on a piece of paper.

With all that said, its December and getting colder, which can only mean one thing: SPRING TRAINING BASEBALL IS GETTING CLOSER!!!!!!!!!! (this is actually how I used to think between ages 11-18…scary…)