Monthly Archives: March 2017

Training Partners

Following the release of my blog entitled “80/20”  I received a very long-winded, and at times very confusing comment.  The person literally seemed to have a question for nearly every line in the blog and it took awhile to tease out the questions from the comments.

You can read the original blog here: https://mytrainerchris.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/8020/

Despite the ramblings and venom, there was one question that stood out to me,

“I read that you “cut ties” with those that will never meet your standards. Isn’t that like saying I only want to be around the best?”

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It’s been said we’re a combination of the five people we spend the most time with. If this is true, why would I not want to be solely around top performers? I want to be around others that are moving forward and smarter than I am. I don’t have the time or energy for those going nowhere.

High performers in any profession like being around other high performers, or at a minimum, those demonstrating the potential to BE high-performers. Both are energizing, low performers are an energy drain.

I take no pleasure in cutting ties, but feel no remorse over it either. Depending on how one chooses to see things, it took either a lot of effort, or none at all.

“It took a lot” I’m a relatively patient person, but I’m a believer in actions over words. Whatever your starting point is I’m simply looking at the fact that you’re at least attempting to move upwards.

“It took nothing”  meant that you are going nowhere despite having the resources to do so.

I take the same view of training partners as I do with basic team-building.  Success does not hinge on me along, but on the backs,shoulders,brains and hearts of those that I surround myself with. The key is bring together people with inherent value to what is set out to be accomplished.  It is important that they have a strong work ethic,sound morals/values, and a passion for excelling. Investing in your training partners to help them grow benefits all.

If you have dreams of being the best, you need to learn from the best. You need to be in a gym, with some around your level, but others far more accomplished and advanced.  Eventually you may need to move on to someplace with even higher level people.

SIDENOTE: The lower levels of the 80% never leave the 80%.  What they did a year ago, or two years ago is the same thing they’re doing now.  Imagine if the wheel was never refined since the day it was invented.

You’ll find people that can truly help you and raise your game faster than you could have on your own. Hopefully, you’ll learn how to avoid the common injuries,problems and issues that invariably come up as they’ve experienced them.

In the gym these are the benefits of having good training partners, and I don’t have need of bad training partners.

Bad Training partners have gotten me injured. 

Bad Training partners have stalled my progress.

Bad Training partners have stolen my energy.

Bad Training partners have wasted my one irreplaceable thing, my time.  I can recover from injuries, regain my progress and renew my energy. Time is something I’m never getting back.

In the presence of trainer partners that, for lack of better words, outclass you, there will be times you find yourself feeling challenged. That you can’t keep up physically or intellectually with the rest. You’ll feel like everyone knows the answers to questions that  you never considered, or present solid information that completely contradicts something you believed in.  This isn’t entirely a negative thing, personally, I would take it as a sign that you’re learning.

You have the opportunity to adapt yourself to your environment. Your mind will tell you that you are inferior to your environment, and that you should feel bad. You can take that path or you can invest the time and energy to become more aware and focused. Discipline and knowing your current limits is key.  Resist the urge to pretend you know things that you don’t and accept the fact there is always someone around that knows or can do thing far bigger things than you do. Try to learn from them.

 

 

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90%

The first training programs I ever wrote was when I was 15yrs old working as an assistant Karate teacher in exchange for free monthly tuition.  I wrote drills and particular exercises to be included in the class and in some cases had people doing bodyweight exercises I’d found in Martial Art books (yes, I still own a decent sized of collection of Martial Art books as well.)

My assignment was to help improve competitors performance in fighting and forms divisions at state, regional and national level competition.  This meant carefully watching them in practice and competition, including in fresh and fatigued states against various opponents (bigger/smaller, aggressive,defensive,countering/opportunistic types, those that favored kicking/punching etc) and in performance multiple forms.

Although I didn’t know it, or at least couldn’t express it, training was athlete defined.  Whatever I did had to translate to improved and measurable athletic performance.

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I couldn’t simply tell the Head Teacher that students were “getting better.”  He needed proof, and competition is the proving ground. In hindsight, I’m positive he knew how things were progressing all along, but as far as 15 year old me was concerned,it was either medals around necks or my body hitting the floor.

Despite my relatively young age I already had 10 years training experience and 5 years competitive history up the international level. I didn’t know I was being put in a developmental position and didn’t recognize the fact that I was the only instructor below the age of 20 until it was pointed out to me. I honestly didn’t want to let the team down, and put my heart into things.

I held my position as an assistant up until I left for the military.

Two years after joining the military I was assigned as a motivator to help others get in better shape.  With advancement in rank this later progressed to a command level position and helping people reach tactical levels of fitness, including preparation for highly demanding and selective programs such as Crash and Salvage, Fire Fighting and Special Operations Candidate testing. I was also fortunate to be employed as a part time Karate instructor during my off-hours and continued training competitors, and interestingly enough became a person that taught the instructors class.  The highlights being an instructor while living in Hawaii and Japan.

All that experience pre-dated my becoming a Personal Trainer.

In 2012 the game changed. I retired from the military and no longer trained exclusively competitive athletes, instructors and alpha-personality youngsters. I now had people coming from zero fitness levels, people with orthopedic/medical issues and some that just wanted to move around and get sweaty.

Everything up to 2012 had a purpose, and we didn’t do things just to them.  I still stand by that no matter who walks in the door, and I always have the ability to say “No” to a client.

SIDENOTE:  For trainers just entering the field, recognize when the time to say “No” is needed.  Too many trainers are afraid to refer out.  Referring out doesn’t make you a bad trainer, if anything it makes you a better professional.

Over the course of the next few months I would over-analyze program design. In my mind it had to be 100% on-point. To create otherwise would be a failure on my part.  It was as if I was designing tactical warfare plans or preparing athletes for International level competition.

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Life became easier when I accepted a few things.    

Being able to accept 90%.  “Passes Muster” is what we are looking for. To reach 90% I believe the following must happen;  Having the ability to explain, and prove where the client was and they presently stand.  Being able to state in simple words why things are being done the way they are and having a logical and realistic plan in place per the individuals current ability.

Especially if you can explain,prove and defend those actions to a coach far smarter and experienced than yourself. 

SIDENOTE:  I’ve recently come to believe two things scare personal trainers.  (1) Being asked to demonstrate techniques under challenging loads in front of others that also know the technique and  (2) Having to explain and defend their programming and exercise choices to other trainers.  Why the fear? If I were to speculate, it is because both can expose weakness.

Everyone is brave and feels competent compared to someone with no experience in the matter.  I can assure you, if you are a coach or trainer, you are a leader.  Since you’re a leader, then EVERYONE is watching what you do, and you never know who is watching.

Every week this point is proved to me. I’m also watched and heavily judged when training with my gym Bro’s, most of whom are state or higher level qualified lifters.

Tips to help reach that 90%….

Know the progressions and regressions per fundamental movement. The basics have stood the test of time for a reason and achieving skill in the basics will only serve as a benefit.

Use the tools that you have available,and know how to use them optimally.  Remember that a saw makes a terrible hammer. (Yes, I know you could use a small axe, but its not as precise as one and somewhat limited with the other.)

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One of these Acromion Types might not like putting loads overhead.

There are positions that individuals can tolerate loading, and positions they can’t. Pick the former.

Reps/Sets/Density and relative intensity. Wield the variables sensibly.

There are infinite number of exercises, but training principles are few. Rather than trying to amass a million first, try mastering the principles first. Once you have a strong grasp of the principles, exercises start becoming easier to learn.  (and yes, YOU STILL NEED TO PUT IN THE WORK LEARNING THEM.)

Opinions and personal philosophies change over time. In the words of Mike Boyle, I make no apologies for changing my opinion in light of new education.

Applied personal practice (AKA DO THE WORK) along with education helps shape you. Oddly, there are trainers that don’t even train themselves, or occasionally hire their own trainer.

No singular textbook is perfect. Read broadly, and don’t be afraid to question things. In my opinion, too many trainers never read.

For a large chunk of the population, programs need not be overly complex. Simple is good, and simple is sustainable.

Cost of being a Professional Coach

“Why are you so expensive?  I have a friend that said they’ll train me for (Low Low Price)”

“I can’t pay you, but I will give you Biggest Loser level commitment and full benefits of advertising my results”

I’m sure you’ve heard similar.You might have even said something similar yourself.

I don’t discount or offer deals. I will not negotiate, and I’m certainly not out to be the lowest priced/quality trainer in town.

My clients will tell you that I provide an exceptional amount of information and service, that I have been known to rent equipment to them cost free and prompt in answering calls or texts. Some of these calls and texts come from deployed military personnel with nobody else to ask.

For every hour (or hour+) I spend with you, an equal amount of of hour time is dedicated to you and your program.

I see a maximum of three clients per day.  I formerly taught upwards of 20 per day, and realized that working with less people made me a better coach per person.

Being Strength Coach and Educator is my Profession. My fee pays for an education addiction.  I’ve completed one course already this year,will attending another at the end of this month simply for the opportunity to learn from a legendary strength coach.

A chunk of my earnings are reinvested back into specialized equipment. I’ve even bought equipment for one specific client, while rarely asking clients to buy equipment for their home use.

I help people move better, get stronger and live life.  I want to believe I make a difference.

If you feel my price is too high, then it is.  There will always be a lower-cost option out there, and typically many will fight tooth and nail in a race to the bottom.

You get what you pay for, or, You get what you given for the price you paid.

Caveat Emptor: As of this writing, a personal trainer certification IS NOT required to train another person within the United States. Literally anyone can call themselves a personal trainer or any other fancy title. The person you’ve hired to train you may not have even a minimum level of knowledge of how the human body works, and will take that lack of information and apply stress to it.

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Cost of an entry level personal trainer certification earned from a legitimate organization*: $300-$700 average. There are numerous certifications available online that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.  If the trainer has a degree in Exercise Science or related field their investment, and subsequent student debt, is in or near the five digit range.

Cost of remaining a personal trainer: $100-$1k+ every recertification period. A specified amount of continuing education must be completed every 1-4 years (varies per agency,2 years being the most common) to maintain a certified personal trainer status.

Employment Realities: Commercial gyms have been known to hire people without any formal education. This includes some of the high-end places and not just the high-volume/low price gyms. The ability to sell personal training is valued over skill or education. It is entirely reasonable, and unfortunately common, that a talented or promising trainer with zero sales skills will be passed over for a trainer with sales skill and zero ability to train others.

Specialization. Specialization is considered optional and not all trainers pursue specialization. Costs range broadly from $250-$1k+ each. Some require out of state travel and proof of both physical competency and teaching skill. There are others taken completely online. A number of specializations require a re-certification to maintain them, as information and teaching continually improve. Some trainers hold multiple specializations and other upgrade their specializations as able.  For example, since I’ve obtained my first specialization related to corrective exercise/mobility (in 2013) I’ve already completed more advanced coursework and have another course set for the end of the year.  This is in addition to an uncountable number of hours spent reading about mobility and any tips and advice and given by colleagues with far greater knowledge in the area than I have.

Told you I have an education addition.

Sidebar: If your trainer states a specialization in an area or with particular tools, ask for proof.

Liability Insurance: For Independent contractors this is a $200 average every two years for a standard $1 million policy. Commercial trainers can be covered by their employer, but I urge all commercial trainers to review what their coverage thoroughly.

Other costs…Books, professional journals,equipment,membership sites and tons of little things add up. $0-several thousand per year. Some trainers (even certified ones) don’t read or attend workshops and will only pursue their continuing education when re-certification. looms near.

Lab Coat Talk

“I use a very special exercise technique that:

– incorporates the lateral fascial line with the arm fascial line.
– is highly functional because it not only replicates a common movement everyone does in their daily activities, but also because it involves the lateral oblique subsystem.
– Due to the positioning of the load in this exercise along with the movement pattern involved, the core muscular is forced to activate to create spinal stability through stiffness, and the shoulder is given a small distraction force, which the CNS has to offset by creating joint centration and compression for enhanced shoulder stability.

^ The exercise I just described is a single-arm biceps curl. This ends today’s lesson in how the use of cool industry jargon and sciencey sounding words can be used to “rebrand” basic exercises, add unnecessary complication to simple applications, and therefore make the person who’s communicating in this manner appear to be offering more than they really have provided.”
Nick Tumminello.

I’ve overheard, (and read) similar words from trainers, especially during the rise of the functional training bandwagon and later from Internet Fitness Gurus. Literally, these people sound like they swallowed a Latin Dictionary, a Big Word of the Day calendar and a Physical Therapy student textbook along with committing all the impressive sounding words from the Anatomy Trains text to memory.

The problem? Hardly anyone can understand them. Not your typical client, not a decent percent of trainers (which includes me)and sometimes not even the person making the comment.

Realistically, does a long-winded and overly technical description serve the client/athlete, or yourself?  I would argue, these people are simply trying to sound impressive, and things become interesting when they get called out.

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Never bring anecdotes to a science fight, and don’t assume everyone knows less than you do.

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I’ve manage to catch a few amateur Doctors /Internet Gurus/Local loudmouths off-guard by asking them to simplify their description. It has only been a few since they usually avoid the question entirely or tell me that I’m too limited to understand. They never asked about my background in the subject matter.

At present I have three clients with knowledge of anatomy and physiology. (1) A licensed massage therapist (2) a Military Medic and (3) another Personal Trainer. I also do some advisory work for highly qualified lifters. Even with their education and experience, I typically cue and explain things in the simplest of terms. I’m currently trying to simply instruction even more.  Lab Coat talk is Plan C.

 

 

 

Shape

“One’s shape is a destination. One’s shape is a divine experience of motion. One’s shape is a tool of expression.”

Secret Invasion #1, Marvel Comics (2008)

I’ve found myself using the word “shape” lately when explaining exercises. I cannot say if this is a natural evolution of my coaching or simply a word I’ve put to use.

I believe that in order to do something well, one must know as much as possible about it. In training, this involves the science, art and practical applications of the inter-related skills. This requires a variable amount time based on the relative simplicity or sophistication of the task, previous related education and the learning curve of the coach.

tumblr_m0mktdzsk11qcu0j0o1_r1_1280This does not mean watching YouTube and considering yourself an expert on a subject. Although highly convenient YouTube is only a start. Just like reading a single book, you’ll be limited to its contents no matter how many times you’ve viewed it.

I’ve known visual-kinesthetic learners that seemed to pick up some skill based movements near effortlessly, yet struggled for years with things that seem comparatively simpler. Some shapes come easily, while others elude them. I can personally attest to this fact.

I’ve also known others that despite having the visual shape of technical mastery, would claim they are waiting for the “perfect repetition”, or in the spirit of this blog, “the divine experience of motion.”  By some accounts I have (or at least previously held) a solid looking Turkish Get Up. I believe there is always a small tweak here or there that can be micro-adjusted, and that I’m very far from what I can attain.

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An untold number of swings performed over a training lifetime.  Maybe the next one will be “that perfect swing.”

I can imagine the response if someone were to find my personal training logs.  I’ve jokingly thought that I should title them “Diaries of a Madman” as my entries are not purely exercises,sets and times.  I often jot notes during training based on what I’m feeling, what is going well, what needs work and what could be a problem. I’ve noted that my handwriting had days were legibility was an issue. I’m reasonably certain those were days where I pushed my capability limits and writing became a difficult feat. I believe this practice has helped form my shape.

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Your own shape is formed through training and it will naturally differ from mine. In both diamonds and training, it takes three particular things to shape us.

Environment, Time and Intensity

Through cutting and polishing a beautiful shape emerges, and no two diamonds are identical.