Approachable / Unapproachable

“Trainers carrying extra weight on them are seen as being more approachable.”

I can’t get behind that line of thinking.  If anything, it sounds like an excuse made by a trainer that happens to be carrying extra weight. Are muscular, athletic or even undersized people naturally considered less approachable than others? I personally don’t believe a person can be equally approachable or unapproachable in the eyes of everyone. Mind you, I’m not a guy that has any issues or bias against overweight or undersized trainers in the first place.  I just hate the idiot trainers.

Approachable:Friendly or easy to talk to.

Unapproachable:Not Welcoming or Friendly.

Neither word is associated with a particular body shape,gender,nationality or age. People form their own opinions on your approachability (or lack thereof) based on any number of factors.

While first impressions matter, so does ones actions and actual abilities.  As I’ve stated before, a persons exterior has no bearing on their ability to do a job well.

The trainers “carrying the extra weight” love hearing, and repeating things like that …along with mentioning the high number of football coaches with guts on them. What they forget is that carrying extra weight doesn’t necessarily mean that your excellent in actual coaching or motivation, or that looking like someone that has put in the work at the gym doesn’t automatically mean they’re a bad trainer either.

In a profession dominated by a lot younger faces, I’m a 47 year old guy who’s just shy of 175 pounds at 5’7″(ish.) Up until I decided to grow a half-white beard I was told I looked much younger and I’m undeniably not a huge guy by most standards. I also happen to be self-employed as a private strength coach, and a number of people contact me for suggestions on programming, strength development,dealing with training problems and for professional advice. I help people, both in the gym and within the profession.

As a Strength Coach, I generally help clients train for strength,size, improved mobility or sport performance. Based on my own job description, it could be argued that my rather average looking physical appearance could render me unapproachable to those looking for a Coach that specializes in the areas that I do.

What  could a 5’7’ medium build older guy really know about strength, or how to train heavyweight lifters? Seeing the results of their work across a variety of individuals is a decent indicator.

“Weak”, “Lazy” “Unathletic” or “Ineffective” are not words I hear attached to my name. If they were it certainly wouldn’t have helped me gain any business or kept me in the good graces of the gyms superior lifters. The fact that I’m routinely seen lifting and training strong people along with being a strength sport competitor certainly hasn’t hurt.

My actions and actual abilities helped determine whether or not I am viewed as approachable, or at least viewed as approachable to the segments of the population with whom I want to view me as such.

I’m perfectly cool if some people consider me unapproachable.

Using my own 80/20 rule (where I stated that 1-2 out of every 10 trainers was actually good) then each side would have trainers of every shape. The 20% has within it trainers that look very average, some that are overweight/undersized and some that present very impressive physiques. It is their abilities as a coach and dedication as students of the craft that define them.  They are always getting slightly better than before.

The lower ends of the 80% reached a comfortable plateau and have decided to stay there, they may or may not be carrying extra weight.

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“Think about it, if you read only one book, no matter how many times you read it you will only learn so much.” Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell

Sometime ago a young trainer asked veteran coaches for a list of books they considered to be “the bibles of our field.”  It was late and my eyes saw the word “bubbles.”  According to one person who identified himself as a twelve year veteran the bubbles of our field were…

Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training and Essentials of Sports Performance Training.

Fitness professionals may notice the trend, but for those who are not fitness professionals I will inform you that all three books are from the same credentialing agency.

Sidenote: The early editions of the Personal Fitness Training textbook contained a lot of the material found in the present day Corrective Exercise and Sports Performance texts. They were later separated into three courses. 

Unfortunately, these seem to be the only three books this trainer goes by, or at least considers worthy of mentioning. Once again, not bad choices and he could certainly pick worse. But it is a bad thing if they’re the only three books he has read.  You wind up living within a relatively small academic bubble.

There are positive and negative factors at play here. The information presented was meant to mesh together and work along a continuum, but you’re getting a very limited view of things. I speak with a level credibility here as I’ve completed all three courses. I also happen to read daily, and usually read more than one book at a time.

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The fitness world is a much bigger place than the contents of any three books and no singular textbook is perfect. No singular certification has all the answers and no trainer knows it all.

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One of two book stacks I own.  The other stack is composed of my top 30 reference texts and I also own a considerable amount of E-books and some DVD’s as well.  Had I never given away books to others, I imagine the stack would be nearly double this size. I’m told its not considering hoarding as long as it involves books.

Firestarters

Questions I ask myself at 3 a.m, or one that you can ask yourself…

“Can you provide a verifiable list of four personal trainers/strength coaches whose lives you have positively influenced? Someone from whom you’ve ignited a fire?”

If the answer is “Yes, I have their numbers/contact information on my phone” (or some other form of contact) then I would say you’ve moved beyond being a fitness professional, and now join the ranks of fitness influencers.  Whether or not you agree with me, you are no longer just a “Normal Trainer” and you are influencing the next generation of fitness professionals. This carries a set of responsibilities.

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While it may seem that being a “Normal Trainer” is a good thing, I ask that you reconsider the term “Normal”, or at least consider the fact that “Abnormal” isn’t necessarily a negative and that “Normal” in the fitness profession isn’t always a positive.

Would you rather be the trainer that improves year by year, or the one that remains in exactly the same spot year after year? The latter is fairly normal.

My eye-opener towards re-defining normal came from working in a commercial gym and later as a private coach.  What passed for “Normal” among the majority of my co-workers or competitors was something I knew I could be better than, and falling to that level would be unacceptable. My clients and athletes deserve the best from me, and I hope to influence newer trainers to be the coach I wish I HAD.

 

O.P.P

Friend: “Bro, is that your training log?”

Me: “Yeah”

Friend: “Can I see your workouts, I need some training ideas.”

Translation: Somebody wants free stuff.

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Had I let my friend look through my training log without offering any explanations one of several things could have happened:  (1) He would have copied things down perfectly, and not gained the results he was seeking.  (2) He would have modified what he saw, and may or may not have gotten the results he was seeking. (3) He would have injured himself by picking a program well beyond his ability or (4) He would have come away thinking he was reading the entries of a madman.  

Fact: What I do at any given time could be someones warm up or a trip to the hospital for another.

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I suppose I should be slightly flattered that a person would be interested in the programming I’m running on myself. This request however turned into a rather lengthy conversation on O.P,P. (other peoples programs). (Just like most of the times when I’m asked to tweak someones technique.)

Basically, I showed that my programming changes to reflect the goal(s) at the time, and that each features things unique to my needs.  For example, I had a weak spot off my chest in the Bench Press.  My programming during that period was designed to improve my strength in that range, and the %’s were based on a competition maximum ( the heaviest I’ve lifted in a contest.) Furthermore, all the accessory exercises were designed to bring up muscle groups that were comparatively lagging and help drive the bench press off the chest.

This was a program designed for a singular person (me), with my relative strengths and weaknesses, my injury history, physical leverages, personality and tolerances.

My friend has no competition history, completely different leverages and technical skill and a totally different injury history.  His weak spot is currently opposite mine, and would benefit from a different approach.

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Out of personal curiosity I randomly picked four pages out of my log just to see what could have happened.  I can favorably wager my friend would have injured himself if he attempted to copy some of my work.  The “Hyde sections” intensity levels are beyond his ability to recover, and while the “Jekyll sections” generally feature things he can do, they are not ideal for his needs and still feature things he cannot physically perform or recover from.

What about the workouts you find in the popular fitness magazines and online?

I’ll start by saying that they’re not all bad. I’ll further state that even in generic programming some authors know what they’re doing far more than others. Your odds of randomly landing on a program that is perfect for you and your goals based on your current physical standing is astronomically low

Believe me when I say I’ve seen some really bad stuff online and in print, and this is coming from a guy that has sat through the Fantastic Four Re-boot (at least I didn’t pay for it.)

The person (insert famous bodybuilder/fitness model/celebrity) demonstrating the workout may never have done it at all. Even if they did do it, and even if it happened to work for them doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Consider the audience and goal for which the program was written. In some magazine cases, the programs were written for bodybuilders by other bodybuilders, or powerlifters for other powerlifters.  Not for the sedentary 46 year old office worker that wants to lose his love handles and reduce his man-boobs.

You’ll also find generic collections of exercises put together without thought or nuance which follows a number of bootcamp and GroupEx models.  The workouts may be perfect for 1-2 out of every 10 people, and sub-optimal or possibly dangerous for the rest.

FACT: If the article features small dumbbell curls while standing on a BOSU ball then you’ve picked up the wrong magazine or are on the wrong website. The model may look great, but I doubt they got their physique from that exercise, or that it even contributed to a degree, they did however get better at juggling.  

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.

 

 

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.