If It Was Supposed To Be Easy, It Would Be Easy

Winters in Ontario can be brutal. It isn’t so much the cold and the snow that grinds you down, it’s the variability that gets you begging for spring. This winter has been no exception. It snows, there is a deep freeze and then everything melts. Just as you start to believe that it might be over, the temperature drops, the sky opens up and there’s another foot of snow to shovel.

In the second week of January there was a spring-like thaw that cleared everything up just in time for winter to return and overcompensate for its absence by causing a big drop in temperature that lasted for a few days before returning back to being just unreasonably cold – a day time high of minus fifteen and a overnight low of minus twenty-five; these are Celsius degrees which made it slightly warmer than Fahrenheit, although “less brutally cold” is probably a more accurate way to state it. If you were a plumber you call it “earnings season” as pipes freeze and burst.

This is what happened at Heather’s cottage. When we arrived on Friday evening and turned on the water pump it started raining behind the shower wall. All at once a bunch of things float through our minds. The first is to turn off the water and assess the damage and magnitude of the problem. It turned out to be only a single pipe, which was good. And it was in one of the pipes that sent water to a small half bathroom – the kitchen and main bathroom with the shower were fine. But with no way to turn off the water flow to the impacted pipe we were going to need to get a plumber in to fix it or close it off. There was no water damage, at least not anywhere that mattered – the cottage was built over sand and the pump had been off, so the water that was in the pipes had leaked out, down and into the sand.

The second consideration was about what we would do right now. We were without running water, so no showering or flushing the toilet, but the gas and electricity were still working. There was plenty of drinking water because we bring it with us, and more than enough food. I figured it made more sense to stay than to go home because we were already there and it’s easy enough to fill-up the water tank to flush the toilet. Heather agreed, so we made dinner, watched TV and went to bed as if everything was fine.

We talked it over the following morning and decided to stay for the rest of the weekend. We made a quick trip into town to get more water to make sure we didn’t run out and the rest of the weekend was more or less normal.

The final consideration was on how to deal with the burst pipe. We didn’t need it fixed right away because we had water, so we were good with saving the ton of money a weekend emergency plumber would charge. The question then became “when would we get it fixed?” Heather had been planning of replacing all of the piping anyway because it is old, copper and was run against the outside walls; the pipe bursting wasn’t entirely unexpected. It had been in the realm of possibility and while it made for a crappy couple of hours digging through the snow to get access to the basement to assess the damage, the work was going to be getting done soon anyway. If anything, the deep freeze just moved the start date forward by three to six months.

And this marked the beginning of one of those “firsts” moments that couples have in their relationship. This was the first time we would be dealing with a home repair that wasn’t part of a well planned schedule with a clear start and end date. Together we would need to figure this out, kind of on the fly, and with people who were on the phone – either the plumber or Heather.

Every relationship has the potential for a bunch of these firsts; although many relationships end after the initial one. The reason they are relationship killers is because they bring to the surface who a person really is. There isn’t enough time to put on whatever mask you have been wearing because the problem needs to be addressed. A sense of urgency is remarkably unveiling. And lets be honest here, most people are kind of messy from a psychological point of view. It is not that we are awful or bad, it’s that we are just people. We’re animals that learn, remember, and talk. Sometimes we listen, but we only really hear from a position made possible from our life experience. This means that the people who understand us the best are our immediate family. It also means that we understand our romantic partners from our own perspective and NOT from a position of actually understanding who and what they are, or from actually understanding their motivations for doing things. Worse still is that we usually have no idea why we ourselves do anything.

Think about that for a second. There Heather and I were with a problem to solve. There are consequences to every possible solution and many of the solutions are mutually exclusive. Since I work from home, I will be meeting with the plumber while she is at work. BUT Heather has greater vision in terms of what she wants done with the cottage in the future so, therefore, how the plumbing should be fixed and how it might get rerouted.

Individually and in isolation the solution is both simple and obvious. And this is the exact opposite of how relationships work. I want the pipes located away from the outside walls so they never freeze again. Heather wants this too, but she also wants the kitchen updated so the sink will be moving six feet to the left of where it is now. Plus there will need to be a water filter for drinking water and eventually a dishwasher and possibly a washer and drier because they will increase the resale value.

We are very different people. There is nothing wrong with this at all, I think it makes for a better relationship because she is many of the things that I am not, and vice-versa, but crisis situations are moments when there isn’t enough time to put on the mask of understanding. While she can appreciate the practicality of my vision – it’ll get things back to what they were before and dramatically decrease the possibility of another plumbing issue for the next fifteen years or so – it is completely lacking in the enhanced usefulness or aesthetics actualized by her solution. But the increased choices and possibilities created by her solution do not spontaneously enter into my mind. The kitchen is fine, I do the dishes and the only time we are there for long enough to possibly need to do laundry is in the summer when we’re at the beach most of the time, which means we aren’t wearing a lot of clothes.

My life experience is shaping how I see things as her life experience is shaping how she sees things. And in crisis moments we are not capable of seeing this, or that there is a different way to look at things. All I know is all there is, and all she knows is all there is. Except there’s at least one other way of viewing things that is critically important in that moment.

During one of the conversations about what the plumber had suggested, it became crystal clear to me that nothing was crystal clear to me. When I asked Heather what she wanted, and she told me, I was left kind of gobsmacked. All at once everything made sense to the two of us. She realized that I had been solving a different problem and I realized that I had been trying to solve the wrong problem.

We wondered out loud why the whole thing was going down the way it was and we tracked in on what seems like a decent enough answer. It isn’t that life is hard, although it is, it’s that relationships are not easy. If it was supposed to be easy, it would be easy. It isn’t just the relationship that Heather and I share that is not easy, it is almost every relationship that has ever or will ever exist, with most of them being deemed too difficult to even continue.

We are fortunate to be self-aware enough to notice when there is more friction than normal and to be curious about the reasons why. Neither one of us make the other person wrong and we reach the point of accepting that we are just different. This process is transformative and it gets us to the end of the situation quickly while sustaining the middle of our relationship.

The best part about all of these “firsts” is that by getting to the end of them they just evaporate. They never come-up again as “seconds” because of what we learned from the initial experience. We just get along better and live with a little more ease.

When You Train Is Who You Are

In Choosing A Fitness Club – Post Revisited I covered some of the considerations a person might have when making a decision on what gym to join. There was a section in which I made reference to the five distinct types of people and how they tend to self-select their training times:

They are early morning, off-hour, after work, late evening lifters, and the generalists. As rules of thumb, anyone who is willing to get out of bed to go to the gym will likely be highly driven and have less time to waste on things they deem as unimportant. The after work people will have a similar desire to waste as little time as possible. The late evening lifters tend to have a very focused lifting intensity but a more laid back approach to their between sets time. Off-hour people have selected these times because they work for them in terms of traffic flow and life management. The generalists workout whenever they can or feel like it.

This is an interesting topic that I need to expand on because, in general, people unconsciously and automatically find the time that works for them and just stick with it. With the exception of the generalists, the people who workout whenever they can make the time or feel like it, the chances of people remaining as active members at a gym are determined by their ability to get this time of day selection correct. Rephrased, most people who cancel their gym memberships or stop going to the gym / working out do so as a consequence of choosing to train at the wrong time. My belief is that it isn’t that the time was not convenient for them it is that who they are is not convenient for the time they picked. Who they are is NOT so malleable as to become whatever they want it to be.

There are five different types of people which correspond to five specific time frames in terms of when people train at the gym. Anytime, or what I referred to as generalist, early morning, off-hour, after work and late evening. Let’s talk about each one specifically because being able to identify which one you are will go a long way in making sure that you get the best start on your deliberate fitness journey:

Anytime / generalist – these are people who can workout whenever they feel like and will tend to do so based more on their availability than any other factor. These people tend to be lifers who enjoy working out for its own sake. Moving feels good and being healthy is not a matter of choice, it’s a matter of necessity. There is a very good chance that if you are one of these people you already know you are and you are already a member at a gym and working out regularly. Of those who are not regular exercisers, only a very small percentage of them belong to this group. It is possible for people to become a member of this group by joining one of the other four groups first, developing the exercise habit, learning how to really enjoy it for its own sake, and them transitioning.

Personality traits include independence, internal locus of control, lack of a need for social approval, strong time management skills, self awareness and a tendency towards free-thinking. They probably won’t talk much about their training or workouts and will simply just do them. There is a very good chance that they will look like they workout and their food choices will tend to be on the healthy side of the scale. Consider these people to be the doers and not the talkers who roll with the punches in order to accomplish unreasonable amounts of work.

Early morning – these are people who need to workout early in the morning, usually within an hour or so of waking and their first venture out of the house will be to the gym. Their training goals will primarily be to improve fitness and improve body composition with a higher focus on reducing body fat. They may not necessarily be morning people and may drag themselves through the first thirty minutes of being awake, but they will show a dramatic surge of energy once their workout begins and will always leave the gym feeling WAY more energetic than how they arrived. They will show a propensity towards “all or nothing thinking” and this will manifest as a need to get to the gym by a certain time or else not going. Missed workouts will not be made-up later in the day and will only be made-up later in the week.

Personality traits will include being highly driven, goal oriented, binary in their thinking, a tendency towards accountability to other people leading them to benefit from group fitness or personal training experiences. On days that they miss their morning workouts, as opposed to off days, they will be a little insufferable and will operate very differently compared to the days they worked out or took a planned off day. It is be as though one bad decision first thing in the morning serves to set the tone for more bad decisions through out the day. These people are best served by getting out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning, so to NEVER push snooze, and get up at the same time every day REGARDLESS of what they have planned. A successful first five minutes will result in a day of massive action and the creation of a lot of forward momentum.

Off-hour – these are people who have the flexibility to workout more or less anytime and choose to get to the gym when it is less busy. There reasons for training will be varied – strength, body composition, muscle growth, fitness, cardio performance, or for pleasure. They will have a similar mind set to the early morning people in terms of there being a cut off time for going to the gym although they will have a wider range in terms of when they can go. If they miss a workout, they can catch-up later in the week or will do more work in the remaining workouts of the week to make sure they get the training time in. The people will be the first to have training partners or to form more obvious social groups. For example, the early morning people might participate in fitness classes and spend time socially with the other participants, but their conversation during class will have a transactional flair and may lack a closeness or softness that is afforded by having more time to fully engage someone. Off-hour people, on the other hand, will be able to take the time to engage other people in a more connected way. Their closeness will be obvious to others and it can often be interpreted as cliquey. This is usually not the case however as they will welcome new members in and will quickly begin to look out for the needs of others.

Not all off-hour people are joiners or part of a group. Some will be as single minded as the anytime / generalists or the early morning people, but just have the flexibility to go to the gym whenever they like. With these specific people, they will display the same “no nonsense” approach to their time at the gym and will come across as transactional vs. collaborative. They have a mission while they are at the gym and nothing is going to get in their way from achieving their objective.

Personality traits for those who are not like the anytime or early morning people might include a more calm, deliberate or laid back approach to life, having a success pattern that includes a social or connection component, an absence of any perceivable sense of urgency, and the heightened quality of relationships with the staff.

After work – these are the people who workout right after work and for which the gym represents “me” time in terms of throwing way the days stress. Their training objectives will be very similar to those of the early morning – general fitness and body composition with a higher focus towards reducing body fat – and they will have an awareness that they will be able to have a higher degree of flexibility with their dinner as a result of working out so close to it. Their food choices will be positively impacted by this proximity and their workout will serve to empower / improved decision making – their meals on workout days will be healthier than their non-workout days , with particularly positive impact on their dinner choices. They will have slightly more flexibility when if comes to delaying their gym visit, but there will be a cut off and most of them will NOT come to the gym if they go home first. Missed workouts will only be made-up later in the week and the effect of missing a planned workout will very often lead to a series of bad health choices in the hours between the missed workout and going to bed. The elation that is experienced by the early morning people will not be so obvious or may not even be present. However, the workout will serve to refocus them for the rest of the day and the massive reduction in physiological and emotional stress that their training causes will manifest itself as a enhanced sense of well-being, contentment or peace of mind.

Personality traits include being driven, goal oriented, determined, the ability to manage time and balance many competing demands. There will be a more or less equal mix between those who are accountable to themselves and those who are accountable to other people, although most will have an internal locus of control in terms of determining what they want for their future. The mix of energies will be broad ranging from almost manic with an exceptionally high sense of urgency to a low almost sedated “I don’t give a crap” / “nothing matters” which will have a lot to do with the evening responsibilities of the people – parents will still be getting after it because their day is about to begin again while those with fewer responsibilities might be crossing off the final item on their daily “to do” list.

The after work group will be the largest of the five. It will show the greatest diversity in how they use the gym space and services. There will be a high number of group fitness enthusiasts and a higher percentage of personal training consumers. Monday and Tuesday between 4:45 pm and 7:15 pm tend to be the busiest times of the week, with Saturday morning being a distant third, although there are regional specific patterns based on demographics.

Late evening – these are the people who, for the most part, go home after work to eat dinner before coming to the gym. Their training goals are very much on body composition with a big focus on gaining muscle, and on the development of strength. In general there will be a much higher percentage of males vs. females when compared to any other time of the day. The energy will be lower and slower with the exception of the periods of time spent under the bar when the people will be putting between 75% and 100% effort in. To a neutral observer it will seem like very little work is getting done when compared to early morning and after work. However, it will only seem this way. The reality will be that while there are fewer calories being burned via the cardio equipment and classes, there will be a lot more work being done in terms of force X distance. The time needed by the central nervous system to recover from these great efforts is the reason why the energy between sets will be very low. There is a great sense of urgency but these people have learned how to channel it into the lifting.

Personality traits include being driven, goal oriented, strong willed to stubborn, with an almost complete self-accountability to oneself for the work that needs to get done, with mixed accountability to others for showing-up. This is the realm of training partners because of the need for spotters and because progress is so slow the lifting of heavy objects can become a hyper competitive way of keep things interesting. These people tend to never miss workouts and will usually create and stick to a very rigid schedule that does not change often or vary much. The physiological reasons for this are clear and fairly well supported by evidence – building muscle is a process that requires you to train a muscle a particular way, give it a specific length of time to recover and then train it again, over and over again for years. Getting massive is not something that happens by accident or as a consequence of achieving any other fitness goal. This is different from fat loss, improved general fitness or specific cardiovascular health which are complementary objectives – by training for one you inevitably achieve the others.

There will be a much lower percentage of people who are doing intense cardio training because of how that type of training ramps up metabolic rate and tends to make falling asleep very difficult. This is why there will be very few people training to reduce body fat at this time of day. Very few general interest classes will be offered during this time and those classes that are available will tend to be very skills focused with a narrow appeal – boxing or other combat type sports.

How do you make use of this information? The first thing you will need to do is figure out what you are trying to achieve and consider what your schedule looks like in terms of open times you have or can make to train. The next thing you will need to do is take an honest inventory of your traits and begin to compare them to what is outlined above. Once you start to get a feeling for the type of person you are, factor in your training goals and consider what the ideal time of day is to fit that training is. Re-look at your schedule to see if you can make this time available for training three to five times a week.

None of what I have said above should be taken to mean that you cannot make a less than ideal situation work. You absolutely can, but knowing that you are moving forward into a head wind is often the only thing that is needed to ensure that you keep moving forward. No matter what your goals are, you will need to do a lot of work and this work is not ever easy, even when you learn to love doing it. The thing is, it’s a lot easier to learn to love working this hard when your training time matches who you are. The weights will give you enough resistance, there is no point in adding more friction by trying to do something that you have never done during a time that doesn’t suit you doing it.

“The Fog Of War” – Eleven Lessons Applied To Personal Training

Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ during the escalation of the war in Vietnam. He had an interesting life with many jobs, but as he got older he opened-up a lot about Vietnam. He had no lust for war and had reservations about it while he was in a position of influence. When he left office in 1968 he had already suggested that the sunk cost of the Vietnam war was too high and that the US should transition their direct fighting role to the South Vietnamese. These suggestions were not accepted and the fighting continued.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 documentary film about Robert McNamara. What is interesting is that he admitted to his mistakes and expressed that he had done some very wrong things while Secretary Of Defense. He learned from his actions and tried to move forward applying these lessons.

From the movie, the 11 lessons are:

  1. Empathize with your enemy
  2. Rationality will not save us
  3. There’s something beyond one’s self
  4. Maximize efficiency
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war
  6. Get the data
  7. Belief and seeing are often both wrong
  8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
  9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
  10. Never say never
  11. You can’t change human nature

When I read the list, I considered how these lessons would apply to personal training. This is possible if we regard war as a partnership between two countries / groups to fight; in a fashion similar to the partnership between client and trainer. Maybe it’s more of a thought exercise and that I have defined the players in a way that allows me to apply the lessons to something that they were never intended to cover. And that is fine, what matters is if something is useful, not that it is right.

1) If a client wants to change, you’ll benefit from gaining an understanding about how they are suffering and what is motivating them to change their course. While you may not know what it is like to be in chronic pain or how unsatisfying seeing your reflection can be, a moment or two spend considering these things can soften the most dogmatic trainer enough to actually connect with a client to establish the trust needed to guide them towards a more fulfilling path.

2) Burning more calories than we consume is, for the most part, how people lower their body weight. That is a logical and rational thought. People know this yet it does not help them achieve their fat loss goals. Their choices are based on something less rational so the solution is likely going to flow out of uncovering or addressing the illogical something that is making life unfold as it is.

3) Often, people will only change for other people. Having enough energy to be an fantastic mother is one of the biggest motivators for a women to begin to exercise and improve her cardiovascular health. Being told that you are 6 months away dying from a heart attack moves people to make the changes they need to in order to enjoy eventually seeing their children graduate, get married and start their own families.

4) Busy people do not have ample time to do all the things that are needed to quickly achieve optimal health. If they are able to create 3 hours a week to dedicate to to improving it, these three hours need to pack in as much of the most effective movements as possible. Stretching, while important, is not going to improve strength or boost energy as much as lifting weights and increasing movement intensity to elevate heart rate. In this case, there is an enormous opportunity cost to stretching or low intensity exercise.

5) If your goal represents a 5% change in your body / fitness, you need to dedicate a small amount of time to it. If the goal is a 50% change, proportionately more effort is needed. Both the client and the trainer will spend a lot more time and effort at the beginning that then will towards the end simply because there is less to achieve towards the end.

6) Great trainers, like great people, make great decisions when they have all the information they need to make a great decision. Without the information to guide your decisions, your solutions will be incomplete and maybe even geared towards solving a problem that doesn’t exist. Listening without judgment is critical for collecting the highest quality data. You’ll remain open to what is actually occurring and this will shape your counsel.

7) Cognitive biases impact our perceptions in such a way that we see what we believe we see and we find the evidence we need in order to support our beliefs.
The things we see may not exist at all and the real world is likely somewhat different from how we perceive the real world. Effective personal trainers are always aware that they have the capacity to see things that aren’t there and to believe things that are not true. These keep the trainer open to the world and bring them closer to seeing the truth as it unfolds in front of them.

8) Progress is a state of constant change and each change may impact the next action. Effective coaches re-examine their clients course regularly and select different actions when they are called for. They know the reason for doing particular things and will not continue coaching something if a better action exists.

9) Doing good work for your clients is going to mean that you engage the worst parts of their behavior. You may not track in completely on their reason for over eating chips and under eating veggies, but to do the good work as a trainer, you are going to have to engage your clients evil and self destructive actions.

10) Everything that is possible IS possible and will come to be with the correct strategy and enough hard work. If the possible remains impossible it is simply because the strategy is incorrect or the work has not been done. “Never” is something that is said at the end of life or in the event that someone quits working towards their goal.

11) You cannot change human nature and as a personal trainer, you need to be aware of your clients nature. In some cases you can just tell someone to stop eating candy and they will stop eating candy – it’s not these peoples nature to eat candy. Regardless, you will need to work with a persons nature to help move them towards their goal. Someone who loves eating candy will probably always love to eat candy so they need to be allowed to eat candy every now and then because their nature will be expressed if repressed for too long, and these unplanned expressions tend to be over the top and extreme. You can work with their nature by asking them to eat good quality food 80% of the time, and have some candy once a week.

It’s probably fair to say that any good lesson can be applied somewhat to any other area in life. The Fog Of War does present some lessons and growth opportunities for personal trainers.

How I Have Been Wrong

There is this thing people do that used to annoy me but that I now use as a vetting tool and that is a persons ability to admit that they were wrong. Regardless of their motivation, if someone isn’t able to say that they were wrong they are not a scientist, so their inflated opinion of what they know is tainted by an unmentioned emotional need and biased by something that isn’t an objective truth or reality.

I have been wrong a lot, even if it was well intentioned and based on everything that I knew at the time. And it is important to be wrong and to admit it because only the divine and the foolish do not change.

Here is a list of some of the ways that I have been wrong and changed over the last 15 years in the realm of the fitness industry:

Believing that nutrition is more important than food. This mistake, like a number of the ones I have made while in the fitness industry, was based on the need to make statements that sounded correct, were thought provoking, and that were sticky. But it is nonsense. Human beings NEED to eat food to get nutrients, they cannot thrive consuming the nutrients alone. Whole food is a natural concoction of 1000’s of chemicals that work in a synergistic way inside the body. When these chemicals are taken in one at a time, they have a different impact on the body and there is no certainty that this is going to be a health promoting.

Believing that the program is more important than consistency. I used to believe a lot of the hype and I would dispense this advice as though it was scientific fact. The fact that my clients were getting good results I interpreted as proof that the programing was effective. But over time I started to notice that the clients of some other trainers who programed using the same methods were not experiencing the same results. Furthermore, I noticed that clients who were using extraordinarily simple programs were experiencing great results. What I had missed was the fact that doing small things consistently will generate better results than a perfectly crafted program that is done occasionally.

Believing that by creating an emotional response a transformation has occurred. This one is false, completely false. While there may be times when an emotional response indicates a readiness for change or that a person has started their transformation, setting out to make a client cry is not helpful and will usually permanently damage the relationship. This is not to say that there is no useful information revealed when a client has a spontaneous and organic emotional response, there is just very little useful information to be gained by setting out to create an emotional response. It’s a sales tool that is used to breakdown defenses so someone can sell their services. It’s unforgivable and anyone who sets out to do it is trying to help their own bottom line and doesn’t care about the well-being of the person they are trying to take money from.

Believing that EVERYONE should workout and become more healthy. Morally I struggled with this one for a while. I believe that everyone is entitled to live an amazing life, rich in health and vitality BUT they must choose to live this life. Any coercion or pressure that forces them to choose it will usually result in more suffering as they fail to achieve success and feel worse than they would have had they not tried. I am always enthusiastic and possibility driven with anyone who is suffering the effects of poor health choices, but I’m only at their service when they choose to transform their life. Everyone CAN be more healthy but people shouldn’t be pressured into it.

Believing that what gurus said was more useful than what I knew. Within the fitness industry the gurus have a field day selling their wisdom to anyone who is looking for a shortcut. These people in turn make money dispensing this wisdom to the people they convinced would benefit from it. The problem with believing the gurus is that they rarely have any scientific basis for supporting their claims, and given that they have a financial motive for stating anything, there is a conflict of interest that motivates them to lie. Their well of wisdom in poisoned and unless science supports their claims, you shouldn’t buy into them. After 15 years in the industry, the formula for success is very simple, consistent intense work through a full range of motion, moderate amounts of good quality food (mostly vegetables), adequate rest and recovery, and a positive outlook on life in general. This isn’t flashy and it won’t make me millions of dollars, but it works for everyone and it is based on science.

Fitness Assessments At Gyms – They’ll Find Faults

When someone approaches me inquiring about training, I skip the whole fitness assessment and will instead focus on their goals, their behaviors, their thoughts and their definitions of success, failure, and health. I do this because fitness assessments, as performed outside of a medical setting, are pointless, useless and geared towards selling what the trainer has to sell. EVERYONE can fail some aspect of a fitness assessment therefore everyone needs to buy training.

Bull crap!

Most people do NOT need training. While almost everyone will benefit from working with a personal trainer, people can and have been creating amazing results while training on their own for as long as people have been training. If you workout in an intense and pain-free way 4 times a week and eat sensible amounts of good quality food you’ll become fit and any imbalances that you have will correct themselves. Evolution ensures this.

Working with clients is about helping them achieve what THEY want regardless of what I think. Just because a girl is an amazing squatter, can move extremely quickly and would be an outstanding Olympic lifter doesn’t mean that her goal of having a flat stomach and becoming a better road cyclist gets ignored. The opposite is almost true – whatever potential she has in an undesired goal will only be leveraged to help her achieve her stated goal. The world is full of people who do amazing things in areas where they have no particular innate talent.

Very often a fitness assessment will be set-up to measure athletic indicators that are then used as reasons to justify huge training investments. Failing a Klatt test is meaningless if your goal is to look good naked because your glutes, VMO and adductor muscles will be trained during the course of your body composition training. The fact is, most people will never need to perform at the highest physical level and will enjoy an amazing life simply by moving more. It won’t matter that they are quad dominant, slightly internally rotated, or whatever the test reveals.

There is another reason why fitness test performed by fitness professionals are not appropriate and that is because they are used to make a diagnosis; which most fitness professionals are NOT qualified to do. It sure does feel great to have someone look at you and say “wow, you know what’s going on with my body just by looking at the way I move” but that’s ego stroking or salesmanship. The trainer may be correct but they are not in a position to say what is going on. They are in a position only to create and administer programs. When they make a diagnosis and set out to fix it they are failing their clients in a very fundamental, and arguably, an unethical way.

That is why, if someone is going to work with me, we’ll just train the entire body including all of the smaller muscles. The methods and principles that are used will depend upon their goals, but that is it. The client isn’t broken so we don’t need to fix anything, they just need to consistently move their bodies more and reap the benefits associated with improving their health.

Things Trainers Think But Should Probably Say To Their Clients – Part 2

The continuation of Things Trainers Think But Should Probably Say To Their Clients.

Ever notice how the things you talk about not wanting end up being the things that you get?” The reticular activating system (RAS) is a mental process that directs attention onto the things that are considered important to a person. Our experiences and thoughts serve to populate the RAS with these items. IF someone spends a lot of time thinking about they don’t want to gain body fat, their attention will be directed towards all of the things that will cause them to gain it. As a consequence, they’ll probably over eat and gain body fat simply because they are focusing on NOT getting fat.

You think eating good quality food and exercising is hard? Try living with diabetes, recovering from a heart attack or a stroke or beating cancer, THOSE things are hard.” People do not identify the consequences of their actions as the initial symptoms of their impending illness, so they just assume everything is fine. But gaining body fat, losing mobility or muscle mass, or becoming lethargic ARE the initial symptoms of disease promoters of disease. It’s irrefutable, people who eat sensible amounts of good quality whole food and exercise moderate amounts are at the lowest risk of death. You have a choice though, do a little hard work now to promote recovery or compress that hard work into a few months in an attempt to survive.

When you say I’m just a little fat you’re ignoring the fact that you have damaged your ability to process sugar.” Telling yourself that you’re just a little fat is a softer story than the blunt truth – you are wrecking your body because by eating too much sugar you are impairing your bodies ability to handle insulin. This is hurting your body and it will eventually cause disease and an early death.

Not everyone’s metabolism slows down as they age, it only happens to those who choose to let it happen.” While it is true that a person will burn fewer and fewer calories as they get older, making the decision to use this fact as a justification for gaining weight vs. a reason for engaging in intense physical movement is what makes it true. NOT everyone gains weight as they get older BECAUSE they remain active and move a lot. Hearing someone reference an inevitable metabolic slow down reveals a belief that needs to be addressed and updated.

Stress isn’t a part of everyone’s work.” Accepting that stress is a necessary part of work is an excuse for accepting this damaging aspect of life and letting it continue to destroy and shorten life. Work can be a challenge, placing unnatural demands on a person, keeping it in perspective will go a long way in helping someone strike a more healthy balance. By assuming that work should be stressful, it give you permission to change priorities and move proper diet, exercise and relaxation down and move work responsibilities up. The negative outcome of reversed priorities is eventual ill-health and disease.

8 Things Really Successful People Do

Great article about the habits / realizations successful people by Kevin Daum. Pretty straight forward list which is part of its beauty.

The key thing is to be very clear on what you want to do and not on the outcome your successes. Success is a mental game at first (getting into the right mind set, setting the right goals, creating the right habits), followed by the physical game (persistent hard work).

What I found interesting is the inclusion of being clear on spirituality because, for me, that has been a late player to the field. It boils down to being at one with the universe or God, accepting something bigger than just you and engage the world in a way that pays tribute to that relationship.

  • Make Materialism Irrelevant – be successful to be successful, not because you get to buy expensive things. If it is about buying expensive things, you aren’t seeking success BUT expensive things, go straight to them.
  • Enhance Knowledge – keep learning, from beginning to end. There is no substitute for a brain that is crammed full of wisdom.
  • Manage Relationship Expectations – relationships should be given an appropriate amount of time and finding the balance between the right amount of time and what other people want from you is a necessary endeavor. Creating the boundaries to enforce YOUR expectations is critical.
  • Practice Emotional Self-Awareness – emotions are not thoughts. They are types of information, but they are often not as valuable as logical thoughts. Make sure you know when your emotional system is ramped up and when you are functioning with a purely logically mind.
  • Commit to a Physical Ideal – creating a goal for how you want to look in the future will move your mind forward and give you a purpose to make it happen. Exercise tells your body that actions matter and looking and feeling great tells the world that “I am worth working hard for.”
  • Gain Clarity About Spirituality – understand your relationship with the universe so you can always stay true to it.
  • Adhere to a Code of Ethics – acting effectively can sometimes mean you need to have a list of actions to take for when you don’t feel like acting at all. Not knowing what you stand for will delay or impede action when action is needed most critically. A code of ethics will allow you to advance with consistency and it will free you from thoughts about your past actions because you will know you acted with integrity.
  • Focus on Time Efficiency – time moves on, even if you do nothing with it. Use it wisely and get the most out of every second. You won’t be getting any of the moments back.

Working At It For Years – Disease Or Health

We are born as perfect as we will ever be. With rare exception, we have our greatest potential the instant we arrive into the world. From there, our environment begins to chip away at our possibilities and over time we suffer from the outcome of our decisions or the decisions that were made on our behalf. With each breath, we either maintain our potential or it is reduced slightly.

I have trained a couple of people who had suffered heart attacks and then subsequently made the decision to correct as many of their bad habits as they could. They eat better, exercise more, reduce their stress and stop over indulging in alcohol. They, like many people who have suffered a heart attack, make reference to their heart attack as both an ending point and a place of new beginnings; “my health was fine up until that day” is something that I have heard which reflects their understanding of what was going on. But it doesn’t reflect what actually happened. Their health had been suffering for years BEFORE the heart attack and the heart attack was only the latest in a series of escalating symptoms; even if it was the first symptom that registered that there was a problem.

You have been making yourself sick for years – everyone has been. At best, you are doing everything you can to achieve your potential – eating appropriate amounts of whole food, getting an appropriate amount of sleep and exercise, etc…. but in a world as polluted as ours, the chances of you not consuming toxins is very low. The clean life that you may be living likely isn’t as pure as is needed to reach the highest level of health. In all probability you aren’t getting enough exercise, eating the right amounts of food or getting sufficient rest to recover your vitality and enhance your constitution for health.

This doesn’t mean that you are going to die of a heart attack at 50 or cancer at 55. But it does mean that you are damaging you body and diminishing your ability to recover from this damage with each non-ideal choice you make. It also means that if you do end-up with a disease, there is a very good chance that you have been working at it for the last 20-50 years and not just during the few weeks preceding the diagnosis.

The human body has a remarkable ability to recover. There is ample redundancy so a lot of stuff can break down before their is critical malfunction. But there are limits and one needs to be mindful of them as they move through life. With each less than ideal decision that is made, you move one step closer to the cumulative consequences of these choices.

It’s About Changing State

In talking to more than a 1000 people over the last 10 years a few facts about nutrition have become clear.

First off, the education system is doing a good job at teaching people what they should be eating. I’ll fill-in some blanks about how the remarkably adaptive way the body operates, but I’ve yet to talk to someone who doesn’t know that eating more vegetables, less sugar, fewer processed products and drinking more water and less pop is a more effective way to eat. People know what they should be eating in order to improve their health and functioning so they suffer from obesity and reduced vitality for reasons other than education.

Next, many people comment that it is hard to eat correctly. On one level this is true, given that living things benefit from eating unprocessed food that rots quickly. Shopping twice a week is a necessity if you are going to eat real food because you will not have the “luxury” of buying food that doesn’t spoil because it is loaded with preservatives. And you need to prepare that food which is going to take time – peeling vegetables, cutting meat and removing bones or fat/skin and then cooking the meal requires time. But this only seems like it takes more time when compared with opening a box and heating something in a microwave or ordering a meal and waiting for it to arrive.

The other comment I hear consistently after an optimal nutrition conversation is that eating for health and vitality is boring. My thoughts about this one is that this is the biggest reason why people do not live optimal lives with an abundance of energy, clarity of thought and emotional contentment. Good quality food doesn’t provide the instant state-changing experience that the high sugar, high fat, high chemical food-like stuff delivers. Good quality food doesn’t do very much to your immediate state; it really shouldn’t because there isn’t anything in it that will have a quick impact on the brain or body. Real food impacts the body slowly, over time and in many ways by doing nothing at all.

People like or become addicted to food-like stuff because it has a very quick impact on the brain – it changes their state almost immediately and in a predictable way. Feeling sad? Eat some sugar, get a release of dopamine and feel better. Feeling some pain somewhere? Eat some ice cream and get a release of opioids to numb the pain. Eat fat and sugar together and feel good immediately. The happy / feel-good chemicals will be released and you will get a little high from it.

You don’t get this state change from eating salad, beef, chicken or fish. Eating these things may not even make you feel full. They have been shown to be better for you, but their immediate impact is low and almost perceivable, and given the distance from the consequences of a poor diet the instant reward is what many choose.

But as time passes, and the consequences begin to take hold on a person – addiction, obesity, disease, loss of energy, loss of circulation, impaired thinking, etc…. the state change is all that remains in terms of any conceivable positives. But then it’s too late to do very much about it. A 40 year sugar habit is tough to break. Dropping 100 lbs is close to impossible and only successfully undertaken by the most remarkable of individuals. Once cancer takes hold, the body has a very tough time fighting it without medical intervention. Clogged blood vessels don’t suddenly clear-up simply because the person stops eating crappy food. Make no mistake about it, the consequences arrive and they usually stay forever.

Real food does very little to our immediate state and it does very little to our bodies; which is what one should look for in their food because the body has a remarkable way of repairing itself.

Who Are You Feeding?

Having been in the fitness industry for well over a decade, I have heard the following conversation countless times with the same usual outcome:

“I want lower my body fat, and look and feel better.”

“Outstanding, we can help you with all of those things. When was the last time you looked and felt the way you want to look and feel?”

“Oh, it has been a long time, when I was much younger. When I could eat whatever I wanted and didn’t have to worry about weight.”

“Okay, so this is a new journey for you and you’re aware that you’ll need to do a bunch of new things to achieve new results?”

“Yeah, I’m fully committed to doing whatever it takes to reach my goal.”

“Fantastic, this is going to be a lot of hard work, but once you make real this desire to look and feel amazing you’ll be grateful for all of the effort you put into it.”

So far, so good, someone has a desire for something they have never achieved. Given that they have never achieved it, they connect with the experts to learn how to make it possible. For a few weeks they follow the nutrition advice, reduce their stress, train with a trainer 3-4 times per week and independently 1-3 times per week and their transformation has a fantastic beginning.

But this great start is often stopped dead in its tracks when the body and brain begin to make real the story the people tell about themselves. Suddenly and quickly, the person begins to act in a way that isn’t conducive to achieving their goal. Most often the breakdown will be about food – they start to eat food that they know isn’t going to move them towards their goal or they eat in a way that isn’t recommended and that doesn’t help get them them any closer. Other times they stop training with the intensity or frequency that is needed to keep momentum and progress going.

Unbeknownst to them, they are paying service to a version of themselves that didn’t believe that achieving the goal was possible. They are, in essence, feeding their old self and making sure it continue to exist as opposed to altering their actions to become the new possibility.

Call it self-sabotage, the expression of their belief of self-worth, whatever, the end result is the same, corrective thoughts, feeling and behaviors do not get traction and the individual remains the same – overweight, lacking vitality and living an uninspired physical life. It’s an avoidable shame and tends to be the outcome of an incomplete conversation during the initial conversation about training.

What is missing is the needed conversation to get answered the “how did you do it?” questions about your life and how you ended-up straying away from the life you wanted to live. These questions need to be asked because human beings pay service to their uncommunicated habits and because each individual is the expert in how they came to be how they are. They don’t need to get into the “why” questions because the answers to these questions do little to shed light on the new way of being that is needed to achieve results that have never been achieved.

What this does that is so important for transformation is help someone see their past as a series of behaviors so they are then able to see their progress as a series of different behaviors. Their present stops being the past and starts to become their future – it is only through different thoughts, feelings and actions that someone will be able to become transformed.

This needs to happen because human beings are complex and require more than a coat of new paint to become something physically, emotionally and spiritually different. Critical to transformation is the wisdom gained from understanding what was occurring to keep things the same because if these behaviors remain unknown they will repeated.

To do the job correctly a trainer / coach does not just to show people the way to make the lasting change but to also show them how they found their way to needing the change in the first place.

So, how do you feed the more energetic and goal achieving you? It’s very simple, you eat frequent servings for plants and small amounts of meat that haven’t been processed, flavored or “enriched”. You eat things that will rot quickly without refrigeration, things that have not been manipulated extensively to change their form or state. You eat chicken and not chicken nuggets, beef not hamburgers, fish not fish sticks. You eat green leafy vegetables and not just green powders or vitamin pills. You eat small amounts of fruit and not fruit bars. You drink water and not sugar water solutions. Basically, we foods that are high in nutrients and low in energy.

You make and take the time to buy good quality whole foods and prepare it with care, creating meals that don’t look that much different from the foods you bought. You remain open to the possibility for a new you and embrace the reality that this different version needs different things. Then you do these things over and over and over again until they become automatic and part of your new identity.