Category Archives: Life Coaching and Skills

Metatrainers: we do more for you than you think!

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Meta- definition: of second order, higher kind. Beyond.

We personal trainers do so much more than the obvious, even the invisible on the internal health level.

Yes, it’s widely already perceived and known that we help you get stronger, move better, leaner, bigger and that in the process, we get you healthier by means of exercise, but improving your nutrition, and in turn your vitals, so you do better at your annual physical, hopefully get off some meds etc.

Our influence on our clients extends far beyond that too. We are soundboards for your relationship troubles, dating coaches (seeing as we see many types of people and interact with them on intimate platonic professional levels, but still are privy to personal info), business advisors, trip planners, area experts, connectors/relationship builders, networkers etc.

Those of us who do not label ourselves “life coaches” actually are better life coaches than those who claim that gig, because we’re also business friends and do not charge you extra for that. We can sometimes hang out, participate in a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder together, grab a brewski during happy hour if time permits (those of us trainers with kids and a spouse are less flexible, but I remember those days).

Our interactions with people in all professions, our ongoing customer service, being constantly accountable for everything we do as it directly reflects our business with you, our dear clients, to continue delivering results, progress, advice is what make us metatrainers, “beyond” trainers, like metalanguage, metaphysics (and not metabolic trainers, which is too obvious a concept and clearly, way cheesier).

Tell me, who else in your professional and personal dealings offers you the vast umbrella of services and perspectives that we personal trainers and coaches offer? Looking for rules, not exceptions.

Remember this: we love what we do, and we do care about you sometimes more than you do about yourself. Very few of us are ever going to get rich doing this. Help us out by spreading the word to your friends, everyone needs a trainer at some point 😉

 

It’s Hydrostatic, Orthorexic, Body Dysmorphic, it’s Greased Training!

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Did you see Richard Gere’s post on FB that’s been shared many times, the one about his super healthy friend who did all the right things and now is dying of two forms of cancer, versus another acquaintance who by all standards should have died long ago for leading an extremely unhealthy lifestyle? Doesn’t matter, we all know stories of people like that.

How about the meme about how exercising leads to you being alone when you’re old because all your other friends are dead, and in the meantime move while going nowhere (treadmill)?

I have, as most of us trainers have at some point, run into someone with either an eating disorder or an unhealthy exercise addiction, or both (as one tends to tie into the other). One client of mine couldn’t bear to see herself in the mirror, disappeared for a bit, came back with an amplified bosom, which bought her only about three weeks of happiness and self-confidence. Another was used to getting her previous trainer yell and push like an evil drill sergeant and had such conditioning from her bulimia that she could never do any movements that put her in a prone or leaning forward position without throwing up. Seriously! I only trained her one time then politely parted ways, as I refused to administer punishment for whatever was “broken inside”. Some challenges are best left to trained professionals in the field of psychology. Then there’s also the  individual with a touch of Munchausen Syndrome and orthorexia associated with bombardment of photoshopped images in the media or chasing the fountain of youth in denial of the reality that aging exists, even if you can slow it down.

The point is that despite all of us knowing that cigarettes cause cancer, having unprotected sex or driving while impaired are dangerous behaviors, some still do it. And we also all know that certain results are not achieved realistically or within the framework of what fitness marketers, even trainers, are selling you (unless proper expectations are explained).

I remember a client who told me that he wasn’t happy because after 2 years of training with me, he didn’t have the body of someone who trains twice a week with a trainer. All the education and expectations management in the world would not resonate, because people like to blame. You pay for a service, you want results. And when you get results but they don’t match your expectations, it’s the provider’s fault. Who’s to blame? Me for not educating, or the multimillion dollar assault of ad copies telling you that with just 8 minutes a day twice a week you will get the body of a demigod-looking model who has spent hours in the gym daily, slaved for years, entered dietary hell with the discipline of a Samurai?

The answer is somewhere in-between. There’s also the point where I have to, like the song says, “let it go, let it go”… I don’t hold that fork, I don’t buy the food, I don’t follow the clients for 166 hours a week (only 2, which is about 1.2% of the week), they have the info, the map, the instructions.

While you do need to get off your ass and train consistently, eat sensibly, you also need to understand that you can’t complain about the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do. At the same time, do you really need the six-pack abs? Do you need to bench press eight wheels? Yeah, OK, I’m all for a high goal to achieve, the journey, etc. I get it, no need to throw in some comment about that. Dig deeper is what I’m asking. Is the pursuit of the goal worth it? Don’t you have something better to do, like be fit, be healthy, have fun, work and do something you love (other than weightlifting) and concentrate on something that makes a difference in someone else’s life (and another weightlifter’s life doesn’t count!)?

Believe me, I get it. I too suffer from an occasional case of body dysmorphism, which changes frequently: too fat, not big enough, too slim, or chasing strength, size or whatever because of how good someone else’s marketing is over how confident I am in my decade and a half of training and education (academics and in the trenches). I too get confused. I too think some things matter when in the end, they don’t because no one’s going to care that I lifted X amount of weight, and no one’s going to remember that I lifted X amount of weight. The things I hope to be remembered for are the things I passed on to my clients, my friends, my children and strangers through books, blogs, workshops, training sessions, chance encounters. Things of ephemeral or lasting value that extend beyond the 73 inches of height or slightly wider wingspan.

Long story short: training appropriately, eating well, interactive physical play, solo activities done in a group matters. Extremes don’t. Do this to be around and pay it forward, not to get validated by 1000 likes on your selfie post only to feel like crap if your next post drops by a couple hundred.

We’re not the center of our own Universe, as I heard in the Love 4 Training podcast episode 16. And it’s very true!

 

“Am I getting better?”

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“Am I getting better?” is a question a client asked me recently, and I’ve heard variations of it over the last decade and a half. Some can have a negative feel to them, like “I feel like I’m not getting better, our sessions are still hard sometimes” or “I don’t look like I’ve been training with a trainer after _____  (insert duration here)”, or “wow, I’m so out of shape, I can’t do X or my performance on this is Y” (where I have to refer people to the SAID principle).

WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

To the title question, there is no magical answer, yet people expect magical results. However, the answer is always yes. You may have to cajole someone into the answer, or educate them. As fitness professionals, especially when our clients trust us, they need encouragement, but it also needs to stem in reality and accountability. I had the “am I getting better?” question asked by someone whom I trained via video conference, after 2 weeks of training only. My answer was prefaced with more questions and education so that the answer sinks in, with the following elements:

  • Is it easier to do certain things (from the mundane to the workout specific)?
  • Is soreness from lack of activity gone?
  • Is your appetite going up (physical activity will usually stimulate that, as muscles want to be fed, to simplify this concept)?

I allow people to self-assess from their own baseline while educating them on the process, the idea of consistency and duration of a training program, and how it makes things better in their lifestyle.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE REMARKS/QUESTIONS?

When someone feels they’re not getting better, I show them their training logs, anything and everything measurable. “Here, your previous benchmark was at X reps with Y load, today it is X+10 reps with 1.5Y load, so you have improved in strength and muscular endurance”.

As for the visual esthetics, I also emphasize that you can train twice a week and twice a week only, but if you don’t follow a regimented lifestyle that encompasses proper nutrient intake, adequate sleep and recovery, maintenance training will help you from getting worse, and while it will make you fitter and healthier, the only way to tell would be “what do you think you’d look like if you hadn’t trained at all the past 2 years while maintaining the same diet and lifestyle?” While we can never know unless they have a twin as their control group, we communicate and educate our clients.

Also, when someone claims having poor cardio endurance but only wants to train to lift heavy weights, or vice versa; your body adapts to what you get it ready for.

In the end, clients are in the driver’s seat. We just need to give them a good road map.

 

 

How do you train for a long life?

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How do you train for a long life? Simple question, simple answer, simple mission if you are willing to accept it. Do everything, generalize, don’t specialize and don’t complicate things by thinking this toy or that diet only will get you there. Ironically, I am asking you to not listen to other scare tactics fitness marketers, because I don’t want to scare you, only want to “delight” you, so you feel good about what you are doing, or are willing to start doing.

It starts with movement. Like, getting off the couch. Here’s the simplest progression, a simple health & fitness recipe I can think of, assuming you’re already off the couch and standing (anyone unable to stand can still do some things seated):

  1. Take a few deep breaths, inhale through your nose, fill your lungs as much as you can, lifting your chest up, then exhale through your mouth.
  2. Now, do a few more breaths, and raise your arms to the side, or to the front, or back-then-up-and-down (pick, do what you can/want).
  3. Now, do a few more breaths with some arm movements, and bend your knees as you inhale and move the arms, and straighten them as you exhale to a fully upright position.
  4. Take a walk next, and focus on your breaths still, if you can remember. If not, enjoy the walk.

Notice I am not getting into any more specifics other than to match your movements with your breath. No reps, intensity, speed. Follow your rhythm, stay serene. Much is said about meditation these days, and people will sell you complicated programs on how to meditate, or move, or other. But you already know it. Your body knows it. It may have forgotten, but you always knew. Think about it: what’s the first thing you did when you came to this world? You took a deep breath (ok, you also screamed), because that breath is life, and then you moved your limbs, and it worked out pretty well for you for a while.

The next step is to enjoy the feeling, let it happen, because no one feels bad after doing this. Coughing up a lung? Your body’s telling you something. Get it checked out. Simple.

Don’t try too hard either. Just do it so you like it, which will beget your desire to want to do more. Like add some depth to your knee bend (deep knee bend/squat), or support your weight on any surface, angle that can support your weight, with your arms (pushups, planks).

Now, fast forward a few days, weeks or months. You’re doing more advanced stuff, lifting heavier weight, or doing more repetitions. Maybe now, you’re walking faster, or jogging slowly. Around the park, the block, the neighborhood. One time. Several times.

Don’t think of weight loss, don’t get hung up on calories, or what to eat. You’re old enough to know what’s good or what’s bad for you.

Don’t get too hung up on that potato, that bowl of rice, that slice of bread or that piece of fruit. If you have some animal protein (or if you are not carnivorous, you know other forms of protein), some veggies (leafy, root, green or other colors) and those are still somewhat recognizable in their cooked, chopped, baked or grilled form from their original shape, you’re doing well.

So, eat stuff in the general idea of what’s described above, move like described above, and relish in the fact that you don’t need to be exceptionally fit to live a long, happy life. I don’t believe anyone lived under a rock, in today’s age, to not know what’s good or bad. Move, eat well, challenge yourself, and be responsible about your choices.

Practice displacement (walk, jog, run, even ride), and lift something (self, kid, objects of various shapes, designed for training or not), or throw something. Twist left, twist right, shake your limbs. Rinse, lather repeat. Tortoise pace, not hare pace. You know the story. You’re in this for the long haul anyway, hopefully, for your kids, your grandkids, to enjoy the wealth you amassed, to see places you didn’t see, to work longer at what you love, or try something new.

We’re just here for the duration of a blink anyway, why shorten it irresponsibly?

Strangely, that recipe can almost sound like Crossfit, which it isn’t. It’s actually the other way around. Crossfit may have taken this concept to an extreme only. And you know what, there are plenty of levels between a Crossfit WOD and what I just suggested today. We are all in different places on that spectrum.

And that’s the theme with The Natural Method

“Normal” everyday fitness esthetics

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There is a difference between being camera ready, which is ephemeral (unless you want to destroy all sense of social life with extreme discipline), and how the body looks daily. Think magazine cover, or “money shot” when an actor shows a chiseled body in a superhero movie (and then you don’t see the body for the rest of the movie, as it can take weeks or months of filming and it’s hard to maintain the “look”).

Don’t trust this fitness porn Instagram pictures of super ripped bodies. Few people look like that on a daily basis, even bodybuilders peak for a contest and look different in the off-season (that’s why it’s called the off-season, it’s never a year-round look).

Here’s an example of what my body looks like on a daily basis.

_NAM1972

I don’t care to show you a chiseled, mega ripped dehydrated body, because it looks like that for an instant only. I want to show you the body of someone who is like you: trains as frequently as a client should, has responsibilities, a family, bills to pay and is healthy, eats sensibly (meaning well and enjoys treats like chocolate or beer on occasion without guilty feelings).

And better yet here’s and excerpt of Georges Hébert’s book on physical education for women, with an applicable explanation for both men and women:

“The curve/shape is more or less pronounced according to the degree of development or the current state of training. It is necessary to differentiate these two states, as one can have achieved integral development and find oneself, at any given moment, either in a non-active period or simple rest, or in a training period.

 At the peak of development and at once during a training period, in other words in a “ready state”, to use the expression used in sports, the shape of the muscles and the fascia lines are extremely sharp/defined.

The skin adheres to the muscle without fat in-between, or at least without a noticeable layer. Muscular fibers are even seen through the skin when the muscle is strongly flexed.

At the limits of extreme training, curves become “cut” and in the case of overtraining, remind a bit that of someone being “skinned”. This applies to women as well as men. 

When the training period ends, and it cannot last more than a few weeks or days without reaching over training, or as soon as normal activity slows, the muscles appear less “defined”,  small fat deposits fill in and soften the lines of external contours or the fascia. “Covering” takes place, more or less visible as the training load is reduced, compared to what it was prior, and a more abundant food intake. Flesh is then filled.  

This state of covering disappears easily in a few days or weeks as soon as training or regular activity resumes. If, by lack of exercise, we let that covering go on, we progressively suffer all the setbacks on health and beauty. Fattening begins.

In summary, muscular definition is characteristic of the state of training or maximal activity; simple covering, average level of physical activity (maintenance), which is the normal state of training outside of maximal training intensity periods; exaggerated covering, a state of activity inferior or of weak training in relation to the vitality of the body (under training) and finally, obvious overweight, a state of complete inactivity or extremely weak, or also a specific state, which we will discuss, which has nothing to do with our natural needs. Nutrition also has an important role in the production of these various states.”

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You Have To Ship!

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Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, mentions that no matter your craft, you have to ship, to publish, deliver. Artists ship, not just factories from their warehouses. You ship your art by bringing the paintings to the gallery, even if they’re not done in your mind.

Studios release movies, and sometimes may change stuff, add footage, delete some, provide a Director’s Cut on the DVD. But they back something into the theatrical release.

When I took on the task of translating Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education, I wanted to share the content as quickly as possible, within reason of course. The labor of love associated with it, the journey and discoveries along the way, took a tremendous amount of time that a married, working father of two, with a start-up company to boot, had to squeeze at the expense of other things.

I certainly could have taken my time and released it all at once upon completion of the entire translation. Instead, because of trending interest and alignment from friends with their historical research, as well as using the successful model of movie Studios releasing trilogies over time, the process of breaking things down allowed me to get better reacquainted with the material I was exposed to in my youth, and I was able to build, organically with my limited resources, interest in The Natural Method. People who never heard about it discovered something of value and interest, while people who already knew about it, and practiced as well as formed groups, on social media or in their cities, contacted me with appreciation for making Hébert’s work more accessible with the English language.

My self-imposed deadlines are very much that: self-imposed. No one really cares about them, but it keeps me accountable, and on schedule. Keeping things open-ended, as any time management expert will tell you, can result in things never getting done. Additionally, through a tried and true process I experienced myself in everything I’ve done, people are better off with getting pieces of information at a time. Otherwise they tend to skip over what interests them less.

You could argue that I am removing a person’s choice to work at their own speed, and who am I to have such power? It truly only matters during the timeline of the translation of the books. When trilogies like Star Wars, The Lord Of The Rings, The Matrix came out in trickle fashion, audiences were forced to wait. Now, it’s all available at once.

For those familiar with Hébert’s method, maybe getting it all at once would have been the way to go (which right now doesn’t matter, because nearly all the books are out, from this first guide). But for those un-familiar with it, the timely release of each section of the Practical Guide To Physical Education offers gradual discovery, application and everything positive related to the step-by-step learning process.

For new or soon-to-be new dads

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Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover

Your world is about to change, or recently has, as a new dad.

Sleep will become a hobby, sex a memory and the feeling of hangovers semi-permanent.

Yet, you will experience more love for another person than you could think possible, while feeling like you’re going to lose your sanity.

Don’t worry, you will make it. We all made it, somehow, or the species would be extinct.

Because there are a lot of resources out there for new moms, but not enough for new dads, I put together this little book with simple options that worked out great for me and tested it twice (after the second child). There can always be more added to it, but this will be a great start.

Coming out very soon!

 

Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover

Are you a good client?

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Or, more broadly speaking, are you a good student, disciple, pupil or any variation of the term? For someone who is only concerned with making a living out of providing a service, a good client can be summed up as someone who pays and stays. For someone truly invested in the work of others, clients results which leads to progress in all other areas of fitness and life, I believe that being a good student oneself leads to being a better coach. The relationship continues beyond the fiduciary aspect of the training.

WHAT MAKES A CLIENT A GOOD STUDENT?
I always like to stress that I provide clients with a service, but I am not at their service. This has nothing to do with power, rather commitment and accountability. I like to think of it in the following terms: my clients borrow my knowledge, catch a glimpse of the “members only” club, for an hour or so. That still doesn’t answer the question, however, just makes me look mean (but it’s for your own good. I set standards and expectations from clients and myself very high).
To paraphrase something I heard recently at a workshop for fighters, the defensive tactics teacher said the following at the beginning of the workshop: “a good student is like a dog; even when sleeping, ears are always up, alert and listening. A good student is like a hawk; always scanning, watching, observing and quickly grabbing what it’s after. A good student is like a stork; waiting patiently, sometimes on one leg, sometimes on the other, until it finds what it’s looking for. A good student should also be hungry, to avoid desire” (interpret the last one however you wish).

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE
These two attributes are necessary and intrinsic aspects of learning and progressing. One may choose to get a book, DVD or watch a Youtube video. Inevitably, unless you record yourself on video, play it back and correct your form assuming you actually do that and possess the skills to rectify and understand what you did wrong, you will miss something, create an imbalance, miss an important point. That falls under the category of experience, which is essentially doing and you will NOT achieve your goals without it. Knowledge, however, you have to acquire from someone else, in person, directly because that person, that coach/trainer/teacher can find, tweak and improve what it is you need to accomplish, regardless of what it is you are learning.

BETTER STUDENT=BETTER COACH
I’d like to think that I’ve always been a good student. Attentive, disciplined, hard working. I constantly seek knowledge and am humble to recognize what I do not know. Sometimes, the humility comes from an ego-crushing injury, where you find yourself unable to perform at the level you targeted. This in turn becomes an opportunity to fine-tune your work.

RECENT EXAMPLE
I’ve been a martial arts veteran of 24 years in a variety of styles and hold 2 black belts. Yet, I recently learned of ways to refine my kicks, punches. I acquired the knowledge from 2 very learned people, and gained the experience by practicing. Some techniques did little, others did a whole lot! Not because some were better than other, but simply because I am an individual with my individual abilities and weaknesses. Recognizing that is what makes the work of a coach personal, in your training, in your relationship with your trainer and that cannot be acquired in a book or magazine.

Effective Communication

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“Humpty dumpty sat on a wall…”, skip to “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”.

First, those must be some awesome and dexterous horses, trying to piece together a busted egg-shell.

Second, the road to success is paved with good intentions, but the map may be off, or the directions, or you can find construction on the road which forces a detour.

As always, I draw these conclusions from both training and non-training experiences. Today’s entry comes from both based on yesterday with family in town and clients having specific needs. Too much to tell in a blog, too little time, so I’ll cut to the chase.

EVERYTHING MATTERS
I can be anal, specific, detail oriented even if I appear flexible. I’m flexible with the approach, and if I can get you from A to B, how I get there doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get there. And each step is clearly defined, every factor taken into consideration.

COMMUNICATE IT ALL
A change of plan, condition, mood, medication, shoes, meal or any other variable can single-handedly offset your course, like a snowball rolling down the hill, or dominoes. If you’re dealing with someone who is invested in you, trust them with empowering them with that knowledge. Being a professional means you know how to adapt and be discreet, factor in and deliver a better approach for the given situation.

Sometimes, people just wanna work out…

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We don’t always know what’s best for everyone.

WHEN IGNORANCE IS BLISS:
A great pitfall for a trainer is to confuse what clients want and what clients need. When you’re just fresh off your cert’, ACE, NASM, ACSM, AFAA or any other nationally recognized brand, and your level of experience is low (in terms of paid client hours worked), it takes little more to a training session than just direct traffic from big body parts to smaller ones, tell folks “do your cardio”, all following a basic bodybuilding routine, whether the clients wants to gain mass, lose fat or “tone up”. I mean really, it’s all a variation of the same song and dance.

If you’re in it for the long haul, you start to become more knowledgeable, curious, educated and will invest a lot of time and money, which you recoup with greater results and client retention. And then, it happens…

WHEN IGNORANCE HURTS:
The aforementioned type of trainer, blissfully following a routine from a fitness mag, certified with just the basics and the knowledge of their own body and Myosplash or CreabombX super supps they ingest, will likely not correct your form, “stack fitness on top of dysfunction” (Gray Cook) and make you feel “hurter”, which in the language of the neophyte means “wow, this really works!”. To me, that one millimeter of imbalance is what makes the tower crumble later down the line. More often than not, I end up being the one to correct some other person’s work. I know tattoo artists don’t finish someone else’s tattoo, but I need to eat and if I can make your life better by moving better, I will.

WHEN KNOWLEDGE HELPS:
The trainer who invests into more education, training, research etc, will shine by comparison. It should be apparent at the first session already, with a good assessment of movement, abilities, form etc, as well as a progress map outlined for the client to follow. That type of trainer will justify your investment in the long haul.

WHEN KNOWLEDGE HINDERS:
Sometimes, trainers who know a lot become almost too rigid in their approach, by going into what Pavel calls “Paralysis by analysis”, wherein too much knowledge stops one from doing work and always be correcting. In other areas, this is a form of perfectionism which also leads to procrastination and lack of progress, like rewriting the first sentence of your Pulitzer prize winning article, thus never completing it.

WHEN TO STOP:
Sometimes, the client just wants to work out. So, sometimes, you let them. Yeah, you make sure there’s nothing wrong in the execution, allow the muscles to feel the pump, let them enjoy their process. You’re still getting them fitter and better, even if it strays from your adamantium-clad program design. The same goes for music. Sometimes, you need to sit down and listen to a piece, dissect it, appreciate its nuances and theme variations. Sometimes, you just need muzac in the background. Doesn’t make you a bad person. Makes you flexible and human.