Category Archives: Fitness

Finding Your Groove

Leave a comment

What’s the best training program for you?

The one you can do consistently.

Can your trainer design it for you? Absolutely, so long as both you and him/her understand it will require tweaking, inevitably.

A good personal training program needs to be tailored not only to your needs & wants (i.e. knowing how your body moves and needs correcting/adjusting, as well as your individual fitness goal), it needs to incorporate your lifestyle, your general mindset, your schedule. If you can’t follow it because you have no time or are too stressed out, fatigued mentally or physically, it’ll be like trying to push a baby grand piano on the beach and killing yourself instead of taking a stroll on the beach enjoying the waves and walking for a few miles, resetting your brain, recharging your mind and still getting the benefits of walking.

Functional training equipment

Your hormonal balance is just as important as your diet and as your training program. I can’t give you statistics or percentages because they don’t matter. Let’s not focus on that and get you going.

A good example for me is my current “life load”. My level of busy-ness is such that I could do a few training sessions at home 5 days per week. I live in a beautiful woodsy area, close enough to the beach, far enough from civilization, yet a short drive to anything I need. I have room both in my yard and in my home, and recently had to bring all of my training equipment from the gym I used to operate at. So, I’m fully stocked.

But I am not training there. Instead, I am training ONLY two days per week, Mondays and Wednesdays usually. On those days, I push for 2-3 training sessions covering everything that makes up a Natural Method session, with some liberties here and there. I lift for strength, I practice skills, I run for endurance or power, and I do some minimal touch-ups to train underdeveloped body parts for no other purpose than esthetics.

Result? I spend more time recovering, less pressure on other days and I can focus on “crunch time” (no, not abs of steel). Trying to manage multiple streams of income and a family is demanding amidst economic uncertainty. Not a complaint, a fact, and educated choices. This regimen allows me to push hard, past my comfort zone, a couple of days a week and really, the most uncomfortable part comes from the endurance training.

Strength training is about managing strength, having the ability to incrementally lift heavier, being well rested at every set. Skill development is playful and without pressure, as an inch of progress is better than stillness. Energy is managed on those long Mondays and Wednesdays and my focus can be 100% on what I need to to outside of training on other days.

Is that against Georges Hébert’s Natural Method principle? Not if I get better, am strong, useful and skilled. Not if I can sustain this for a while. Not it we understand that manipulating variables to reach a desired outcome is the skill that comes from programming. Hébert ideally wants us to train 6 days a week, with 5 days of training and 1 day of playing (with sessions lasting an hour on average, cumulatively).

In the upcoming book adaptation and training guide based on Hébert’s programming, I break down realistic options for getting complete training sessions with as few as two weekly sessions and up to his desired/proposed 6 days per week. It’s what you can do that matters the most. And when the body and mind intuitively allows you to modify your training frequency, go for it.

The various photos posted represent the tools and training concepts that make up my training sessions, all inspired by Georges Hébert’s programming albeit adapted and modernized with what we have available today.

Develop Jumping Young

Leave a comment
Develop jumping young

Or any skill for that matter.

The earlier you develop a natural skill like jumping, the better you get at it and the longer you might be able to do it in life. Injuries notwithstanding, also part of life, the skill comes with a sense of overcoming fear, spacial awareness, elasticity and timing you tend to never lose as you get older.

Yes, you might get a little less spry, a little less springy, but that tends to happen later than if you do nothing about it. Jumping develops full body power, requires a certain amount of flexibility, and is quite useful for emergency situations as well as being practical (jump out of the way of a moving vehicle, over a puddle or a ditch, onto something etc…). And, kids do it, so if kids do it, it means we’re meant to do it, whether it’s for fun,health, survival or other.

During a recent hike at my older son’s favorite hiking spot in Topanga, CA, called Time Tunnel, we had to climb over a variety of rocks or jump from one to the next, or down from one. Depth jumps, climbs, chasm clearance (for the kiddo at least and his perspective). What amazed me was his desire to go “I can do it” as well as “help me” when applicable. He knew to push, but he knew when to not. Like poker, “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”.

Here’s an example of a distance longer than his height, and drop of about his height. Ah, to have springy joints again…

Now, not pictured here, but when we went back in the afternoon for a second round, kiddo had me crawl through a tiny space between rocks that I didn’t I’d be able to crawl through. He didn’t want to have me go around, he said I had to do it. For him, it was as wide as a Hobbit’s door. For me, it was like squeezing through a mailbox. I made it, and was happy to wear my rugged 5.11 Tactial Stryke pants and a rugged t-shirt (no tears), but more so, I was happy to know that in a pinch, I have enough mobility and snake-ability to get through a crevice smaller than my shoulder width!

Complete Blood Work

Leave a comment
complete blood work

 

Like many healthy people, my annual physical & blood work isn’t something I always prioritize.

It’s been 2 years since my last physical exam, not counting the one I just went for 2 weeks ago. Too long, not smart, not good. I even attended a conference in January 2016 where the importance of getting your labs done was stressed. Nearly 10 months later, I did.

Labs were mostly fine. There’s what the doctor said, Dr Kawana, and there’s what a friend of mine, Robert Seik who’s a Pharm.D and owns a great line of supplements, Triton Nutrition. said, which helped confirm the results. I’ve got the labs of an athlete, and have either inadequate intake or poor absorption. Guilty of a little bit of both.

There’s the stuff you know you should do but don’t, the stuff you know shouldn’t do but still do, then there’s the stuff you don’t know about, and the stuff you don’t want to find out about, because you know it’s not gonna be good.

In my case, I knew I was going to have low testosterone. Yes, over 40, it drops. Yes, some quacks say “how do you know your levels are low, it’s different for everyone?” I know what my T-levels were 2 years ago, not Captain America high, but not Screech low either. My body was still responsive and I attributed it to stress, and my then primary care physician told me I was OK, in range.

Now, I’m at 1/2 the levels I was at 2 years ago. My Calculated Free Androgen Index is 1/4 what it should be. How do I know? Reduce energy, anemia (which can be also an iron deficiency, which is the case for me, but it’s part of the picture), premature aging (my face is showing signs of aging at a faster rate lately than before), loss of muscle mass (movement quality, skills and education can only take you so far, like being the best sprinter in the world and suddenly having your feet chopped off) and a slew of other symptoms I attributed to doing too much, working too much and hiding behind the shield of invincibility my fitness regimen yielded. But even that catches up.

“The slow blade penetrates the shield”.

Get your labs & blood work one.

Strong But Not Useful: Strength Categories

1 Comment

Albeit fun.

If I could ask Georges [Hébert] to lighten up, I would, and he would probably tell me “I am! That’s the whole play finality of The Natural Method, mon frère!”

The reason I’d ask him to lighten up is because it’s totally cool to have fun and specialize in one aspect of strength if that’s your bag. I ain’t knocking your strength with his/mine or someone else’s.

Much like Power is Mass X Acceleration, an 8-plates back squat below parallel or a 48″ box jump require a different level of power. Some say “you need to squat heavy to get more power for your jumps”. I can’t squat 8 plates right now, but I can jump that “cold” and I know a few friends who can squat 8 plates easy, but can’t jump that. We’re different and that’s OK!

“A remarkable specialist in only one category, but poor in others, like a weight lifter or wrestler who cannot run or climb, or a runner or boxer who cannot swim or climb, isn’t strong from a “complete” standpoint.

On another hand, one who excels at entertaining or hobby sports (as in games of all kinds: football (soccer), tennis…; or gymnastics on man-made apparatus: high bar, trapeze…), but who ignores swimming, self-defense or has fear of heights, isn’t strong from a “useful” standpoint.

In short, to be strong consists of possessing a sufficient aptitude in utilitarian indispensable (a.k.a functional) exercises for everyone at any age and not to solely excel at entertaining fun exercises or of secondary utility”

So,a little redundancy, or rather, “rote” and let’s have Georgey break down the categories:

Functional Exercises of everyone at any age:

  1. Walk
  2. Run
  3. Jump
  4. Climb
  5. Lift
  6. Throw
  7. Fight (boxing or wrestling, natural means)
  8. Swim

These 8 categories suffice to achieve the highest level of physical development and to handle any difficult situation life throws at us. Walking, Running and Climbing constitute the prime natural exercises; they are the most indispensable of all.

That’s all going to be in the long awaited and delayed book (not my fault, serious!)

Sports or exercises of secondary utility (for select individuals and not necessary for everyone or all ages):

  1. Fencing
  2. Horseback riding
  3. Rowing
  4. Shooting
  5. Weapons self-defense (stick, knife…)
  6. Any artificial means of transportation requiring the use of the legs: cycling, skating, skiing, stilts…

Sports or exercises having no functionality for everyone or all ages:

  1. Anything requiring man-made apparatus: high bar, rings, trapeze, pommel horse, parallel bars…
  2. Any acrobatics, with or without the use of equipment.
  3. All games: soccer, hockey, tennis, cricket…

Remember, we are dealing with functionality for ALL POPULATIONS at ANY AGE, not fun, entertainment value or carry-over. We could probably argue, and successfully at that, the benefits of surfing, of playing rugby which develops both speed, agility, endurance, strength, power etc. That’s not the point.

The point is to raise the average, which is dismal in most countries I have to say. We as fitness enthusiasts live in a bubble we our social media feeds tend to show us our own interests, and few of us walk around national supermarket chains observing the decline of the population. Get them walking, running first, add some minor jumping, throwing and grow from there.

Le Code de la Force: The Strength Code

1 Comment

Georges Hébert’s “Code de la Force” book was published in France by Vuibert in 1914.

In its foreword, the author wrote:

The purpose of this book is to define the question of physical strength, by precisely defining the elements that comprise it and to give it a practical means of measuring it.

Because of the lack of works where notions relative to strength are codified [at the time of his writing], errors and preconceived notions of all kinds were plentiful on this topic. Thus, many people believe that large biceps constitute a criteria for strength; others solely consider strong individuals that are capable of lifting heavy weights; others finally habitually apply the qualifier of “solid bloke” to anyone tall and big. However, it so happens many times that the individual with large biceps shows inferiority when it comes to running or simply quickly climbing a slightly steep hill, that the weight lifter is unable to jump over any obstacle, that the solid bloke cannot follow an individual of ordinary ability in a long walk, a hike, a hunting game etc. 

He later writes:

On the other hand, no method concretely defines the outcome of physical education or training, meaning the goals to achieve. The result is trainees and coaches having no clue what to do. One not only trains without ardor or enjoyment when training without a goal, but one wastes time inevitably by repeating certain exercises without benefit. This is why I believed indispensable the need to establish exactly what the “training load” of the trained or educated individual ought to be.

One of my favorite parts of this foreword is that Hébert recognizes the need for experimentation, course correction and adjustment, his work being far from definitive. Philosophically speaking, isn’t it the first step to acknowledge what one’s limitations are in order to improve upon them?

3 Rules To Find Your Own Way

Leave a comment

The concept about the application of Bruce Lee’s quote “having no way as way, no limitations as limitation” is something that I have been randomly discussing with colleagues and peers in the fitness industry (albeit without naming it), as well as a serendipitously following the model recently in my own training.

With a basis, structure and foundation, everything works. With discipline, great things can be achieved. But  let’s not even label them as great. Let us simply say “things can be achieved”.

Discussions were had about discipline vs motivation: motivation is finding the enjoyment in doing, the mind set to do things, whereas discipline is the act of doing what you need to do regardless of how you feel.

So, to succeed, Rule #1 is: show up.

Rule #2: Keep it simple. Here lies the rub, and I can’t provide a better than my friend Rannoch Donald’s email exchange with me: “People look at things purely on the surface. If I tell you it’s simple you wonder, “what the fuck do I need to talk to you for then?” I tell you it’s complex, you say, “well, that’s not for me”. I do a ton of homework purely so I can stick to my guns when it comes to actually doing what I do. I say all the time that Simple is nothing more than Complex³.

Whilst all these people talk about fundamentals etc, very few actually work that stuff out. Then the flip side are those who think simply free-associating (often using the word flow to compensate for the fact they haven’t got a clue where it’s going) movement is the best expression.”

So, in order to remedy the last element Rannoch mentions above, I suggest the following Rule #3: Tell a story! In the Book Of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi states in one of his own famous 9 rules to “not do anything which is of no use”. 

Your training session should have a narrative, follow a basic storytelling formula where you have a starting point (where you are) and a purpose (where you need to be/go). You pack what you need and chart a route to follow. Along the journey, you will discard things you don’t need, include new things you didn’t think of and ultimately find yourself along the way.

One of the most difficult things to achieve for me was the contentment, satisfaction and awareness of who I am, what my body responds to best and the ability to separate my physicality from all the noise associated with fitness. It took me decades to not try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Call it self-esteem, body image, succumbing and overcoming peer pressure or marketing, the end game is: I know who I am.

Using the example of the recent Olympiads, if you look at the swimmers bodies, or gymnasts bodies, or track athletes bodies, they all are streamlined within their own sport, optimal, efficient, almost like coming out of a mold. Take Michael Phelps out of the water and have him run, or Oly lift, or take Ali Raisman and throw her into a swimming pool of other female athlete swimmers  of the same age. You can easily imagine the results.

We have become so specific in what we do, that we have forgotten to be well-rounded/all-around beings with many abilities. While we may not excel at all of them, the least we can do is be capable at most of them. Do not isolate or pigeonhole yourself into one type of activity. Check out this article by Tim Olds about the specification of the modern Olympian vs the Olympian of old who would complete in many disciplines we now find contradictory.

Georges Hébert’s goal was to make us all-around athletes. My goal is to simply raise the bar, so that the 8 out of 10 people that walk into Walmart and define our “average” can all run, jump, climb, throw, swim, fight, lift and live, look and feel well without the pressures of marketing.

What word would you like to describe what your fitness projects in a way that is congruent with your training and abilities?

As for me, I realized that my fitness pursuit, maintenance or goals, incorporating all of the above and where I feel best, most in tune, revolve around one word: “lithe”.

Attitude: mindset, posture or both?

Leave a comment

When I took on the task on translating and adapting Georges Hébert’s Complete Guide to Physical Education, a.k.a The Natural Method one aspect of the translation was to be able to use terminology that can be understood, even if not 100% defined at the time. Sometimes I would go literal, sometimes I chose a term that is close enough to give any given movement its own name, for easier and faster referencing.

The main example is the choice of the word “slit”. I didn’t want to call it a split because we will usually picture either Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a perfect split between chairs, or a gymnast/ballerina.

BLOODSPORT, Jean-Claude Van Damme, 1988. ©Cannon Films/courtesy Everett Collection

BLOODSPORT, Jean-Claude Van Damme, 1988. ©Cannon Films/courtesy Everett Collection

I didn’t want to call it a staggered stance, which it is also, because I prefer something that you can identify with as few negative connotations as possible (like staggering drunk somewhere) or for simple cueing (“stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with a staggered stance”, for instance when describing the lower limbs placement of a fighting stance). I chose slit because the stance in which you extend the leg, especially going into  backwards slit, reminded me of a sexy leg showing through a cut or opening in a dress. A slit is defined as “a long narrow cut or opening”. It is actually a literal translation of the word “fente” in French (sounds like “font” almost, nasal “n”). And, frankly, it is kind of sexy when you lean backwards, “slit” that leg forward, open your hips. You can see that as a dip in ballroom dancing.

tango-dip-tango-18625870-453-334

“Attitude” in French is one of those words that has two meanings (not double-entendre, which is an incorrect English adaptation of the word double-entendu): posture and a measure of one’s mental state or behavior. Incidentally, this is true in English as well, as “attitude” can be defined as “a position of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state”.

Let’s think about it for a bit. Visualize an army of soldiers marching in perfect unison and steady cadence. Watch them stop and stand at attention. Their posture and attitude will project a sense of confidence, skill, team collaboration and more. Now visualize a contrasting image of a slouching person whose assistance you need. Not hugely confidence-building…

Bringing the mindset to the work, or letting the work adjust your mindset is a two-directional, mutually beneficial relationship. One motivates, gets you started. The other is reflective of discipline, keeps you going. Act your way into proper thinking, or think your way into proper acting.

A good way to strengthen that attitude, that mindset, is to test yourself. The frequency can be up to you so long as it yields a positive change in your actions. My recent motivation was (and is, because I haven’t finished it), the book Breaking The Jump. Reading about the limitless, “having no way as a way” instinctive yet pushing the boundaries of the reptilian survival brain got me moving, got me making time I don’t normally, have (yet found), taking away from sleep, rest, TV time or other. My mindset improved.

51qis7J1luL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_

Similarly, I am no fan of running. I don’t like it when I start. I do like it when I finish. Not because it’s over, or almost, but I actually enjoy it. My runs have to be populated with other activities (training, Parkour-like exploration) so I can blend the euphoria of having done something cool and pushing a limit, but also that validates the way I train, as it promotes this end-goal of playful functionality with survival applications.

Don’t worry about looking or feeling silly if you go out and attempt even a strongly regressed variation of an American Ninja Warrior contestant. It’s the baby step that that person once took, that jump that broke their caged mindset and freed their mind to explore more of what they can do.

 

Breaking the habit, breaking the jump

Leave a comment

Up in the 5AM hour on a Sunday morning.

Thank you, 2-yr old Branson.

Not hot out yet, pleasant, balmy. 6-yr old Fletcher wakes up a little later. As their powers of destruction combined begin to rise as well, divide and conquer becomes the strategy. I’ll go out with Fletcher, Branson will cuddle with Mommy at home (or as I found out, he wreaked havoc all over the house…)

Now, I’ve also been devouring Julie Angel’s book Breaking The Jump and the re-discovery of concepts I have been preaching yet becoming complacent to with too much “easy strength” work made me want to sharpen my edge. Two of these, paraphrased quotes/concepts from the Yamakasi original crew are “you become good at what you do a lot of” and any stunt has to be done three times: the first time is to do it, to “break” it. The second you do for yourself, to make sure it was not a fluke (clients: sound familiar?) and the third time you do it for someone else. Since I had my 6-yr old coach/pace-setter on his bike (and also joining on some stunts), I had to show off anything and tell him to look (it pushes me to get his approval, I want to be a cool dad, yes, and it’s good that our 36-yr difference shows one can still do cool things).

The regimen was simple: run, jump onto, clear, jump off of. Rinse, repeat. Surfaces included: brick, concrete, dirt, polysoft playground impact attenuation surface and sand.

Obstacles were: wooden bleachers, jungle gym, overhead signs, stairwells and railing. The jungle gym/playground area includes slippery walls (only a very dry bare foot would grip), railing, thick supporting tubes/beams, a fun tower etc.

Heights varied from 4 feet to about 12 feet.

Drop/depth jumps were seated, standing and backwards or from vaulting over a railing and landing below.

Cat jumps/hang were either single, or hopping from one height to the next before vaulting over or dropping down. No less than 3 times each.

The ‘injury’ (a minor cut on my shin hitting the bottom of a railing during a hop from one cat hang to the next, higher and to the side) occurred at the intersection of distraction and overconfidence. The mechanics were there, I got a little sloppy from getting distracted by a dad who was looking at me with this WTF look, as if my actions were going to cause his kid to act like me and get hurt…

I tend to like solo work, however, the same way I enjoy surfing with at least one friend paddling out with me, the fun of pushing further with Fletcher asking me to jump onto the 12-ft (or higher) sign at the park, muscling up and jumping over, then immediately reversing the direction of it, justified why such training is best done with someone at your side. Silent inner competition and, well, showmanship 🙂

Metatrainers: we do more for you than you think!

Leave a comment

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 😉

 

The State Of Training Today

Leave a comment

Where is training as a profession today?

With so many options among trainers, methodologies, goals, it doesn’t only get complicated and confusing for clients of personal training (small group or one-one-one, as well as group exercise/classes), it becomes all the more confusing for the professionals. Maybe confusing isn’t the right word, challenging pressure cooker might be more appropriate set of terms to define what’s happening.

For marketing and research purposes, and also because I have tried to diversify my approach to business over the past few years, where personal training is only one aspect of my offerings in the fitness industry, I have notice, by going outside, that the climate is frankly quite the same across all industries.

Because of my natural proclivity and proximity of looking at the Real Estate market, where my wife has been working as a Realtor® for as long as I have been a personal trainer, the need for marketing, branding, advertising, mailing and then some exists and is just as challenging. And since social media and an online presence seem de rigueur in this New (Digital) Age, what has been coming up in my research is that there are countless individuals who sell systems to become a 6-figure business owner.

All of these people popping up showing photos of their luxury sports cars, mansions, cover model girlfriends, and showing how “Billy Trainer, 23, followed my system and is now making quadruple his previous year’s income in one month only, and is on track for 7 figures by year’s end” (I am not far fetched in paraphrasing the claims), present themselves as super established fitness marketing celebs.

I must truly live under a rock, I have never heard of them. Yet, I am curious to read the copy… Because it’s a well crafted message, especially because it’s hard out there in the trenches. People always look for a deal, have no issue spending money on the latest gadgets and cars, clothes or other toys, but will always try to squeeze the entrepreneur who is looking to make their life and health better. And trainers always want to grow and get out of the dollars for hours business model. Not duplicatable, not a business, but a job.

If you’re not a trainer, don’t try to squeeze your trainer out of his or her money. Trainers hustle to learn, spend more on becoming better, have little ROI, and have rates that rarely match the rise in inflation, or don’t benefit from your work bonuses or raises, and have a hard time rooting for your new electric SUV or how cool your new gizmotronic is. I kid you not, there is a guy in Santa Monica who drives his import luxury car to train with, get this, a homeless trainer! The trainer might be crazy, old and ripped, but he’s still homeless! If not, he surely appears to be whenever I see him with his bags and sleeping on the beach!

So, it seems there is a whole generation of vultures out there looking to prey upon the trainers looking to better themselves, where they sell you expensive shticks and spiels that yield little return, have little in-the-field experience, repackaging the same concepts other industries try to re-sell you, and they are making their money not IN the fitness industry, but FROM fitness industry professionals.

So, where is the state of fitness now? I believe it’s like in the whole concept of the “Sharing Economy”, where trainers work harder, work more, and get less and less, until being driven out of the industry and until a new crop of trainers shows up, follows a few trends and moves on because they’re beaten and worn. And of those who have survived, the veterans with skills and knowledge, that lasting power erodes unless you are the one who got handed a golden ticket. Truthfully, it seems easier to break into Hollywood than to make is as a trainer…