Category Archives: theory

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.

Über Fitness part 2 (final)

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Are you a well-rounded athlete if you are the top guy in your sport?

Does specialization make you better than general fitness?

These two questions are leading because their phrasing most likely steers you to the answer “no”, especially if you are educated in the field of fitness, or at least well-read.

Athletes, more specifically professional athletes, tend to have imbalances because of overuse patterns and the demands of the sport. The resulting specialization creates not only imbalances, but potentially limitations. Of course, we can argue that some sports offer some sort of all-around balanced development, but in general, the hyper focus on the task to accomplish makes it difficult for a sprinter to run a marathon, a bodybuilder to fight in the ring, or a gymnast to be a good diver (the latter example because gymnasts are taught to always land on their feet and the concept of going head first after some flips doesn’t compute).

We could discuss that with the Crossfit games, the displays of athleticism are tremendous (and I guarantee you the competitors’ training is anything but WODs), but that would be perceived as a cheap way to get readers 😉

Back to Georges Hébert and his Natural Method, since it’s still an unknown subject to 99.99% of the fitness population. His goal is all-around athleticism: a balance of speed, endurance, strength, mobility, skill and functionality. According to Hébert, games, sports and manual labor are the finality of physical education. These forms of physical exercise are useful for the following reasons:

  • They augment the general physical value of individuals and extend what can be called “physical knowledge”.
  • They entertain the “taste” for physical activity by breaking up the monotony of methodical training.
  • They help perfect agility, develop a sense of practicality, promote ingeniousness by giving complete freedom to individual action.
  • They satisfy a need for variety and pleasure by providing a release from methodical training.
  • They demonstrate functionality and bring out the advantages of good physical preparedness. Greater success is achieved, indeed, even more in the various branches of physical activity as one is better prepared thanks to methodical training (strength and conditioning).

So, what are we learning with Hébert’s Natural Method? Is it yet another secret sauce never revealed to you until now? While I could say if it’s new to you the answer is yes, the reality is that it’s a method that withstood the test of time, and that if you are a fitness enthusiast, your skills and abilities deserve the right to rekindle with your body’s natural desire to move well, as it is engineered to do so. Forget fat loss, muscle gain or some other specialized goal. All of that comes naturally, and it is so much more than just the moves posted on various social media. The philosophy behind the method is very wholistic and revolves around 3 major points:

  1. Hygienic action (not about being freshly scrubbed, read Book 1 if you want to know what that means in details about cleansing the system through air baths, circulation etc).
  2. Functionality/Utility.
  3. Mental benefits.

We all need that, we tend to forget those aspects too frequently, and that’s what the Method is also about 🙂

Five reasons you need to jump

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Why jump?

The question rather should be: why not jump, if you are capable?

Lately, I’ve been just bored of squats and deadlifts, or any leg training exercise. Just a matter of staleness. My musculature is lean and proportional, and I’ve been always conscious to maintain balance. But there are times when I need to make training fun and set discipline to the side for a little bit. Actually, strike that: I still am disciplined, I just need a bit of variety. And I remember how powerful and sculpted my legs were when I was doing more martial arts. For my general activities, I don’t need to power lift and while I have enjoyed it for years (the process, the lifts, but not for the goal of competition as I am not that athlete). And power generation is just a measure of application of power and methodology.

I am leaning more and more to a natural approach, in the sense of chasing my kids and running around. But, if you’re experiencing some staleness as well with your lifts and need something to give you a nice (neural) break from the traditional, here’s what Georges Hébert has to say about jumps (and I should post what he says about running too, something that is making a comeback with new -old- findings). And, since I live in Southern California and as a personal trainer, having the year-round ability to train outdoors with the available training equipment the various parks offer, like pull-up bars, monkey bars, parallel bars, why not take advantage? Anyway, read up on the 5 reasons why jumping’s good for you!

Jumping consists of giving the body a sufficient impulse in order to cover a distance or any obstacle in one leap.

It is important to distinguish:

1)   The educative jump on a prepared surface with a predetermined obstacle.

2)   The applied jump with real obstacles.

These two types of jumps are also useful, both from a practical standpoint as well as physical development.

 

The effects of jumps on the body are the following:

1)   They engage the most important parts of the body, particularly the cardiorespiratory functions;

2)   They have a powerful action on the muscular development of the lower limbs and the abdomen, especially jumps without momentum;

3)   They develop agility and hand-eye coordination;

4)   They strengthen the feet and ankles and train the body to sustain various kinds of impact;

5)   They promote flexibility and a sense of equilibrium/balance to avoid bad falls.

A greater purpose

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I want to first thank everyone who purchased The Natural Method and helped it make it to the #1 best seller in the Physical Education category. The outpour of interest and recognition of Georges Hébert’s hundred-year old manuscript denotes the profound interest in the fitness industry to “do better”. I see it as a hugely positive step in the direction of education, foundation and organization in training, something that can be still lacking in the industry.

Many of my friends, be they peers or mentors, always relied on the substance of others to promote their philosophy, after making it their own, and it almost always led to phenomenal results with their clientèle, which then led to their own recognition as pillars in the community. And because I frequently mention them by name, I will not do it this time and rather give them a silent homage, although they all know who they are (and I could write a blog which would read like the phone book if I mentioned all without omissions).

Assimilation and understanding ought to always be the first steps, before applying or dispensing the knowledge, in my humble opinion. By focusing on the lessons of the first book and taking ownership of the process, I also (hopefully) was able to carry on the message of education by emulation, which the book promotes. Hébert talks about the ability to simplify the process of training so that even a non-expert can, with minimal education, conduct a model training session. The understanding and application of the process begets a unification of the trainees and then exponentially spreads. Any certified trainer ought to be able to emulate that process with their existing knowledge.

Why didn’t I release all three books at once? Outside of the time limitations and my thirst to share right away what my mind was getting blown away with, I wanted to avoid the potential of someone simply skipping to the exercises descriptions only and missing out on the process and sequence of the method entirely. Since most trainers have a basic understanding of exercises but, as I have observed, string together movements without a cohesive purpose, the first presentation of this trilogy removes the distraction of the shiny new toy or the dismissal of something already known.

I may be wrong in my approach, but I’ve always stuck to the execution of the basics, and good old Georges was way smarter than I can ever be, so instead of questioning his approach, I simply applied and interpreted his model in a quickly “digestible” amount of information. Also, because education benefits from rote, I stayed loyal to his repetitive style rather than subjectively abridge his work for the sake of making it shorter. Anything worth investing time in ought to stay with you past your initial reading. If the same information is repeated over and over, it’s likely to stick. Anecdote: this is how I got to drive a NASCAR at full speed for 20 laps, passing other slower cars multiple times, engaging in a high speed chase with a buddy of mine, because we spent 90 minutes hearing 5 minutes worth of instructions drilled into our brains in different fashions!

Lesson model and order

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This is an excerpt from the book, Chapter IV. It charts the order of drills and explains the intensity variations for optimal performance within the session, from warm-up to cool down.

SECTIONEXERCISESGOALS AND BENEFITS
1
  1. Any kind of walking.
  2. Corrective exercises.
  3. Flexibility and mobility of the arms, leg and trunk.
Correcting mindset, warming up the body and general loosening up of the body (aesthetic benefits).
2
  1. Basic arm and leg movements, simple or combined, free hand or with gear.
  2. Lifting.
  3. Throwing.
  4. Combatives: boxing and wrestling.
General and symmetrical development of all the body parts. Joint flexibility (aesthetic benefits).Skill development and coordination in order to improve fighting, lifting and throwing abilities (functional benefits)
3
  1. Suspension/Hanging.
  2. Supported/Planks.
  3. Climbing variations.
  4. Balancing drills geared also at overcoming fear of heights/vertigo.
Specific development of the upper body, trunk and core musculature (aesthetic benefits). Sense of equilibrium, agility of all kinds for climbing or scaling (functional benefits).
4
  1. Hopping.
  2. Speed training.
  3. Short distance runs.
Intense action on the major systems of the body: cardiovascular and respiratory (hygienic benefits).Improvement in normal and work pacing (functional benefits).
5Trunk and core specificEmphasis on back, thoracic and abdominal musculature development (aesthetic benefits).
6
  1. Jumps of all kinds: with or without momentum, with hand support, on moving or fixed obstacles.
  2. Velocity/speed   and distance running (like in Section 4).
  3. Swimming.
  4. Games utilizing running, jumping, swimming, fighting actions etc…
Same benefits as in Section 4, but more intense.All the exercises in this section produce hygienic, aesthetic and functional benefits.
7
  1. Breath work.
  2. Marching/Walking.
Restore the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.Breathing education.

 

 

 

Thus:

–       Exercises in Section 1 simply serve to warm-up and loosen up the body.

–       Exercises in Sections 4 and 6 on average require greater effort than those in Sections 1, 2 and 3.

–       Section 5 is positioned on purpose between two sections of more strenuous nature (jumping, running etc.) because the exercises in this section require little effort but provide the body with the necessary relaxation characterized by a lowering of the heart rate.

–       Finally, exercises in Section 7 are geared towards restoring the breath and lowering the heart rate before resting. They can be performed during the session when the taxing efforts of a particular exercise require restoration.

 

Don’t forget to have fun!

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Dan John said “the goal is to keep the goal the goal”. There was a blog worth the read last week in which Coach Stevo expands on that concept.

I am not going to preach on the increasingly familiar, yet not new, rather quite ancient concept of not working out to work out, or to get through the work out but getting either nothing more out of it or not applying it for something else. The athlete trains in order to perform better at a given sport. Working out for health is great, but it’s not just about the numbers at the doctor’s office, or on the scale, or the poundage on the barbell. If it helps you do the fun stuff better, the social and moral stuff better (like helping your fellow human get up, lift a couch, defend against a bad guy…).

Yes, there is satisfaction in pressing that Beast, finally! But don’t forget you also like to go to the batting cages, play a few inning with your office league. Or, catching some big waves while the swell is hitting your local spot, before it fades. You gotta be ready for it when it hits so you can enjoy it better and longer. Or, your grandchildren are visiting and you need the energy to chase them. Whatever floats your boat. But, please, go find a boat. Otherwise, it’s work. It gets stale, you don’t want to do it, you can’t measure it with the things you like, just the things you need to do (like a pressing or deadlifting protocol).

You want a plan? How about some of the concepts from Georges Hébert’s Guide Pratique de la Methode Naturelle? Hébert, by the way, is the original “traceur” to whom Parkour is credited to.

“Activity is a law of Nature. Every living being, obeying an innate need for natural activity, reaches complete physical development by the mere usage of locomotion, as well as manual labor and defense mechanisms.

Humans, in their most natural and primitive state, in the wild for instance, are compelled to lead an active life in order to sustain their needs, fulfilling complete physical development by only performing natural and functional exercises: walking, running, jumping, climbing, lifting, throwing, swimming, self-defense etc, as well as the partaking in mundane activities.”

(…)

“In civilized countries, social obligations, conventions and judgment distance men from their natural outdoors environment and often prevent the practice of physical activity. Physical development becomes set back, even stuck by said obligations or conventions.

Of those in modern society who are able to take a sufficient daily dose of training in line with their constitution can reach, without any particular method, full physical development by the simple practice of natural exercises and their variations and by performing basic functional drills or standard labor. This is a form of imitation of people living in a wild natural state, the difference being they do so by choice and leisure rather than by necessity.”

(…)

“Any physical education system or method contains the following exercises:

  1. Basic educational exercises: basic arm, leg, trunk movements, suspended/hanging work, supported work (planks, push-ups), balance work, hops and breathing patterns.
  2. Natural and necessary functional, divided into 8 categories: marching/walking, running, swimming, climbing, lifting weights, throwing objects and defensive/combative tactics.
  3. All sports and games, even for fun rather than useful function, as well as common manual labor.”

(…)

“You only need a brief moment to reflect on this to understand that these eight categories are all useful, in various degrees, throughout our existence. Outside of them exists the practice of activities like fencing, horseback riding, rowing, which are of secondary use or limited to a certain population; or games, ports, acrobatic or fun activities, none of which are needed for all individuals, regardless of social status or occupation.

Henceforth, there is only one general system geared at the perfection of the human machine, and it is based on progressive training and the methodical practice of natural and functional drills. We can call it the Natural Method.”

So, please remember:

1. Learn.

2. Prepare.

3. Apply.

“Just” training (#2) is not the goal.

 

Just another manic Monday…

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“Woe, woe is me” can be a good substitute for the actual lyrics (whatever onomatopoeia follows the title during the song). Btw, if you know the reference, you just revealed your age… Alternate title: fitness while parenting babies/toddlers and running two businesses.

Pre-5AM: keep 4-year old in bed to avoid waking up 4-month old who’s been keeping Mommy up every 2 hours for cluster breastfeedings (Daddy is useless since infant won’t take the bottle). Sometimes, 4YO runs into parents’ bedroom where baby still sleeps bedside in middle of the night, afraid to sleep alone (night scares begin at this age apparently). Daddy gets no sleep, between feedings, snoring or 4YO bedmate kicking while sleeping (yes, sometimes, I just give in and go to bed in his room to try to preserve the peace in other room). Both parents sleep deprived.

Make breakfast (if no early clients) and get ready for 8:00-8:30AM drop off at camp/school. Pick-up is at 2:30PM with then commute to swim lesson at 3:00PM (Summer schedule) daily. Some camps finish earlier, so not such a rush, still being a taxi driver.

Clients start at 9:00 or 10:00AM and end at 2:00-2:30PM. That’s because load had to be reduced dramatically to help with logistics of 2 kids with no family in town to help, as well as previously tremendous work on the SmartFlex™ venture (still a lot, but took a step back with help from others involved). Between camp/school pick-up and delivery at home, count healthy dinner being made for family (to be eaten a couple of hours later cold, by myself) so it’s ready by 5:30PM so I can leave and train clients in the evening. Some days, not even time to finish prepping because current construction on route makes a 4-mile drive a 50 minute commute.

Not easy to sneak in a workout, but I’m a trainer, so I have to represent. What makes me a people’s trainer is that I can relate: the kids, the schedule, the commute, the craziness of being a machine in perpetual movement at home (cleaning up kid messes which are 3 per minute, screams by one starting screams by another, having no bed to call my own because I am a nocturnal nomad trying to preserve the peace, on top of shared chores). Not as glamorous as a celebrity trainer, not the same income, but results are real and count for twice those of an athlete or a genetic lottery winner.

“You need to make time if you’re serious about training!”

Er, I do and I am. And yes, I used to give that same speech to others! You may have been  in my shoes years ago and now have independent teenagers, not walking kamikazes, or are blissfully single/without kids, or have the cash to hire help. I am not complaining here either. I’m giving you a glimpse into a regular joe’s day letting you know that if I can get clients the results I deliver, it’s not because I am awesome at being me. It’s because I get you, the client who is super busy with his/her own kids and hasn’t slept since the arrival of your firstborn. I’m your middle-classman who serves the elite, but delivers for the blue collar just the same. I have accomplished little in life, because it is not and never was about me. I didn’t climb Mt Everest at 18, graduated suma cum laude from Princeton, got my first house bought with the help of Daddy’s money. I salute the parents who run the biz, the fam and everything else in-between. It’s the hardest job, doesn’t always feel as rewarding, more often thankless, selfless and yet still we reflect and appreciate.

Relate by sympathizing. Stay in touch (with others’ needs). You’ll stay in business forever.

Is a cheetah more awesome than a leopard?

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Is a grizzly bear better than a tiger? A rhino cooler than a water buffalo? A python more efficient than a flying squirrel?

How about antelopes? Is being a meal for the lion king something that devalues their amazing abilities, agility, speed and strength?

So, why do we make similar comparisons to us humans, by judging one person vs another when it comes to fitness (in this topic, since we do it with just about everything)? I posted something about the fallacy of setting up straw men in a previous post, and it would appear that I am trying to do this very thing here, but I will argue my point regardless.

While comparing different species is akin to comparing different fruits (you know the expression), we can certainly make the same argument inside our own species. We are different: height, bone structure, genetics… If we were the same, two athletes that vary in height, weight, leverage, limb length that received the same training ought to technically be equal, right? Somehow, I seriously doubt that a 5’4″ gymnast could dunk a basketball as easily as his 6’6″ NBA counterpart, and vice-versa for a vault routine if both trained equally in modality, intensity and frequency.

Not everyone is built for power lifting, or swimming, or football, or grappling or whatever else you can think of. There may be some crossover (Bo Jackson comes to mind), and that’s still within certain parameters. I don’t think there is enough time spent in many of our current training methodologies to acknowledge those differences. Pound per pound proportions are not equal, neither is limb length (I remember a 6’2″ 155lb fighter vs a 5’4″ fighter of the same weight in an episode of The Ultimate Fighter whose reach gave him a clear advantage). Some folks pull better, some push better. Technique will take you so far, but your genetics will always play in the end. There is a truth to “frame specific” abilities. I think the Russians would line up children and assign a sport to each based on that.

The moral of the story is: do whatever you like to do. If you enjoy a sport you’re not built for, have fun, unless you want to do it competitively. How do you know if you’re built for it? Look at your peers. Frodo Baggins is not joining the NBA anytime soon. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Have a little Simon Cowell in you and inject a dose of reality into your fun to keep it fun, otherwise you can be disappointed. Acceptance is not defeat. It’s a starting point for smart programming and becoming awesome. And there are many ways to be awesome. Don’t let one person’s training affect you, or let them tell you what you need to do. Find your fit.

Setting up straw men.

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the expression of setting up a straw man as  a weak or imaginary argument or opponent that is set up to be easily defeated.

In the business of fitness where marketing tops everything (a hard knock on the concept of “strength trumps everything”), you can read daily blogs doing just that, setting up arguments only to take them down and promote one’s own product. And before I get attacked myself for hypocrisy considering I invented a product I wish success for, the SmartFlex™, I need to stress that in order to engage the community of trainers and consumers I have been able to reach via my network as well as partners and allies, I used established knowledge and opened myself up to the critique of people smarter than me. But I digress. So-called experts routinely set up said “straw men” arguments by either preying on the public’s lack of in-depth knowledge of a subject, or, conversely, re-focusing the buffet of information plastered all over the Web to “prove” their point by isolating one element out of proper context.

Take nutrition for instance: is there a definitive answer? Is there one plan that fits all needs or populations? The obvious, sensible answer ought to be “No”. However, if you read the copy of an invested proponent of ANY diet, you’ll find it filled with anecdotal evidence with a pseudo-scientific explanation backing it. Did you know that for any test group, you have the right to publish the evidence that supports your claims, but can keep what refutes it mum for over a decade, or publish it in an obscure journal no one will ever bother to find? What’s even more sad, said test group can have a 3% success rate and 97% failure rate, if you’re only shown the success stories, it’s OK to use for marketing/advertising purposes with nothing more than “individual results may vary”? The supplements industry is the perfect example for that. I even received a multitude of emails recently from different online fitness personalities (I like to see what others are doing), all of whom affiliate with the flavor of the month, usually with an urgent call to action before the information is “taken down for good” or with a huge price hike (to make the offer seem like a deal) past the introductory period, which never expires in reality. There is a reason the offer is taken down. Think about it.

I remember learning and utilizing elements of communities I belong to for marketing purposes. Caught up in the excitement, I never questioned those elements (which are still being used), like the burning of 1200 calories per hour for kettlebell snatches. Yes, that is possible. The test was done by having somebody snatch a 24kg/53lb kettlebell for 10 minutes, which measured 200kcal (calories). That person, to the best of my recollection, was in the 180-200lb range. So the measure is appropriate to the individual, not everyone. And to extrapolate the 1200 calories/hour, you essentially multiply the 10 minutes of work by 6. The math works, the theory works. Now, ask that same person to snatch for an hour instead of 10 minutes. Will the individual  actually burn 1200 calories? Is it safe? Will form falter and potentially increase the risk for injury? Respective answers can be: maybe with elevated EPOC or “afterburn” levels but good luck surviving that (not for the average person), most likely realistically there will be a drop in rep quality & quantity, hand callouses forming then tearing. Benefits are possible, just maybe not likely or plausible. Am I setting up a straw man myself right now by not verifying that this maybe applied to kettlebell swings instead of snatches (way more manageable), hoping no one will call me out or banking on the reader not knowing and trusting my years in the biz? Am I not thorough enough, using my recall of the “Burn up to 1200 calories per hour with kettlebells without the dishonor of aerobics or dieting” with the wrong exercise? Truth is, a little bit of everything applies here. I am however owning up to it and still making my point that this is routinely done without full disclosure, which is where one argument can become law. And kettlebells are one of my favorite tools that I have been using for 7 years now.

I personally have learned to question everything, and like to engage anyone I train to even question what I teach them. I have no problems admitting I was wrong, or that “to the best of my knowledge ____”, or “in my experience, _____” because I like to stay current, informed, and also, I remember the basics of philosophy where every theory is right until proven wrong, and also know that empirical evidence can be skewed or refuted. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that I am one day for something, against it the next day if evidence shows me otherwise. I take it as it is, process it, apply it, present it. This works well if you have nothing financial at stake but your integrity. And just because someone said something bad about something that works doesn’t mean I have to throw that thing away. Instead, I file the newfound information into the “addendum” category. I like the Paleo diet, I even was on it for a while, and just like a weight training routine, the body adapts, things don’t work anymore, goals change and you need to change/adjust variables. Many times I used a high protein, low carb, high fat diet with nutrient dense rich carbs for short term goals, and later found the addition of starches to actually promoted further fat loss -if such was the goal- (when the starter plan of no starches started to fail and affect my hormones).

I have worked with people who built their entire businesses around a concept, but if you dig into their personal regimen (nutrition and/or training) and you’ll find little synergy with what they’re selling. We’re not cavemen needing to survive on food we forage, but we are indeed in need of moving more. Cavemen didn’t work out, they were nomadic, either chasing or being chased. They didn’t lift rocks for fun. But they also didn’t have 156 HD channels and desk jobs. And they sure as heck didn’t enhance their mate’s bosom with silicone or inject anti-aging hormones into their veins. Similarly, the guy who invented the Nautilus line of equipment rarely used it, but was spotted using traditional tools like barbells and dumbbells while saying he relied primarily on his Nautilus gear, with the argument of “checking his strength” as his excuse (checking it 3-4 times a week for a couple of hours at a time. Um, yeah, not buying it).

You can get extremely confused these days reading how everything will kill you, and also that this guy’s coffee is better, or that brand’s lotion is safer or more effective because it has this breakthrough ingredient (usually in concentrations so small it barely moves the needle in any direction). I actually really enjoyed reading about Paleo as the Scientology of diets because it provides some really good light on the Straw Man topic. Mainly it shows that smart people will have a harder time letting go of certain notions because it took them a while to understand the notion. This happens a lot with educated people because they need to justify the high cost of their education at the expense of common sense. It’s called “cognitive dissonance“. I myself have been guilty of that many times, and it’s hard to find out or accept sometimes that yes, you, me, we can be the smarter person, instead of the person we learned from or the world renown expert whose book we bought that yielded a big goose egg worth of results. Sometimes you know what’s right for you, but you can’t either accept it or dig it out of your brain because you may not have the confidence to do so. Yes, we should always seek the advice of experts, but who is an expert these days? Even the experts make mistakes if they remain caught up in their ways.

Change is inevitable and even lack of change promotes change (not in a good way, though).

The Artistry Of Training

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Everyone of my blood relatives is an artist of sorts and makes a living at it. My father is a musician, my mother paints, as does my grandmother, my younger brother does graphic work and music and my youngest brother directs music videos and is a visual effects director on movies and such. I used to joke around that the only arts I practice are “martial”. While that may be true, not until I starting reading LINCHPIN by Seth Godin did I realize I was a little off on that comment 🙂

LINCHPIN VS COG
Having been recently unceremoniously terminated from a corporate training facility who shall not remain nameless, Gold’s Gym Venice, for the unscrupulous bullshit reason of violation of their terms of employment, where a part-timer like myself is apparently not allowed to make a living in their chosen profession with private “non-Mecca” clients, I realized this was a really good thing (the getting fired thing).
Corporations are built to amass a fortune at the expense of others. If it can be standardized, put in a manual, outsourced, exploited and replaced easily, it will be the way. Gold’s in Venice has a slew of independent trainers that were grandfathered in when the Mecca went corporate, and only a dozen staff trainers. The staff trainers have a huge cut taken out of their pay, which makes them all unhappy and eager to train outside or leave. Such is the business model for corporations: high turnover so you don’t need to give raises or incentives, milk people for as much as possible and get rid of people like me who actually have a business mind and realize they don’t need to be there. With such a model, there is little difference between a mediocre and a great trainer. The great trainer only yields a slightly bigger profit, but if they’re anything like myself, voicing your opinion and knowing what’s out there, outside of the gym, it creates conflict. A mediocre employee by comparison will abide like a beaten dog and if no longer useful, will get terminated.
In my case, if they’d let me march by the beat of my drum, they could have continued to profit. But I would then be dying inside and the flame that fuels my passion for my work would soon extinguish.

TRAINING AS AN ART
Pavel Tsatsouline uses the expression “paralysis by analysis”, whereby people who rely solely on their academic knowledge, test-tube vacuum mentality miss the big “human” picture and become cogs in a mechanism themselves. While I recognize the importance of education, knowledge and experience, the artistry involved in creating and developing a program that’s suitable for the client’s needs and wants is intrinsic to a good trainer. There are many ways to skin a cat. There are many ways to burn fat, put on muscle, sim down, improve time for a race. Not everything is cookie-cutter. Not every disease is treated the same by a doctor. A good doctor recognizes and acknowledges many factors and variables. There is an art to that. Same with the software engineer who will design an interface that’s pleasant and gets the job done. When you become an artist, as Seth Godin often mentions (and I paraphrase), you become indispensable, unique. Sure, a client can find another trainer, but it will not be a trainer like you. Go to Equinox and you can switch trainers any time because they force clients and trainers into a set design. Put it in a manual, abide and comply and voilà. Do yourself a favor: if that’s what you want, save some cash and buy a fitness magazine instead.

I am going to end this blog with a “status update” I posted on Facebook recently, because it sums up what I am talking about:
A great trainer doesn’t just spew knowledge and science and rehash it. It takes a certain artistry to put together, cue and build that is not taught academically. It’s a balance of knowledge, education and unquenchable thirst for self-improvement that relays the passion coaches have for what they do. It IS art.

In the meantime, get the book I am referring to here. Easy read, great motivation. I’ll keep you posted of what it inspired me to do, redoubling my fire to expand my passion into other areas and share my knowledge and philosophy!