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The Zercher Squat. Peacekeeper Of The Cage

Spend enough time in the gym and it's inevitable that you begin to find your flavor. Certain volumes, intensities, and exercises that you are more than willing to invest your time and energy into because you enjoy what they do and what they do just so happens to work.

The Zercher Squat and I have had this type of relationship for a number of years now. What was introduced to me as squatting alternative while sidelined with a broken wrist has evolved into what I would call one of my top three weight room favorites for a number of reasons.

Personally, the biggest selling point was the amount of abdominal and thoracic spine control that was required of me. The front and back squat certainly have their place in these regards but until I had a chance to saw myself in half with a barbell in this fashion did I understand what bracing through the mid section should really feel like.

With this extra mid section discipline came a wildly comfortable range of motion that my hips fell in love with.

Then of course the aesthetics. I love strength training and the big lifts that are associated with it. I also have some physique skeletons in my closet that includes a fair share of arm training. But no arm training prepared me for the swell that you get out of wrapping your hooks around a weighted barbell. Strength gains and a gun blitz packed into one.

Which brings me to my key point on my use of the Zercher in this case. Not as a tool of strength conquest but a tool of weight room diplomacy.

I've never been one for conflict. I like peaceful conversation, I am wildly partial to tossing ideas rather than tossing knuckles and I can't say I have seen much conflict solved by creating conflict.

Which is why the Zercher squat has become my bargaining chip when it comes to productive squat rack use.

If curling in the squat rack is something that gets under your skin I can completely empathize with you. But rather than resorting to bottling up your displeasure and taking it out on your Facebook friends or snapping a shot of yourself ass to grass in the preacher bench I propose a more peaceful solution.
 

Show Them What Exactly?

Show them the Zercher.

I have gotten into the habit of this with a lot of the younger lifters coming into the studio and the response has been for the most part quite positive. I have to say that it has been a big lesson in humility for me.

A friendly reminder that there is no point to be wound up on certain things in the gym and an even more profound reminder that there are people who may genuinely need your help but just don't know how to ask for it.

So give the Zercher a shot when it comes to bringing peace to the cage. You may get a client, training partner, business partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, drinking buddy out of it. You may not but at least you can say that you did your part to make the weight room a better place.

Because at the end of the day, we're all still chasing the same gains.

-JA

Jun 9, 2014
A Vegas Guide To Free Agency In The Fitness Biz

The gamble, the gusto, the risk, and the roll of the dice.

Whether it's giving explanations or receiving best wishes it seems as if gambling innuendos have been involved in some way shape or form.

To give you a very brief history, I decided to leave my employer back in the fall. A decision that was tough to make for a number of reasons and the biggest reason being that my overall experience working with a larger fitness chain was for the most part quite a positive one.

However, there was a desire for me to become my own brand and go for the gamble that is being freelance in the fitness game.

Since gambling seems to have such a verbal presence in this topic I figured why not put it in the context of a certain gambling city in the desert.

A city where Lady Luck can test what you're made of in a number of ways. A city where I ultimately decided to put the wheels in motion on this particular gamble.
 

Beautiful But Dangerous

The jump to free agency is a wildly complex topic. Not everybody is meant for it nor does everybody follow the same formula. But if you are either considering it or you are currently in the thick of it here is a bit of a Sin City spin on what has kept me above the sand in my early stages of it.

Not as an individual making it rain in the Terrace Suite at the Cosmo. But as a guy checked into a modestly priced four star guest room happy to have enough chips in my pocket to still be playing the game.

Make The Most Of The Hand You're Dealt

You cannot control every aspect of the hand you are dealt so you best strategize around what cards you do have. In this situation I would call it your body of work, your rapport, your relationships, your education, and your experiences.

Take a very good look at what you have in your hand because from the very beginning it is about all you have. It could be a loaded hand or it could be a light hand but in this case the true value of the cards lies in how well you play.

Buy The Ticket Take The Ride

I cannot stress enough about getting educated in the science, the art, and the business of your craft. Whether it is literature or conferences this is going to be something that will set you apart as well as potentially prevent you from making drunken wagers in your business.

The only catch being it doesn't always come cheap but I can't stress enough the value of the investment vs. the hit of the expense. It is something that I have cherished as well as borderline recklessly invested in over the years. Money well spent.

When you're going at this on your own, every connection that you can make and lesson you learn has the ability to radically influence the science of your craft, the art of expressing it, and the business savvy that puts value to it.

All very important tickets required to hop on this crazy ride you're about to embark on.

Vegas Thrill Ride

If you've taken it you know. If you're flirting with it or just stepping into it get ready because this is no Circus Circus midway you're dealing with.

This roller coaster has a lot more on the line and as long as you're riding it, don't expect it to let off. You're better off learning how to ride it.

This ride can have you feel on top only to take you on a split second cruise down the tubes.

Which is why it is quite important to know how to keep yourself somewhere in the middle of it all. To not blow your stack physically,emotionally or financially emotionally when you're fire and lightning so you can minimize the damage when you're Fear and Loathing. 

This was particularly tough for me due to feeling as if I was the only one. Fear and Loathing is a mask we tend to wear in this unmasked world and I am just as guilty of it. I'm learning that no matter what stage of this thrill ride you may be in the fear is a constant. The only thing that changes are the wagers.
 

If I Were To Instagram My Insecurities Of This Thrill Ride

Vegas Never Sleeps

To develop a personal brand is to develop the person behind it. For that reason be ready to loosen the belt on the meaning of a personal life and a professional one.

Working under your own personal brand is a constant shift no matter what your day to day may entail. Even if you're not on the clock there is a currency that can be built through being personable and being unselfish with your time, your sweat and your information.

Anything that you can do both personally and professionally will contribute to this currency. It's up in the air on if/when it may pay off or how much, but through just being a better person your profession grows in value.

Even if you feel you're playing on your last few dollars you might be richer than you think.
 

Goin Down Gamblin'

Much like this chaotic city, free agency is a chaotic move and it certainly isn't for everybody. It takes time to figure out the ideal time and place and it takes a set of stones to pull the trigger on it.

For me, I am fortunate to be in a position personally to be a gambling man professionally. I was also able to take the time to plan before pulling the trigger.

That being said, planning only takes you so far. No matter what plan you may have in place it is still a wild, scary game to play and it's a game the house loves to win more than you hate to lose.

It's an absolute grind but it is an absolute trip and as long as the table is open for me it is a game that I will continue to do my best to play and win despite the losing that is involved with it.

I can't give it my recommendation I can only give it my opinion. But if you're planning, if you're polished, if you're prepared, and you're not afraid of being afraid then my opinion is get out and grab this Vegas thrill ride by the Golden Nuggets.

-JA

May 28, 2014
Let Your Lifting Love You Back

As a guy who has become quite familiar with the decor of the doghouse I may not be the most qualified to be handing out relationship advice so take it with a grain of salt.

However, when it comes to fielding questions of progress or adherence associated with exercise these days I cannot help but ask this question.

How healthy is your relationship with your exercise?

Looking back at getting started in the gym I am sure we can say we have all spent time fantasizing and romanticizing the ideal look and feel of our bodies. An image of a consistently strong, lean, healthy body to live in. An image that we grow an appreciation for.

Where I believe the trouble begins to expose itself however is how unromantic it becomes when the call to action is put into place. Soon the outcome that we romanticized as a sweet long term relationship with our body gets replaced with a call to action comparable to a one night stand.

While there may be some immediate fulfillment with that approach how often does it really last and how often does it remain fulfilling?
 

But sometimes there is a spark. Something that intrigues you and you just can't walk away from it. You put the time in and you are totally cool with it because your body is getting the love in return that it deserves.

The attraction evolves into infatuation, you are fully engaged and before you know it things get hot and heavy.

Like any flame however, it's not easy keeping the fire burning and this is where your relationship with exercise really tests what you're made of.

 

Which is why I believe it is vitally important for anyone at this juncture to get inside the minds of folks who just seem to have it figured out. The ones who make the hard work look easy.

 

Whether it is seeking out a respected trainer, or a well trained individual who has the ability to walk the walk, stay consistent, make it progressive and make it look pretty. They've more than likely been raked through the coals a few times before and have still found a way to make it work.

 

These are the people who have had their share of one night stands and walks of shame in the weight room. These are the people who have had wildly romantic early relationships with their workouts only to face further challenges, further frustrations, and unfortunately they may have gotten hurt along the way.
 

Mood Music For The Multitasking Mind

 

 

But through a lot of self analysis and self improvement they come back better. They grow to embrace the complexities of an enhanced relationship and they adapt to them. They know that the relationship is not a marked slot in the day planner but a lifelong process. They find a way to make it complementary to their day to day rather than contradictory.

 

The allure of the outcome evolves into the love of the game.

 

And at the end of the day with the iron game you've got to give a lot of love to get a little in return. 

 

But oh how sweet it is.

 

-JA 

May 16, 2014
Training Revelations From The Blues Joint 4. Getting Low

So begins the fourth edition of what was originally intended to be a one off scenario. A guy can learn a lot in bars I suppose so who am I to argue?

 

What validated this afternoon buzz however was spending time with my father back in the Fall who had flown out from Cape Breton Island to hang out for his 60th birthday. 

 

The agenda for the day being hanging out in Mikey's Juke Joint, a Calgary favourite of mine for live music and home to a smoking hot afternoon jam. My dad being a sax player himself happened to bring his weapon on the flight west and is no stranger to jumping on stage on a Saturday afternoon in Calgary.

 

And jam he did.

 

Playing The Horn. Practicing The Hinge.

 

So much so that things eventually evolved into a three man bar top sax blastoff at the request of the owner pictured in the middle. 

 

A move that would have been much better off executed earlier in the afternoon than later. Let's just say that from a fitness context, proprioception might have been compromised throughout the afternoon. From a my father flew across Canada to celebrate his 60th in my neck of the woods and play a little sax context, we weren't on the lemon waters. No sir.

 

Which is where the revelation comes in. 

 

After jamming at high altitude I couldn't help but laugh at Dad's comments on the need to keep a low centre of gravity as a prevention to eating shit. Laughter soon being replaced by being genuinely impressed by a man who just turned sixty with sax in hand, two eyes closed, ten beers deep and still able to handle the bar top like a mountain goat.

 

A blast of a Saturday but also a crucial reminder that there is up, there is down and your ability to have control over what goes on in between can save you A LOT of trouble.

 

Getting low requires a lot out of you. It requires strength, stability, mobility, acceleration, deceleration, as well as the competency to wire it all together in both controlled and uncontrolled environments. 

 
Turkish Get Up from Move Improve on Vimeo.

 

 

 

It should also be practiced universally. It may be spending a lot of time working on the ground in various degrees with a variety of my clients. It may be trained standing to prone work with some of my baseball players so diving and sliding becomes less of a risk. It may be because none of us will ever truly master it.

 

 

Either discussing movement strategy or who is paying the bar tab

              

 

Wherever you may fall into categorically I cannot help but praise integrating movement patterning that requires you to go from vertical to horizontal whether it is tumbling, Turkish Getups, or following the right of passage of the Saturday Jam and just moving and seeing where it takes you.

 

-Jeff

Apr 29, 2014
700 Pound Elvis Impersonators, Minor League Baseball, and Presenting for the NSCA

July is behind us and personally what an action packed month it has been. From capitalising on the Wild West speed laws in Montana to collaborating with three other presenters who have rocked my world over the years to be a part of an incredible first annual Edmonton Performance Summit. Wrapping up the month by catching up with some great fitness friends that I have at the Okanagan Strength and Conditioning Conference and being able to hash it out with two good friends Sean Guevremont and Steve Saville. Both being coaches and absolutely brilliant at what they do it made for some especially memorable shop talking.

Not to discount the unbelievable time that I had throughout the month of July but there was one event in particular that rounded out July 2013 and well..... for me this one was a doozy.

The whole thing started with a story from a long time client. The type of story that as a personal trainer makes you wonder whether the title of personal trainer really validates what training has the potential to do.

The type of story that has taken a lot of my thoughts on the fitness industry as a whole and flipped them on their head and ultimately a story that I felt like I needed to share. I just didn't expect to be sharing it at something of this magnitude.

So when I was chosen to express my two cents on how we need to think as trainers at the NSCA National Conference my reaction was essentially a seated version of, well....

There is a special sense of nostalgia that I have with this event as it was back in 2009 that I had decided to attend this conference for the first time as well as take a kick at the can for my CSCS certification.

It was my first real taste of continuing education where I was able to hit the road and take in an education where I was completely starstruck by impact that the coaches, trainers, researchers, and practitioners presenting were making in the industry. They were and in my eyes still are some of the best on the planet.

It was also an opportunity for me to take in Las Vegas, a city that I have grown to love for a number of reasons.

The most profound being the vivid memory of silently staring over the strip post conference with a rooftop vantage point and a Boris Yeltsin BAC realizing that I truly found what I wanted to do and do well.

The Conference

Just like back in '09 the conference was held in the beautiful and very well situated Paris Las Vegas. Another piece of nostalgia added to the puzzle.
 

From what I remembered from four years back was that this conference was huge. Big attendance,
big exhibitor ballroom, and big conference rooms so naturally coming back to present at this thing I knew what I was getting myself into. It didn't matter. The room was huge and things went straight back to surreal but that certainly wasn't a bad thing.
 

Despite the nerves I was pumped. This has been a presentation that has been stirring in my head since October and it was a topic that hit close to home for myself and was beyond excited to get it off my chest. Add to it being able to hang out for a day prior to it and shoot the breeze with some very cool attendees as well as speakers. Despite the different backgrounds, levels of experience, brains, or abilities every one of the 1700+ people involved were there for the same reason.

To get better at better. That put my mind at ease.

I was one of three presenters kicking off the first day and for my first time at something of this magnitude I was happy about that. The only catch being when you are dreaming about sleeping in for the biggest speaking engagement of your life a good old fashioned Vegas loan shark beating wasn't going to put me back in dreamland.

So after an impromptu influx of time to get ready things got started at 830am and despite the nerves leading up to it all there was something kind of peaceful about being up there.

Not quite sure what I remember from the presentation itself as it was all kind of a blur but to give you the Coles Notes it would be comparable to the following statement.

Great personal trainers have outgrown the title personal trainer due to their understanding that there is so much more to it than that. I am uncertain of what the title of what these trainers do nor do I have an idea of what it should be but if you are a trainer and all that you believe you are doing is exclusively training you are not giving yourself enough recognition nor are you establishing yourself to earn it.

Professionally this was a big feat for me as it was something that I had aspired to do at some point in my career just not this early in the game. On top of it to have other fitness pros approach me with some incredible questions and provide me with some incredible feedback when it was all said and done. It's a surreal feeling that I am still trying to process. Particularly 2012 NSCA CPT of the year Robert Linkul for the kind words. Means a lot amigo you made my day.

I also want to say a big thanks to U of C Baseball head coach/boss/partner in crime for the week Colin Moro for making the trip down as having some professional support certainly helped. Beyond excited to be back for another year and do what I can do to put this program on the map.
 

The Debrief

Turns out there was some ulterior motive behind this professional support and it goes by the name of Las Vegas.

Rubber arm twisted. After stirring on this presentation for a number of months and all of a sudden it's over I would be lying if I said I did not have celebration on my mind. So after chatting with some very cool folks in the exhibitor hall and taking in some world class presentations it was off to see what any fitness professional would see after a day of fitness education.

Sink a cocktail and take in the smooth sounds of a supersized Elvis impersonator.

 

 

Big Elvis has been a strip favourite of mine for a few years now and despite the fact he has a custom built throne and he doesn't exactly move around much I will say this. The guy is good.... very good.

No I should not find entertainment in this man's size but I will tell you that he has the shtick absolutely nailed, the chops to back it up, he is making people happy and he enjoys what he does. Who am I to judge? Add to it he used to be over a thousand so props to the guy for dropping three bills.

Next stop was Cashman Field to slug it out in the minor leagues with the 51's.
 

I've always been a fan of baseball but I can't say I ever took it anywhere as a player. To say that I know the very detailed intricacies of the game would be a stretch of the truth so I do enjoy getting out to them when I can.

Not to mention I am hard pressed to find any Americana that I enjoy more than just sitting back and taking in minor league baseball. Not sure why I love it as much as I do but I just do.

Dollar beer night helps. Put another on the scoreboard for the Americans on that one.

Lesson 1: You Can't Knock The Hustle

Personally this was a big task. As a hard wired quiet kid public speaking was always something that I dreaded and to this day I still get that feeling of panic for events as simple as raising my hand and asking a question. The past number of years I have had to challenge and overcome those hesitations and to be able to work toward something of this size and get it done was a huge personal accomplishment.

Professionally this was something even more special. I had this love for working out for as long as I can remember but I never expected it to evolve into what it has evolved into. Academically I was told that I did not have the high school transcript to get into any physical education degree programs.

I finished my degree with some other plans in mind but went straight back to pursuing a training certification by failing the exam the first time. Second time around was a pass but attached to that pass was the sobering message from the instructor that she would never hire me as a trainer. A pass is a pass.

Seven years after just squeaking through an entry level certification I never would have thought it would turn into the ride it has. Making a living doing something that has captured my interest since watching Body Shaping on ESPN before school when I was five. (Please tell me someone remembers this show)

It has been a great ride so far but its engine has been fueled by a lot of sweat and I see it no differently when it comes to moving forward.

Working with some incredible clients, hashing it out with some brilliant trainers from all over the globe, travelling, teaching and being a part of a young and very hungry baseball program.

Add too it presenting with the NSCA and it really has been an absolute blast now that I have had the chance to look back on it all.

Lesson 2: Man, I really like Vegas

Let me start by saying that. It has been good to me in the sense of fun, continuing education believe it or not, and there is just something about being in the desert that gets you thinking on another level whether Vegas or somewhere in the middle of the Mohave.

Vegas has evolved from a fantasyland to me and into a place where some of the most important components of reality are thrown at you at a profoundly accelerated pace. Elements like risk/reward, what hard work can provide you and how fast it can evaporate if you take it for granted, indulgence, romance, sleep deprivation, real and fake.

All of these can be found in Vegas and they are there to test you over a short time and the key questions being how well can you handle it and how can you do it better next time?

However you may interpret this city there is one very simple but profound lesson that Las Vegas allows me to remember every time I am there. A lesson that paved my own path back in '09. Whether reality is happening in real time or light speed and whether it is currently working in your favor or it is throwing a few jabs at you.

Sometimes you just have to sit back, stay silent, enjoy the view. Let magic happen.
 

Thanks to the NSCA for the incredible opportunity and for the chance to be a part of such a world class event full of world class people. To my clients it is hard to say where I would be if I haven't encountered every single one of you so thank you so much for making me better and driving me to become better than better.

Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine
-Elvis Presley

Aug 1, 2013
Trainer Coffee Talk

If you were able to muscle through my take on nutrition you would have picked up on the fact that I am a coffee drinker.

However, I don't feel that calling myself a coffee drinker or coffee consumer does nearly enough to give this magical hot beverage the recognition it deserves.

I really really like coffee. If I am travelling I am seeking out the best possible local brew I can get my hands on.When I am home I am seeking out good beans and ways to extract their nectar. Sometimes there are less than stellar coffee experiences but its all good knowing that even when it isn't that good it is still pretty damn good.
 

A Marvel In Japanese Engineering

As great as it is to overconsume coffee on the road or within the comfort of my own home there is still just something that can't match parking down in the friendly neighborhood coffee shop with a couple of like minded partners in crime.

I find it kind of unfair that coffee takes the negative monetary analogies that it does take when it comes to unnecessary spending but I do have to say if all you're looking for out of the coffee shop is a cup of medium roast that is all you're going to get.

For me it is a chance to sit down with not only a few good friends with a few guys who know very well on a professional and personal level that we are in it together when it comes to being the best we can be.
 

As you can see too many 5am starts can leave us looking a little rough around the edges but despite the haircuts and my amigo Chris' purple track suit we tend to engage in some fantastic conversation. Not to mention it's all over the charts. Whether it be talking shop, our own training, music, cars, girls, books or life it is the type of conversation that no matter what the topic I feel is something that makes me better on multiple levels.

Well worth the price of admission as well as worth the risk of not having some change saved for me to afford something substantial when I am nintey-three.

Add to it I flat out enjoy sitting down and having coffee with other trainers. Obviously they would be the biggest slice in my social circle due to the fact that training is what I spend most of my time doing.

However, I strongly consider fitness pros who are hungry in this industry and hungry for the right reasons at the forefront of passion, creativity, fulfillment, free thinking, creativity, heart, hustle, and having fun while doing it.

For that reason I suggest you seek out these people and these characteristics certainly are not limited to trainers nor are the enlightening conversations. It just so happens that most of the conversations below have happened while chatting with other trainers so of course I have my biases.

Uncertainty

Like so many of you I was told a very similar message of the importance of finding security professionally. Like so many of you I failed to get the message and it appears that the rate of message delivery failure is growing.

I have learned to love the rush of knowing that there are no guarantees. No guarantees in exercise selection, no guarantees of a steady paycheque and as a result of these types of circumstances it is tough to say that there are guarantees in emotion, confidence, and the future.

Despite the ups and downs I cannot argue with the character that it develops. The ups are great as it seems as if everything that you execute in a day almost becomes efforless and it's a beautiful feeling. However the downs bring out your true character and while it took me a while to embrace that notion I now know that climbing to the top it may require some crawling through the dirt.

Collaboration

Going back to being in it for the right reasons I have to say that arguably the biggest component of that is relentlessly educating yourself on your craft.

However I also believe there also comes a point where you need some good old fashioned discussion to express, defend, challenge, and question what you know. There happens to be something special about the coffee shop setting for these very discussions. Thoughts get produced, beliefs are both challenged and reaffirmed and magically a long list of fresh thoughts and ideas appear after hashing it out while slamming back a good medium roast.

Movement

This topic could drift off into many arguements but the subject of movement that has been passed around in the Calgary cafe circuit has been the importance of skill acquisition when prescribing it.

The amount of progress in exercise science even in my short time in this industry has been insane and for all the right reasons. We are now coming out with equipment, programming, and research that is providing amazing results.

However it still boils down to how it is being expressed.

We have the technology to send a text message across the world and have it received within seconds. All the while overlooking the idea that we encounter people with eyes, ears, mouths, and emotions on a daily basis.

I think we have the same tendancies with exercise at times as well that amidst all of the advances we have in training they are still only as good as the human brain and human body that is putting it all together.
It is not only about putting together workouts it's about taking something out of them.

Have A Little Fun

Or at least start with a little.

The one thing that hanging out with trainers reminds you of is that the real world we exist in is a lot different from the one that was taught to us in school. From what I gather I don't think it was ever meant to be this fun. More importantly I don't think I was ever taught that it was meant to be this fulfilling either.

Amidst the crazy schedule, the high output, and the constant questioning of what lies ahead is a career path that has provided me with an ability to travel, constantly learn, and experience fulfillment on a level that my high school guidance counsellor never told me about.

The coffee talk constantly reminds me that bad days are better than a lot of people's good ones and has me thinking that retirement isn't a light at the end of the tunnel when you're trying to bring the light on a daily basis.

Whether it's letting the conversation run wild or just sitting in silence and letting your brain take over I have to say there is just a vibe present when it involves hanging out and sinking a cup of joe.

In fact, welcome to my Friday morning window down at my favorite caffiene fueled hole in the wall.
 

I also wanted to mention that it is one week from the Edmonton Performance Summit. If you happen to be in the are I have to say that this one will be worth checking out. If not I have to say take a look at the bodies of work being put together by John SinclairKevin Murray, andDerrick Price.

These three guys are doing some incredible things to educate both their clients as well as aspiring and current fitness professionals. They are taking their game all over the world these days and in recent events I have had the pleasure of sitting back and getting my world rocked by what they know. To be at a point of sharing collaborating with them as an educator is a huge honor and I have to say that I am beyond excited to be a part of it.
 

-Jeff

Jun 25, 2013
Nutrition.......Alright.....Well Here Goes Nothing

I'll be the first to tell you that nutrition is a tough one for me. I do study it, I do discuss it, I occasionally write about it, but to say I know it would be a stretch of my imagination.

Add to it the fact that no matter how deep into it you can really get you will often end up obeying answers such as "yes, but", "well it depends", and "there are few ideal situations". Lesson 1, get friendly with these answers.

Personally, I can say that my own let downs with nutrition comes in both interpreting as well as expressing not what I would call bad advice but rather incomplete advice. More often than not this advice coming from those two words that I've learned to love to hate.

"Clean Eating"

If those of you reading this were to close your eyes and visualize what a dinner table full of poor eating choices that we would be able to share some commonalities.

Would you expect the same outcome when visualizing clean eating?

Personally, most of the mistakes that I have made over the years have been a direct result of this skewed visualization and the beliefs that came with them.

It started while growing up and I was very lucky to grow up with parents who were conscious eaters. It just so happened at the time that clean eating consisted of low fat, grains, and plant based foods. It worked fairly well but when it was time to start building upon my alien like frame at the time, I wanted protein.

When I became old enough to make my own purchases and decisions my clean eating mindset gravitated toward a lot of low carb, Paleo type eating where once again the bubble began to burst not because of clean eating itself but my misinformed interpretation of it. Bodybuilding precontest diets worked but it was miserable. General low carb high proein high fat diets also worked when it came to getting lean but once again where my output was high in my work and my lifts, I began to wear down and eventually got to a point where GAINING bodyfat became a necessary and difficult task.

However, with mistakes come lessons learned and I have learned this.
 

  • I work and train a lot
  • I am a natural ectomorph
  • I am an omnivore
  • I love vegetables
  • I can eat a bit of wheat and not feel like there is a wildfire in my guts
  • I drank Nova Scotia skim milk during my childhood and adolescence and did not develop asthma or a need to start shaving when I was nine. For that reason I still enjoy the occasional organic Greek yogurt.
  • I drink coffee and my adrenals are still in the building
  • I can consume carbs at night and not worry about waking up to a fresh set of cleaveage on my hips or lower scapula.
  • I feel great!

But that's my story. And the problem with my story is that my story is not your story and if I had to end this post with one piece of advice it would be get to know your story don't just skim through the pages of it.

 

I am no nutritionist but being a trainer does teach you that the paths aren't all that different. It is skill acquisition and for me these were some of the skills that I suggest acquiring.

 

It's Not Just In The Kitchen

 

 

This photo teaches both a valuable lesson and a lesson that a few short years ago my path to purity as a fitness professional taught me to ignore. 

 

Here we have Andy MorganRog Law, and four Cinnabons about to face a very fast and very ugly demise. While ignorance would have once led me to a question of how dare you trainers do this to yourselves I now look at this photo and realize that there is a lot to learn from these guys.

 

Both Rog and Andy coincidently both are both successful trainers in the gym and on the web particularly with people looking to achieve a smoking body because I believe they are on the leading edge of how fat loss should be coached for most people. Add to that they both posess the physiques of dudes who just killed a boar with their bare hands rather than a bunch of baked goods from the mall.

 

Because they are balanced. Their physique success is a balance of high professional output, training hard, eating well, supplementing accordingly, and constantly improving their overall lifestyle. They have also put the time in to know what they can get away with. Impromptu cinnamon bun crushing between amigos from different continents does not happen every day. Not to mention their routine of the everyday can wipe the slate clean very efficiently for that reason. At least I don't think it happens every day.

 

For that reason I believe that for a lot of us it really does not need to be all that sacrificial when it is integrative.

 

Rather than focusing only on what to lose in your situation in order to get to your goals, I suggest taking a good look at what is already missing.

 

Wait a minute......

Incomplete Advice Is Not Necessarily Bad Advice

 

Yes I have made my dietary mistakes but I have learned a lot from them. The golden lesson being that I understand why belief systems with nutrition become mainstream. They have worked for somebody at some time. Even with my own mistakes there was a lot of positivity that had initially fueled my nutrition decision making. There were key factors in each that remain universal.

  • Protein
  • Plant based foods
  • Water

I would consider these three to be the staple of any long term positive dietary changes. Fat and carbohydrate consumption and how much you draw from each would be based on the desired outcome.

 

Nutrition troubleshooting for me was a lesson in acquiring some new ideas, but more than anything it was reiterating what I had already known without overcomplicating it.  

 

Make Your Own Rules

 

I am a firm believer in the idea that when I am about to train a client I have a plan in place but that plan can change profoundly depending on what went down for that person every minute leading up to that session.

What I am still trying to figure out is why I would not have adopted the same system of beliefs when it comes to nutrition. If training provides the best outcome when it is not standardized, why would nutrition be any different?

 

I just can't play by those rules anymore nor can I express them. I have tried the frequency thing and based on my day four of those six meals occurred while I was working. The problem for me is four of those six meals occur while I am working and moving around all day with four meals getting digested at a pace of a Canadian emergency room visit is not a great feeling.

 

Like fitness, I now believe that nutrition requires an element of self preference in order to get things figured out. Eat when the time is right for you, eat what is required of you and you can call it a good day.

Food Is A Hell Of A Drug

It is a performance enhancer at the same time can be a performance inhibitor. It is an antidepressant, hormone regulator/deregulator and stress outlet. It is something that can be wildly addictive and can also be stripped down from its purest form for the sake of profit. It can be hard to live with but in the grand scheme of things we cannot live without it.
 

The question is what side of the trip do you want to be on when it comes to what you're taking, where you're getting it from, and how much you are consuming?
 

BE A CONSUMER! Not just a consumer

The best nutrition advice I have ever received actually came from a Political Science professor and that lesson being that as people with purchasing power, we have a lot more infuence on our food options than we give ourselves recognition for.

Food production has not exactly had a squeaky clean reuptation these days as the organic/conventional, processed/unprocessed, GMO/non GMO debates continue to heat up.

I know there is a push to bring more transparency into food production but the power is ultimately in your hands as a the person with the purchasing power. We have rights as consumers but with rights comes responsibility and that responsibility requires that you do your homework and know where your hard earned dollars are going.

You don't like conventional production? Buy organic or go visit your local farmer's market and purchase what's in season. Or grow it. It may require some homework and some consciousness but what you ring through at the check out has a profound butterfly effect on what gets produced and how it gets produced.

A Side Of Truth

Exercise will always be the winner when it comes to what fascinates me in the fitness industry but there are certainly carry overs.

Like training, I believe that it does not only boil down to what is being programmed but what goes on during the process of improvement. It requires changes in behaviour, it requires consistency, it requires education and it requires getting to know yourself a little better.

It takes time, and it can be frustrating but it all serves a higher purpose and it is a purpose that you, your family, your performance, and your planet will not regret.

-Jeff

Jun 3, 2013
My Favorite Ounces Of Literature 2.0
My Favourite Ounces Of Literature 2.0
 
Uncommon to say it but I have had a bit of free time over the past week and it has been rather nice to be able to just sit back and think, train, read, and get caught up on all of the little elements of life that get put on the backburner due to a hectic schedule. While I could certianly justify driving on winter tires in the third week of May in Calgary it is nice to have the hours of the day to get driving on summers.
 

I also had the chance to start shuffling through some of the posts that I have put up over the years and see what I have enjoyed as well as figure out what to do with some of the "wow I would have done that differently" posts that have come about since scratching away on this blog.

I also had a revelation that it has been a little while since I last wrote about reading which I consider a little selfish since I have been doing a little more reading than writing these days then why wouldn't I be writing about what I am reading.

So here is numero deux of My Favorite Ounces of Literature and here is hoping that it provides you with some unique reads and boozy innuendos like Volume 1.

 

 

 

 
So set em up Joe
 
 
 The Defining Decade
 
Hard to know where the time goes but I am one of those individuals teetering toward to the end of a decade that I felt had no end when it started. My initial intention behind this book was to see where I stacked up for my age.
 
To me I always considered it a tough question in the sense of what is progress at this age in the sense of career, family, finances, maturity, etc.
 
I still don’t know the answer but wow what a read for anyone who may be asking similar questions.
 
I think that we all go through the stage of young and invincible as I certainly did and it’s certainly understandable as there is a lot of mainstream messaging would tell you just that.
 
 I think every overkilled Pit Bull song out there tells you just that. However when you spend your time fixated on tomorrow potentially not existing, tomorrow can creep up fast and if you are not ready for it you will be far from invincible.
 
Meg Jay teaches you a lot of great things about how important your twenties are in shaping who you are moving forward. The big message for me however was the importance of easing up on the young and invincible song and dance and to be young and hungry.
 
And why the hell wouldn’t you be? We live in an economy where being hungry when you are young is imperative and a society where being young and hungry can provide some incredible opportunity.
 
 Sounds like an invitation to grab it by the horns to me.

 

 
 
Hef’s Little Black Book
 
I am sure there are some varied opinions on the man but after a Halloween night mixer at his residence that personified young and invincible I wanted to get to know this guy’s story a little better.
 
While the brand of Playboy has had and still has its critics the one thing that I cannot argue with is the genius, the creator, the pioneer, the activist, the philantropist, the rebel and the ageless wonder behind the brand.
 
Whether it is rolling out the red carpet for his guests, pursuing race/orientation equality, or donating his private jet to rescue orphans from war torn countries the man has done his share and I wanted to hear more about it.
 
Hef’s Little Black Book gets into just about everything. From being a one man show trying to publish something that was a taboo as it was and to an extent still is provided a lot of adversity and he was able to overcome it all. For that reason a look at him as a great example of what grit looks like as well as how luck can conveniently show up if you’re willing to sweat for it.
 
Hef provides advice on just about everything related to work, love, rebellion, human rights and the need for a stocked bar and dance floor when acquiring a private jet. Noted.

 

 
 
 
The Tao Of Wu

The wild card of the mix started as an impulse purchase while hanging out in the Chicago airport.

Long story short I love music and my love for music has accumulated a playlist as eclectic as a big city public transit system and Wu-Tang has become a big part of it.

When it comes to requiring a musical kick in the ass to get you fired up for a workout there is nothing that has done it for me like having Raekwon's Only Built For Cuban Linx rattling my skull pre workout.

So why not hear the story from the RZA, the mastermind of the incredible Wu-Tang legacy.

RZA has some crazy stories of his early inspirations, life, death, and the evolution of the Wu-Tang Clan which was my biggest interest in the read.

Once again I am sure this is open for discussion but I have to say that there is no better message delivered when it comes to successful expression being an integration of good/bad experiences, sharing what you know and like and being comfortable in your own skin.

 
A Whole New Mind

Game changer. I have read a few of Daniel Pink's books in the past but this is one that absolutely blew my mind.

Since this whole economic meltdown of 2008 I have really taken a fascination in what the outlook of the new age work force and this book lays it out like no other.

Pink tackles five different aspects that are re shaping the new age work force and affecting our society profoundly. I don't know what else to say other than this is an absolute must read if you are wondering where you stand professionally and what to do to make the most of it.

If you are a trainer I cannot express it enough how much this book has done when it comes to knowing how to complement the science of training with being a right brained thinking, empathy, storytelling and listening.

Training is a human profession and it pays to be human.

 

The World's Strongest Librarian

My most recent consumption and I have to say that this book is just an absolute gem. Josh Hanagarne shares his incredible story of growing up in a world of books, faith, family and his struggle with Tourrette's in a way that almost implants you into his life and has you live it.

Even more impressive being his way of understanding his body through lifting weights and eventually learning how to manage his tics through getting to know his body.

There are an endless amount of life lessons and I am a little lost for words when it comes to how positive of an experience reading this book really was.

 

Well, that's how it goes

Another book review well, in the books.

A small taste of what I have been consuming recently and I'll finish by leaving it open to any literary drinking buddies that may be reading this post.

Any book recommendations for myself or any other readers I am all ears so leave a comment below or hit me up on Facebook with any books that have rocked your world.

Jeff

May 28, 2013
Three, Oh It's A Magic Number

There is something oddly special about what a May trip to Kansas City does to the human brain but the accumulation of great information, great people and great times overall. A place where "coregasms" can be both brought up laughingly and discussed logically could very well have something to do with it.

Add to it a day in the air where it is just a man, a pen and paper and an overstimulated brain running wild and things get productive, creative and just plain wierd (may also have had something to do with the good times).

Quite shocking sometimes what comes up and this scenario would be no different. But in the midst of looking back on all the good memories of an incredible summit there was a point where I decided to travel back further in time and the outcome ultimately turned into me having a song stuck in my head for the rest of the flight.

At least it was a good one because more often than not it is some overkilled Pink track or Zoot Zoot Riot as a result of daily overkilled health club music loops. This was actually a real feel good track that came from one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons growing up only to be covered by one of my favorite bands growing up. Still brings a smile to my face.

Pair my short spans of misplaced sanity with a much more down to earth post summit processing way of thinking and it suddenly dawned on me that the magic of three has a pivotal place in training concept.

For three can't you see is a magic number
A number for strength and positioning wonder
A number to see as a number no longer
But as concept and thinking to help you get stronger

Takes Three Legs To Make A Tripod

Explained very well by training neighbor in Edmonton Dean Somerset, the tripod concept is something well worth drilling into your head if you are seeking better stability in the foot, mobility in the ankle and in the grand scheme of things anything that requires the foot to strike the ground in order to produce force.
 

Three Rep Sets

I will be the first to admit that I do not pursue it with the same aggression or frequency that I used to but strength training for me is still where I feel the most at home and three rep sets have always been where I feel I can get things done well.

Three rep sets have also become a staple for a lot of my clients looking to develop strength. Of course the 1RM is the norm of strength testing but for those who are apprehensive of the risk/reward or those who want to get strong but don't regularly engage in max squat conversations with their families at the dinner table then three is where it's at for me.

 

Trunk Trifecta

If there is anything that I can reflect on the past few years and say that I am proud of is that I was asked to help out in what I consider very cool training environments that have been both high output and high fulfillment.

One of the key factors being the diversity.

Everything from hip replacements, people with MS, physique athletes, cancer survivors, NHL linesmen, musicians, college baseball players, and people who flat out like to train.

While the diversity has provided a lot of fun and specific learning curves along the way, it has also reinforced a very key point that often gets overlooked within the context of specifics.

We are training human beings. And when you train human beings for a living you will notice certain aspects of mechanics that need to be addressed with specific loads, volumes, and exercises but addressed universally nonetheless.

For me, one of those key universal aspects is making the most of the trifecta of the hips, abdomen, and thoracic spine. For some it could come in the form of breathing, for others it could come in the form of mobilization/stabilization, strength, or hypertrophy. Regardless of the goal, your ability to hack into these big three both individually as well as a unit will have profound effects on your desired outcome.

 

Every Triangle Has Three Corners Every Triangle Has Three Sides

One of my favorite ways to make the most of the hip, abdomen, t-spine trifecta also lies in the number of three. Whether open or closed chain, engaging in three points of contact with the hands and feet provides some very good corners for the sides you are looking to strengthen.

You can call it whatever you would like to call it but for the sake of justifying the title of this paragraph lets call it triangulation. To put it simply, for the sake of hip, trunk, scapular strength and stabilization, rotary, and antirotary strength this stuff is good stuff as it can be prescribed specifically and applied universally.

 
Windmill from Move Improve on Vimeo.

Rocking Out

And this concludes my case for the number three. What started out as a song burned in my brain on a flight back from Kansas City evolved into too way more cartoon watching on YouTube than a grown man should go through in a week and then into this.

 

Good things come with three in the equation
For strength, stability, and anti rotation
Remember that answers can come from right braining
And good ones exist outside of just training

Knowledge Is Power

-Jeff

May 12, 2013
Training Lessons From Bourdain

Call it the maturation process of a man in his mid to late twenties or one too many on the fly Tupperware meals over the years but I've taken a liking to cooking these days.

Not your meal cooked to a safe consumtion standard either. I'm talking the type of meal that requires planning, time, effort, and tunes.

The good stuff.

The type of cooking where your time and effort justifies the consumption of copious amounts of the final product. Gourmet means good for you does it not??

Just as enjoyable as the over consumption however is the process. The ability to plan, to prepare, to problem solve and to put it all together. To apply yourself mentally in a process where there is no pressure and nobody else to please other than yourself and the great people around you. A great escape if you will.

On top of that it is something that you strive to improve. The notion that you just put something great together and you're already thinking about how you would improve on it. The idea that you begin to seek out new challenges and new mediums to make the most of this labor of love.

Enter Anthony Bourdain

My appreciation for Bourdain began after stumbling on his Travel Channel show No Reservations and then reading some of his interviews to eventually reading his books. The result being one of the most unexpected proclamations of my existence.

My favorite program is a cooking show. Well, sort of.
 

What can you learn about training from a man who has survived the rock n roll underbelly of being a celebrity chef to take his act around the world you ask?

Well in a profession where the literal of significance of training and food as a whole are made loud and clear in limitless articles, blog posts, and just about every second picture that pops up on my Facebook News Feed.

I have elected to throw my hat in the ring on the figurative and tell you what we can learn from this man's love of food and travel in order to get things cooking in your success kitchen.

No Reservations

First off, if you have not seen the show I highly recommend it as it is not your traditional food porn type of cooking show. It takes you everywhere and not in an way designed for the traditional camera crazed white running shoe tourist Hard Rock Cafe crowd.

No reservations in this show means picking a destination and just showing up. For that reason it can either go very well or it can be something very undesirable.

Take that notion and roll with it when it comes to training.

We're in a fitness culture where we are fed marketing, quotes, and Facebook posts which tend to highlight a no excuses, no pain no gain, and no stopping you.

The message of no reservations providing a sobering reminder that if your training decision making is strongly influenced by these notions you best be adding no guarantees to that list.

Which is not always a bad thing because whether the outcome be good or not what you expected you are going to learn from it. You will know what needs to be adjusted moving forward and you will be better because of it. And eventually...

You Begin To Find Paradise

There comes a point where your thoughts as well as your execution becomes tried and tested and within all of the static that comes with finding answers in training the signal begins to appear. Things just start to make sense and while there is still plenty of uncertainty moving forward you have an element of training that just makes sense.

Although there may be changes within that place as there should be, you begin to know where you belong and that is a very good thing.

As for Bourdain? Well......

Catch any work of his in Vietnam and I think you'll understand.

''Maybe that's enlightenment enough, to know that there is no resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity'' -Anthony Bourdain

The Dinner Table

For not just what gets consumed but for what gets absorbed

I've been very lucky to have some great meals in some great cities with some very great people over the years and can say that the intellectual indulgence is equally comparable to great food.

The opportunity to sit around with like minded people to talk shop and talk life has become an addiction for me.

I am uncertain of what exactly it is that puts someone above the rest but if I had to narrow it down to one definitive answer I would have to say that if you really want to be a great fitness pro, I highly suggest you have dinner with great fitness pros. End of story.

Hungry For More

To watch Bourdain is to understand that the man has been just about everywhere.

While on the surface the accumulation of that many sensory experiences would signify seeing it all and knowing it all, you get inside the man's head and see a true testament of learning more is knowing less.

A notion in my eyes that is just as vital in training as exercise itself.

As for me, it is currently a birthday Saturday morning in beautiful Seattle to take it in. Another great year down and what I am hoping is many more of seeing, learning, and doing what I love to do.

Life is good.

-Jeff

Apr 13, 2013