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Purify Your Programming

Program design is an integral part of what goes on in the gym as it is the platform that is put in place to get you where you want to be. There are now endless answers available when it comes to making the perfect program. We have programs available for everything and they are put together by anyone and everyone. While we have the tools to make some big changes, keep in mind that the body will ultimately tell you whether it is working or not. I have had lots of people over the years ask for a program and that's it. Nothing in the way of assessment or personalizing. Basically a spreadsheet of exercises, sets, and reps. Magazines, splits printed off of the internet, and workouts of the day can be found on a lot of gym floors. The side effect being an over reliance on what has worked for someone else. Fairness to the people behind these published programs, they worked for somebody in some way shape or form. But when it comes to these programs, they weren't exactly discussing your own individual circumstances prior to publishing. Successful programming requires you to dig a little deeper as two of your bigger allies will be knowing what needs to be addressed and why you need to address it. This means doing a bit of homework and asking yourself a few important questions.

 

Where Am I Currently?

 

You could be either starting from square one or striving for world class. Either way, knowing where you are before moving forward will be key in your programming. Take the time to assess your current level of fitness, your capabilities and more importantly your limitations. 

 

Are there limitations in your movement? 

Are there injury considerations that need to be addressed?

What does your exercise history consist of?

What are your daily movement requirements?

 

This type of self assessment often gets overlooked. Not to mention we often give ourselves a lot more recognition than we sometimes deserve. The result being biting off more than we can chew when it comes to program selection.

 

What Am I Looking To do?

 

Having goals in place is essential. However, the problem with setting goals is that it is an unregulated process. There no limitations on what you would like to achieve in the gym and one of the biggest mistakes made is running wild with that notion. While I think it is great to dream big, fitness goals do need to be set intelligently. Approach your programming with reasonable, intelligent, measurable, and time oriented goals in mind as consistency and straight line progression will bring you closer to the bigger objectives.

 

 

What Am I Looking To Eliminate?

 

A bit of a twist on conventional goal setting but what are some things that you are looking to eliminate with your fitness program. Are you looking to eliminate chronic joint pain? Are you looking to lose body fat? Are you looking to eliminate current limitations in strength and muscle building? Ask yourself these types of questions as they expose some vital information when it comes to personalizing a program. The beauty of this question as well is that it provides a contrast to general goal setting. It puts you in a situation where you have to think for yourself and understand what it is that you are actually looking to accomplish.

 

Is It Written In Pencil Or Is It Written In Stone?

 

One of the most valuable things that I have learned in the gym is to be ready for variables. I may have a big plan in place for a client but in a split second that may change for a number of reasons. It could have been a high stress day, nutrition could have been off, emotionally someone may not be all in, or there could all of a sudden be aches, pains, or impaired movement that needs to be dealt with. One of the major objectives of a program is consistency so having some plan b's will be a big asset. Not every workout will go as planned but if you have the ability to adjust workloads, or alter exercises according to what you feel you can bring to the table for that particular day you can still get it done. Adjust for the days when you are off and bring it for the ones you are ready for.

 

Is It Integrated?

 

When you put some real thought into what you want to get accomplished you realize that your to do list for the gym is longer than you first thought. For most of us that means having a number of dimensions to your programming. One that comes to mind is a lady that I work with who is training for a figure competition. And golf season as she is an avid golfer. This means integrating some tough hypertrophy work with a lot of 3 dimensional movement, mobility, and soft tissue work. Fortunately for me, she was able to take the time to assess her situation and express what she wanted to focus on the most and it can be designed to work because of that. Keep this in mind with your programming. Statements such as mind blowing muscle building and fat incinerating may do just that, it may not always cater to the build muscle, lose fat, fix up that left shoulder, address that low back pain, improve my lungs and my skating for pickup hockey population for example. Ensure that your programming has the versatility to cover your own individual needs.

 

I should also mention numbers as I have not given them much recognition given quantity is an absolutely essential part of your programming. I want to discuss numbers a little differently however as I believe that the numbers tied to load, sets, reps, tempos, and rest intervals do require a certain element of discovery in any program. There are numerical guidelines that are proven to work for a certain response but take the time to experiment within your recommended numbers and find what works. Your program will be your guideline but it is your body's feedback that makes the final decision on what works.

Mar 25, 2012
My Big Box Gym Confession

First of, I wanted to say congratulations to a few colleagues of mine who attended IHRSA this past weekend and a big congratulations to some of the first time speakers. This is a monster of a conference for the fitness industry so I think that it is pretty cool that I have some colleagues that have people who want to hear what they have to say at something of this magnitude.

Today gives me a chance to pick some of these people's brains on what they took out of the conference. I love getting away to these events because the best and the brightest are some of the most high energy, exciting people that you could ever encounter. It is also great to meet new people from all over the globe and hear a little about how they are making their mark in fitness. I also get a chance to tell my story to those who want to listen.

There is something that I am always somewhat reserved about when I am at these conferences . I am not sure if it is my own self consciousness of the topic, or if it is because it is because of the heat it takes within the training community. Today however, I am going to come clean and say that I am a big box trainer. Not to mention in the biggest of this big box franchise. The staff in one facility is large and departmentalized, membership is massive and the sheer size does bring its frustrations. I have been fortunate enough over the past few years to see some extremely well oiled hybrid gyms and seeing the contrast does make it hard on the head coming back. I don't want to get into the negatives though. This past week I have seen more and more heat put on the big box gyms and I actually want to defend them because what some of these writers do not get a chance to see is the people within these companies and within all departments who are actually looking to make a difference and make their mark in the fitness industry.
 

I have worked with a lot of trainers over the past number of years and have seen a lot of them come and go. The big box is often a chance for anyone entry level to get their feet wet when it comes to training. Some of them hang around but a good number of them take off. For the ones that do hang around however I have to say my hat goes off because I have the pleasure with working with some extremely bright and driven fitness pros who live and breathe what they do. These guys are all over the place taking in education and when they are in town they are digging deep on the gym floor both for themselves and their clients. These are the guys that keep me stimulated and keep me sane. For the guys I work with and for any other big box trainers out there sharing the same drive my hat goes off to you. You know who you are. I also have the pleasure of working and communicating with other trainers wearing the same polyester uniform who are finding their own and taking it elsewhere. There are guys now regularly contributing to t-nation, guys who are speaking and teaching with PTA Global all over Canada and the United States and being accompanied by some brilliant minds in the business. For myself I have had the pleasure of working with two of my close friends and fellow big box trainers on projects like Move Improve. These guys are no slouches either.

Some of the guys that I report to are far from big box. My fitness manager is in his position because he can lead by example. The guy knows his stuff and he is into what he does . On top of that his message is clear. Become a better professional and let the dollars speak for themselves. I also want to tip my hat to the guys even higher up the ladder because of the effort that they put into their personal trainers. They have laid out platforms for growth that I would have otherwise approached alone as my position has evolved from trainer to trainer/mentor/educator. They even support me in attending the events where they often receive the most criticism. For that I am grateful.

I cannot argue with some of the criticism that the big box model receives. To be honest I agree with a lot of it. However, I have had the chance to meet and work with fitness pros underneath this system that put
everything into their craft and it shows in the lives they are able to change. I know that it is unlikely that I will be where I am forever but I know that I have no regrets developing within the large chain system as it has taught me a lot. There can still be brilliance in the big box.
Move Improve,

Jeff

Mar 20, 2012
The Shoulder Pack

The shoulder is and always will be a hot topic in the gym as pursuing flawless shoulder function can be a full time job in itself. Repetitive stress, lifting habits, lifestyle habits, and the wear and tear of the daily routine can all impair shoulder performance. It can be something that causes pain and discomfort, or it can be a limiting factor in a person's true performance potential. The finger often gets pointed to the tight and weak factor associated with the chest and mid back. Common solutions often include shoulder mobility and stability work as well as a greater emphasis on training the posterior chain. While this approach has validity, restoring long term function often requires an element of re-wiring the movement behavior of exercises meant to build the mid and upper back.
 

 

This image paints a pretty good picture of the limitations that can occur with upper body postural dysfunction as tension is often put on the traps, neck and pecs. This puts the head and neck into forward flexion and the shoulders into a position of being pulled forward and internally rotated. This is a killer for posterior chain strength for someone who may be simply aspiring to improve their posture. The same can be said for someone looking to hit a personal best in a lift. Not to mention everyone in between. While mobility and stretching will restore movement, the ability to re-program the way an individual is using their shoulders in posterior chain work has proven to be my biggest weapon in restoring true shoulder function. 

 

The shoulder pack is nothing new in resistance training but I think that everyone has their own ways of showcasing it. What has worked for me has been trying to take everything mentioned in the above paragraph and put it in reverse. Retraction and external rotation of the shoulder are two things that I try to drill into the heads of anyone that I see who are incorporating any type of postural work into their program. That counts for just about everyone I see. For any type of pulling, I prefer breaking it down into two movements. First being packing the shoulder by drawing the shoulder blade back and rotating it externally. This allows the muscles of the mid back to turn on and allows the traps to depress. More importantly it allows the appropriate recruitment of the rotator cuff and arm lines in order to have more working for you when it comes to finishing the pull. The ability to drill this into someone's head allows them to begin thinking about using the mid back rather than working in autopilot and letting the traps call the shots. It may mean regressing movements or reducing the weight, but the ability to get this through to somebody has shown me some impressive results when looking at the bigger picture.

 

 

                                                      Packing The Shoulder In A Row

                                                      Shoulder Packing With Chins

Know Your Lines

A great indicator for me has been integrating the front and back arm lines into my way of thinking as assessing the hands has taught me a lot about what is going on with the shoulder. A common occurrence that I see as someone fatigues is the loss of grip function and sore forearms. For anyone dealing with an imbalance in the shoulders it is often the first and second digits that often go first. What this has done for me is re-think the way I build up someone's posterior chain. In the past my answer was hang on and lets get through the set. Now I know that when contact is lost with the hand, so is clear communication with the mid back. This brings us back to using the same old musculature that we are trying to restore a balanced workload for. Make the appropriate adjustments to ensure the hand is doing it's job and your shoulders will thank you.
 

 

Honorable Mention

With what we now know about the way that the body functions, it would be ignorant to limit this conversation to the shoulders. If there is anything that I can say about restoring strength to the mid back and making postural improvements is that it is as much of a hip and ankle topic as it is a shoulder topic. While this opens up a completely different discussion I did want to stress the importance of how it all works as a whole as it all tells a story. Especially with the bigger lifts like the squat and deadlift. Take the right steps in restoring function of the hip and ankle and I can assure you that shoulder function will show improvement without even addressing it.

While this is a small piece of the shoulder correction puzzle, the ability to coach and cue loading the shoulder is huge when looking at big picture shoulder restoration. It takes time, it may take regression, however I have been able to witness first hand what it can do for a variety of goals. It has the ability to reduce the pain associated with common repetitive stress injuries and it has been a big contributor in unleashing the limitless benefits of a better posture. Not to mention it can put you onto a path where you can handle a lot more resistance than your physical appearance may showcase. To me that's where it gets fun.

This is a rather deep topic of discussion and even in the rambling that went on in the above paragraphs I would consider abbreviated. Any further questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch at jeff.aker@thechangelink.com or atwww.thechangelink.com as this is a pretty common topic when talking fitness.

Move Improve,

Jeff

Arm line images courtesy of www.anatomytrains.com

Mar 18, 2012
Lessons

I have kind of gotten used to referring the time in the gym as the time in the trenches. For anyone making a living in the gym it is known as the time where you dig deep. Physical and mental output is full blast to ensure everything within that session is in fine form. It is also where ideas happen, lessons are learned, and the training craft evolves. While the literature is important, it is the gym floor where I have learned most of my lessons in both the science and the art. It has taught me a lot about making the most of exercise but on a larger scale has taught me a lot about life both on a professional and personal level. These would be some of them.

1. Ten In Ten Out

Success comes down to effort and I have learned that the more that you put in, the more that you get in return. This to me is a staple for both in and out of the gym. I don't look at it as having to run yourself ragged but I look at making the most of what you can bring to the table for any particular effort. I stole this line from a mentor of mine and super trainer Todd Durkin.

2. I Steal A Lot Of Lines

Theft may not be the appropriate term but I have definitely learned that success can occur by making the most of someone else's ideas. Chances are that the ideas that you are ''stealing'' were ''stolen'' from someone else anyway. In the gym we are always bouncing ideas off of each other whether it be acquiring new exercise ideas from the textbooks or the trenches. If there is anything that I can say about stealing information is that it is a matter of understanding it and making it your own. If you can avoid the copy and paste process and turn ideas into your own, success will follow.

3. Work Well Under The Microscope

This would have to be one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned while in the gym. It has allowed me to understand that impressions are made quickly and are made to last. This has made me very conscious of being on the gym floor as there is always an audience present you you better bring your A game. I have learned lessons in etiquette, body language, engagement, manners, and I am sure the list can go on. I am certain that this can go well beyond the gym floor and can apply to any type of workplace.

4. It Just Keeps Going

I remember being younger thinking about how much I was looking forward to adulthood as I would have everything figured out. Well I have made it there but I am nowhere near figuring things out. In fact it seems as if there are more questions than answers as adulthood evolves. One thing that I do get however is that I would be pretty bored if I did have it figured out. Fitness to me is no different. I see a lot of people get into the gym with a goal in mind but no plan for when it is accomplished. Fitness is a long term pursuit and so is life. While you may not attain all of the answers or achieve perfection, excellence can definitely occur while pursuing them.

5. Things Change

The trenches have taught me that what may have worked in the past may not work in the present day.  I have been able to learn, understand, and apply a lot of different exercises and workouts over the years. More importantly, I have come to understand that we have seen major changes in the way we work, eat, manage time, manage stress, and ultimately in the way we move. Putting it all together I have learned that what may have worked ten years ago may not work today as things can change. The ability to be aware of that and adapt to it is key for success in the trenches. This is a topic that I have a lot of interest in and will be sinking my teeth into it a little further.

6. Same Recipe Different Ingredients

I answer a lot of questions related to fitness success. I would like to say I have heard them all but they are limitless. If there is anything that I can say about finding success in the gym is that it follows the same recipe as any success story. Reps, sets, weights, movements, and heart rate will be the ingredients to any fitness program. However it is the ability to possess traits like drive, determination, clarity, education, and action that will complete the recipe. 

If there is anything that I can say that would trump everything listed above is enjoy what you are doing. When it comes to fitness I have learned is that the art of it is just as important as the science and enjoyment definitely fits into the art. I can say that I am beyond grateful because I really enjoy what I do and I have seen a lot of success occur as a bi product of people enjoying their time in the gym. This to me is the ultimate lesson in success for both in and out of the gym.

Move Improve,

Jeff
 

Mar 14, 2012
You Should Have Seen Me When I Was Younger

A common reflection topic when it comes to physical capability. Even for me in my mid twenties I look back at times such as university where I could exist off of little to no sleep. Today, forget about it. I am sure that I am not alone when it comes to looking back at a time where you felt physically optimal at a previous point in your life. I encounter a lot of reflection while in the gym as a little bit of history can go a long way in getting someone set on a clearer path of fitness. My problem with that however is what an appreciation of the good old days can do the overall drive to improve fitness as age often becomes a limiting factor. I look at gaining years as gaining experience, lerning lessons, becoming more efficient, and acquiring new skills and knowledge. While these traits are often associated with the mind, the body in my mind is no different. I am fortunate enough to witness this daily and to me there are not too many better feelings than this. For the people that get this, the habit of reflecting on performances of the past becomes a habit of what they would have done differently. Success soon follows and I am able to come into work and see a lady working to do some chin ups for her 60th birthday to impress her two boys. I see people performing better in their fifties than they were in their thirties. I see the aches, pains, and conditions often associated with aging disappear from people's daily routines. Thanks to the internet, we also get to witness this first hand from gentlemen like 80 year old George Legget in this video.

While the numbers dictate our cronological age, we DO have the ability to put an end to the perceived limitations often associated with that. Yes we do grow old, but with using what we have there is limitless potential in restoring, maintaining, and even optimizing physical performance as the years pass by.

Move Improve,

Jeff

Mar 12, 2012
The Body In Flow

"The best moments in our lives are not passive, receptive, relaxing times..... The best moments usually occur if a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile."

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It is safe to say that the majority of people get into the gym in order to accomplish physical goals. However, one major component of exercise that I have always appreciated is its ability to get your wheels turning. I have experienced it numerous times myself where a thought or an idea would jump out at me when I am active. I have also been fortunate enough to get involved in some pretty stimulating conversation on the gym floor with the people that I work with. It's funny because it seems to progress in harmony with the workout. A warm up generally consists of a bit of small talk but as the intensity starts to climb, so do the observations, the conversations, and the ideas.

I have been fortunate enough to work with a lot of talented people in my young history and for them creativity is not only their way of expression, it is their livelihood. I am a big music fan so I wanted to single out one person in particular.  I have been working with Jarrod for close to four years now and he has made exercise a big part of his creative process. He is a drummer with his band Calm Asa Coma and has also made his way into his self titled experimental project Jarrod Sterling. He was nice enough to discuss what exercise has done for him not only physically, but for his creativity as a musician.
 

 
 

 JA. How has exercise become a part of your creative process?

JS. I really believe mind and body go hand in hand. My mind feels just as good as my body after I have done something physical whether it is going for the gym or just going for a walk. Movement of any kind to me seems to shake the cobwebs from the brain. I think for a lot of people who focus on creativity, your mind never shuts off. There is always some part of the brain that is thinking, searching for new ideas 24/7. I find it really helps to keep your body busy as it seems to allow your mind to wander a little. I would say that some of my best ideas have occurred during or shortly after some kind of physical activity rather than just staring into space hoping something jumps out at you.

JA. I know we are talking mental, but how has exercise helped you out physically as a performer?

JS. I think the biggest improvement that I have seen is my endurance. Playing high energy songs one after the other sometimes feels like running a marathon and the better condition that I am in physically, the longer I can go. Even the "small" things like stretching, foam rolling, and practicing good posture really adds up. The less I have to worry about the physical aspect, the more I am able to put my attention toward creativity and performance.

JA. You spend a fair bit of time on the road. I know that a tight travel schedule can bring challenges to consistency. How has fitness changed the way that you take care of yourself while on the road?

JS. Time on the road is amazing for the mind, but not always on the body. I find the better condition that I am in before I hit the road, the easier it is to adapt to non ideal situations like the dietary changes and the uncomfortable transportation. I recently played a gig in Edmonton, and for once we stayed in a hotel with an indoor pool. I decided to goof off in the water an hour before the gig and it was an amazing warm up.
I felt completely energized, focused, and even more inspired than if I had of just "saved" my energy and hung out in the hotel room or the van. Everything becomes a lot clearer if you listen to what your body ( and mind) are telling you.

JA. What has exercise done for your outlook on your lifestyle as a whole?

JS. The biggest improvement has been an overall growing interest in my health and discovering how everything is connected. I used to think healthy meant just having ripped muscles. It really is everything and without that mindset, you are selling yourself short on your overall potential. My interest in nutrition has increased dramatically. Especially the influence that food can have on your body and mind. It is a huge factor in our quality of life and it is quite often taken for granted. I am really happy that I have become aware of this as it has given me a true appreciation of being healthy.
 

 

 
 

Jarrod's work is available in a number of places and he has been kind enough to provide some free downloads at his websites.

jarrodsterling.net
Calm Asa Coma

Mar 8, 2012
Acting On Those Defining Moments

You ever have those moments in your life where something occurs that completely shifts the way you think and act? It could be a number of things. It could be anything that sparks it whether it be an experience, a relationship, or even an obscure ah ha! moment that just comes out of nowhere. I wanted to share a story of my own profound defining moment. I had just left home to begin pursuing a training opportunity in Calgary. This was an interesting time for me as it was a period of insecurity associated with a new gym, a new city, and the first time away from my family. 

One of my first clients was a gentleman named John. He had come to me because he was looking to make some lifestyle changes in order to drop a little bit of weight as well as reduce his blood pressure. As I began training John, I realized that his agenda was far different from mine. While my effort was putting John through a well thought out workout, this effort was often sidetracked by addressing and chatting with just about every single person on the gym floor that he had gotten to know. We would work out, but our sessions often turned into a lot of laughing, joke and story telling in between some often extended intervals of rest. While this worried me at the beginning, it opened my eyes to something that often gets overlooked as a somewhat green trainer. Communication and relationship building are BIG dark horses in a fitness program. John became the definition of consistency, he lost weight, and his blood pressure was completely under control. At the time I didn't realize it,but it had everything to do with the environment he had created for himself in the gym.

In the summer of 2008 he came to me with some bad news. He had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer that required surgery as well as treatment. The outlook was not looking good at all as the surgery was a major concern because of his age. A few weeks had passed and John had sent me an email to get caught up as I had been out of town and he was recovering. Cue the defining moment. He wanted to let me know that he had been recovering well and his surgeon wanted to let me know that had he had not been in the condition that he was in, he may not have made it through the surgery.To this day I remember reading that email as it had knocked me back. I always loved exercise and at the time I had just begun finding my own in the gym. However, it was this email that had made me realize that this is what I am meant to be doing. 

John didn't stop there. Shortly after, he was back in the gym going through some light workouts. He started back up with me and while there were days where the chemotherapy would set him back, he knew that exercise had him feeling better when it was all said and done. He then decided that he wanted to spread that message. He decided to film a DVD meant to help cancer survivors introduce exercise into their recovery. He decided to present it to the Tom Baker Cancer Center here in Calgary. Shortly after, he was treated and back to normal workouts which consisted of a lot of conversation, laughs, and of course a bit of exercise in all of that.
 

John eventually lost his battle with colorectal cancer this past June however the time that I had spent with him still brings a smile to my face as well as the people who had gotten to know him. This is a shot from 2009 of John and some great friends and colleagues of mine who could say the same.

John was able to teach me a lot about my profession as he made me realize the importance of the art of what I do. He taught me that professionalism, communication, relationships, and of course a bit of fun in the gym can be as big of an asset as a perfectly designed program. More importantly, his story clued me into the magnitude of change that can be experienced through exercise. His story is a constant reminder to me of why I do what I do and why I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Move Improve,

Jeff

Mar 5, 2012
Fit In Fitness

Where I grew up there was not much in the way of personal training but I remember being starstruck by anyone with the title of trainer. They were the people with the brains and the bodies that I was shooting for. While I have been able to chase the dream and turn training into my career (the brains and the body pursuit will be ongoing) I often find myself trying to answer the same questions of trainers that I was asking not so long ago. You remember back in early grade school when you thought your teacher was some sort of education robot that did not exist outside of the classroom? I sometimes think we are perceived in a pretty similar fashion.

 

The truth is, we have a little more in common than you may think. While exercise is something that we study, practice, and teach we have some very similar considerations. First and foremost I can say that being a trainer (a competent one anyway) requires a lot of physical and mental output.We are constantly moving, engaging in conversation, and constantly under the microscope. You can have a lot on your mind but when you are on the floor there is no closing the office door for some quiet time or wearing your emotions on your sleeve. There are early mornings, late nights, and the hours can be long. If your occupation sounds anything like this, I can say that I feel your pain. With that being said, fitting a workout within all of this can sometimes pose its challenges. However, exercise is my passion and I can say in all honesty I believe that if there is anything that can bring a bright spot in your day, exercise would be at the top of that list. More importantly, if there is any characteristic to look for if you are seeking out a trainer it would be one that practices what he or she preaches. If you are wondering what some of the secrets would be of a fitness professional, these would be mine.

 

Creating Time vs Finding It

I will be the first person to say that I am guilty of this but we have created a culture of biting off more than we can chew. We learn to become efficient in our professions and it seems that with increased work efficiency comes increased workload expectation. As much as I would love a 26 hour day, I don't see it in the works so we need to work with what we have. If it means getting up an hour earlier, skipping a lunch date, freeing up a few evenings a week, or streamlining your internet zombie time. It can be done and it is sometimes shocking that you may have more time on your hands than you had expected.

Use What You Have

I can say this happens as sometimes time is tight, getting to the gym can be tough, and for those of you travelling I also feel your pain as my travel schedule has definitely picked up. However it is surprising what an open mind can do for you. A simple bodyweight workout, some light resistance tubing or bands, a TRX, whatever your preference may be it all works. My take on having to streamline a workout is that it is all better than nothing. Odds are sometimes stacked against you when it comes to that perfect workout, but the beauty of making the most of your conditions to me is a major dark horse in a successful fitness program. The biggest asset to this type of exercise to me is the ability to exercise consistency. If you are able to stay consistent I can assure you that you will be game when the conditions are right.

Have A Plan

This is essential as I have seen a lot of people spend their precious workout time trying to figure out what it is they are looking to do. Take the time to identify what it is that you are looking to get out of your workouts and find the best means possible of getting there. This may mean doing some homework, it may mean getting some coaching but having a plan and rolling with it will prevent a lot of uncertainty and ultimately prevent a lot of time thrown to the wayside. If you are looking for help in planning I can say that I know a few pretty sharp dudes who put together a pretty cool app that is meant to do just that.
(Call this a commercial break I suppose)

Move Improve For iPhone
Move Improve For Android

Time is precious there is no denying that statement and I can be the first person to admit that I could probably manage it better. However exercise to me is a priority and it always will be. It is something that I love to do and for any fitness pro I believe that it is beyond essential to practice what you preach. I believe that it goes deeper than that though if you look at the big picture. I have been able to see some pretty incredible changes occur when exercise becomes a priority so I want to finish this with a question.
Would you be willing to sacrifice a few hours a week to add a few years to your existence?

Move Improve,

Jeff

Mar 2, 2012
The Enjoyment Advantage

I am often asked questions in the gym when it comes to attaining results. I can say that I could fill multiple blog posts with questions alone but I will avoid that path. This to me is a good thing as the recipe for success is the bottom line for most people in the weight room. While there is no perfect answer, there are certainly a lot of them that can help. I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about one answer in particular that has become a bigger and bigger part of what I do in the gym. While success is important, I must say that success does seem to get in the way of enjoyment in the gym. Personally, I can say that this is something that I have overlooked in the past. I have written programs and executed sessions that were very specific to goals but have realized that success goes well beyond exercise prescription. I now realize that happiness within a fitness program is as important as hypertrophy. Whether it is someone dealing with a lot of work stress looking to just move around and have a conversation or someone looking to put in the effort of a lifetime. I have realized that it is my job to cater to that and make that individual feel great about the effort that they had just put in. And regardless of the effort on any particular day, these people stay consistent and more importantly see success. While a fitness program requires sets and reps, it also requires positivity and enjoyment for it to be a true success. If you are looking for success in the gym, I would recommend these exercises within your program.

1. Journal 

Try to keep track of your progressions, how good you are feeling, muscle gain/weight loss. The ability to document the positives of your workouts will help fuel your appreciation of your efforts and help develop a culture of fulfillment.

2. Grateful Log

Try to document three components of your life that you are grateful for on a daily basis. I have been experimenting with this one myself and I love it. It has made me realize that even during more difficult days that I have a lot to be thankful for and that life is pretty damn good. 

3. Find Activities That Bring A Smile To Your Face

I have seen people get into exercise that they dislike based strictly on the fact that it may bring results. The problem that I see with that unless it becomes enjoyable, it just isn't sustainable. Start off by getting into activities that you enjoy doing. Sidetrack some of the expectation of success and let the enjoyment of what you are doing help get you to where you want to be.

4. Feel Better Walking Out Than You Did Walking In

It may be movement to eliminate pain, it may be to reduce stress, it may be a workout that tests your capacity in every sense of the word. Whatever it may be, if you can tailor your exercise to that certain satisfaction that you are pursuing, chances are you will be feeling pretty good about yourself when it is all said and done. For those of you who have felt that, its a great feeling isn't it. 

I love the science of exercise however, I believe that the art of exercise is the unwritten ingredient to success. The ability to integrate components such as fun, enjoyment, fulfillment, and happiness into what you are doing, the science will take care of itself.

The destination is easy if you are enjoying the ride.

Move Improve,

Jeff

Feb 29, 2012
An Investment For The Present
I am sure I am not the only one who has received advice from a very young age to be sure to save your money in order ultimately prepare for retirement. There are people in place to manage this for you, there are various saving options, and there are numerous resources available to assist you to making the right decisions. While a financial planner will be an assistance to your future, I often catch myself answering questions of the present often related to fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle. I often look at these topics as investments as they sometimes require financial backing, but more importantly the investment of time and effort. And while saving money will take care of your future, I am a firm believer that it is your present day investment strategy to help your future occur gracefully.
            
“The secret here is the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve
             on it. And if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.”
                       The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
 
I cannot say that I am an investment guru of any type, but I can say that what you invest in your well being has some similar characteristics. A diversified financial portfolio generally leads to healthier financial well being. The same can be said for your body as there are numerous elements that can be integrated to increase the value of your portfolio of the present. These would be my investments.
 
Investment Option #1: Sleep
 
Investment: 7-9 Hours daily
 
 A natural sleep cycle is generally in tune with the sun. Get to bed by 10pm and rise 
 around 6 and 7am. The return on your investment will be optimal physical, psychological,   
 and neurological repair. For those of us who do not have the work schedule that caters to
 the cycle of the sun, do your best to maintain your 7-9 hours of sleep.
 
Investment Option #2: Hydration
 
Investment: Fifty percent of your body weight in ounces.
 
Proper hydration is essential for the transport of nutrients for your body, and the
regulation of your core temperature. It also plays an irreplaceable role in regulating your
body’s key systems.
 
Investment Option #3: Exercise
 
Investment: 1 hour daily
 
This investment option is big enough to be broken down into its own portfolio based on the
amount of options available to us. To avoid too much confusion I will do my best to keep it simple. Exercise is movement and for a lot of us, we do not get enough of it. When it comes to your investment in movement, what is your desired return? In order to see an effective return there are some questions that you need to ask yourself. There are a lot of options available. Finding what works for you will determine the strength of your investment. Here are a few things to consider when making your decisions.
 
      1. Education: Having clarity on your goals and how you will reach them will be a big part 
                             of the return on your efforts. 
 
      2. Diversify: Different methods and progressions of movement will result in a far more    
                           successful exercise portfolio and a greater return on your contributions.
 
      3. Rest: Listen to your body. It will tell you when it wants to rest. Take it when necessary in   
                    order to keep your investments from stalling.
 
      4. Get Help: We seek assistance from professionals to assist our investments into the 
                           future. Exercise is something that may require similar attention. 
                           
Investment #4: Proper Nutrition
 
Investment: Quality sources of protein
                    Carbohydrate sources primarily from fruit and vegetables
                    Quality sources of essential fats
                    Appropriate timing
 
If there was an investment within this portfolio that I would consider the foundation of your
investment strategy, proper nutrition would be just that. The food that you put into your body
will define the level of success in everything else that you contribute in your strategy. Once
again there will be many things to consider when it comes to making the appropriate
decisions to ensure a return.
 
1. Eat!
 Emphasize on free run meats and eggs as sources of protein. Carbohydrate sources coming primarily from fruits and vegetables. Fat sources coming from plant and fish based sources.
Nuts, avocados, olive coconut and fish oils will provide you with wholesome sources
of essential fats that are vital for your quality of life.
 
2. Frequency
 
The amount of insulin that is released in order to stabilize our blood sugar is a key component in our body composition. Smaller, more frequent feedings will ensure a straight line effect on your blood sugar and speed up your metabolism.
 
3. Education
     
Knowing and understanding the influence that food has on your body will help you direct your decision making when it comes to what you eat. 
 
Investment #5: Have A Bit Of Fun!
 
The dark horse in your portfolio. I am a firm believer in the idea that our experiences are what define our personality. Whether it be a trip, playing with your kids, listening to music, whatever it is that you enjoy. Make time for balance and enjoy it in every sense. A life worth living is a life worth taking care of.
Feb 26, 2012