Thursday, May 23, 2013

You Can't Do It All... At One Time

Working with the general population in the fitness industry, you come across all types - the former athlete looking to get back to their top shape, the 40 year old who NOW decides it's time to learn how to move, the executive athlete, the recreational elite... you name it.

That being said, a common problem they all have is a lack of defined vision - sure, they have goals, but they're all over the map and, more often than not, conflicted with one another.  They want to complete this half marathon trail race, that 160km Cycling Fondo, get a six pack for the beach this summer and be able to deadlift 300lbs.  This leads to a training regimen that covers such a broad spectrum that they wind up running themselves into the ground, but never getting any further ahead.

Get off the hamster wheel.  Decide which one is the most important to you at that time and train for it.  Regardless of how long it takes - complete it, check it off the list, and move onto the next thing.  Maybe because you are pressed for time, you choose based on the one that's most realistically accomplished with only 8 weeks of training - or, possibly because it's on the bucket list, you decide to do the one that takes a full year of training.  Either way, committing 100% to a goal gives you that focus, that narrowed spectrum that opens the door to success - and, quite likely, if you stay the course you'll find that some of the other things you've been working towards wind up being achieved as a result.

After all - you can't reach a finish line if you don't choose a race.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who's Hands is Your Body In?

One of the biggest problems with the personal training (and even strength and conditioning) industry is that it is more or less self-regulated.  Meaning it's not particularly regulated at all.  In fact, you don't legally need any sort of course or education to call yourself a personal trainer/strength coach, and this can lead to, at best, poor results for the client.

In an effort to help you see through this, I thought I'd offer some thoughts on our own hiring standards - after all, if we wouldn't hire them for our facility, why would you want to hire the cast-offs?  (I should note - having the qualifications that I list below only get you the first interview; if you don't have the right personality, not amount of certifications or education will get you hired.)

Firstly, I ignore any "group fitness certifications" like bootcamps, spinning, and so on.  You can pad your resume with these if you like, but I couldn't care less.  Knowing how to manage a crowd is great, but it doesn't mean you have the slightest clue about how to coach movement and performance.  And frankly, a DJ at some nightclub probably knows how to manipulate the energy of a room better.

I do look for a degree.  Preferably in Kinesiology, though this is not the golden ring many people (potential clients, doctors, etc) seem to think it is.  While it gives an individual a leg up, it doesn't guarantee they can apply, practically, any of the knowledge crammed in their heads.  However, having any sort of degree does suggest a familiarity with academia and higher learning - so it's always a plus.

If someone doesn't have a degree in Kinesiology, I will then look for other credible certifications - and these can be counted on one hand.  I expect to see a certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and/or the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP).  As a side note - a Kinesiology degree is a prerequisite for the CSEP certification.

There are a few other training backgrounds that I personally have experience with, and that will have extra credibility with me - however, they are not necessarily something the average potential client would need to know about.  That being said, the above qualifications will at least give you a starting point to aid in narrowing the field if you are looking to hire someone; and also keep in mind that if they are easy to book in with and come at a lower cost than any of the others you've spoken to, there's probably a reason.  A high price doesn't guarantee quality, but do you really want the lowest bidder with a wide-open schedule taking control of your movement and performance enhancement?


Thursday, May 2, 2013

If Your Trainer Still Has You Doing Crunches - Find a New Trainer

Okay, maybe not.  Maybe I'm leading off with a dramatic title in an effort to stir a bit of controversy.


Truth is, it's not because I think that crunches are inherently dangerous.  Let's be honest - if you do three sets of 20 crunches at the end of the workout, and the discs in your lower back explode on your 60th repetition, the odds are pretty good they were going to do that anyway - probably when you bent over to tie your shoes, or something equally innocuous.

Feel that?  It's a deep, deep burn.
No, I have an issue with crunches more because they are useless.  Or, if not useless, then one of the least effective movements in the exercise library with one of the smallest returns on your investment.  As with any exercise you might be given, you have to ask yourself "to what end am I doing this?", and then evaluate if the goal corresponds to the work being done.  

Most people want to do crunches for a couple of reasons - because they believe it will equal the ever elusive six pack.


The "six pack" is primarily a result of good nutrition and genetics.  If you eat badly and/or don't naturally have them, then all the crunches in the world ain't gonna change it.

More importantly, our society is built around doing work in the crunched position - sitting in a car, sitting at a desk, sitting in front of the TV... why would you then want to head into a gym and repeatedly put yourself further and further into a position that you already spend all day in?

So the next time your trainer tells you to lie on your back (or on the bench, or on the stability ball) and do 20 crunches... look them in the eye and ask them why they want to waste your time and money, then grab that stability ball and do some rollouts or saws.

Maybe you can teach them something new.