Nourishment.

Most of my writing comes from self-observations. My thoughts and actions, and their effects seem to drive these musings. You could call them “reflections on actions, taken.”

This morning, the idea of nourishment came to mind. I had not eaten for 12 hours and was still not hungry. Without a workout waiting in the wings (rest day), I had no need to put calories in. I had some coffee and within minutes felt the effects of the caffeine. Later, after attending to a training session I had a small amount of 85% dark chocolate and some peanut butter. Again, I could feel the effects almost immediately. Consume too much creates a drowning sensation. System is flooded. This got me thinking about overconsumption, weight gain, lethargy, and thoughtless action. Simply put, lack of discipline and self-control.

Nourishment is giving the body what it lacks or needs. Water and energy. Stimulation and response. Preparing a large, complete meal, and eating it, should come with relaxation and settling. This is dinner. This takes time, which we don’t have during the day. Our energy is needed elsewhere. Our minds are elsewhere. Understanding what leads to decisions on food is critical to avoid large caloric consumption or eating as entertainment (fast food, soda, etc.). If you stop at fast food on the way to work or at lunch that dump of calories spikes your blood sugar and is processed and stored as fat.

What’s the optimal minimal? Experiment. Be conscious consumers. Start your day with intention and awareness. It’s not hard. Personal accountability is the only requirement. Our actions need to align with our goals. One decision at a time.

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Peace. Pity. Action. Progression.

Inspiration, instigated by a thought provoking read.

Action requires information. Let peace inform your actions and your intention will be displayed. -MFT

Too much posturing. This is what I do. What I’m good at. What I’ve done. What I have. Where I’m going. Enough. Absorb information. Inquire. Learn. Who you are will be displayed through how you move, speak, and engage. No declarations. Just listen. Ask.

Stop. No more looking for pity. Don’t desire those who love and care for you to give answers. They will and you probably won’t take action. The cycle continues. Time goes by. You don’t need pity. Opinion does not equal actuality. Black and white. Win or lose.

Life is swift. Enough digressing. Forward is the way. Not in the future, but in the now. You are here. There is no past, or future, only present. 365 days go by fast. 365 sunrises. Opportunity is offered only so often. Is it too late to begin? Not if what you want is worth the pursuit. Limitations are self employed.

Peace of mind. Not giving a fuck what others think of YOU. That’s progression. No groups. No need for belonging. Flow happens when you engage. Acceptance is not worth the time or effort.

“Yes, I teach. I lead. I coach. I declare. But in the same breath I learn. Because anything else would mean I am dead: either death-dead or living-dead, stagnant, redundant, repetitive, stuck. I have wasted time, of course, but I won’t waste life. And that’s why I’m here, on the road, in the dirt, atop the bike but sometimes on the ground next to it wondering what just happened. I am a student. This is how I learn.” – Mark Twight

Friendships and Coaching

The right prescription, assignment, plan, outline, etc. does us no good without the inner confidence that we are capable of improvement, completion, and success.

Friendships develop over time. Often taking months before a level of trust and willingness to care is manifested. This trial period of sharing experiences, exposing weaknesses and displaying strengths is a delicate dance requiring equal participation of both parties. One can not want it more than the other.

Establishing this relationship fosters the potential for new heights. You must give to get. We cannot create more time. A reprioritization must occur and remain to keep the potential a possibility. Commitment.

You must know your “why” in creating change. Admit a void, or known weakness, struggle, insecurity, etc. and be confident in your decision. Continuing down your current path will not produce the desired change. Comfort breeds complacency. We cannot hope to maintain that which hasn’t been maximized. Not knowing our full potential (will we ever?), those words, “maintain”, should never be uttered when speaking of our health. Continuous engagement requires an allocation of energy resources. When training, you are building/working/fatiguing, then recovering, where you lose, in order to regain the energy/resources to begin again. See the full picture.

Committing to coaching requires a letting go of emotion, control, and routine. This is not easy, but it is the only way. Trust requires vulnerability. Change requires months, not days and weeks. This should embolden you to let go of repeated judgment and give in to the daily assignment.

And do you know what I found after several decades of life? We achieve our goal, we become a level of ourselves, and then we want to go further. And we make new mistakes, and we have new hardships, but we prevail. We are human. We are alive. We have blood.

Patti Smith

Checking In: Connecting Trainer with Client

“If you are prepared, have confidence and persevere, you will always have the edge.” Howard Ferguson

As a personal trainer, I find the most difficulty and dissatisfaction in those days in between my training sessions with my clients. On the way to meet the trainee I’m pondering how their week went. Did they workout? Eat well? How are they sleeping and recovering? Days always turn into weeks, turn into months, and eventually years. Time is always of the essence, so for me, finding a program that allows me to be connected and locked in with my clients in the virtual world is essential, but until now, it wasn’t a reality.

Trainerize, an online personal training software has changed the game for me. My plan is to fully integrate all clients into it’s usage moving forward. The ability to see how each week is structured, and how those week’s lead and build into a 4-6 week block of training, is a game changer for clients. It shows them where the process is going. As much as it is about the daily workout, the focus is more on the long-game. Are you building or are you dabbling? Are you hoping it gets easier, or are you planning to get stronger?

I won’t wax philosophical too much, but I will challenge your involvement with the success process. It’s as simple as checking-in. Once that becomes automatic, a connection is established that gets strengthened on a daily basis. For the client, knowing that I’m not judging what they did or didn’t do is crucial as well. I want to know and understand they “why” so we can implement some strategies and find other paths to success. It’s there, but we need engagement in the process in order to unlock your/our potential.

Check in. Utilize. Implement. Engage. Discover. Succeed.

Onward and Upward,

Jake

PS- I’ll leave you to ponder all of the crucial moments of your life where you were required to check in. Listed below are just a few examples.

  • Your first days of college. Checking in at the dorm, registering for classes, exploring options of engagement with the university and your peers.
  • Medical/dental/legal appointments.
  • Sports practices.
  • Job interviews and admissions interviews.
  • etc

The list can flow on and on. Give the process a certain importance and your actions will follow.

Pursuing Peak Performance

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Points of failure in all instances define the limits of systemic function. Right Practice must seek to extend those limits through the pursuit of failure… Outside the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of success. Within the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of failure.

Michael Livingston, “Mental Discipline

When we train, we must seek to fatigue the working muscle or energy system. Doing the plank, or forward-leaning-rest, focus intently on the position you are trying to hold, tight hips, legs, locked out arms, as well as tension throughout. If a break down occurs, stop. There is no honor in spastic extended effort. In your next attempt at extending your time in plank position use your previous best as your bench mark. The same goes for pushups, pullups, squats, or other bodyweight exercises. Crush the muscle group you are training, keeping body tension throughout. True failure is controlled. It still “looks” smooth and easy. Following this protocol helps with injury prevention and overtraining.

In my running/endurance training I love :30/:30 intervals. 30 seconds of very hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy recovery. We must hit these hard, and then back off completely to get ready for the next. The body is adapting and with adequate rest between these intense sessions our fitness builds and expands. New realities, new limits, personal bests, course records, all become possibilities with focused training and recovery.

Respect your efforts and engage in positive recovery practices, daily. The younger crowd seems to frown on stretching, until they become injured. Start your daily stretching practice sooner rather than later. With heightened levels of exertion comes increased strain on the major movers, i.e. hamstrings, groin, and quads in running. Seek to lengthen these muscles on a daily basis via a few simple exercises:

  • Instep-Stretch
  • Pigeon
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Wide Founder (foundation training)
  • Wide Founder into Windmill (foundation training)
  • Narrow Stance Decompression Breathing (foundation training)

Work + Rest/Recovery = Training

 

 

Discomfort

The awkward, uncomfortable feeling of physical struggle we feel when the workout gets hard is essential to growth. Most people seek to avoid this at all costs, but to do so is to avoid growth and progress. Be clear on your “why” before, during, and after.

“Working out” is your pure practice of engaging in lifestyle change and enhancement.

Discomfort never lasts. Comfort never progresses.

When it’s over. You won’t regret it.

Engage!

Mindset: Growth Choices

A wise friend of mine once told me that you can’t prioritize everything in life all at once.

This statement came after I asked him why he had been away from the gym the past three months. To me, it was shocking how a person could minimize their fitness after making remarkable gains over the past six months.

He began to explain to me the immense importance of another area of life, business, had become and the undivided attention it needed. He also explained how we have three crucial elements to our lives that will need constant juggling and prioritizing, health, business/career, and family. We can’t expect 100% improvement or focus in any one of these areas at a given time. A balance, would be nice, but a conscious negotiation will ultimately prevail in how that 100% will be divided up.

Realize that to grow in any one area of your life you’ll need to prioritize it. Understand what this effect will have on the other areas, and plan ahead. Be strategic in timing, setting short-term goals and benchmarks, as well as keeping the long-term outlook in focus.

Variety in Health and Exercise is Unnecessary

Assessment

In the active, athletic, fitness, and wellness world it seems every week we are presented with new exercises and ways to workout. From slight variations to a pushup to complex training programs for niche activities [think stand up paddle boarding], it seems there is no end in sight for “new” ways to train. Programs are designed to be gender and age specific, emphasizing the unique needs of each group, and defending why the approach needs to be different. My opinion on this matter is that this is completely unnecessary in the area of physical training and sport. Remember, we are not talking about physical therapy or injury rehab, thus a specific isolation should not be needed.

  1. Hacking or Shortcutting: the idea of finding ways to get more out of less is not unique to the fitness world. We (humans) are very strongly drawn to new products, theories, and “revolutionary” ideas of improvement. In training we are working on mastery of movement or sport specific skills. Essentially we are seeking change or lasting imprint on our being. You could even say building and defining a new “self”. When a person attempts to invest time and resources into “hacking” an area of their life that is a complete mess (health and fitness), the best that can be accomplished is an arrival at a slightly better representation of bad. Skip the hype.
  2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): the idea of focusing on interval training to achieve a better workout, or metabolic effect, in a much shorter period of time. In true representation, as a part of a broad training program HIIT is an excellent addition. When properly executed along with strength and power endurance as well as pure endurance activities the immense benefits can be seen. On its own, as the backbone of your training, this is a very poor investment of your energy. Too many times I see people lose focus, patience, and sight of what a well-rounded training program is designed to do. Your training is grounded by the endurance work you do each work. Increasing the size and capacity of your engine (think burn more calories, go faster, recover quicker) should never be shelved in favor of the less is more faction.
  3. Gender Specific Training Programs: lame. Both men and women will benefit from the same exercises. Sure, many very fit women will never be able to do a pull-up or knock out a set of push-ups on the rings. That being said men don’t need some specific testosterone enhancing bench press program, which I’m sure exists somewhere. Likewise, women don’t need “sculpting” programs using special balls and bands. Men and women, benefit equally from training movement in a full range of motion. Bodyweight is often a factor in making high rep sets or stabilization exercises easier for women, just as upper-body dominant exercises done in isolation are easier for men to perform. Standards may differ, but execution should be the same.
  4. Nutrition/Diet: if it has a “name” its bad. Our society has too many eating and food related disorders already why start more? All things in moderation are OK. Just like your exercise/training program, balance is key. The desire to look like a Paleolithic being is bizarre to me when considering their short life spans and severely restricted access to any sort of nutritional variety. Be a smart person. Avoid the extremes.
  5. Complex training: this idea that spreadsheets and confusing rep/set/time formats will provide greater results than the simple. Not true. As someone that loves to exercise, and write training programs, my greatest enjoyment is in seeing mastery and progression. For this to happen the trainee cannot be bogged down in confusion and complexity. Your desired physique comes not from popping in and out of complex training, but from weeks and months of consistency. Skip the new finagled programs, Olympic lifts, and excessive plyometric routines. You won’t regret it!

Find your constant and be true to that activity. For many, this was a sport or leisure activity. Now, I see many people with strong ties to “fitness” classes or programs. My constant is running, preferably on a trail. Most of the time I do this to calm my mind, but for a period every summer I focus intently on honing my training to complete to the best of my ability in a key competition. The emotions elicited from this process help me grow and see possible new realities. Being constant in my focus allows me to grow. I may never “arrive” at some final endpoint of potential, but I’m OK with that.

Respect the amount of energy it takes to change, and avoid the tendency to jump on the newest fad in training. Remember, muscles don’t get confused, and there are no shortcuts.

Grounding Exercises: Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Up/Body Pulls, Pushups, Dips, Planks, Lunges, Step-Ups, and Kettle Bell Swings and Cleans. Common sense variations of these are applicable and worthwhile.

Never stray from the basics.

Flowing Fitness Continuum

The flowing fitness continuum.

There is a multitude of ways to workout and gain fitness: calisthenics, kettle bells, free weights, machines, cardio, yoga, and Pilates just to name a few.

  • Where should you start?

I can’t say there is a perfect place to start. If you begin at a young age, your introduction to fitness will most likely include tumbling, running, some gymnastic, apparatus based movements, and maybe a few basic exercises such as pushups, squats, and sit-ups. Ideally, we’d all start here and stay here for quite some time. Learning by doing, and being inquisitive about movement is the best way to “do” fitness. Interest in exercise stays peaked longer, avoiding the boredom and monotony that most common fitness programs seem to evoke.

  1. Free weights are excellent to have access to. Many of the movements done with them are very effective and functional. Yet, the drawback is that a multitude of weights are needed and you really can’t travel with them, anywhere.
  2. The kettle bell (KB) is a fascinating tool. Simple in design and function, the (KB) directly targets the most commonly weak area on almost all humans, their posterior chain: hamstrings, glutes, low and mid back. The (KB) also provides an excellent non-impact cardio component to your workout. Simply put, if you can learn one implement or tool, make it the (KB).
  3. Unless you are in a rehab facility or situation, machines are completely unnecessary. Size, cost, non-functionality, there are simply too many drawbacks to basing a fitness program around machines.
  4. The mind-body movement, including yoga and Pilates, is one that needs its own article. I have only positive things to say about both of these disciplines, especially when used in conjunction with a sound strength and conditioning program.
  5. Lastly, we have cardio: running, biking, skating, skiing, rowing, swimming, etc. Nothing beats endurance training. It’s extremely positive for your body and mind. Any activity that allows you to propel your body over long distances, under your own power is going to be the ultimate form of exercise.

What it comes down to is personal preference. What do you enjoy the most? Do the activity that brings you the most enjoyment. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to do it. The more you do anything, the better you get at it. It’s all very personal, but having a basic understanding of various fitness disciplines is helpful in choosing your path. Become the best YOU!

  • Does mastering one discipline help prepare you to master others?

Yes and no. Mastering the ability to control your body, kinesthetic awareness, is the best way to begin. This means gymnastic, bodyweight movements are the preferred method. That being said, it’s not practical for the average adult to begin training as a gymnast. Having the background, learning how to move well at a young age, is the ideal beginning. Being sufficient at more than one discipline is never a bad thing. If I can enjoy more than one activity, the variety at my disposal is greatly increased. Endurance/cardio activities pair well with any other form of fitness. Love to move!

  • Which one is best, for me/you?

Just move. Begin. Walking, running, light calisthenics, some pushups, squats… develop a pattern, make it habitual and you’ll feel better, do it more often, see and feel an immediate difference. If something peaks your interest, go for it. Use any sudden spark of ambition to begin again. Respect that you are starting from the beginning. Don’t sweat if the initial activity is hard, challenging, and leaves you with residual muscle soreness. One last note here: if you can do it on your own, free of class, or gym/facility commitment, your ownership will come much more quickly. Learn, progress and move forward!

Our lives are our own. Enjoyment is 100% personal. Find the things you love and do them often. Don’t waist time on activities that provide you with no enjoyment. Contrary to what many believe, this includes exercise and fitness. There is a path for all of us. The focus, movement.

Patience. Presence. Persistence.

Coach or Trainer? What’s the difference?

 

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As I transition out of being  a personal trainer, exclusively, I’m presented with the question of, “who needs a trainer, who needs a coach, and what is the difference?”

To answer this question I look back and reflect on the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with at my last fitness studio. Most, came to me with the need of accountability, motivation, and a physical place and presence to meet a few times each week. They desired change, but could not facilitate it on their own. My responsibility was to cultivate that environment, providing solutions, and hopefully in the journey, foster a strong passion for health and fitness. Here, I am a trainer first, coach second.

So, if you fit the bill of someone I just described in the previous paragraph, you are not alone. A gym, studio, trainer, and consistent weekly appointments will be necessary for you. To be successful, this is where you have to start.

If you’ve already shown that commitment, have been working towards clear goals, have experience in training and competing in a sport or lifestyle activity, or understand programming and functional training exercises, a coach will be the best fit for you.

On the other hand we have the roll of “coach”. When I think of a coach I think of someone with a high level of knowledge and experience both as a doer and a motivator of others. They are also a mentor, trainer, psychologist and leader. This person customizes workouts and prescribes specific programs for the client’s goals, wants, and needs, whether that is sport specific (marathon, triathlon, ultramarathon, team sport, etc.) or lifestyle based (general health, corrective exercise, wellness, activities of daily living (ADL)).

As a coach (mentor and trainer), my roll is to give you the “right goods”. The correct formula for you to achieve your goal, and the proper guidance to ensure you progress consistently and rapidly. You do the work, you own the responsibility of your health, learning about your body, confronting weaknesses, and completing what you start. You get yourself moving and prioritize your health. We work together to break barriers, mental hurdles, psychological hangups, physical imbalances.

When you hire myself, or another fitness professional, what you are paying for is that individuals knowledge. If you want the lowest price, you’ll find someone with a lower quality product. Watered down information. If you want cutting edge, top of the industry knowledge, you’ll have to pay for it. This is worth much more than the $50-$70 per hour you pay to have someone observe your workout.

Before you jump, either way, think about your health. Think about your wants and desires. Think about your image and your needs. Really think about what it takes to mold and create that desired “you”. It is not 3 hours per week, or 4 hours per week. It’s a lifestyle, period. It’s how you think, how your express yourself, who you choose to socialize with or call as friends. It’s how stingy you are with your time and energy. How open you are to honest assessments, and how willing you are to take action in the here and now.

My goal is to get you on the right path immediately. From our first interaction/meeting we begin breaking down barriers and forming our plan of action.

Relentless, Forward, Progress…