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Oldie But A Goodie: Beyond the Training Program

The following article was posted on Medium.com in October of 2015. I think it holds some great points still and is definitely worth a share with everyone. Enjoy!

One of the coolest things about being in the health and wellness industry is every day when you go to ‘work’ you have the opportunity to help people. Whether it be direct and hands on, or indirectly through an article on your website, every fit-pro gets into this industry to help people. So when a former client asked me to come speak to her sorority, I jumped at the opportunity. I mean, it's a room full of 18-22 year old girls, how could I say no?

When I started thinking about what I wanted to talk about, I spent hours putting pen to paper and kept drawing blanks. I wanted to keep the group engaged, talk about fitness, provide value, and also bring a little ‘wow’ factor and prepare the room for what it takes to be successful as a young professional.

Nothing was jumping off the sheet at me. Shocker.

As I stared at my sheet of paper I noticed that the content I was writing, although about fitness, started to take on a much deeper meaning. At that moment I realized I had stumbled onto a pretty damn good topic that I think could deliver to this group. A unique perspective that goes one dimension deeper than just creating a training program, but the parallels it has with being successful in your day-to-day ‘life program’ as well.

I just had to remember that the lessons in the weight room are always much larger than we initially perceive them to be.

Monitor your volume to avoid over training

Over-training is a phenomenon that exists when an athlete or individual applies a workload to their body that the body cannot support. This doesn't mean one workout is going to destroy you, but if you do it over and over again, over the course of time, bad things can happen. Symptoms often include a feeling of heaviness in their muscles, low energy levels, lack of motivation, depression, or even injury. Whether you are an average gym goer or serious athlete, one of the important things I do as a Coach is monitor the total work, or volume, prescribed to the individual. Athletes need to be fresh for their sport and the average person hates walking around with legs so sore it hurts to sit on the toilet. This is one of the most common mistakes I see people make in the weight room.

In our day to day lives this same exact phenomenon exists. Instead of excessive volume in the weight room it's the excessive volume in your daily activities. We all have our ‘foundational exercises,’ the things we do every day like our go to work and spend time with our family. However, what we do in addition to our foundation adds up quickly. Video games, late nights with friends, going shopping, vacation and extra travel; all of these things are the additional volume that needs monitoring in our program. Just like one workout won’t crush you, one night out or a vacation isn't going to be the end of the world. However, these activities can start to add up and now ‘over-training’ starts to set in. Just like monitoring total volume in the weight room, you have to monitor the total volume in your life.

Identify your “big three”

When I start writing a weight room program for someone I always identify the ‘big three.’ These are the exercises that are going to be the mainstays of what my client is going to do in their workouts. Everyone’s ‘big three’ is going to be different. A powerlifter won't have the same three as a college football player, who won't have the same three as a skier rehabbing a torn ACL, who won't have the same three as an account manager at the local bank, who won't have the same three as a 14 year old who has never touched a barbell before.

I think you catch the drift here…

Everyone enters the weight room with a different agenda, various levels of strength, and with different backgrounds that might limit them in certain movements. But each person finds their mainstays. Whether that be squats, deadlifts, bench press, chin ups, push press, planks, people always find the movements that work best for them and hold on to them for dear life.

We must do the same thing in our day to day.

It’s often believed that we are a combination of the five people we surround ourselves with. I would like to take that one step further and think that we a combination of the three people we value the most. For me it's my Mom, Dad, and Wife. What is important here, is that these three people you interact with the most be the most positive influences in your life. These are your mainstays, the staple to your program, and the foundation you are building yourself on. Do these people bring out the best or worst in you? Do they promote good habits or bad habits? How do they make you feel? If the answers to those questions make you feel uncomfortable then it's probably time to write yourself a new program.

Be productive with your rest intervals

Whether I am working in a one-on-one or group setting I need to maximize my time and interactions. I plan out the session, prepare the facility, and map out my coaching cues. After all that, I then plan what I'm going to do during the rest intervals. In a 60 minute session I might have up to 15 minutes of programmed ‘rest’ time. Make no mistake, rest time does not mean dead time. Those 15 minutes turn into mobility and flexibility work, extra hands on teaching, verbal cuing, and yes, even time to grab a sip of water by the fan.

Now I ask, what do you do with your rest time?

We’ve all seen the breakdown of a 24 hour day. Let's say we get 8 hours of sleep and then work for 8 hours. That leaves an 8 hour ‘rest period’ throughout the day. What do you do with that time? Are you binge watching a tv series on Netflix? Playing the new Call of Duty? Spending an insane amount of time on social media? Staying out until the early morning at the bar?

Listen, it's your rest period and you can do whatever you want with it. But it is very easy to have your rest time turn into dead time which doesn't contribute anything to your day to day life. I'm not saying you should sit in your house and pour over every Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, or Tim Ferris book. I'm also not saying it's the end of the world if you go out and spend time with you friends.

What I am asking you to do is audit your program.

During my time as a Fitness Professional I’ve noticed that a well written program will put a client on the path to success. The client walks into the gym, crushes their warm up, trains their big three, adds the appropriate volume with some accessory work, and utilizes their rest periods. After all that they leave the gym feeling unstoppable.

The same format works with your day to day, too.

Wake up, prepare for the day, get to work (on time), communicate with your big three on a regular (if not daily) basis, and utilize your ‘rest periods’ to add the appropriate activities that allow you finish the day and go to bed feeling unstoppable, ready to crush the next day.

The caveat to all this is that a training program is never complete. It takes a lot of trial and error, learning from mistakes, as well as quality time and effort to make sure you stick to the plan. But what I can assure you is that the feeling you get when you stick to the plan, learn and reflect as you go, and find what works for you...that process will lead you to a better place in your life. That’s the message that I would want a room full of young people, but really anyone, to take away. You write your own program.

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Quotes From My Notes: Volume 1

I’ve been in the realm of strength and conditioning for 9 years and still use the same notebook when I go to any kind of continuing education.

That goes to show you how much I write down…

I probably look like a complete whack job. I sit right in the front row, drink coffee, stare at the presenter, and listen the entire time.

Blinking is optional.

But in all honesty I think I listen better than I write, so I spend the most time doing just that.

What I do write down are the quotes and one-liners that resonate with me the most. What I have accumulated is a notebook full of nuggets from some of the best professionals in the disciplines of psychology, communication, self improvement/development, and of course, human performance. For me, this has been huge in helping remember what I learned, as well as ease of transfer when I am communicating with other industry professionals or clients. I thought it would be pretty neat to share some of my favorites as well as how I have implemented them into my coaching.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I stole the title and concept of this article from my Strength Faction brother, Gabe Caldwell. Gabe is an awesome Coach in Chicago who puts out great content and has amazing hair. No really, his hair is unreal. If you want to see Gabe’s version of “Quotes From My Notes” or how unreal his flow is, you can do so right here.

Without further adieu, the first installment of quotes from my notes:

“You can’t coach a 10 if you are a 2!”- Martin Rooney

The first strength coach I spent time with in my career was Martin Rooney.

Yes, I know how fortunate I am to say that.

I first met Martin back in June of 2011 at Parisi Franchise Training Week. The first concept he spoke to us about was the importance of energy and enthusiasm when coaching. After 6 years, this quote still resonates with me because it is my competitive advantage when coaching. Right before going to training week in New Jersey, I was walking across the graduation stage at SUNY Plattsburgh accepting my degree in business administration. Not exercise physiology, kinesiology, or even health sciences. What I initially lacked in human performance, I knew I could make up for in human interaction. Martin is still 100% correct in that you can write the best training program, backed by all the best science in the world, but if you can’t get your client to listen and follow the program it doesn’t matter.

Lesson learned: Bring the energy each and every session. Just because it is your 7th or 8th session of the day, it is still your clients first interaction with you. Be the highlight of their day. Be a 10 and elevate those around you.

“You don’t want to shoot a shotgun from a canoe” - Eric Cressey

EC is an amazing coach with a better understanding of functional anatomy than most surgeons. After following Eric’s content for years, I first heard him speak at the CSP Fall Seminar in September 2015. When he took the stage to present, everything he spoke about instantly went over my head. This quote was quite literally the only thing that made sense to me. Two years later, this quote is one of the foundations to my training philosophy. We work so hard as strength and conditioning professionals to build the strongest humans we can. What EC is referencing in this quote is to be cautious  building a strong human on top of an unstable or dysfunctional foundation.

Lesson learned (without diving too deep down this rabbit hole): Have a good understanding of functional anatomy and how the body should perform. Create a rock-solid, ever evolving, assessment protocol that creates a suitable training menu for each client and strive to deliver a training effect that improves the foundation of each client you work with.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will go home hungry”- Dan John

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being on a Q&A forum facilitated through Strength Faction with about 12 other coaches, with the highlighted presenter being Dan John.

How cool is that? Answer: pretty damn cool.

Very similar to my first Eric Cressey experience, after 60 minutes of listening this was the only thing I wrote down.

Dan John (I feel like you have to say his whole name) was making this in reference to performance training, however in our day to day lives we spread ourselves thin. We try to do this and that and we move further and further away from the outcome we desire. As Coach eludes to, we often times go home hungry. This quote serves as a great reminder that you need to focus on what is most important and, as Dan John also says, we need to keep the goal, the goal.

Lesson learned: Make a list of what is most important. This list can have many columns...training, professional, relationships, etc. but narrow down what is MOST important in each of these things. Next, create actionable steps to ensure that the goal stays the goal. I’m not an expert in self improvement, but this has been very helpful in organizing my day to day, week to week, and month to month actions. Have a plan and stick to the plan.

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