Friday, June 26, 2009

It's not always the headlines that make my day...

I train a lot of athletes. I have worked directly with 23 current NCAA student-athletes, several more who have "retired", and numerous high school athletes who are striving to take the next step. I do summer conditioning for entire teams, and enjoy seeing these kids grow in strength and speed.
I enjoy going to their games, watching them play, and reading about them in the papers the next day.
But as much as these successes mean to me, they pale compared to what I believe are the true reasons I became a trainer in the first place:
1. The 60-something retired gentleman who had chronic knee pain. After working through a six-week routine religiously he has been pain-free for almost 8 months.
2. The 37-year old housewife who struggles with Multiple Sclerosis and fibromyalgia. She walks for three miles now without fatigue, when she used to get winded climbing stairs.
3. The diabetic retiree who had balance and core strength issues. He has worked hard on a program to improve his stamina and balance.
And my most recent challenge -- the 18-year old who is recovering from a brain tumor. For years he has not used his right side because it was difficult. I would not let him rely on his left side, forcing him to use the weaker, imbalanced arm.
After two weeks he has a grip with his right arm that he hadn't had. And we are starting to work on more functional activities. Hopefully, he will soon be able to do many things that most of us take for granted.
None of these would be possible if my clients did not have the drive and desire to improve their functional living. I just provided the tools and the guidance, but they stayed with the program and are seeing the results.
That is what makes my day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The family gets bigger

The first two weeks of summer are notoriously my busiest of the year. My high school kids are trying to move from afterschool sessions to morning sessions. My college kids are trying to get in in the afternoon (Presumably when they get out of bed!). And my parent clients are moving to the mornings because they no longer have to get kids ready for school. It makes for a pretty hectic week, as I usually don't know whether I am coming or going.

Add to that my kettlebell classes, which are now in three locations, and my work with the Gahanna High School Ice Hockey team, which adds 42 boys to my mix.

It is a good problem to have, considering many people in this country are looking for work.

But here it is Saturday morning, and I finally had a chance to come up for air! At least for a day or so, and then it is back to the weekly cycle.

Last week, I blogged about Joel, who was going through the RKC certification. Well, I am happy to report that Joel kicked some serious butt up in St. Paul (along with having his own kicked a few times), and he is now a member of the RKC family. Cat and I had no doubts about him making it because of his dedication and commitment to excellence, and we are very happy to have him as a student and a Comrade. Congratulations Joel.

Our second RKC candidate student, Cara, will be attending the San Diego certification in August. And she has three of us beating on her! No doubt she will do us proud as well.
I would also like to congratulate all the other RKCs who survived last weekend. I'm sure you "enjoyed" the process as much as we did, and look forward to inflicting pain on many other unsuspecting victims. Welcome to the family.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

If you ignore...

One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received was from Ron Oestrike, head baseball coach at Eastern Michigan University. In 1983, Coach "O" told me simply, "If you ignore, it means you accept."
Seven words, nine total syllables. But a lifetime of following.
If something makes you unhappy, and you do nothing to change it, you accept it. And you have no one to blame but yourself.
As a trainer, if I accept improper form, I am telling my client that it is okay to do thins wrong.
As a parent, if I accept bad behavior, I am telling my kids it is okay to continue to misbehave.
As an employer, if an employee continually comes in late, and I do nothing, I accept his tardiness.
Whatever role you are playing, if something is not right and you do nothing about it, don't wait six months and try and change it. By then it is too late. And it is your fault. No one else's.
This weekend is another RKC certification weekend in St. Paul. For Cat and myself it marks the first time we are sending one of our students off to be "tortured" by Pavel, Andrea, and the rest of the training group.
Over the past six months we have worked with Joel correcting his technique, inspiring him, teaching, and helping him teach as a means of getting him ready for the next three days. Rest assured, we took no shortcuts. We did not ignore minor flaws, because they grow into major ones.
We gave him the tools to excel, and he ran with them
We gave him insights into what he can expect, but didn't divulge too much -- this is a weekend that has to be experienced.
Like proud parents, Cat and I sent Joel off to Minnesota fully confident in his abilities. Like nervous parents, we will be waiting for the report card, and the school bus (okay, Airplane) when he returns.
We have done our part. Joel is doing his. Now it is Pavel's turn.
And, like Coach Oestrike, Pavel doesn't ignore.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I thought I'd seen everything...

I was at a hockey game yesterday (Yes, hockey in parents are a little off!), and I saw something I had never seen before, and I hope to never see again.
The local high schools here play in a summer league where checking is not allowed. It is designed to get the kids a little more ice time, as well as get incoming freshmen used to the faster play. My stepson is making the transition to freshman hockey, so this is an opportunity for him to play with older boys.
When we got to the rink, another game was going on. It was borderline physical, but without any real hits. At one point two players collided, and the one who did not fall was given a two minute penalty. No big deal.
Toward the end of the game, with one team (Team A) up 6-4, the leading team had a penalty called for checking. The penalized player went to the penalty box. The player that was knocked over took a swing at the first player. No penalty was called.
With 30 seconds left in the game, Team B scored a goal, and Team A's penalized player came out of the penalty box and back on the ice.
When the game ended, and the teams lined up to shake hands, Team B's player, still reeling from being checked, made a beeline toward the player from Team A. He hit him in the back with his stick, and took a punch at him. Then all hell broke loose. Players from both teams jumped each other, and the referees had to wrestle the two original combatants apart. At one point, they had team B's player pinned to the wall.
They then made a terrible mistake. Instead of forcing the player off the ice, they simply let him go. He then made another beeline toward Team A's player, but was tackled by other players from Team A before he could get there. Now, in addition to the referees, rink security officials were on the ice trying to sort through the mayhem.
Then, I saw what I had never seen before. The player's parents came out onto the ice to drag their son off. What amazed me was there didn't seem to be a bit of embarrassment on the player's mom's face as she took her kid to the locker room.
If that were my kid, there would be hell to pay.
Parents, remember, you are your kids' first coaches. Teach them to play, but teach them sportsmanship as well. Teach them the rules, but teach them teamwork.
I contrast this with what happened at the Ohio State High School Track Championship yesterday as well. One local sprinter was favored to win the 10o, 200, and 400-meter dashes. He won the 200 and 400, but finished second in the 100. Instead of lamenting how he missed a rare triple, he was more concerned that the loss of points would cost his TEAM the TEAM title.
His teammates come through, and they did win the title.
A just reward for putting the team first.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day Salute

Today is the 65th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, or D-Day. On that day, Allied Forces stormed the beaches at Normandy, France to begin the assault that would eventually win World War II in Europe. The price paid was high, as evidenced by the rows of crosses in cemeteries across France.
To commemorate D-Day, many RKCs decided to do a tribute workout -- 200 snatches, interspersed with 400 meters of running. Not a difficult workout, but challenging enough, while giving you the opportunity to think about the sacrifices made on that late spring day.
I wasn't alive during World War II. My parents were just 4 and 2 years old in 1944, but I still owe a great deal to those men who fought for our freedom. (And lest we forget, those who have fought for our freedom ever since, including those in harm's way today.)
I had originally hoped to have a group of our students with me, but kids' schedules and an anniversary negated that. So I set out on my own, with my newest kettlebell student (and long time client), Whit to accompany me on the running portion of the workout.
The first 50 snatches were easy, as easy as 50 snatches can be. And the run was a nice recovery. We talked about her training plans for the summer before she heads back to school in August. We talked about my kids, who are her age, and how they are moving forward with their lives. We also talked about World War II -- an interesting conversation between two different generations who learned about it in history books.
The next set of snatches was a little slower. The callouses on my hands were pinching, as I left my chalk in the car. I suffered through it, and we took off for our second 400 meter run. Here we focused on how tough it was for those soldiers 65 years ago, and what we were doing was really nothing compared to their suffering. I think it gave both of us a sense of reality -- no matter how bad you hurt, someone hurts more.
The third set of snatches tested that theory. My callouses started to rip --and blood was seeping from my hands. (This week was a particularly high volume snatch week, and I was paying the price.) Even though each snatch was painful, I got through it knowing that veterans would laugh at the amount of pain I was feeling. After all, it really was nothing.
The last set was easy. I knew that this was it, the end was near -- a perk those soldiers didn't have on that beachhead 65 years ago.
During the last quarter mile, I asked Whit if she had another mile in her. She said she didn't think so, but she would try anyway. (I failed to mention that she had taken my kettlebell class earlier that morning.)
During the last mile, we talked perseverance, and doing what is necessary to achieve your goals. The same thing that got many through Normandy. Many did not make it, paying the ultimate price so we have the freedom to whine and complain about every little ache, pain, grocery line, traffic light, and airline delay.
I am grateful to all of those who have sacrificed for my freedom, not just on June 6, 1944, but in all battles. I am also thankful that I had the opportunity to reflect on that with the next generation of American for 32 minutes on a warm June Saturday in Ohio.
Somehow, my hands don't hurt that much anymore.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Goals and programming

I often get asked about my workouts, probably because they are usually crazy. Unfortunately, along with that, my workouts are often copied because they are very challenging.
What people don't understand is that I have goals, and a mapped out plan on how to get there. I don't arbitrarily do a workout because it is "cool" or especially difficult. I have specific training plans because they fit my training goals.
Currently I am working on Kenneth Jay's program to increase my VO2 max. This "Viking Conditioning" is three days of my week, while the other three days are grind or strength days, if I go a full six days. I often do not.
The conditioning portion of the cycle is spelled out: High repetition kb snatches, for specific durations. (For the full details of the program, buy Ken Jay's book, Viking Conditioning, at It is a great read.)
For the strength portion of the training, the workouts are not as rigid. I usually go with what I feel needs work, with at least one day a week of TGUs and pistols the only requirement.
Not happy with my shoulder press? I work presses. Need grip work? Heavy swings will help.
I know where I want to be, and by what date. My training is what will get me there.
If you want a great workout to challenge you once in awhile, take one I have done and try it. If you want a program to help meet specific goals, come up with target dates and call me. I'll help you set one up!
Remember if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Are you getting your money's worth?

I was at the club where I train the other day when I heard one of the other trainers exclaim to her client, "I found a great new exercise in Shape magazine. We're going to try it out together."
I wanted to puke on the spot. There are so many things wrong with that statement; things that affect my business, the perception of my profession, and the perception of training in general.
1. If you hire a trainer who is getting your workout from Shape, Self, Muscle & Fitness, or any other consumer magazine, fire that trainer on the spot, buy a subscription, and use the savings to buy something nice for yourself, your spouse, or better yet, feed the homeless. That trainer shows no creativity, imagination, nor professionalism.
2. There really isn't a NEW exercise. There are variations of old exercises. There are new fads. But there isn't anything NEW. In fact, in most instances, old is better. We exercised for function and movement, not to balance a bowling ball in one hand while standing on an upside-down BOSU.
3. Trying out an exercise WITH a client for the first time is not only risky, it is unprofessional. And in the case of this trainer, she was doing the exercise RIGHT ALONGSIDE THE CLIENT, without paying attention to the client's technique. The client is not supposed to pay for the trainer's workout. The client is supposed to get undivided attention.
These are things you won't see with a true professional trainer. As an RKC, I have access to the greatest network of fitness professionals in the business. These professionals answer my calls, emails, and text messages, and provide information and training you won't see in a consumer magazine.
As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist I receive technical, peer-reviewed publications that are science based. These journals are not slave to advertisers, so there is no bias. Just facts that I can use to back up my training protocols.
While the NSCA network of professionals is not as open as the RKC network, the exchange of ideas is very prevalent. I have visited other trainers' facilities in Florida, South Carolina, California, Texas and Tennessee as a means of gaining insight into the best possible programs for my clients. Sure, flying to Tallahassee is more expensive than driving to the newsstand, but it is more than worth it.
If your trainer is not actively pursuing programs designed to improve him as a trainer and you as a customer, fire him. And look for a professional that will take those steps.
Here is a great place to start: