Thursday, May 19, 2011


First of all, Damn you rule 34 of the internet. I just wanted a picture of a piggyback..
Anyway, while I'm getting out the brain bleach, my friend Tony posted a very smart blog post about training obese clients. Because I'm an unoriginal bastard.. or because I have been there, I wanted to put in my two bits on the mental side of training very untrained individuals.

When you are obese, you feel trapped, but at the same time you feel comfortable. It's a strange dichotomy. I am stuck in this body, but this body is me and I am (at least to an extent) comfortable in that identity (or at least afraid to change it.)
This is what I call "big guy syndrome."

As a trainer this can be very hard to shake. This syndrome causes people to negotiate their way out of diets, or make what to an outsider is a very lame excuse why they can't do this or that, and really sets what seem to be insurmountable limits on what they can do physically. Trainers and coaches who are Mesomorphs or Ectomorphs don't really understand that this isn't pathological. This client is afraid. Change is scary, and changing your identity (even if the change itself is positive) feels like walking outside naked.

So as a coach:
First thing when someone who is afflicted with BGS comes to me to train I tell them "the Big guy/gal you were, is dead. S/He's over, right now. We're replacing him with an athlete."
I tell them to picture themselves not as thin or skinny, but doing things: running stairs like Rocky, or rowing, or biking, or rock climbing.. or whatever it is they like to do, and doing it well.
Second thing is set them up to succeed. When training highly motivated athletes the easiest way to get them moving past their mental governor is challenge them. With untrained individuals you have to build confidence. Lay on the positive feedback, and never set a "finish line." If I tell an athlete do 5 reps, she'll do 10 just to show me up. If I tell an untrained athlete with BGS to do 5 He'll try to negotiate down to 3 at 1/2 the weight. So I say we're going to work on your technique, and we do reps and I queue technique. Once I see their form break from fatigue, then I end the set. Tony touches on this in his post, but I cannot stress enough do not allow these clients to fail even for a set or an exercise. Training has to be a 100% positive experience.
Finally, I often have clients do "homework" usually mobility drills or light work on weakpoints to do at home, away from the gym (also works with logging diet, or anything the client has to do on their own). This is huge for BGS sufferers because it keeps them in the "I'm an athlete I am working to be the person I want to be." mindset. It also this is an indicator of when they're about to push back or relapse into old behavior. Using these as a canary in the coalmine will allow you as a trainer to know when this is going to happen and head it off before they get into major self destructive behavior.

As a client:
Change is scary, but trust me when I say: you're still you. You will always be you. The choice is: you can be the you that can't do things, that has to carry the burden of being out of shape, or you can be able to do anything you want, unencumbered. Redefine yourself, and be the person you want.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Perform Better 1 day. Part 1

Ed. Note: I was going to write this as a single VERY long blog post, but it's too much to read or edit as such, so I'm parsing this out into 5 less long posts.
I hope you enjoy them.
This is the timeline:

April 9th I went to the Seattle Convention Center for a 1 day training seminar.
I got there around 7:30 and registered. I got my bag of schwag, and headed in to the convention center.
7:32 - First sighting of Elite FTS t-shirt

7:40 - Vibrum 5 finger shoes sighting.

7:41 - I put my stuff down in a chair, and head over to the sales tables. There is tons of stuff to buy, and not to buy. Everyone is milling about and sizing each other up.

7:44 - Take advantage of the 15% off discount and buy Dan John's dvds and spot my first crossfitter.

7:45 - croud starts to fill in a bit more. I spot a guy in a t-shirt that says 'Bigorexia' on the front, and "size is all that matters" on the back. He's approximately 6'2" 180lbs and 18% bodyfat. Little too much preaching, not enough practicing.

7:50 - surprisingly late in the game: the first Under Armour under shirt worn as a shirt.

7:55 - First female NOT wearing yoga pants strolls in.

8:00 - The seminar starts. The talks begin with simple introductions. I've researched all of the speakers beforehand (not to mention I own books by and follow the blogs of 3 of the 4 speakers) there's some sales pitch thrown in for both the seminar we're already at, and a few products for perform better;a good company. I don't blame them for the spiel. This is a loss leader to sell product, so they've got to sell.

8:15 - Introductions are over and the first speaker presents: Rachael Cosgrove. She gives a great talk about training female clients, and understanding their expectations. Very eye opening. I'm writing like a madman. Everyone around me is sort of staring at Mrs. Cosgrove like she's doing some sort of mildly amusing trick. I begin to wonder if I'm the oddball here, but I'm too busy writing to give it much thought.

9:10 - Right into the second speaker Alwyn Cosgrove. This is going to be a marathon. I'm the only one taking notes.. franticly. Everyone else is just sort of there. Slight respite as I've read his 'hierarchy of fat loss' article a couple of time, but still I'm less than 1/2 way and getting hand cramps. The talk is a very funny very detailed about (but not limited to): fat loss and the latest research into methods there of, the similarities of Glasgow and Seattle, and how to steer clients into managing their own fatigue (for starters).

10:20 - Alwyn went a bit long Todd Durkin starts to speak. I was thoroughly unprepared to hear what he has to say, until a couple of lines during Mr. Cosgrove's talk opened my mind.. more on that later. I am terribly weak at Mr. Durkin's strengths, and he talks really fast. I can't write fast enough.

10:36 - He has us introduce ourselves to our neighbors (something I've successfully avoided for over 3 hours in spite of being cheek to cheek.)

11:05 - I suck at marketing and networking. This is a fact.

11:10 - Martin Rooney is a funny guy. I won't give away his schtick, but if you want to be lean powerful and athletic, you can do 25 different gimmicky exercises, or you could just sprint.

12:20 - Martin wraps up, and generally pulls back the curtain on sleep, sprint, lift, eat well and be awesome.. forget the bells and the whistles.

12:25 - Lunch. I go to the ole Green goddess and get a quad-restretto, and a fruit cup (I would have eaten more, but I didn't want to be 'That guy that threw up at perform better Seattle."

12:40 - I bring my coffee back and have a chat with Mr. Rooney. He is an interesting, smart guy. I try mightily (and fail) not to talk at him. I try not to monopolize his time and listen as much as I can.

12:50 - I change into exercise appropriate clothes and stretch a good bit.

13:05 - people start moseying back in. I use the restroom, and find a place to stash my backpack. I decide to leave my notebook in it.. a decision that I regret, but then again I have no idea how I would have written anything intelligible while sloughing off sweat, and gasping for air.

13:15 - All kinds of people doing their own wacky dynamic mobility movements, most of them make sense.. some don't.

13:28 - Report to Todd Durkin for lab.

13:31 - he explains all of the exercises, some make sense.. some don't. All of them are tiring. We go through a 'boot camp' style warm-up (calisthenics and chanting nonsense).. and we go. 1 minute at each station, with 1 minute rest. All out. I score out right about in the upper middle of the guys. Good times. Not a lot of information.

14:00 - Out in the hall with Martin Rooney. We do sprint and footwork drills. He talks about precision and effort. Garbage in Garbage out. Speed and footwork drills are well out of my comfort zone, but the drills are great. If you suck at something, you need to do it more.

14:30 - off to Rachel Cosgrove. We exercise, she talks. Loads of information on how they build exercises, and progressions. We play with some kettlebells. There are a number of people who have no earthly idea how to do a clean/jerk/swing with a kb. I am covered in sweat at this point. A grey shirt was a mistake.

15:00 - Core progressions with Alwyn Cosgrove. Inside of 2 minutes I'm cramping. I'm exhausted. I am pushing myself just to try the exercises. Couple of cowboys in the group want to see if they can beat the progressions.. they don't. Alwyn responds with "I can break anyone.. that's easy."

15:30 - I change my soaked shirt, and sit down and brain dump into my notebook. I'm starved and completely wrecked. I help clean up a bit and do my best to talk with a few folks. After a couple weak attempts at networking (practice, practice, practice)I head to my car. The sun's out.