You shouldn’t explain the program to your client

In this previous post about being succesful as a personal trainer, I showed that most trainers probably don’t need to know more about training. At least not as a first priority. To become a better personal trainer, you must build the full skill set it requires and not just one specific skill.

See nobody really cares about how you put together their program. Nobody really cares why this week is lighter but has more volume. Nobody really cares why you’ve switched front squats with hack squats. Nobody but you. If you’re going on about this, you’re demonstrating your knowledge. Teaching is not about demonstrating knowledge – teaching is about what the student needs.

The researcher Lee Ross once did a study where he presented a peace treaty made by the Palestinians and Israelis to the two groups. He told the people he studied that the Israeli suggestion was made by the Palestinians and vice versa. Not surprisingly, they all preferred the suggestion they thought came from their own side.

What this study shows is that relations trump facts and arguments. Tons of similar studies have shown the same. We believe that we’re rational beings, but we’re actually not.

This (combined with a couple of other things) explains why “bad” personal trainers can be hugely successful and why very competent trainers sometimes struggle to make ends meet. Simply put – it’s more important to be nice to people and build a good relation than it is to provide them with competent coaching.

You only see your clients for a couple of hours a week tops, make sure you’re not polishing your own ego, but actively building relations.

Final note: you can still be a competent trainer but put more focus into building relations – it’s not an either/or.

Have a hard time finding time to train?

Most of us have been through stretches where we’re pressed for time. The first thing to go is often training, then a decent diet and finally sleep. In this post I’ll give you a small handful tips that’ll make it easier not to get that snowball-effect going. As soon as we manage to stick to our training, it becomes easier to eat well and rest, simply because of the synergy.

1. Write down your training plan

A simple but effective tip, this subconsciously works as a written contract between you and you. It also makes it easier to go once you have the time because you already know what you’re gonna do.

2. Put your training in your calendar

Another contract with yourself that also reminds you every time you look at the calendar. It’s also a way of telling whoever has access to your calendar to expect you to be at the gym at that time.

3. Have your bag packed

Pre-packing your bag is another way to make it easier to get out the door. While it doesn’t take very long to do, every bit counts. The more obstacles you have to cross to get to the gym, the harder it’s gonna be. Make it easy on yourself.

4.ย Train on specific days/times

Another way of bypassing the whole “motivation” thing. If you decide to train every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon you don’t have to decide if you want to go train on a specific day or not. This also allows you to plan around your training and thus prioritize it.

5. Train with somebody

Having a friend or a personal trainer makes it easier to show up. Again you’ve made a “contract” but this time with another person. In addition to this, if you agree on training at a specific time each week, you’d actively have to cancel if you can’t go. We’re lazy and if we have to do something actively to stay home from training, we’ve just made it harder for ourselves to skip training and thus easier to get it done. Another simple psychological trick.

Conclusion:

All of these five points deal with the psychology of getting out the door and to the gym and that’s just one set of tools. If you’re going through a long stressful period, you should probably modify your training so that you can blast through it quickly. You’re not gonna make huge gains anyways during a stressed period, so planning a few weeks of easier training will take away from the stress and just give you a place to relax.

You could also add in a weekly run or two as it’s an extremely time efficient way to train for most people.

What’s so great about the five points detailed in this post is that they work for everybody. It’s an easy way to hack your brain and keep it from keeping you from training.

Yay. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Active recovery – what it is and what it isn’t

With Crossfit, blogs and the never-ending search for that something extra you can do to be better than the burpee-boi next to you the term “active recovery” is getting a lot of attention lately.

First of all, let me make one thing clear – the best way to get better than the next guy is 1) to stop comparing yourself to others and 2) to have a great training foundation – not to look for the “next big thing”.

That said – active recovery techniques have been used for a very long time to good effect. They obviously have their merit

I don’t usually do this, but I decided to throw up a couple of links to some studies:

Cold water baths not better than placebo. I’m not really sure how you can immerse people into water that they think is cold but isn’t. But! The study shows that neutral temperature water doesn’t work but cold and placebo works.

Positive effect of specific low-frequency electrical stimulation during short-termย recovery.

So some of the common techniques do work and others don’t. Great.

The main problem with active recovery is not actually active recovery – it’s really not that much of a stretch to recommend walking, very light calisthenics or similar for recovery. The problem is a very common one – in the CF community in particular, it’s becoming increasingly popular to do “active recovery”. Only problem is – most CFers are already doing so much they don’t need “active” recovery, they need full recovery.

I regularly say that for most CFers the best training session they can add to their program is a nap. What most do though is take an idea that’s good on paper (active recovery) and use it as an excuse to train more.

Active recovery is NOT training. Active recovery should barely make you sweat.

As with anything it’s important to analyse your programming and look at what you’re trying to accomplish with a given element of the program. What are you trying to accomplish with a 2K swim? A 10k run?

A recovery day should put back points on your recovery “account” – not take away from it.

In direct response to a question on FB from Lasse about where to draw the line between active recovery and training, I’ll throw out a couple of guidelines:

  • If you have to go to the gym to do it – it’s probably training, not recovery.
  • Anything more than a light sweat and you’re probably training.
  • Unless you’re a semi-pro athlete, there’s probably no real reason to do AR (and even if you are, complete rest might be better).
  • If you’re not sure if it’s AR or training, it’s DEFINITELY training. ๐Ÿ™‚

To sum up: you probably don’t need “active recovery” physically, but some people feel they need it mentally. Do as little as possible – a nap is probably better than pseudo-training for an hour.

Have a great (rest) day. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stop worrying

Seriously, stop worrying.

It’s extremely common for people to worry about events that are out of their control. To make assumptions based on weird “logic”. To try to come up with reasons without really having any knowledge of a given situation.

Right now, I’m sending out tons and tons of job applications and basically doing whatever I can to find a job. Obviously I get a magnitude of rejections, but instead of beating myself up over a specific application and how I worded it, I simply take it as what it is and move on. Getting rejected does not mean you’re a bad person or that you’re not competent enough. It simply means that the person in charge of recruiting believes somebody else would be a better fit. There are about a bazillion parameters in play, so it doesn’t really make sense try to work it out by yourself. In a situation like that you have to options – either contact the person responsible or move on.

Obviously, if there are specific issues that you know for a fact can be improved – get busy.

The same method applies to life in general. People obsess and over-interpret text messages from partners all the time. We let our minds get carried away and get extremely irrational.

Try to consciously remind yourself whenever you’re guessing and/or interpreting external circumstances that you essentially aren’t in a position to interpret. Simply bringing to your own attention that your mind is about to run off with you into Lala-land is a huge step towards being in control of your impulses.

OR….. You can just do what Dharma from the TV-show Dharma and Greg suggests: “put it in a bubble and blow it away”.

Whatever you do try to be conscious of your decisions. <3

 

Don’t say this!

One of my primary fields of interest is what works and what doesn’t work linguistically. Saying things the right way can have a huge impact on your life, not only as a trainer/coach, but also your professional life.

What happens in our brains when we hear a word, is that we anticipate the following word(s) and these are made more easily accessible. Words activate related words to speed up reading/understanding. This is what framing is basically about – knowing which words to use to create the associations you want, and equally important – knowing which words to avoid.

This post is about a group of words you should avoid completely as a coach.

When coaching someone you should always aim to tell them what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t. Simply because mentioning something activates that action/word. George Lakoff cleverly titled one of his books “Don’t think of an elephant” and the title alone explains this concept. Even if you’re using a negation in your sentence (ie “not”) you’re still activating the neuron circuits connected to “elephant”.

Our brain simply processes information in a hierarchical structure where negations are applied very late in the process. What that means is that you’ll first think of the elephant, then try to erase that thought. Same goes for a nutritional guru saying “don’t eat chocolate” or a weightlifting coach who doesn’t want you to round your back, shift the weight to your toes or something else.

Try to keep your coaching as negation-free as possible. Tell the people you work with what they should do and how they should act – not how they shouldn’t. Same goes for the workplace and in your private life – telling people what you want instead of what you don’t want is a simple but effective way of avoiding misunderstandings.

Have a great weekend people. ๐Ÿ™‚

Back on the platform

After a disastrous Danish Championship in 2012 I had to rethink quite a few thinks. I changed my approach to training and powerlifting in particular. Yesterday I did my first three lift meet since then. Here’s how it went down:

I slept like shit. Woke up several times feeling nauseous. Almost threw up at breakfast, but couldn’t mange to get anything in me. I managed to get in a nap before heading out to the venue. By the time I got there, I’d already take four dumps this morning and hadn’t really managed to get any food in me. A bit of oatmeal and an apple. Fuck that. I’m gonna lift anyways. I’d taken my precautions and packed babywipes and spare underwear – just in case.

Weighed in at a feather light 97,85kg and stuck to my planned openers – 170/120/210. All lifts I’d doubled or more in training. Conservative numbers.

Warming up I was very relaxed. Not really in the zone or anything. Wasn’t feeling it. Missed the first lift on depth and got PISSED. First time I’ve ever had a squat red-lighted and on an opener? Fuck that!

Killed 170 on second attempt and got 180 in the third. Not impressive considering my best is 197,5, but it was what I had in me.

Bench is always a weird one as you can’t really get super pissed at the weight and power it up. The lift that requires the least aggression for me. Opened with a solid 120, followed up with another solid lift and almost went for 132.5 in the third, but stuck to the plan. Perfect weight for me as I juuuust managed to get it up. Yay. Time for pulls!

As usual, pretty much any deadlift over 150 feels heavy and at the end of a meet you’re always gonna be a bit worn down.

Absolutely crushed my opener, went for 230 and got it convincingly. Solid and in good form. Went to 245 – a weight I’d missed about a year ago and had had my eye on since. I went totally apeshit.

The lift was a true last deadlift and it wasn’t pretty. I got it though and held it for a good bit at the top. Top end strength and grip is never an issue.

Total: 555 @97,85 which puts me pretty much at the same wilks score as my last meet. A nice place to build from. I think I took 7th place.

Returning to the platform was good fun and I managed to rub elbows with so many good guys. It’s also good to know that I can still get up on the platform and perform maximally, even on a shitty day.

In short: Except for the missed squat, all my lifts were planned ahead of the meet. I hit all the numbers I wanted. Happy with how it went down.

Also our host ER Equipment did a terrific job as did all the officials present. All those guys helped set the scene for a very smooth and well run meet.

Crossfit is a shitty training program!

It’s all over the internet: Crossfit is a shitty training program, and CFers are idiots who lift with poor form. And it’s true. I know because I’ve been in CrossFit for a long time.

 

But, the internet-gurus that hate on Crossfit are really 1) missing the point and 2) not really up to date with what goes on in CF.

Crossfitters lift with poor form:

The easy and short argument first: the lifting form. Back in 2009 the lifts in CF looked like shit. In 2014 if you sit down and look at the Games, you’ll see 40 lifters who not only lift very well but also move very efficiently. Anybody with one eye and half a brain can see that. Obviously beginners often don’t lift well and some coaches need to be better at teaching movements, but compare it to the idiocy you’ll find a commercial gyms and you’ll see that CF actually isn’t that bad. More often than not, you’ll walk into a gym where the majority knows how to squat.

OHS

CrossFit is a shitty training program!:

It is. Or well, no – it really isn’t. Depending on your perspective. See CF isn’t a “training program”, so logically it either can’t be a bad training program or it definitely is. Sort of like a bicycle is either a bad car or not a car at all depending on your perspective.

Crossfit in the pure mainsite-WOD (or WOD at your box) sense is not training. Training is personalized and goal oriented. Crossfit is in its own words “the sport of fitness” – if you don’t compete in the “sport” what’s left is simply fitness.

Crossfit is a fitness “system”! It’s that simple. Might I add – it’s a good fitness system.

Crossfit shouldn’t be compared with a personalized strength training program anymore than soccer and volleyball should be compared. Crossfit is an alternative to Zumba, pole fitness, spinning and fitness boxing classes – a great alternative that has more people than ever training with free weights. I don’nt really understand how people who want to train hard and use free weights is ever gonna be a bad thing.

The goal of fitness is to make you sweat and burn some calories. Maybe also give you a good endorphin rush. Anything else is a bonus. Crossfit actually (to a certain degree) gets you stronger and teaches you basic movement patterns.

Instead of ridiculing the endless stupid videos of CFers doing stupid shit on Youtube, how about this video: