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New Year

2013: A Year In Review

At the end of the year, I think it’s pretty standard in the fitness industry to publish a “Things I’ve Learned in [insert year]” post. Sometimes, you’ll even get “Best Of” post. But this won’t be like that. I’ve kept track of all the most important lessons I’ve learned this year in order to make a post worth reading today.

Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of posting things that don’t give quality advice and I’m not sure that this post does that, but I’m going to post it anyway. As I’m finishing this write-up, I’m also watching the Winter Classic and I must say, I’m jealous that I’ve never played in an outdoor rink like that. And there needs to be some pond hockey ASAP. So there’s that.

Anyway, here’s my collection of 8 important lessons that I learned this year. Some are fitness-specific, some aren’t. You may agree with some and disagree with others. But that’s okay because frankly, I don’t care.

1. When someone older and more experienced gives you advice, always follow it for two weeks before disputing it.

This goes along with my Rule for Life that says don’t criticize unless you have an alternative.

The older I get, the more I believe that anyone can learn and many young professionals are among the most well-educated in their field. But there comes a line where intelligence only goes so far before you need experience in a given situation to make the best decision. This is where the wisdom of an older, more experience individual can be valuable. When someone gives you advice, whether it’s concerning your personal or professional life, you might want to think about following it. Or at least think about following it. Nine times out of ten, the person that gave me the advice is usually right.

Of course, I don’t always follow the advice. And in these instances, I usually have to learn the lessons for myself (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either).

2. Not every client needs a super-special-individualized-prehabilitation program.

In fact, most clients will do just fine with push-pull-legs. Sure, mobility and prehab work can be beneficial to almost everyone. But not everyone will be that complicated door that needs eight keys to unlock. Don’t overcomplicate things and try to fit square pegs into round holes by creating problems that don’t actually exist, just so you can “solve” them and make yourself look like a hero.

3. Being a personal trainer can give you great practice for the “real world.”

Whether it’s at a bar or a job interview, being a trainer or coach has helped me immensely in the realm of starting conversations. As a young trainer, it was initially tough to imagine myself having full-on conversations with clients that were 20, 30, or even 40 years older than I was. It didn’t seem like we’d have much in common, or that I’d be able to add anything to the conversation. As a trainer, you must learn how to relate to anybody, in any situation, at the drop of a hat.

I mean, just the other day, a client came into a session crying (I mean balling) her eyes out. She just jumped on an elliptical like nothing was even wrong. On the inside, I was dying, figuring that there had been a tragedy in her life and I would need to use feelings and emotions. As it turns out, she almost hit a dog in the road and was traumatized by the scenario. So you never know what topics will come up when you’re a trainer.

In fact, if you are easily embarrassed and/or become uncomfortable easily, don’t bother being a trainer.

Try not to offend the wrong people.

Moreover, being a trainer teaches you to problem solve. It’s not as simple as segmenting people into subacromial impingement and anterior pelvic tilt. You may have to be wrong a few times because there’s a lot of trial and error, but that’s how it is.

And on the topic of trial and error, you’re going to be wrong. A lot. You’re going to miss the mark on training a client once in a while. And they might stop coming. And it might be your fault. You will definitely offend people. Coworkers, customers, bosses, your grandparents at Christmas dinner. It will happen. Take it in stride. Learn to be wrong because you can’t learn from mistakes that you’ve never made.

4. Don’t be afraid to outsource your program design, especially if you’re a trainer/coach.

I love programming. It’s fun and similar to a puzzle. You first must have the correct pieces, then you must find their place.

I hate programming. I’m always second guessing myself and can never decide whether I should deadlift for three reps or five.

I’m a pretty stubborn person, so I’ve always wanted to program for myself. I want to be able to assess myself and write a perfect strength program that will develop my maximum strength ,speed, agility, and power, all while lowering my bodyfat to 5% year-round. But it’s getting to the point of being aggravating. Let somebody else do it. If you’re a trainer, you spend your entire day programming for others (and are probably biased toward your strengths anyway), so call up a trainer friend to program for you or use a program by somebody like Cressey or Ferruggia.

“Eat me.”

5. You must attack your weak points.

Your weak points will always hold you back, no matter what your goal is. Maybe you’re struggling through a bench press plateau and you’re having trouble locking out weight. Your triceps might be weak. If they are, you need to fix them. And constantly failing through bench press reps won’t get you there. Attack your weak points with ferocity.

By that same token, your weak point may be that last package of Yodels sitting in the cabinet at home. You can go home and eat it. And it’ll be delicious. Or you can go home, make a protein shake, and grab a handful of nuts. If certain foods are keeping you from your weight loss goal, your best bet is to remove them from your cabinet.

6. You cannot put too much weight into advice from others

Sure, advice is awesome. But every day on Facebook, I inevitably find some BuzzFeed/Thought Catalog/random blog post about some 22-year old’s advice on how to live life.

I saw one just the other day and it told me to get a tattoo, make out with a stranger, date two people at once until it blows up, disappoint my parents, and sign up for CrossFit, as well as hang out naked in front of an open window.

I’m not sure about you, but I enjoy my job-filled, STD-free, have-a-girlfriend, injury-less life just how it is.

The point is, you don’t need to take everyone’s advice. Advice is just that, someone else’s thought on what you should do. Shit, you shouldn’t even take my advice on this blog. After all, it’s only my recommendation. Your decisions are in your hands.

7. Be on time for things – especially work

This goes without saying. Most coaches I’ve played for have gone by the rule, “if you aren’t five minutes early, you’re five minutes late.” I like that rule. I use 15 minutes for work and other important things.

But don’t be early for parties. That’s weird. Just on time will probably be okay.

Don’t do this at parties, either.

8. The arm-day debate shall rage on and there is probably no answer to it

I used to have an arm day in my lifting schedule. In fact, when I first started, I used to do two arm days a week. Frequency is king, of course. But then I stopped. I quit curling and triceps extensions started giving my elbows fits. I must have dropped all isolation work for a few years before I picked it up again recently.

A colleague of mine made a good point in the “arms” debate. If you’re trying to make your body strong, why not make everything strong? A few benefits of performing some isolation work on the biceps and triceps can include better-feeling elbows, as well as improvements in both pulling and pressing.

On the downside, it can be time consuming and doesn’t fit into a tight training schedule very well. In the end, the world may never have a good answer to this. I’ve developed the opinion that if time permits, go ahead and do it. But don’t let it detract from your real training.


So that’s about all I have. I’ve learned a ton this year and continue to learn a bit more each day. But these were the biggest lessons and carryover to many facets of life, not just work, and not just for personal trainers.

Happy New Year! Hopefully this isn’t the year of the apocalypse!

Best dog ever, so sad when it dies.

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