Thursday, 17 March 2011

Training Longevity

Hi all,

Its been a crazy last month to say the least. One of my work colleagues mentioned today that i was looking tired. Apart from the fact i had just woken up (30 minutes earlier) and was in work only to pick something up, i suddenly felt it. During the past 28 days i have clocked an impressive 9 flights and visited 6 different places - 50% business 50% pleasure. So i think im entitled to look a bit tired.

To top all this travel off, i have returned to Bahrain as i left it - a war zone! I dont want to get involved in the politics of my most recent adopted country on this blog but the situation is looking more messy with the outbreaks of violence again this week. Its a shame to see a really friendly place break down as it has, which leads me to the biggest bombshell of them all - im leaving!

I have decided to take an opportunity to work in Singapore starting some time in the near future. I have been mulling over a new destination for about 6 months now and the chance to live in an exciting region like the Far East was too good to turn down. Recently, I have been moving further away from the 'gym floor' in my role as a manager and decided to return to what i love to do - train people.

Singapore... not too shabby, eh?

I will leave Bahrain with a heavy heart as i have made some good friends here who im sure i will remain in close contact with. There are honestly too many people to mention and i dont want to leave anyone out here by writing a list (so i wont bother). I must say thank you to every client i have trained over the last 3 years, even the ones that were absolutely rubbish (don't worry, they wont be reading this blog!). We have enjoyed great success together and i can honestly say my top 30% dont actually need me at all anymore - i guess that's the whole point of hiring a PT?

During the past 3 years, I had clients who:

- Climbed Mont Kilimanjaro
- Swam PB's in the Asian Games
- Knocked 30 minutes off marathon times in 12 months
- Became qualified TRX instructors within 6 months of starting training
- Returned from heart problems to be in their best condition ever after 12 months
- Lost 20+ kgs
- Too many 40+ housewives deadlifting bodyweight to mention
- (Female clients) performed proper pullups
- (Female clients) banged out 25+ push ups
- Learned to move their bodies at the ripe old age of 65
- 2 young brothers (aged 7 & 10) who lift, box, TRX and smile every minute doing it!
- Had 'incurable' back trouble that i helped to fix
- Added 20-30 yards to their golf shots
- turned up for a warm smoking a cigar (very funny)

The list goes on.....

I must however go on a short rant (my blog really wouldn't be complete without one short rant would it?). Although i think some days i have the greatest job in the world (honestly i do... look at the list above and tell me how many jobs can help achieve results?). But some days i have the most frustrating job too. People are generally... well, frustrating. My short rant is this...

"Buying PT sessions alone does not or will not help you lose weight/fat/get strong, etc".

After buying a block of PT sessions, the client then must commit to turning up every session and change eating habits. That means not cancelling for coffee mornings or because they have a sniffle or because the gardener didn't water the flowers today so the stress of the the whole day led them to arrange a coffee morning with other ladies of leisure (who think you've gone to skinny anyway since training with that damn welsh PT!)

Coffee mornings... All fun and games until one day you wake up with a massive ass!

I will go on record right now to say that there is a relationship between coffee mornings, missed training sessions and bodyfat. They all help each out in making people a little bit fatter each day.

Some people over the past 3 years have had the audacity to blame me for their short-comings in the gym, apart from being really annoyed with them - i found it quite funny at the same time. I meet all different kinds of people and i have come to recognize these individuals that dont take responsibility for their themselves. Ultimately, you decide what you look like by making a choice on the foods you eat and the activities you perform every day.

I have had clients who (on average) turned up 1 x week, often too sick or weak to train anywhere close vigorously. Who then also admitted to eating poorly and drinking alcohol every weekend. But still complained about me and was actively looking for another trainer to get the results they wanted.

Seriously? Im a trainer not a f*cking magician! Rant over.
Even Paul Daniels would struggle to get results for some of my most difficult PT clients!

Training Longevity

Today's blog will cover the topic of 'training longevity'. Personally i have found myself at the crossroads of my training in recent years. I used to love the 'balls-to-wall' training programs and the sessions where i would crawl out of the gym with my legs shaking. Don't get me wrong - i still do. Its just when you see new PT clients coming in who have been doing the same thing and their bodies are ready to break, i now wonder:

"Is it actually worth it?"

Take a moment to assess your personal goals for using the gym.

Done? Does any of the crazy, brutal training contribute to anything relevant in your life or move you towards your goals? If it does, I would be surprised.

Example: Client X wants to gain upper body mass to go out on the weekend to impress the ladies. Sorry, thats my goal! we'll use it anyway...

Client X is really getting into olympic lifts and wants to ramp up his clean and press (for reasons he is not clear about - maybe to drop some number in a conversation to impress fellow gym monkeys? as it certainly wouldn't impress the girls he would like to attract). Client X is getting strong and tries to lift 90kg. Client X tears his levator scapulae (neck) and his trap/shoulder wont be the same again.

Should client X have stuck with strict seated DB shoulder press for time under tension (TUT) of 60 seconds to elicit hypertrophy for his shoulders? After all, that was his goal... and he could have better avoided a major injury. Its the kind of crazy logic that is seen every minute of every day when you look around a gym. High risk moves that do not yield much reward.

In case your wondering Client X was me in 2006.

Making changes

I recently spoke to my friend and training mentor Patrick Dale about changes in his training and he was loving his new regime of TRX and flexibility work, saying that he was starting to feel better than ever and felt in great shape. That's an area where i see ex-sports people/athletes/heavy gym users moving towards - restorative training. If your smart about your own body then you need to look at the (training) big picture, look at the years ahead not just the months.

"Use training programs that manage stress not accumulate stress"

There will come a time in everyone's gym career where the  *1-Dimensional, repetitive training will actually start to hurt. My time has come and gone (shoulder problems for the past 4 years) and it has left me far smarter about what i would and would not do in the future.

*I had originally inserted the word "bodybuilding" here but that is completely unfair. Bodybuilding style training, when done correctly (balanced programming) and with adequate nutritional support can yield excellent results with minimal injuries. The main problem is that most guys using BB programs will target 'mirror muscles' which leads to inbalances and eventually pain and injury. I grew up and started my training love affair with bodybuilding - but unfortunately i didn't have the knowledge I do now regarding program design, nutrition and recovery so that i may have avoided some of the shoulder issues i have had to deal with over the past few years.

TRX seems to be a great training medium between strength and mobility

My short time at Cressey Performance in 2010 showed me that "corrective training to unlock performance" is the smartest way to train, and that is something i try to acheive with every single PT client i train. Identifying weak points and working on them towards a balanced physique is definately the best long-term goal for general fitness clients who want more muscle and less fat.

Common mistakes

I just recently had a 2 new clients who have similar goals and strengths, They:

1. Have a fundamental goal to lose bodyfat and look leaner
2. Have a great work ethic in the gym
3. Have a natural passion and talent for training
4. Have spent the last year annihilating themselves with 'Crossfit' style torture.
5. Have some of the worst flexibility issues i have seen in females since becoming a PT.

Point 4 is the most common problem with general gym goers - they think more is better and no pain is no gain! Yeah right. I wont go into the clients' individual details here but one of the recent new clients had stayed the same weight for the past 12 months, within 10 days of training with me she was down 3 kgs.... how?

History: Previously she had been weight training, quite heavy, sets of 10, eating moderately well with some cheats and occasional alcohol on weekends. So her behaviour was actually supporting weight gain or at the very least weight maintenance.

Whats the fundamental goal? I want to drop some weight.

Tactic: 3 x targeted full body metabolic session (light resistance/high reps) coupled with a strict GFD diet for 7 days.

Result: 3kg Weight loss. New behaviour to match the desired goal = result. After week 1 was done we started to use corrective training to unlock performance and the client is still consistently progressing both in strength and fat loss each week for the past 8 weeks. I believe this is a common case in most people who train without professional advice; muscles get too tight and stressed to recover and improve. Which leads to a lot of frustration, wasted time and could easily lead to serious injuries in the future.


Buying PT sessions from anyone is a 2-way commitment. I see too many people wasting their time in the gym and using PTs as accessories. There is nothing more annoying than turning up to a session (as a PT) with a great program planned out only for a client to no-show - not cool. In an ideal world, PTs should not be afraid to be honest and clear with clients who aren't keeping up with their side of the agreement. This, however (due to commision based industry) is quite rare and takes real courage.

Every person who trains and uses a gym needs to first write down their fundamental goals. Im not talking about "fat down/muscle up" you need to get more specific. E.g. I want to lose 20lbs of bodyfat in the next 12 weeks. Then work out what it will take to acheive that goal. Too many people are training towards results that they do not want. Take your average evening gym user who gets on the X-trainer for 45 minutes - they are doing that because they believe this is the best way to lose bodyfat and get in shape. As a fitness professional, im saying there are more efficient ways to burn bodyfat, cardio training is just one tool you would use... and not necessarily for that length of time. If you dont know what your doing, hire someone who does.  

Have a long-term training plan. If  your goal (like mine) is to train for the rest of your life then you need to get smarter with training intensity, plan recovery and take foot off the gas once in a while to increase your training longevity.

Lastly, I think moving on is healthy in life. In my job i really believe a good trainer should move gyms or location every 18-24 months to keep things fresh and aim to re-educate and spread the fitness message to another group of people. I am proud of my time in Bahrain and am excited about the future in Singapore. I hope my blog readers will follow me there :)

I hope Bahrain can bounce back from its current situation very soon.

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