Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Yes, but....why?

In the world of improv comedy, players are supposed to abide by a rule called “Yes, and…”. When someone offers a new idea to the improv in progress, you accept it, and add to it. The idea is that you don’t want to stifle anyone’s creativity or contributions. You stay open to the possibilities the other players are coming up with, and where that can take you. It also requires a measure of faith that your fellow players aren’t merely throwing out random ideas that have no potential to make for entertaining improv. If you’ve ever watched Whose Line is it, Anyway? then you’ve seen this, and you’ve probably even seen moments when players are caught off guard by what their colleagues contribute, but they still go with it – never shutting it down, and never saying “NO.”

To some extent, this is what we expect from our clients when we’re working with them. We expect them to trust us, and be willing to integrate what we suggest to them. But as personal trainers and massage therapists, we’re dealing with people’s health, and bad advice can be dangerous, unethical, with potentially dire consequences. Clearly, in our fields, “yes, and…” can be problematic. Having someone’s wellness in your hands cannot be left up to improv. Creativity? Yes. Improvisation without critical thinking? No.

So, imagine my surprise when a colleague posted a link to a video in a FaceBook group, with the comment “I’m gonna have to up my game.”

Let me pause here, and say this: I’m not saying that this exercise is absolutely without merit. I don’t know the guy doing it, and I don’t know why he’s doing it. He appears to be a trainer, and I have no idea if he would ever suggest that a client of his should do this. Point is, I’m not judging the guy in the video, and I’m not saying that this exercise is absolutely useless. But why?

Why on earth does someone feel the need to do this? It’s not the box jump portion, and it’s not even the single leg box jump. It’s the back leg in the TRX. To me, it just appears that it’s like asking to be half-tripped by someone while you are jumping, and I can only imagine the faceplant I would take. So, I think to myself “Self, why would I want to do this? Is there any reason that makes it worth the risk?” I can think of nothing. I ask the same question, in reference to my colleague who shared that video, and then in reference to the general public. All I could come up with was if you were training to be a triple jumper, this might be appropriate. But even that seems like it could be trained just fine without the TRX.

Sure, there’s some multi-tasking going on here, since the TRX is challenging the core and balance by limiting the range of motion of the back leg. But I just don’t see the risk/reward payoff. Maybe someone else does. Frankly, getting people to stare at me, slackjawed, is not what I want in the gym. This exercise makes the guy look like a bit of a badass, but if I’m watching him, it’s like a NASCAR race – I’m watching in anticipation of the crash, not because I’m a race fan.

What is the Risk vs. Reward for my Client?

So, the exercise seems like it’s more likely chosen for its novelty, rather than a rational risk/reward analysis. Being creative is a wonderful part of our industry, and it can keep things fresh for us, and for our clients. But we need to always remember that what’s boring for us may still be novel for our clients. We watch different people doing the same basic things all day, every day. That can get repetitive for us, but for each of those people, it’s only a small fraction of their week. Secondly, we need to always ask ourselves “what is the risk vs. reward for my client?” and avoid programming movements for the primary reasons of novelty, inducing soreness, looking “cool,” or exceeding someone’s limitations. Any of our exercises may wind up being or doing any of those, but they shouldn’t be the primary reason, and the programming should never violate a rational, thought out risk/reward analysis.

When we teach our personal trainer students how to write and coach their fitness programming, I rarely will suggest they just stop programming a movement, or approach them during the clinics and tell them to stop, and change their exercise. But I regularly ask them “why?” When they stop, and think about the “why” of what they are doing, they can either justify what they are doing, or choose to make modifications to improve their risk/reward ratio. The aim is that I teach them to ask themselves “why,” without an instructor around, and that’s just what we all need to be doing. This isn’t improv comedy, this is people’s wellness. “Yes, but…”

This post is also cross-posted at ASM Wellness Blog

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Your high heels are trying to kill you.

Sure, they make your legs look great, but shouldn't your heels really just be for special occasions?

My massage students and I were discussing postural analysis and common postural dysfunctions in class last night, and at some point, someone asked if heels could affect one’s posture.
“Even wedges?”
“Oh, man….”

So, I thought that this week, I’ll revisit a topic I wrote about some time back…

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Attention all CrossFit Games Open competitors! A special offer.

The Open is upon us, and every year it provides us with opportunities to test ourselves, and see just what we are capable of.  You've been training all year, and working on your skill or strength gaps.

So don't stop pushing to get the most out of yourself and neglect your recovery during the games.

Massage can help aide recovery, alleviate nagging muscular pain, and in turn, improve performance.  That's why many collegiate and professional teams have massage therapists on their training staff, and many athletes seek out massage even in excess of what the team offers.

I want to help you perform your best, reach new heights and impress yourself in the Open, so I'm offering a special package for competitors in the CrossFit Games Open.

If you are participating in the Games Open, I am offering a two and a half hour punch card, for the already discounted price of a 2-hour punch card.  That's five 30-minute massage sessions: one for each week of the Open, a $225 value, for only $125.

If 30 minutes each week won't be enough time for you, the 5-hour punch cards are always available for a price of $285, but for for Open competitors, the price will be $250.

I want you to purchase this, and we can address performance-limiting tightness and trigger points before each week's WOD, to help you perform your best.  Or, we can address the tightness and soreness from a week's WOD, in the days afterwards.

To set up an appointment and purchase your punch card, you can reach me by phone, or email: 404-425-9593 ;

Monday, February 17, 2014

Some ideas to help you become more of a morning person.

I wrote this last week, during a snow day in Atlanta:

In the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot to try to increase my focus and productivity.  This is no easy task, and it’s definitely an ongoing process.  I’m writing this during the second big “winter weather” storm in the Atlanta area in the past two weeks.  Since everyone was well prepared for it this time, today is a snow day, with my wife and I both home from work. That makes productivity even more elusive, since all anyone wants to do on a snow day is drink hot chocolate, watch movies or play in the snow. None of those are especially productive.

After allowing ourselves some time to lay in bed and watch the storm coverage this morning, we discussed if we should work out then, or later.  We chose to work out first thing, and had a brief conversation about how exercising can help clear the mind, and help one focus again.  Starting a day with a workout can set the tone for the rest of day and alleviate some of the mental “noise” of worrying about making the time for exercise, in between the other things that happen during an average day.

It’s been counterintuitive in many ways, but it works, and I’ve been actively using this strategy, lately.  When I feel like my day is getting away from me, or my focus is waning and I cannot rein it in, I set aside time for a workout, ASAP.  Yesterday, I was so preoccupied with being productive in two separate arenas, that I couldn’t stick with one, and the result was stalemate.  Since my office is in a gym, I wrote down a quick list of things I wanted to accomplish later, changed my clothes, left my office, and got on the rowing machine.  I tried to forget about my to-do list, and an hour and a half later, I walked back in my office, feeling accomplished and more capable of focusing.  From then on, I think I was able to accomplish more with the rest of my day than if I hadn’t stopped to exercise.  

Getting my workout in allowed me to have a sense of accomplishment, and an endorphin rush.  It also allowed me to blow off some of the stress I’d been building up about not being as productive as I’d have liked.

The more I can move my workouts to the beginning of my day, the more hours of my day can benefit from that effectiveness.  So, I’m continuing to work on making myself more of a morning person.  Earlier this year, I saved an article from Lifehacker, A Night Owl’s Guide to More Productive Mornings, about becoming a morning person, and I’m already doing a couple things in mentions, and I can attest to their efficacy:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Eat right.
  • Building a morning ritual you look forward to (I LOVE my coffee-making ritual almost as much as the coffee drinking ritual).
  • Making some “me time” before work (I especially like this one when I have to be at work at 6:30am).

And my favorite, from the list of things I intend to add, beginning tomorrow:
  • Connect with friends, first thing in the morning.
So take a look at that article, as well Regular Exercise Might Be the Key to Work-Life Balance, and pick some of those strategies to help you make excuses to drop your work and go exercise, and also to help you hack yourself into being more productive with less stress.  I’ve got a long way to go, myself, but it’s working, so far!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fitness for real life

I didn't start exercising because I wanted to look hot. I didn't start because I wanted to run a marathon, or because my doctor said I had to. I started in order to be healthy, and the idea of exercising for vanity so doesn't suit me. I'm a happily married man, I don't need to be body builder to meet "broads.". There's just no need for that in my world.

But I will admit that I don't just exercise to be healthy, anymore. At least, not strictly only for that.
I also exercise to be fit and strong enough to be prepared for the crap life throws at me, like last night.  This is no over-the-top story of heroism, but something more mundane, yet in the past 18 hours I've been constantly thankful for my and my wife's general fitness.

In last week's awful snow-traffic-tastrophe in Atlanta, my wife tried to wait out the traffic, thinking that it would die down after the initial rush. Unfortunately, things weren't so great, and she found herself on what was supposed to be a street, but was more like an icy parking lot. So she decided not to press her luck any longer, and pulled off the road.  She was able to park safely, and was only 4.5 miles from home, but not entirely in her snow clothes.  So, I drove as far as I safely could, knowing that I could still drive back home, and then I grabbed some hand warmers and a space blanket, and ran to her. Two and a half miles. In the snowy and icy conditions. I'm not trying to make myself out to be a superman, claiming to have achieved some superhuman feat with this run. Anyone of average general health can get themselves to this fitness level, with a little effort and consistency.

She was waking to me, but I wanted to get to her as quickly as I could to get her some more warm stuff, and to keep her company on her walk.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am that she is healthy and fit enough to make that walk and that I'm healthy and fit enough to make that run to her, to get the right cold weather equipment to her, and to keep her company on that walk.  That's why she and I train: for the things in life that throw you curveballs.

If you're not exercising and moving then consider this: you could are still be to be less capable of helping yourself in life's trying situations.  So, I ask: What are you exercising, or training, for?