6 Ways to Elevate Fitness Professionalism: Post-Vancouver Think Tank Thoughts

Friday night I was invited to a meeting of the minds by Carmen Bott of Human Motion who is also the new provincial director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). This meeting brought together some of the top Strength and Conditiong Coaches, Personal Trainers, Physiotherapists, Kinesiologists, Yoga Instructors and Fascial Stretch Therapists in Metro Vancouver.

One big question that came from this gathering was “How can we elevate the standards of fitness professionals?” This was in order to figure out who we could invite to present at a provincial NSCA conference who would attract the veterans and the rookies.

I have been involved in the health and fitness field since 2000 and since that time have always surround myself with people who will motivate and encourage me to elevate my standards of practice. To raise our standards as a collective we need to lead by example, those who are poor or weak in one profession will eventually leave.

Anyone who is in the top echelon of their profession is there because they have they too have sought to be mentored by those who have been in the trenches for many years if not decades. I have been aware of a pervasive feeling of annoyance because many Personal Trainers are lured into the business with promises of a quick few weekends of study, an exam and then being able to bill out $65 per hour without really honing their craft and leading clients through exercise that they cannot execute properly – possibly doing harm soon or in the long-term. They quickly learn that after expenses their take home is not $65 per session and hopefully they learn that they are billing their time not their expertise.

The state of the industry is that young and easy to get into the fitness industry, but there is also a lack of mentorship afterwards. I have had clients, have used the services of trainers for years, say “Wow, I have never had someone teach me that,” with some something as simple as cueing scapular retraction and depression during a lat-pulldown (that scares me). Trainers get their certifications and then think they can become independent trainers right away – are you an entrepreneur? No, you own your job that is it.

The independent training studios are so full to brim that the experience of clients starts to decrease in quality. Does the consumer know the difference between an expert trainer and someone who is fresh on the floor – who is there to push you to your limits? Generally not. The culture of these studios is to hold on to the clients that you have, don’t coach other trainers – because they are the competition. Could they become better than you, maybe? If you have any business sense you will know that there are plenty of clients for everyone and that each professional has their own niche, or at least you should!

Six Ways to Raise the Bar

Is it up to us to elevate the game of those who do not wish to? You can only coach those who wish to be coached.

  1. It starts by creating an environment where we speak to each as peers whether you have 1 year of experience or 20 years of experience – we all have different life experiences, therefore different insights into human movement and how to teach people to become better at it.
  2. Surround yourself with peers who challenge your way of thinking (whether you end up agreeing or not).
  3. Be open to new ways of thinking, new ways of teaching, new ways of doing business – e.g. look at all the technological changes.
  4. We need to mentor the young ones who are eager to learn and are ready to be coached.
  5. Be proud of your profession. It doesn’t entirely define you, but shout it out!
  6. Learn from everywhere – books, peer-to-peer discussions, workshops, even outside of your profession

When I told someone I was going to be a Personal Trainer they asked, “When are you going to get a real job?” It took awhile to make a living, because I had to buck the trend that “there is no money in fitness!” What BS! By the way – I am a Kinesiologist (another pet peeve is Kinesiologists calling themselves Personal Trainers, just because not many people know what a Kinesiologist is or does).

Only those who really want to be the best at what they do will go out and meet the best at what they do. They follow in their foot-steps while creating their own path.

Today I met some of the leaders in our field in Vancouver as well become reacquainted with others who I haven’t seen in a long time. As Canadians are we too meek to step-up and say confidently “We know stuff! Let’s share!”? Today was the first step in sharing our knowledge. Step up and be confident, people pay us for expertise not our time.

Other thoughts from this meeting by my peers that were written in less than 24 hours:

Fit Pro Think Tank Sept 2011

Bridging the Gap Between Strength and Conditioning and Yoga

Breaking Barriers: Achieving a Sub 40 min Grouse Grind and Business Excellence

Several weeks ago I ran into someone who mentioned that my blog and advice on the Grouse Grind have been quieter this summer. So, here I am today to tell of how I broke the magical forty minute barrier on the Grouse Grind (2.9 km, 2,800 ft elevation) and how these lessons apply to business. 38:59 minutes in the 30-39 age group within the top 12% of all who use the Grind Timer. First, if you think grinding away by completing many climbs will get you results, it won’t. If you think ” if only I work harder, I will achieve my business results, ” you might, but probably only mediocre and not excellence.

To break barriers it is necessary to have unwavering commitment to building excellence working diligently and smartly. Working smartly means consistently evaluating your current environment and what you have achieved so that you can adjust your strategy as need. You also need to firmly belief that you will and know how to achieve your goals.

Over the last several weeks I have always known that I would break the 40 min barrier; there were several times when I came close. Each climb there was a plan, some days it was to push my limits, usually Fridays while other days it was to finish faster than my average of 43:30 min. On Wednesday I had a guy trying to keep up with from about the ½ way mark, there were several times when he went of course to try to pass me, however by following the path I was able to keep ahead of him. My goal for the Wednesday climb was to keep a steady pace, so when he finally did pass me just after the last staircase I didn’t flinch, I kept to my game plan.

I am committed to finishing my 100th all –time Grouse Grind at the BMO Grouse Mountain Run in October, so no matter what is happening I am determined to three climbs per week. On the other days I am in the gym completing several power lifts or plyometrics for the legs and strength lifts for the upper-body. Plyometrics and power-lifts fatigue the central nervous system (CNS) and designed to develop quickness on the trail. The power-lifts are 3-6 reps with as much force and quickness I can generate (all with excellent technique). They might feel and look slow, but because they recruit the central nervous system, I recover fairly quickly the next day without too much muscle soreness. Upper-body strength helps me climb up and over the rocky sections, especially that last bit at the top, just before the timer.

Execution follows preparation and planning. Each climb I learned a little bit more about how to my Grind barrier. I broke my each quarter into timed sections, so that I knew that when I achieve all four lap-times and few markers in between I would be beeping in at less than 40 minutes. Last night I set the intent – “Friday, I will finish under 40 minutes!” I prepared by making sure that I completed all my fascial stretches and self-myofascial releases so that my hips, legs, back and spine were aligned and feeling easy to move. I also made sure that I hydrated well with an electrolyte drink (Nuun tablets) the night before. Just before bed I checked to see that my heart monitor watch was fully charged. Yes!

An entrepreneurs need to be engaged in what they are doing. Recently I have been very excited about what is happening at Lifemoves and what is in our future. I woke up this morning very excited. To achieve excellence athletes need to find the right level of what is called arousal, too much or too little is detrimental. I had been experimenting with different gels and discovered for cost and what my body felt was right – Hammer nutrition’s are appropriate. A Cliff bar 3 hours before, 500ml of Nuun-water up to 30 min and one Hammer Espresso Gel 30 min, with 50 mg caffeine was my energy preparation.

When I arrived at the mountain, I changed, put on my heart rate monitor and made sure that my shoes were fitting snugly around my feet, but also double knotted. There is nothing worse than sliding around in your shoes during a trail run or having to break your momentum to tie up a shoe! After dropping my bag off at the back-check I headed out into the sunshine ready start my mission. A proper warm-up is essential before the Grind, because of how steep the new beginning is. The point is to raise your body temperature, stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, get more elasticity out of the fascia, elevate your heart rate to its level during the climb and mentally prepare you for the task.

After a setting my watch to 9:45 min intervals, for the quarters and a 5 minute run around the parking-lot that included heel kicks, hops, cariocas, knee-hops and tuck jumps it was time to get going. I always time myself from the start to the big warning sign. My arrival time usually tells me how I am feeling and what my likely time will be; 2:17 min, a new record. “Ok, today is the day!” I said with a big grin on my face. Keeping my focus on keeping a steady pace while periodically speeding up places where the terrain allowed I found myself at the first quarter (the painted signs) in just under 8:30 min. “Wow, another PB!”

While everyone has their own pace it is difficult sometimes not to get caught up behind someone and slow down. What you are trying to be innovative and build an excellent business sometimes you get stuck in rut behind companies doing the same as you, just OK. This was the same as the Grind, I had to keep passing people. Yet, I was having so much fun that in a slightly exasperated way I always asked them how they were doing and encouraged them to keep it up. You can still be friendly while leading the way.

Finishing the second quarter in 9:43 min was amazing. My next unofficial target is the left hand turn, just after some stairs, up some rocks and near the waterfall. To be on track I had to be there in less than 27 min. I looked at my watch which read about 26:30 min. Yes, my mind did wander to different places including work and family, however my mantra that I kept repeating was “nothing but here and now matters, keep your mind, body and legs focused on the task at hand.”

The third quarter came flying by in 9:43 min, another quarter personal best for the season. At this time I knew I was on track, but was also wary that I had at least another 11 minutes to go. There was a temptation to push myself even further, however I learned during Seek the Peak that by pushing hard when I was fatigued meant a calf-cramp, which surely would slow me down even further.

“Stick to the plan, stick the plan. Keep a steady pace. Time will take care of itself. Concern yourself with what you are doing, not how you will finish,” I repeated to myself.

Bound up the last staircase, I could feel that I was going to be under 40 minutes. However, I resisted temptation to look at my watch until the very end. I avoided the fondly remembered rock sticking out of the gravel that I so graciously tripped over a few weeks ago. Huffing and puffing I had the final timer in my sights! Beep! “What is your time?” an older gentleman asked me.

I told him as humbly as I could that I think it was under forty minutes. He replied explaining that he was now finishing in less than two hours. We all go at our pace, be proud of what you accomplished,” was my response. While still catching my breath, I walked up the stairs to the chalet to look at the timer screen. To my delightful surprise – 38:59!

This set me grinning internally and externally for the rest of the day. Each quarter was a season personal best. Remember the sum of the parts equals the whole.

What I do in business and sport is collect and analyze data. Take a look the information collected using the Garmin Forerunner 305, including heart rates, intervals, pace and GPS – click here

More info on the Grouse Grind

Breaking Through Plateaus to More Growth

This past week I hit a very frustrating brick wall and plateau and I was all out of ideas of how grow my business. I know this brick wall I am facing is a big opportunity to refresh my business model, but how to do it remains unknown. Lifemoves® is very successful thus far and I am confident that we have an outstanding concept, however just like athletic training, we have hit a bit of a plateau. When I hit plateaus in my career and training I know it is time for a change.

It is time to break the plateau to achieve even more outstanding results. This means breaking out of the mold and trying something extraordinary that challenges myself, my team and the industry. When I am fresh out of ideas I read or go to continuing education sessions. Can-Fit Pro this weekend in the spectacular Vancouver Convention Center was the perfect opportunity to meet up with fitness industry experts and regain some perspective so I could figure out how to break our current plateau.

Our minds are much like spider webs as each piece of new knowledge weaves itself into our current knowledge as we make connections and becomes a new ring on the web. This weekend I felt like an explorer, searching for some answers. Since this weekend was a last minute registration my session choices were more intuitive than deliberate. Each session had its own nugget or two which I could take away and apply. I still haven’t found the way to break this plateau, however I know that I am close.

I need to take some time to digest all the information I received, review my notes and attend “Building a Thriving Wellness Practice” on November 27th. All the stimulus of conferences with 1.5 hour sessions on different topics and then networking with colleagues takes a lot of energy. I will be taking time to recharge by going to the infrared sauna and yoga during the next week. After that it will be time sit down in a quiet space and re-write my business plan.

I know change is needed, I know change is happening. What does change look like? I will know when I am there. To achieve great change and break plateaus we need to disrupt our regular patterns. What do you to create disruptions?

How Investing in the Process Leads to Success

Sometimes we are so focused on the end goal, that we lose sight of how the process leads to success in many aspects of life, including entrepreneurship and athletics. Friday I set up and executed a couple of process goals and finished the Grind one second off my 2010 season best of 41:46 minutes.

When we prepare and place our intent on the process, we reach our goal. Think of driving from home to work. We when we keep our attention on the road and the traffic around us, we arrive safely at our destination.

Part of why I am so focused on achieving a sub 39-minute Grind is that it marks a point when I am at my peak fitness after leaving competitive Biathlon. Being fit also helps me obtain high performance standards in my business.

In preparation for a Friday morning Grouse Grind, I did two things. First, Thursday evening I reviewed a video on the top ten nutrition tips of high performance athletes while eating a high carbohydrate meal and drinking about 24 oz. of water. Second, I set up my training plan on my Garmin which was a race practice with increasing heart rate zones with each quarter.

Not everything came cleanly together in the morning. I slept in so I didn’t get my morning stretch or quite enough pre-event hydration or food. However, I did arrive at the Seabus in time to get up on the Grind by just after 8:00 AM as planned.

My mantra of the day was, “Quick Short Steps, Feel Light, Stay in the Zone.” With this in mind I completed my warm-up of jogging, arm and leg swings, high knees, heel kicks, side-steps and cariocas (cross one leg behind and then in front, traveling side to side with hip rotation), then set out on the Grind.

I much prefer the occasional beeping of my heart rate monitor while I am outdoors than sitting at a computer playing video games. My Garmin kept me on pace letting me know if I was under or over my target heart rates.

As the burn in my legs built up, I found it harder to keep in the upper zones. This was especially true during the last quarter when my heart rate was supposed to between 175-185 beats per minute. Admittedly, I did look at my watch occasionally, but had it set on laps to know how long I had been going during each quarter.

Each finish for me is not at the top timer, but instead around the back of the chalet after swiping my timer card. That last part feels really strong and after pushing myself close to my limits, I felt like my lungs were going burst out of my chest. It took a couple of minutes for my heart rate to come down to 120 bpm and get the “Workout Finished” chime!

Heading back into the chalet, I was thinking I would feel good with sub 42 minutes. I overheard someone talking about who was out on the trail and my name was mentioned. Looking to my right, there was Jason Chong who recently completed 300 Grinds for Kids! I also saw Amy, another multi-Grinder on the way up and Mark – who I am chasing time-wise, coming down.

I waited for the timer display to scroll back through to my name: 41:47 minutes. It was a bit of a challenge not to be slightly disappointed with the time because it was so very close to a new season best. Although, when I thought back to what I accomplished, I knew that I stuck to the process and executed my plan very well.

My belief is that being great is about being consistent. The consistency of my times over the last two weeks tells me that my training is going well and my times are about 3-5% faster than the same time last year.

After each training session, I analyse what in the process I did correctly, what I could differently, and how I could improve for the next time. This is how I adapt my plan for the next run.

To execute my best Grouse Grind, everything including what I do in the seven days prior has come together. The elements in this process are training over the next 5 weeks, nutrition, recovery and pre-race preparation on the evening before, the morning of and finally, what happens during. The next step is to develop a comprehensive plan for the BMO Grouse Mountain Race on September 19th.

Invest in the process and execute the plan to achieve success and reach your goals.

4 Strategies to Jump Start Your Motivation

How to Stick to the Plan and Get Things Done:
Sometimes sticking to the plan is difficult on those days when you are not motivated. I woke up this morning not feeling very energized, but I already had an ascent of the Grouse Grind planned. Even though it took me a while to get myself organized and out the door, I did get up the mountain today.

What got me going, even if it was later than I planned? It was remembering the feeling of being on the mountain, the feeling I have once I crest over the top and how empowered I am after completing another goal.

I remember training for Biathlon and there were days when I woke up not feeling like training, but I went anyway because I knew how much I enjoyed being out on the snow, at shooting practice or in the summer, on my roller-skis.

During times when you are lacking motivation or feel that all the tasks or training sessions that you are doing are not worth it, here are four strategies to boost your motivation:

  • Evoke Positive Emotions: Take time to evoke any positive memories and emotions you have with what you are about to accomplish. I remembered how beautiful it is to be outside moving my body and how amazing the view is from the top of Grouse.
  • Ask Why: Ask yourself why you are doing it. Maybe it is what is on the other side. Today for me the answer was, “I am training for the Grouse Mountain Run in September.”
  • Think of the Accomplishment: Sometimes just the feeling of accomplishment is enough. Just knowing how you feel after your training is done adds a little charge. I looked forward to the endorphins.
  • Change Your Voice: Change what the voice inside your head says from “I can’t do it” or “I am too tired” to “I can do it” and “I have lots of energy.” You will be amazed how changing your internal mantra can uplift your spirit, enliven your motivation and help you tackle anything that you previously really didn’t want to do.
  • Get Started: Build momentum by getting started. Take the Action Step, as defined by David Allen of “Getting Things Done,” towards what you planned to do. This morning it was gathering everything I needed to go up the Grind. This included my pass, water and heart rate monitor. Taking the first action lead to another action of me leaving the house. I got over the original inertia and now had momentum to get me to my destination.

Use these strategies the next time you are lacking motivation to get you kick started. Let me know how they helped and share your own motivation tips in the comments section below.