Understanding motives, helping everyone and responsible business (for trainers)

I address most of this to the trainers. 

Here is a simplified model of behaviour change. In my experience most trainers don’t know about it, let alone use it.


Failing to fully realise just how far someone has come before even deciding to join a class & start some walking, let alone take on 1-1 sessions, is a real knowledge valley I feel many professionals get stuck in when they moan about the behaviour, choices, and ‘motivations' their clients exhibit.

Starting someone into a strength training phase, solely aimed at achieving arbitrary measures of human performance like; The Big Three, press ups and chin ups, so as to make the job of recording these arbitrary measures of progress easier and show it to Instagram as proof of coaching competency, doesn’t necessarily translate to the clients goals, needs, wants & ambitions. Nothing wrong with them as exercises, they are great movements, validated with research and countless anecdotes of long venerated coaches, but that doesn't mean clients care for them from the get go. Exercises are never intrinsically bad (when cued correctly) like food, and only exist, in my view, on a continuum of appropriate to inappropriate. When and why you use them is key to getting the right outcome from them. 

There is no need for vilification of any movement, even kipping chins have their place, to argue against that is ridiculous. They are as valid as a hyper arched spine to ensure a shortened ‘legal’ range of movement in the bench press, or cheating biceps curls. Let go of your dogma and see the reality.

Pigeonholing clients by forcing them to train only within your narrow system, and you will see this if you care to look closely enough and reflect on it, is irresponsible. These people have entrusted you their primary healthcare, their self image, their self esteem, their general well being and you choose to respond by fucking them into your meat grinder workouts and dog shit diets, often I’ve heard of fat shaming as a day to day practise in two Southside Dublin gyms which is essentially tantamount to bullying and yet they claim to be places to go to get healthy? Can professionals be that deluded?

This questionable behaviour in the long run can contribute to creating a demotivated and unenthused client where once there was healthful eagerness and sound mind. Now they are left with difficult relationship with the gym, working out, trying to be healthy and eat well. So much so that is engenders perpetual stress in their daily life, stress from worry about not being healthy and eating ‘clean’, and stressed when they start to eat ‘clean’ and exercise heavily because they do not enjoy the process but see it as the only way.

Who else has experienced singular bloody minded focus turn to lackadaisical indifference in a matter of months as clients sessions start to become hallow and lacklustre. Industry jargon suggests there are two types of clientele, soul suckers and energisers. Those who come to the gym to offload and then leave you with the weight of all their problems are the soul suckers They take your energy and enthusiasm and cover your day with a cloud of misery and self pity. The energisers come in full of beans, smiling, interested and determined to succeed. 

Surprisingly (not really surprisingly), but I tend to disagree with that myopic classification system.

What if, rather than an either or proposition, clients are on a continuum always teetering between one and the other. A ‘soul sucker’ can become energised by communicating effectively with them and finding their motivation, understanding their attributes and limitations and planning to their strengths rather then a trainers arbitrary measures of strength.

Truly helping someone find their way to health and fitness is not about making your client a powerlifter because that's where your interest lies, a crossfitter because that's what you like, a bodybuilder etc. 

That's not to say training systems shouldn't exist. If you don't have a system you're likely new here, or a shit trainer. If you have a very rigid system you are likely to be very inflexible when it comes to different populations. If you have a low skill set, do this, it's easier to master one way of doing things, people will buy into it, just be ethical and tell them flat out, this may not be for everyone, if it is, stay & pay, succeed. Sometimes helping people most effectively is saying “I can’t help you, but let me offer some aid in finding someone I trust who can help you.” 

Who comes out of an exchange like that looking like a real professional in the long run? The trainer who takes someone on that they know will not work well with them, or isn’t ready from the system they use and is shoehorned into the work the trainer wants them to do rather than the work they need. Or, the second trainer who admits after some carefully measured effort that this won’t work, and instead of flogging the client to hell and leaving them hating fitness, and afraid of eating anything other than paleo, thinking that unless they are sweating profusely a workout was useless, scared that if their form isn't absolutely perfect then they may as well be playing with Barbie dolls (heard that before).

Any and every marketing guru will tell you, communicate to your ideal audience. I LOL when I read trainers who ‘specialise' in; hypertrophy, weight loss, injury rehab, post natal training, transformations, CV fitness, healthy eating, IIFYM, strength training, lifestyle management and an endless list of other buzzwords (I used to do it myself, I’ll dig out some old business cards). They will actively seek to ‘help everyone get fit’. Oh what a noble goal, but in truth it is an awful one. A visionary ideal sure, its one of my eventual aims out of my time in the industry, but as an active selling strategy, woeful. 

In my experience these are also the trainers who don’t have solid businesses, solid income, regular long term clientele. They’ll attract transient clients, folk who move around banking on the initial burst of variety, something different from the training of the previous few months then they fade away. Then, for you the trainer, its back to panicking about where next months income is coming from. 

Attempting to please everyone usually means pleasing no one.

It someone isn't likely to do well with you, offer them an alternative, be an ethical person and really try help them by admitting you can't help them professionally. Refer them to someone you know & like in fitness who does it differently. Own your niche and don't be afraid to say, you now what, I don't do that job that well, here is a person who does. If you don't know anyone with a different approach to you, I’d strongly advise you need to network more outside of your clique. Small networks in fitness mean limited critical thinking & over zealous attribution of self knowledge, I’ve been there.

Help people get through stages of change rather than inhibiting them out of fear you will lose some short term money. Bad money in fact, business that wasn’t right for you in the first place business that won't grow your business, only prop up a leaky cashflow. Having principles is a sure fire way to cost you money, as if it doesn't cost you its not a real principle.

People are generally good natured, that goes for your local powerlifter or crossfitter, even your local Herbal-life sales rep. Sometimes their good intentions are misled and someone ends up injured or with no results and loose stools but that can be mended. When lack of understanding people borders on psychological torture and manipulation, thats where you draw the line.

The fitness industry is full of little islands. Trainers operating off on their own, with no one to help them, advise them or reel them in from doing some silly shit here and there. Some suggest regulation is on the way or that it would benefit the industry. Personally I could not be more opposed to the idea. Sure regulating the provision of teaching courses would help thus standardising with regards quality control for career entry may work, but then regulation would inevitably get bigger and probably more complex.

Humans seeking physical fitness should stay a free enterprise. Free to innovate and cater to the needs and wants of the changing public. Make it fun, make it interesting, make it work. Be led by empirical evidence but not bound to it, be open to anecdotes of life changing methods but not swayed from reality. Be truly client centred, be aware sometimes not training with you is the right course of action, maybe they are too advanced, maybe they are not nearly advanced enough. In cases of emotional stress and crazy life issues maybe they are not in the right psychological place to engage with your challenging offering at the moment so don't hurt them, but don't sacrifice the integrity of you want to offer either. Help people to find their fitness, bend the rules because lets face it they don't exist really to begin with. Movement is exercise, more is usually better, let people find their level and communicate effectively, you will be a better coach and just a good human being.

Thanks for reading.


Part 2 of Septembers daily changes

Your second 9 days of daily goals for September

10 Save/print/write down 7 different recipes. 

These can be a selection of sorts, no rules, no guidelines as to the foods of choice just write them down, print them and trial them when you have grabbed the ingredients.

Education precedes dietary success, its amazing the amount of diets that work purely for the structure they impose rather than for any physiologically magic or miraculous nutrients. 

So get some tasty food options into your diet and try learn about some new taste combinations or ingredient pairings.

Learn to prepare food that suits your chosen level of input and expertise. Done is better than perfect for day to day meal prep.

If they are a success (easy to make, cost effective per portion, tasty, filling, nutritious) then keep the recipe handy for future use and add the ingredients to your shopping list.

Here are four very useful sites to begin exploring, preferably not on an empty stomach.


11 Get a measuring tape and do some circumference measurements. 

Know where you are at, and understand what you have been doing to this point is what got you there. With me so far? Great so if you want to or 'need' to do something about it for your health then act. 

Later in the month ideas for fat loss, tips for weight maintenance and weight gain will be touched upon, so stay with me one step at a time.

For males the healthy ideal is below 37inches, for women the ideal is below 32inches.

Here is a video guide on how to measure http://youtu.be/tqAsD7SqmbQ

And a calculator to give you some feedback. (http://www.safefood.eu/Healthy-Eati…/…/Stop-The-Spread.aspx…)

12 Begin a simple sleep diary.

A pen and piece of paper is all you need.

Every morning when you wake up, give yourself time to come to, and then rate your energy/mood/outlook on a scale from 1-10. 

1 is really low (hungover, restless night sleep, cannot peal yourself out of bed) and 10 is as high as as it gets (christmas morning as a 4 year old, going away on holidays, super energetic seize the day mode)

At the end of every week add up your score. 
Score of; 
7-28 Sleep needs to become a focus for improvement.
29-42 Generally ok, a small amount of effort will show benefit.
43-63 Likely to be operating well, mentally and physically
64-70 I'll believe it when I see you! LOL

Add in contextual information for added detail such as 'found it difficult to get to sleep', 'woke once/twice throughout the night', 'fast asleep as soon as head hit the pillow'.

Use the information derived from the points and your own observations to think a little critically about what affects your sleep cycle, positively or negatively and adjust what you can to put yourself in the best recovery mode possible every night.

13 Write down 10 activities/ ideas/ ambitions/ personal goals that are important to you.

What you list is what you value, cherish and care for most. If you can't get ten or can't stop at ten don't fret, all you need do is think. Read on only when you’ve completed your list.

Seriously though, stop reading until you have a list.

With your list in your hand from today, look at each one and ask yourself how much time, in the last month have you put into each item on the list. 
Only counting real actionable time spent with genuine focus and concentration on each individually.

Then ask yourself, is that enough?

14 Spend 10-20mins in the kitchen and in the fridge browsing your own food choices.

Find the nutritional information (protein, fat and carbohydrate, micronutrients) and the calorie content of the food item and commit a summary of it to memory. 

Permanently eliminating food is not usually a lifelong sustainable approach but knowing what is in the food you are eating can help you be more accountable.

In the future if you want to loose weight, gain weight or maintain weight tomorrows goal is going to be one of those important moments where the process is demystified. 

Start reading the nutritional label and not the advertising phases smattered on the pack you really get a better picture of what is in it.
Be aware of what food contains (and doesn't).

‪#‎accountability‬ ‪#‎responsibility‬

15 Add more exercise to your daily routine.

You already have a 10 min walk to do so the goal is to increase the duration by 5 mins or 50%. This is extra on top of any resistance training you are already doing.

So the simplest way to do this is to add 5 mins to your daily walk and bring it to 15min.

Or, find a stairs and set a timer for 5 mins and head up, and down, and up, and down... Take two at a time, come down backwards, walk up backwards, try a bear crawl heading up (and if you're super advanced a bear crawl heading down!!) ... mix it up and make it fun. 

The minimum standard has been raised to 15 mins per day, everyday.

16 Add 30 mins to your night sleep.

From a previous goal you have a set bed time that you have been sticking to from the first few days of September.

This goal means beginning your bedtime routine half an hour earlier. Small changes in sleep are usually going to more successful as messing with any sleep pattern is dicey in the beginning so take care to add small incremental changes to this asset to health.

Alongside your sleep diary to assess your sleep quality, working on adding sleep duration will hopefully have a beneficial effect on your training and general recovery potential, your mental acuity, mental performance and problem solving capability, your stress levels and digestive function, sensitivity to pain and your mood, your insulin sensitivity and ability to successfully assimilate nutrients when required.

If you have the time listen to this podcast from Danny Lennons' Sigma Nutrition concerning sleep and some effects on health and body composition. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=330402220498156&set=vb.184281038443609&type=2&theater

‪#‎sleep‬ ‪#‎health‬ ‪#‎goals‬ ‪#‎wellness‬

17 Up your daily protein intake. 

Previously you have been aiming to eat 1g per kg bodyweight or 100g for a male and 75g for a female if you don't know your weight.

Tomorrows goal is to add 30% to that total so you aim for 1.3g per kg bodyweight or 130g for a man and just under 100g for female.

A higher protein diet can help with feeling more satiated after meals and therefore feel satisfied with what you've eaten, not seeking out extra bites here and there between meal times or as you go through your day.

Source your protein from wherever you like, just use your new knowledge of nutritional labels to be aware what extra calories, fat and carbohydrates come with an adequate serving size of protein.

Protein sources and some general guide of protein per 100g: 

chicken - 25-28g
eggs - 10-12g
beef 20-28g (depending the cut/mince etc)
white fish 25-29g
ham 22-25g
oily fish 25-30g
shellfish 10-12g
cheeses 10-28g
milk 5g per 100ml, 
beans 5-10g

These are pretty vague guesstimates coming from some of the food in my own fridge and pantry so do the same with your own, get to know more of whats in your food.

18 Add 2 portions of fruit and vegetables.

That moves you up to 5 a day.

The minimum has been raised so get to know your portion sizes. Add some colour if you'd like to mix things up.

Green, red, purple, yellow, blue, black, orange... get 'em in!!!


There it is, the second 9 days of your September day to day turn around.

1 quick tip to stay on track with your diet and lifestyle goals.

A quick tip I offer to my clients for those who struggle with dietary inconsistency.

Avoid consecutive "bad" days.

Days when you don't feel particularly "on plan" or delighted with the choices you have made or have been forced to make with lack of planing or life just throwing shit your way.

Get a calendar, once a day, ask yourself objectively "how solid was my day with respect to helping me achieve my goals?"

If it was good, in your opinion, circle the day and if it was poor cross it.

Don't let yourself have two crossed days in a row. If you find this really tough, reassess your goals and your lifestyle, if they are in constant conflict then somethings got to give.

Life is unexpected you can't be so hard on yourself that every single day, forever you need to be 100% on point, its just not doable. That being said if you are too lackadaisical in your self control then you may not really be too happy in the long run with how you are achieving.


Weakness, instability and movement as skill

Sometimes you move really poorly, with pain or instability because there is a real movement dysfunction or compensation from a previous injury.

Sometimes you are just generally weak, uncoordinated and unpractised.

A lot of people tell me that they have a weak or under active this or that. The reality is they are just really weak and have not done any legitimate work to address basic strength with a balance of stability and mobility.

I see it as relatively recent (in my experience) trend. Self diagnosis, worse yet, poor professional diagnosis, is not of any real use until you have adequate knowledge of yourself to make that call and doing so is only adding to potential problems.

Basic technique coaching from a genuine fitness professional can address a lot of issues for the general population. Hearing Tiger Woods mention his glutes "not firing", which is causing his back pain does not mean your issues must be associated to the same reasoning and issue.

I work with clients to address basic movement issues and the reality is its just time, effort and practise which has yielded the best results. No quick fixes, just skill development and strength built over time.

If you have been dealing with an issue that sounds like one mentioned here make sure you have your basics down before going further.



If you want to get your basics down book in for a consult and start your Strength for Life journey today.