Are We Talking About Practice?

     I recently had a work desk built for Tiffany, our operations manager, at the studio. It was a big deal as it marked a benchmark for the studio. As our operations manager, she handles all of the day-to-day issues outside of actually training such as scheduling of appointments for members, handling walk-ins, tracking inventory of our retail items etc. We’ve been open for 18 months and as we’ve grown the need for someone to handle these necessary tasks has become dire. As an entrepreneur you do your best to handle a lot of the odd & ends initially, but eventually you run out of time in the day. I personally came to a realization that my time was better spent training my coaches on strength and conditioning, working with members privately or in semi-private groups, and writing. It took us 18 months of a little chaos to know exactly how we needed the operations desk to be set up. We needed to have multiple consultations with prospective members. We needed to see where a good location for our retail should be. We had to have a set up that was functional for our needs. We had to go through this process to truly know what would work for us. The outcome is that Tiffany has a very efficient set up that works for both her & the members. After giving it some thought, isn’t that the way to approach almost anything? To initially go without and create a void, so when the opportunity arises you know what you need for certain.
     I look back on my personal training career and recognize that a large part of my job is to convince people to embrace the process of healthy eating and exercise. Squats, kettlebell swings, and TRX rows are the process to get them to where they want to be. Leaner thighs, defined mid-sections and bulging biceps are the outcome. The hours with me at the studio are the necessary process to get them to their outcome. If they aren’t willing to complete that process they will not get their desired outcome. This may sound like common sense, but many people never come to this understanding. I have never had a person come to me looking to be a master kettlebell instructor. I have had woman come to me looking to tone their glutes. I have a saying that the easy part is paying for the training. The hard part is what follows. 

     I had a client years ago who brought in a Men’s Health magazine showing me the cover photo of Gerard Butler after he filmed 300. Computer generated imagery (CGI as it’s commonly referred to) or not, Butler was in top shape for this movie. In the article, he discusses his complete obsession over exercise and eating that he had to do for 3 months in this role. He had to get into impeccable shape for the role and then maintain it during the filming. He trained 3 hours a day. He woke up in the middle of the night to drink protein shakes. They would film all day and train for 3 hours afterwards. He admits that he could only maintain a level of this ultra-intensity for a brief period. So back to my client, he shows me this and says “Let’s go for it”.  I try to explain to him that this is an extremely intense process, also one that is not healthy to maintain for the long term. Against my suggestions, we embark on this journey. 

     During our first workout he stops after a set to discuss his weekend. I tell him to hold that thought because I want to limit his rest time to 15 seconds. He tells me slow down, that we have time. I explain that to get his metabolism ramped up we need to watch his rest time intervals. He didn’t like that our normal chit-chat time got curtailed. 

     Next, I gave him a full-body circuit workout I wanted him to do 2 days a week outside of our 3 day a week workouts. Two weeks in I checked in to see how he was doing on these workouts. “Got busy with some other stuff, couldn’t get them both in.” The end to our experiment came when he took his wife out to breakfast and had a muffin loaded with butter with his meal. A food Nazi I’m not and I have adopted a balanced approach to nutrition that allows treats and rewards from time to time. In order to fulfill what he wanted though buttered muffins weren’t on the menu. I explained that we should keep to our prior program of getting stronger, leaner and improving his mobility at a more relaxed pace. He agreed and we throttled back some of the intensity. To get the extreme outcome he was looking for, he wasn’t willing to embrace the process it required. This was a big lesson to me. When goal setting with members and clients, I need to clearly draft a picture of what is required to get the end result they want. This picture usually includes 3 days a week of intense exercise for 45 minutes to an hour, including a diet rich in colorful vegetables and lean proteins.  I ask them to drink lots of water and together we come up with a strategy to deal with stress. 

     College basketball Hall of Fame Coach, Mike Krzyzewski, frequently discusses that one of his rules to building a championship team is getting them to embrace practice as part of the process. When someone comes to me looking to drop 20-25 pounds over a 3 month period, pushing sleds across turf, swinging ropes and kettlebells become part of the process. My recommendation is to try and enjoy the process. Make that one of your goals and the outcome you desire is sure to happen as a by-product.  I’ll see you at the studio.

Who Coaches your Coaches?

     As the paradigm shift in the fitness industry continues, with more movement based training clubs and less machine based facilities, the need for quality coaches will continue. Swinging a kettlebell requires more instruction than sitting and putting a pin in the weight stack. My prediction that all gyms will transform to functional training, as opposed to selectorized and isolated based machines isn’t such a reach. This change started three to five years ago. The dilemma faced by many club owners is that after bringing a new trainer on board, education is either classified as an elective or provided on a very limited basis.
     Training of gym staff and coaches administered by ownership has been around for years, but poorly executed. Shadowing a seasoned coach has been an industry accepted protocol. This is where the fitness world can take some inspiration from the business world. Companies have seen the importance of staff training programs and used them as an opportunity to set themselves apart from their competitors. Many institute their own training centers and universities. Ray Kroc has been considered a pioneer in the business world with his success in the branding and creation of McDonalds. It’s been well documented how his creation of Hamburger University in 1961 help drive the growth of his fast food empire. Franchisees were trained there on the proper methods for running a successful McDonald’s restaurant. Hamburger U utilized a research and development laboratory in nearby Addison, Illinois to develop new cooking, freezing, storing and serving methods. Today, more than 80,000 people have graduated from the program. In the entertainment world, Disney University created by Walt Disney. Staff members, referred to as cast members by the Disney organization, are taught a range of information which include Disney heritage and traditions, personal and professional development, and on the job training. Although Disney University is not an accredited institution, courses are primarily designed, developed and delivered by experienced learning professionals. The success and growth in both of these organizations hopefully demonstrates how important staff development is.
     Client assessment, program design, and implementation of a strength and conditioning program requires more than a few hours of watching a fellow instructor and needs to be better valued from ownership. The successfully run operations have adopted solid training curriculum and have put staff in place that carry the responsibility of teaching fellow staff and team members. As the landscape of small training (2,000- 10,000 sq. ft) gyms expands, this concept needs to become more of a standard, not an exception. One of my core beliefs is that my studio will be a leader in the Las Vegas market due to the quality of instruction that a trainer receives once on board. 
     In my 4th year of being a trainer (1994), I worked as an independent contractor, renting floor space at a Gold’s gym on the east coast. In the early nineties, this was the norm. Gyms didn’t want the extra liability or payroll of a staff. They allowed anyone with a fanny pack and who considered themselves a viable coach, to pay the gym by the client and have full usage of their gym. It was at this time I met a fellow trainer, Mike Ryan. One of the benefits of Facebook, outside of posting what you had for lunch, is connecting with people via their “People you may know” algorithm. After connecting with Mike on Facebook I was able to see that Mike is currently an educational director for the fitness chain, Equinox. After opening my club and understanding the value of educating your staff, I was very curious on what he did and how a health club giant such as Equinox, valued education. Equinox, originated in New York City, has always branded their trainers as industry leaders. What I soon found out was that Mike was part of a team of teachers whose sole responsibility was educating the training staff. Apparently Equinox views it as a 2-part win. First, to guarantee that their staff maintains a lead in highly competitive markets such as NYC, they couldn’t risk relying on their staff to educate themselves on training. They had to make how much you know, part of how you get compensated. The more certifications and education you receive under their guidance, the more you can see in your paycheck. They have incentivized a coach’s income, not on how much you train, but on how you train. Secondly, in hot markets where trainers jump from gym to gym, they wanted to create an added value of why someone would stay with their team. This is a strategy that I have completely adopted. Help them to be better at their job and inspire them to want to stay with you. Make education an added job benefit. 
     As a small business owner, I have learned early on, that it’s not always being first to do something. Sometimes, it’s about taking an idea and executing it better than your competitors. I’m sticking to my plan of coaching my coaches to be the best. By doing this, I feel confident we can build a great staff and guarantee the quality of training at the studio. I’m not the 1st, but I’m pushing to be the best. 

See you at the studio.

A Bit of Advice from 1 of the Best

     I have recently become a big fan of motivational speaker Jim Rohn. Mr. Rohn passed away a few years ago and some of his early lectures and workshops are experiencing a bit of resurgence. Jim was one of the early pioneers of motivational speaking. Tony Robbins speaks about when he was 19 years old and went to see Jim speak for the first time. He talks about how he left and immediately began to incorporate many of the simple lessons he learned that day to build his tremendously successful empire. Jim’s philosophy is timeless and I have experienced some minor success using it. It resonates so much with me because it’s about doing the little things everyday to be great.

     How many times have you read a book looking for 1 life changing thing, or listened to someone speak hoping to get 1 golden nugget? If you research some of our great leaders, you hear this same similar and consistent theme.

John Wooden- Coaching


Warren Buffet- Investments


Jim Rohn- Motivation                                          Colin Powell- Leadership

Jim-Rohn   Powell-Colin 

     Be disciplined and consistent in doing the (right) little things every day. The metaphors are endless- “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” We all know the story about the race between the tortoise & the hare. Why are we drawn to the quick fixes? Losing weight FAST remains one of the top things which marketers pitch. Enter weight loss into Google and see how many searches you come up with. It’s endless. Here are my suggestions. Eat more vegetables, exercise 4-5 days a week, drink plenty of water (3 liters daily), and practice stress coping mechanisms, like daily meditation. I guarantee you’ll be substantially better in 90 days. The selection of produce in grocery stores has never been better. Fruits and vegetable are no longer seasonal. You can get things all year round. The last time I checked there were over 20 different brands of water in my local store. Since I opened my studio 14 months ago, 4 other gyms have popped up within a 3 mile radius of my place. Believe me, there aren’t a shortage of gyms or places to exercise. Why are we still suffering from lack of exercise, veggies, and water? Not sexy enough?

     I think I have the answer. As easy as it is to do the small things to be better daily, it’s also easy NOT to do the small things daily. Mr. Rohn defined a failure as “a few errors in judgment repeated every day”. And to really give you something to chew on, some of us spend a large portion of our time and energy on doing the little things that make us worse. To date I have never seen a person eat 1 bad meal and gain 20lbs. Unfortunately that bad meal on Saturday night, sometimes leads to poor choices at lunch on Sunday, which leads to another bad choice on Tuesday at breakfast. 3 Months goes by and you’ve made 35 bad choices and have the 10 extra pounds to show for it. It wasn’t that single dinner. I’ve always been a fan of moderation. I believe you can be 85% good and 15% not-so-good and make big improvements. That may sound like I’m contradicting myself, but this is a plan for maintenance. If I wanted to drop body-fat I would approach it at 90% good & 10% bad. I use this approach with my exercise also. You won’t regress missing a workout once a month, missing 1 workout every week will hamper your progress. I bring up this topic because during the next 45 days you will have plenty of opportunities to blow your diet or miss a workout. Look at your schedule ahead of time and make a game plan. I actually added an extra workout to our gym schedule this week to help people out. Schedules are off. Family is in town. I know it’s hard. Missing that workout or by making the Thanksgiving holiday an excuse for a bad eating week, as opposed to a single evening, is setting you up for failure. Eat before you go to your company Christmas party. Make a plan and stick to it.

     I’ve contemplated documenting my personal exercise & eating regime in the New Year on my blog. I personally think people will be bored and tune out after a few weeks. There are no secrets. No special ratios. It has lots of veggies, lean proteins, and sweet potatoes. My workouts are pretty much what I do with clients and members of my studio. I do need to improve with my water intake, and my son & I love having a cupcake for dessert on Sunday nights. The point is, like Mr. Rohn’s advice and the advice of many great leaders, obsess on practicing discipline daily for long term success. Over time, your willpower will improve, and your results will grow exponentially.

     So as we all start to think about tomorrow’s big meal, don't eat it and feel guilty. Enjoy your holiday and get back on track Friday. Finally, I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

See you at the studio.


The End of Group Fitness


     I recently read a published article from an acquaintance about how group fitness was currently experiencing a bad rap and taken a turn for the worst. The article centered on the lack of personalized attention, repetitive programs, and poor coaching. It’s this exact reason why I typically refer to my small-group workouts at the studio as a “session” or “workout” instead of a class. Members and some of you reading this article, will call them “classes”. I’ve never been a fan of that because I picture a group of people following a trainer in a one-size-fits all stale workout in a class. I understand, that is just my personal bias and hang-up. When evaluating and ranking elementary schools, one of the biggest factors is the class size. I don’t care how credentialed the teacher or stellar the curriculum, the larger the group, the more it’s going to affect the quality of the teaching. We all learn differently, so it’s the initial job of the teacher to determine how someone learns, then adjust to it. That’s easier said than done, and at times, not very realistic. Some people are visual learners, others are oratory, and then there are those who are kinesthetic learners. It’s my opinion that as a group grows in size the instruction gets diluted. In the NFL, for example, a team has 53 players plus 10 on the practice squad. That’s a total of 63 players. If you observe a practice you’ll see a head coach, 3 coordinators (offense, defense, special teams), and multiple position coaches (quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, linebackers, etc). The average coach will work directly with 3-7 players. Many agree that in the NFL the difference between winning and losing is the quality of the coaching.

     Before I opened the studio I ran a beta-test on how large I could go, in regards to the size of a training group, before I felt there was a drop off in quality of instruction. Also, was it sustainable? I didn’t need anyone to tell me. I wanted to use my 25 years of experience and make my own decision. In the past, I’ve been able to teach 10 people at once. I felt the personalized attention was good, but afterwards I was drained. I knew that I could not maintain that 6 days a week, morning, noon & night. More important, I believe that what gave me success over the years was how I treated each client as an individual. I didn’t want to sacrifice that experience or quality to simply pack them in. So I determined after 1 year of testing, my small groups would be maxed out at six people.

     I was able to personalize it to everyone’s needs and observe everything. I wanted each person to feel that they had a private workout with me. There are a few considerations: type of workout, equipment used, and gym floor layout. Small group training is on the rise. That’s a good thing. My studio is a small training facility, so I feel on the right side of the curve. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the one-on-one vibe to accommodate small groups. When you walk into our place we always greet you by your name; remember “Cheers”? We introduce fellow members to one another if they’re going to be training at the same time. As we warm up, it’s not uncommon for someone to share what’s going on in their life. Some choose to keep to themselves. I call this part of the workout (the warm-up) “the get your mind right” time. Members will foam roll and perform a few dynamic warm-up drills as they prepare for the upcoming workout.

     What fellow trainers need to realize is that you don’t have to throw away the personalized attention because you’re training multiple people. People need to realize that a competent coach should be able to adjust to their needs in a small group setting. It is a skill. My coaches will tell you it takes a few weeks to get accustomed to it. It does work and I believe is the future of personal training. More people know and value the instruction of a certified personal trainer and are investigating various opportunities to get access to it. People are willing to share the time and attention of the trainer. It’s possible to have a beginner next to an advanced person without a drop off in quality. 

     Here’s a quick story that just happened this past Friday at the studio. New member Mary walks-in at 5:45am. She has just purchased our 21 day quick start program and is coming back from years of in-activity. She’s overweight and has a few mobility issues. She heard about us from a friend who’s been training privately with me for years. She has wanted to work-out for years but felt too self-conscious to join one of the larger big-box gyms nearby. Upon coming in I tell her two other people will be joining her for our 6am TRX Flow workout. TRX Flow is a 50 minute, full-body mobility, strengthening and core workout. We use the TRX suspension straps exclusively. Mary seems a little apprehensive. She asks “Are the other people advanced?” I tell her both are intermediate level, and have been coming for over 6 months. The other two arrive. Throughout the workout, I make multiple adjustments for both Mary and the other two. Some of the exercises I regress for Mary. A few I progress for one of the others. The next 50 minutes is filled with sweat and a lot of laughter. After we’re done, Mary gives a high five to one of the guys and shouts “That was awesome”. I smile to myself. That’s what I see every day in my place. That’s what we do. That’s what J & D Fitness is all about.

See you at the studio.

It's All About the Motivation

     I’m currently running a challenge at my studio. It’s the 5 week Back to School Body-fat Challenge. We’re in week 3. 1st place winner gets $500 cash plus a few private training sessions with me. We have approximately 75 members at our place (combining people who train privately & our semi-private training program). We had 26 people enter contest. It was our biggest turn out yet. My reason for running events like this is to create urgency. People hire personal trainers for multiple reasons. Education- they don’t know what to do, or don’t want to get hurt. Motivation- they need someone to push them beyond what they can do on their own. Accountability- they need someone to make sure they show up. You may fall into one of these buckets, or may have a finger in each. As someone’s trainer I find that it’s part of my job to help stir up your motivation and to inspire you to maximize your fitness potential.

     This is the 4th time I’ve hosted this contest. Each year I’m getting better at promoting the challenge. This year I gave all members fitness journals prior to the kick-off to track all of their workouts & eating habits. This extra bit of accountability has gone over very well. Making poor meal choices is one thing, writing it down takes it to a different level. I also created a separate Facebook group only for those in the challenge. I wanted this to be a place where people can share tips, workout updates, motivation, daily struggles and everything else that comes along when you enter a challenge.  Social media is a great tool for accountability. I’m surprised with how much engagement has been on the page. Everyone doesn’t post comments, but I have had a few members tell me that they go on daily to see if anyone has posted something new.

     Because we are in midst of the challenge and I want to push everyone to see a change in their body, workout intensity has been at a high. One of my mantra’s with exercise is that you need a goal. You wouldn’t get into your car & just drive, you usually have a destination. I’ve noticed that people are able to push themselves more when there is a tangible goal. As a whole, it’s been great. I like that people view the workouts and eating as the competition, not each other. This is where I sound corny, but I wish they all could win. And NO, I’m not giving everyone a trophy. In 17 days, I will be handing 1 happy person $500 cash & 3 training sessions for a job well done. I’ll keep you posted.

     Forget Hilary, forget Trump and vote for us. We are entered in this year’s Best of Las Vegas competition sponsored by the Las Vegas Review Journal. If you already voted for us, thank you. If you haven’t voted yet, I’m asking for your vote now. The link to vote is below. After clicking on the link please click on the Fitness Trainer tab and enter “J and D Fitness”. Thanks again & wish us luck.

Best Of Las Vegas Voting ballot

US Gymnastics wins the Gold

     It’s the beginning of August, over 100 degrees in Las Vegas, and we’re in the full swing of Back to School month. Parents are in the midst of shopping for school supplies, purchasing new clothes for the kids and everything else that goes along with preparing for the upcoming school year. This is also the time of year when anxiety is heightened for a lot of people. The unknown can be scary. Many of us can remember that first day of high school sitting at an open table in the cafeteria hoping for someone to sit down next to us. I can remember walking in the hallways, trying my best to look confident, as I searched for my locker. Another example will be this year’s freshman college kids who will quickly realize that college is a lot harder than high school. They have more responsibility placed upon them. Teachers will not harp on them to hand in work on time. The deadlines arrive quick and workloads are increased. The first semester for many can set the tone for their entire college experience. I think two of the biggest questions people will wrestle with are, “Will I fit in?” and “Can I do this?”

     We are all wired to want to fit in. It’s been well documented and validated with research how kids gravitate towards gangs for that reason. People will sometimes draw towards negative situations just to fit in. I think every parent has had that discussion with their kids about making the right decisions and not to just follow the crowd. I have been heard saying to my son, “I don’t care what Michael did, if he jumped off a bridge would you?” Funny, how we become our parents. Having these experiences allows me to have compassion and empathy for others when they venture into our training studio. Let me set the stage. They see on our storefront, J & D Fitness Personal Training- Lose inches & Get Stronger. This sounds good to them. They have wanted to get in shape for years. They turn on the TV and watch the commercials for the Olympics depicting celebrity athletes such as Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas train with ferocious intensity as they prepare their bodies for the ultimate competition. Watching the medal ceremonies is very inspirational. We all cheer for the winners because we know it requires extreme dedication and discipline to get to that podium. Many people feel that this is now their time, so they venture into our gym. “I’m going to start today”, they declare. They walk through our front door and see straps hanging from overhead beams, sandbags stacked in the corner, and these cannonballs with handles lined up on these racks. What is this place?

     This is when we start the conversation with “what are you looking to do?” We explain that we meet them at their level. These unconventional tools, as funny as they appear, will allow them the most diversity in their workouts and will generate the best results.  We then take them through a quick assessment, share a few laughs, and promise them that our success depends on their success. We answer any questions they may have. No question is a dumb question. Our goal is to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Many people procrastinate starting an exercise program, not because of the outcome, but because the process scares them to death. The job of any trainer should be to first calm and address those fears.

     The next big thing happens during their first workout. The goal is to set them up for a journey of success. Football season starts soon, and one of the cliché sound-bites you’ll hear all season is how it’s important for any quarterback to start the game with a few easy passes. This is to build their confidence. The same holds true for working out. It’s so important for beginners to start out easy, to build their confidence. This may come off odd, but I like it when I hear members state- “That wasn’t too bad”. I count that as a job well done. Society has us so hard wired that exercise has to be a struggle. Just this morning I had a gal state- “I must be doing this wrong, it’s not hurting”. You should sweat a little. It should be a challenge. You should feel a little uncomfortable. But agonizing pain and exercises shouldn’t be considered comparable. Once we get people past that mindset, it becomes predictable from that point on as we watch strength levels improve and body-fats drop. The common statement is that, I never thought I could push myself this way. The intensity doesn’t start day one, but setting the stage for their success does. Their abilities improve weekly, and we guide them to enjoy the process.

     Enjoy the Olympics, and keep an eye out for our back to School Body-fat Challenge that will kick off in a few weeks on August 27th. This year’s winner can earn $500 cash! If you want more information please email me at or call the studio at (702) 892-0400.

Never a Quite Time

     This week I get to visit New Orleans for the National Strength & Conditioning Association National (NSCA) conference. I attend this event every year. It’s an opportunity for me to sit in on a few lectures. Even after 25 years in the fitness industry, there’s always something to learn. I get to catch up with a few fellow trainers to talk a little shop. I have walked away from conversations outside the lecture halls with some of my best lessons & info. Finally, I’m the state director for Nevada, so I’ll also attend the National director’s annual meeting. This year, for the first time, I will have the opportunity to attend the conference as a studio and gym owner. This has had an impact on how I approach events like this. This conference hosts an exhibit show with many of the top vendors in the fitness industry. It’s always worth my time to see if there are any new and innovative widgets I can bring back to the shop. Somewhere in there I’ll get a chance to experience some of the fine cuisine for which N’Orleans is known. These trips are all work, pretty jammed filled with events, and I typically come back exhausted. Last night I had a friend who is already there tag me on a Facebook post featuring one of my quotes being used on an event graphic in the registration area. Pretty cool.

nsca image

  We closed out June last week, which usually leads to the slow season in the gym business. If our next month is anything like our last, I don’t see a break coming for us. We just had our busiest week since we’ve been open. We’ve had someone in everyday to join, try a workout, or inquire about our place. That may not seem busy to you, but for a 2,400 sq/ ft. place that doesn’t advertise at all, that’s busy. The word of mouth has started to spread and our location is also a big plus. Gyms such as mine are a destination place, but people do need to know you’re there. We hope that when that moment of motivation hits them, we’re the place they want to come.

     The mistake that many studio owners make is since July typically is the slow period, so many sit back and coast. That is not my approach. I’ll be learning at lectures, searching the trade show floor for new tools, and talking to other studio owners about successful practices I can adopt back at the shop. Some will take the opportunity to sneak out or go home early. I’ll be on a red-eye flight Wednesday to New Orleans. That’s what you do when you’ve made it your objective to be the best. In the month of July, getting better means meeting with my team and taking the time to re-assess things that we can do better. Being busy doesn’t always mean having a studio packed with people. Sheer volume of workouts has never been my measurement of success. Quality of workouts and member results are and will remain to be. I believe what makes a gym special is the time outside of the actual workout. The preparation time spent on the workout design. When you guys show up, we’ve already done the leg work figuratively, and then it’s time to execute it.

    I hope you had a great 4th. If you stop by Thursday or Friday my team will take great care of you, and I’ll see you next week after I return.

-See you at the studio


P.S. Stay tuned for our upcoming announcement for our Semi-annual Back to School Bodyfat challenge. 1st prize will be $500 cash plus 5 private training sessions with me!

This is What Happended When I Went to a Local Studio for a Workout

    It’s going to get to 109 degrees today in Las Vegas. We are officially in the dog days of summer. I compare summers in the Vegas valley to winters when I was back on the east coast. The weather can affect the outcome of your day. You tend to minimize any time outside and it definitely can drain any additional motivational juice you may have. I’m very blessed because, at the studio, we’re still experiencing consistent growth and things are actually busier. Nine months in, and we’re at that point where people have been passing by our store front for months. They have decided to actually stop in, even if it’s just to get in the cool a/c.

     One of the business books I read stated that you need to always be aware of who & what your competitors are doing. I’m fully aware that we’re not the only small group/ semi-private training studio in the area. Last week, I decided to drop-in as a guest and try a workout at one of my local competitors. They are located in a high traffic shopping center and I’ve been aware of them since they opened. I arrived 5 minutes before the workout time ready to go. One of their trainers greeted me once I entered and introduced himself. I’m hoping he assumed I was a trainer checking out the place, because he never told me what to do. After a few awkward minutes of just standing in the corner as I watched people come in, I asked “is there something I should be doing?” He looked up from his phone and said, “no, we’ll start in a few, so just hang out”. I looked around and saw suspension trainers, sandbags, and kettlebells… similar to my place. They also had turf and sleds. The room was probably the same dimensions, if not very close to my studio in size. I watched others gather. In the back, I could see a few who were noticeably scared & clearly expressed signs of anxiety. I see that sometimes at my place. People come to gyms with preconceived ideas that they’re about to be put through hell, and just be crushed. I always try to make people laugh and let them know you’re going to work, but laugh and have fun also. As a coach & trainer you need to show compassion for people. They should be applauded for just showing up. No one approached these people in the back to ease their anxiety.

     The bell sounds and the workout is officially on. The trainer goes to the front of the room and begins to demonstrate 18, yes, 18 exercises, one after another. It was like going to friend’s wedding and having them introduce you to everyone in their family. This is Uncle Joey, Aunt Millie, cousin JP… I’m in the fitness game and I was confused! Then he lined us up. So far I wasn’t impressed with their hospitality or teaching prowess. The next part is what shocked me. They had 3 large screen TVs. I thought this is where they could monitor heart rate intensities like we do at our studio. No. They had 6 video loops playing on each TV demonstrating the exercises. Remember those 18 exercises that we were shown? Well,  there they were. That’s not personal training. That’s P90x. That’s Ripsanity by Men’s Health. Last year when I competed in the Men’s Health Next Top Trainer competition, the 1 large nugget I got out of that experience is that I enjoy teaching & working with people. Demonstrating an exercise on video and hoping a person can watch and follow along is not for me. Workouts on DVD and streamed online is a big market, just not for me. I also never heard Tony Horton market his videos as personal training. What if I’m a kinesthetic learner? That means I learn by doing and feeling and touching, not watching which is visual. I was never told what weight to use or how to adjust yourself in the suspension straps. No coaching. The trainer just blew a whistle and said “Next!”.

     After about 10 minutes, I decided I’d seen enough. I made up an excuse and told the trainer I had to leave for work. As I walked out of the studio, my initial reaction was to do a fist pump. We offer so much more value. My trip was well validated. Then as I drove away a feeling of sadness came upon me. Is that what people think personal training is? I didn’t even observe if the demonstrations of the exercises were correct. That could be a whole other blog post. That’s why when people call or email me for prices, I hesitate to answer. I always like people to have an experience before we discuss price. I like to make the analogy of buying a car. Call a Nissan dealer and ask for the price of a car. They may quote you $12,825 which is the price of the Nissan Versa. Then call a Lexus dealer and ask the same question. If they give you a price over the phone it could be over $50,000. Both dealers sell cars. One prioritizes price, the other “The Best of Quality”. I like to consider myself in the class of the Lexus dealer, that we offer the best, not the most inexpensive.

     Stay out of the heat, drink plenty of water, and if you’re in the vicinity of the studio stop by and say Hi, even if it’s to escape the heat for a few minutes.

-See you at the studio.


     This is a big week for me personally. I celebrate my 46th birthday this Saturday. Like many of you reading this post, when passing another milestone I like to reflect on my current status - physically, mentally, and spiritually. This Saturday I will also be participating in the Dynamic Variable Resistance Training (DVRT) certification, which I am hosting at my studio. Immediately following 8 hours of instruction (on the system behind sandbag training) you have to complete a clean and press test using a sandbag. This is to receive the certification. The weight of the bag is determined by your weight. So weighing a lean 205lbs I will have to use an 80lb sandbag. The test will require me to clean and press the bag 40 times in a time period of 5 minutes. This test is a challenge in muscular endurance, strength and precision. Similar to the snatch test I had to complete when I earned my Russian Kettlebell (RKC) certification in 2012, you have to prepare for this type of test which requires specific skills. One of the reasons behind including a physical test with the certification is to guarantee that participants have spent some time training with the bags. People sometimes think it’s an ego-driven component. Not at all, the people who administer these certifications want to guarantee that people carrying their certification earned it, not just paid for it.

     If you’re not aware, I use the Ultimate Sandbag (USB) as a main tool in my studio. I’ve incorporated sandbag training in my training protocol for the last 3 years. I do not consider myself a master in sandbag training, but I do consider myself competent in the instruction of this tool. Along with learning from the inventor of the DVRT system Josh Henkin, I wanted to give myself a physical challenge. I give myself a few goals annually that force me outside my everyday comfort zone. I wanted something which would require me to plan & prepare. It was in the fall of last year when I started mapping out a few goals for 2016 and this one seemed very appropriate. This satisfies my physical goal in the same manner reading a book a month is currently challenging my mental/educational goal.

     This also fulfills an objective I came up with when I opened the studio. I wanted to become a pillar of education for personal trainers. I’m happy & proud to announce that I will be taking the course alongside 3 of my team members. I think this may the biggest highlight. I’ve successfully conquered physical challenges before, but this feeds my hunger to be a mentor for other trainers. When I entered the personal training ranks early on I was not aware how challenging it could be furthering your training knowledge. I wish at that point, I had guidance on how to invest my educational dollars. The cost of these workshop/seminars/certifications can be in the thousands. Depending on where you live, you may have to travel which can add expenses like airfare and lodging. Finally, the time off from work. For most trainers, you don’t get paid when you’re not working. Add all of these factors up and it shouldn’t come as any surprise that less than 10% of the personal training industry participates in events like this. Along with hosting the event, I’m paying for half of the certification fee for each of my team members. The way I see it, investing in education is a way of investing in yourself. That’s consistent in every industry. I wanted to teach them that lesson early in their careers. If possible, I want to plant a thirst to always want to learn. That’s a lesson that I wish I learned earlier in my career. It’s been crucial in my growth as a personal trainer & as a professional the last 15 years. Another way I view it is that by investing in my team, I’m investing in the studio. Many studio owners say they want the most knowledgeable staff, but do nothing to support that statement.

     There are birthday rituals all over the world. In Mexico they have the Birthday Piñata. The birthday piñata is filled with candy. Grab a blindfold and a broomstick, and let the celebration begin. I don’t know about you, but I certainly would trade my birthday cake for a piñata any day.  Then there’s this Irish tradition I heard about. I think the Irish had a few when coming up with this one? Tradition maintains that a child is held upside down and is “bumped” on the floor, once for every year of their age plus one for good luck. We’re guessing lawyers would have something to say about this in the United States! Chinese birthday tradition maintains that one should symbolize their longevity by eating a plate of long noodles, slurping them in as far as possible before biting. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll stick to cleaning and pressing an 80lb sandbag overhead 40 times this Saturday. Wish me luck.
See you at the studio.

In Celebration of March Madness

     I was recently reading a great book called The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown by Daniel Coyle. It gives multiple examples of how practice can make you good. Quality practice will make you GREAT! Experts study these talent hotbeds throughout the world to determine that we shouldn’t be surprised by the consistent out pouring of talent from these sources. They discuss that it’s not just practice, but the quality of practice. When they started reviewing practice and what determined a “good” practice they sited one of their monumental studies by two psychologists Ron Gallimore and Roland Tharp. It was when they studied legendary basketball coach John Wooden, nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood”. I thought it was appropriate to mention this as we’re about to start the NCAA Basketball Tournament this Thursday. Rightfully so, Coach Wooden won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including an unprecedented seven in a row. One of the things that they thought was unique was that Coach Wooden was very open with his players that he would treat and coach each one of them differently. You would expect that with a coach that obviously had a winning style of coaching that he may have a very rigid way of teaching his players. He didn’t. He gave them what they each needed to be successful. What he was able to do was quickly assess where they were skill-wise and met them there. If a particular player needed more coaching on being a better team mate, sharing the ball more, he focused on that. If he thought a player was lacking confidence late in a game, which could be costly at the foul line late in a game, he then worked on building his confidence. God made us all unique and Wooden truly embraced that in his coaching style.

      I bring this up because I have gravitated towards making my training business more and more personalized to each person. My goal is that the only thing consistent in my business is that my team & I provide quality based workouts, are always professional, and each member always has a good experience at our studio. The way I teach an exercise is going to differ from person to person. Let’s take a sandbag hang clean. This requires a bit of explosive power from both the hips and upper back to get the bag moving. Let’s say I’m dealing with a stay-at-home mom who is experiencing formal strength training for the 1st time since she played sports in high school. An Olympic lift like a clean is a whole new world for her, let alone using a sandbag. I may start with teaching a deadlift with a sandbag by giving the analogy of picking up a big bag of dog kibble at Costco. Provide a visual, paint a picture less intimidating, and have some fun with it. Right next to her may be a gal who has seen her girlfriend share an exercise video on Facebook featuring the exercise, her motivation to learn the exercise is high, so I’ll jump right in to teaching her a clean with the bag.

      The more I work with people the more I realize it’s about figuring out how each person learns, and how to motivate them. Some need visual cues, some need you to explain how they should feel while doing it. Others may need you to physically get them in the right position. When I was designing the layout of my studio, I was going back & forth whether or not to put up mirrors. I’ve heard some coaches say that by constantly looking at yourself in the mirror as you perform some strengthening exercises can hinder the development of your proprioception (body awareness in space). I may agree with that for some, but some may simply need that mirror at first. After they get the drill you can have them turn away from the mirror. There can’t just be one way to teach. I’ve spoken to school teachers that have told me that by the 2nd month of the school year they will know how they will be able to teach to each student. Yes, I did say to each student, at least that’s the approach the good teachers take.

      I like the Precision Nutrition program. I’m a certified coach with that organization. The research they provide is great, but it’s their coaching model that I like having in my toolbox. They teach that you must collect a thorough assessment of each person nutritionally before you just jump in and give them a nutrition plan. That includes a kitchen assessment, a scale of their appetite awareness, the social support they may or may not get at home and work, and a base of their knowledge of nutrition. Not everyone should use a Paleo diet. Even if Kim Kardasian used it to drop the babyfat, it matters. I say that tongue in cheek, because I have had someone tell me that. What works for some may not work for others. That goes for teaching, motivating, and nutrition. So next time you try something new in your fitness plan and don’t get the results you were expecting, don’t get discouraged. Maybe it wasn’t the right plan for you. Keep trying until you get the right recipe. Isn’t that half the fun anyway? Remember practice will make you better, and good practice will make you great.

See you at the studio.


J & D Fitness
4180 South Fort Apache Rd,
Las Vegas, NV 89147