Why Doing Planks Will Help You Touch Your Toes

     Have you ever had a book that you re-read and it takes on a deeper meaning the second time? Then you re-read it once more and it takes on a different meaning yet again. I have a few books like this in my bookcase, but the one I want to discuss today is Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Meyers. I have owned this book for 8 years. Recently, I started experimenting with a series of mobility drills and the entire concept has its roots in this book. I’ve mentioned before that in fitness, new gadgets and fitness toys are created monthly, but new concepts arise infrequently. What I’ve come to appreciate are a few pioneers who take an established concept and go a mile deep in its understanding. Improving mobility by creating tension and anchoring using sticks that flex is one of those examples. The sticks I’m referencing are the sticks created by the team at Stick Mobility ( guys figured out that by positioning your body in various lengthened positions and using sticks to create tension you could improve someone’s range of motion and hence their mobility. The key is that those positions are fascia lines (superficial back, superficial front, lateral, spiral, etc.). 




     People enter our studio daily looking to drop body-fat & increase muscle mass. Rarely do we get people looking to improve mobility. That’s always an after-thought. “Oh yeah, I need better flexibility, too”. What I’ve learned and what Mr. Meyers has shown us is that if we can improve someone’s movement by following what he has coined “Anatomy Trains”, we will be able to increase stability (strength) throughout their body. I first purchased Anatomy Trains a few years back when I wanted to get a better understanding of myofascia & tissue work. Foam rolling was all the rave and I wanted to understand how a foam roller or “Poor man’s massage therapist” could improve someone’s quality of movement. I would soon learn that if I can help you move better, I can make you stronger. If I can make you stronger, you can move a load with less risk of injury. Then if I can have you move that load with a specific level of intensity (heart rate, neurological demand), I can then produce a metabolic effect that will utilize body-fat as a fuel source more efficiently, hence high intensity interval training (HIIT). My point is that to look leaner, you need to move better first. Here’s a video of me going through a quick warm-up flow using the Mobility Sticks before a workout.


     This brings me to a 2nd concept that I learned years ago, but truly didn’t grasp until recently. I’ve previously mentioned that we use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) at the studio to assess the quality of someone’s movement prior to putting them through a workout. I believe it’s negligent for me to put someone’s body under load without confirming what their quality of movement is first. In the FMS, the 5th screen is the active straight leg raise (ASLR). In this screen, you are checking someone’s hamstring mobility. This is critical to know before you have someone either dead-lift or swing a kettlebell, two of my favorite exercises. Gray Cook, creator of the FMS, has discussed how you should check someone’s toe touch prior to the ASLR to determine if they may have a tissue (fascia, scar tissue, muscle) restriction or a motor control problem. The reason for the toe touch is to see if your body can create trunk (core) stiffness as your hamstrings lengthen allowing you to touch your toes. If your core is weak, your body can create stiffness in other areas, such as the hamstrings, as compensation. It’s a way your body puts the brakes on to protect itself from injury. This is why I frequently observe people improve mobility in their hamstrings by becoming stronger in their plank position. 


    I know this may be getting in the weeds a bit, but what I believe is revolutionary about the Mobility Sticks and their system is that they allow you to create tension by either pressing them into the ground and or flexing them as your work through specific positions and postures. This ignites a neuro-drive in your body which can activate inhibited or shortened muscles. It’s a way to hit re-set for your body in certain positions and movement patterns. Bottom line, you will move better. 




     This is another example of a new fitness tool (Mobility Sticks) that can help make big improvements based upon concepts (fascia and motor control) that have been around for a while. I guess I need to visit this section of my bookcase more often. 

See you at the studio.

I’ve Centered My Business Around Training 1 Person


     A long time ago, I realized you can’t please everyone. This can have its challenges at times, especially when you have new people walking through your door every day. I can help a lot of people, but every once in a while, I must explain to someone that our training studio isn’t a good fit for them. I learned that trying to accommodate every population and fitness goal will run both you & your staff ragged. It also effects how you train the people you strive to work with. I’ve done my best to work well with a specific niche due to this. 

     There is an old business exercise that centers around you creating the ideal program. To create the program, you must create this factitious client. In this exercise, my client is a 41 years old woman who wants to lose 20lbs. She has never been a member of a gym, and outside of trying a few workouts at home she got from a fitness magazine, she has never attempted much. On a scale from 1 to 10, her nutrition is a 6. She knows it’s lacking something, but just doesn’t know what. She’s intimidated to go to the local “Big box” gym in her neighborhood. She has eliminated the idea of beach vacations with her family as an option because the thought of being in a bathing suit for a week makes her cringe. She wished she could find someone at work to go with her to the gym, but none of her fellow employees exercise consistently. She feels stuck, frustrated, and doesn’t know where to start.  This is who I centered my whole business around. 

     When creating programs for kids, you have a lot of wiggle room for error. You can do things incorrectly and the kids probably won’t experience any problems. They won’t see positive results either. When dealing with adults over 35, you must be more precise. The level of precision with your programming jumps for every 10 years of age. If I miss an assessment with someone 21 years old, and have them lift something they shouldn’t, they wake up the next day complaining they slept funny. If I miss an assessment with someone who is 51, and they lift something they shouldn’t, they’ll miss work the next day because they can’t get out of bed. I treat assessments and initial consultations very seriously because workouts should make you better, not worse.

     I grew up in gyms, so I always felt comfortable in them. I remember going to my local rec center to lift at the ripe age of fifteen. I initially took my level of comfort in gyms for granted until one of my female 60-year old clients told me 10 years ago, “Doug, I feel very safe with you here”. Safe? It took me a while to grasp the fear of getting hurt and the larger fear of looking stupid that people experience. Getting someone to feel comfortable should be the 1st step for any coach. I have lectured to fellow trainers at clinics that you can be very competent on the subject matter, but if they can’t hear you over their anxiety, it falls on deaf shoulders. 

     My wife, son and I recently took a cooking class at William & Sonoma. Prior to cooking, the instructor taught us some basic knife skills. I have struggled in the past chopping, dicing and mincing. Not anymore. What I quickly realized something very simple for one person, can be very frustrating for another. I used to destroy avocados getting the pit out. I’m not embarrassed to admit this. Whoever knew putting a knife in the middle of the pit then turning it leaves you a perfectly looking avocado. The same could be said about watching someone foam roll. My point is that going to someone skilled can help avoid a lot of pain and suffering, and mashed avocados. 

     NFL Hall of Fame player, Deion Sanders, had a famous quote he said years ago. “Look good, feel good. Feel good, play good”. I couldn’t agree more. Looking good is judgmental to the eye of the beholder. The eye which we judge ourselves with can be very harsh. One of my biggest joys is helping people to like what they see in the mirror. Giving someone the tools to improve their appearance is invaluable. Watching these transformations has become part of my daily life and it motivates me to help more people. I’ve trained my team, so I could spread my reach. I guess the point of my story is that by attempting to help 1 single person, I’ve been able to affect the lives of many. 

 See you at the studio.

The Fitness Industry Is Led by People Out of Shape

     In March, I’ll travel to San Diego to walk the floor of the largest fitness trade show in the US- The International Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association trade show or IHRSA, as its commonly called. Every aspect of running a health club, gym, or studio will have a presence at this event. I look for trends and to see the direction the fitness world is currently moving towards. It was at this show a few years back that I saw a clone of my studio. When I opened J & D Fitness Personal Training 2 ½ years ago, I envisioned a semi-private personal training studio that had a focus on coaching movement, not using machines. I selected the TRX suspension system, kettlebells and the Ultimate Sandbag as my mainstays. It was from my personal experiences as a trainer that I understood the vastness of exercises I could perform with just these 3 tools. If you’ve never visited my gym before we have a rig in the center of the floor with the TRX straps anchored with sandbags and kettlebells stored on either side as bookends. 




A simple but very effective layout. You can imagine my amazement when I saw a reputable company featuring a floor plan similar to mine years after I opened my studio. The point I’m trying to make is that it was my years of experience on various gym floors working with different body types that allowed me to determine what I wanted. Now what if I told you that many of the larger gym chains & organizations are led by people with very little background in fitness. Many have never coached or trained a single person. Most have never administered a goal session with someone. If you asked them how to help someone improve their overall fitness level, they could provide you a topical answer- 3-4 days of resistance training supplemented with cardiovascular training and a healthy diet. That sounds more like a mission statement, not a strategy. In their defense, that is the norm in many businesses. I recently heard a statement that sums it up perfectly- It’s a Myth that industries are led by experts. Dr. Stuart McGill, Gray Cook, and Gary Gray are some of the top minds in fitness, movement, and strength and conditioning. I’m going to guess you have never heard of them before. Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton University with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science and he currently runs one of the largest retail giants- Amazon. Brian Chesky, one of the co-founders of Airbnb, had no prior experience in hospitality before launching the accommodations leader. Maybe now you can understand why I tell people to ignore most of the programs offered in some of the big box gyms.

     The focus in many of the large big box chains is architecture, hard cost, and liability, not program design. I recently had a conversation with one of my members. He was a bit frustrated that the program he was doing at one of these large gyms was not only incomplete, but actually put him at risk of injury. His question to me was “how could a place that cost over $50 million to build allow something like this to happen.” My answer is that they are in the business of selling memberships, not changing people’s lives. There are many variables that are involved in creating a program for someone. You need to assess them. You need to find out what they want to achieve and determine if their goals are in fact realistic. You also need to design a program that caters to their specific needs. I have a saying that there is no such thing as a “bad” exercise. There are exercises that some people shouldn’t do. 

     I know I’m starting to sound like Mr. Anti-establishment, and truly I’m not. I have friends and contemporaries that are good coaches and work for organizations such as Equinox. Don’t take my rant as “all large gyms are bad”. If I can make one point, it’s that you shouldn’t assume a coach or trainer is qualified because they work at a busy facility. It’s the coach, not the facility that will determine whether you get to where you want to go.

He Makes Sausages, I Demo Lunges, It’s the Same Thing.


     Lately I’ve cut the amount of time I spend on social media to a minimum. I think it has become a platform for people to shout their political perspective and demean others that don’t agree with their viewpoint. I’ve chosen to abstain from making political comments. I do use it as a platform to share my knowledge and information on fitness. It’s enabled me the ability to help others outside of my physical geographical reach. It’s also connected me with friends from my past. Recently, I conversed with an old friend from junior high school, via Facebook. I had to share with him the multiple parallels we’ve both experienced as we’ve carved out our careers by following our passions. My school friend, Bill, currently owns an Italian eatery named Rocky’s of Savannah, in Georgia. He has put pounds on people with his homemade sausages and sauce, and I’ve worked to take pounds off of people pressing kettlebells and lifting ropes. Our journeys have been almost identical.




     My first job, after school, was working at a Bally’s Total Fitness Center. I was 21, and I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with myself. I got the job because my workout buddy worked for the company. I got the job by accident. My friend asked me to meet him for lunch at his job. I showed up to see he had set up an impromptu interview with his boss.  He introduced me as his friend who reads fitness magazines and books for fun. I was also competing in bodybuilding contests at the time. Based upon my interest and that I looked the role, I was offered a job. To this day, this friend reminds me that I owe him everything for getting me started in fitness. Bill went to work for McDonalds. He was out of college, and needed a job. He always cooked as a kid and grew up in an Italian family where he was helping with “Sunday dinners” at an early age. I still remember him teasing me, because I called tomato sauce- “sauce”. “Doug, it’s called gravy.” Both of our starts were pretty meager, but it gave both of us a start and taught us that there is a business outside of the craft. We both climbed the ladder and became managers in our jobs respectfully. 


     After 3 years of working for Bally’s I soon went out on my own. This is when I thought I knew it all, and preceded to make every mistake I could make. I never did anything unethical, but I lacked compassion and maturity. It’s these errors in my career that have been the driving force behind me as I mentor others and create an intern program at my studio. Billy worked for a few catering businesses, but got fired from each of them. It wasn’t for work ethic or lack of skill, but he had a hard time listening to management and frequently told them how they should be doing their job. Are you starting to see the similarities?


     The next 15 years would provide a lot of ups and downs for both of us. During that time, Bill and I lost contact with one another. I moved across country to Las Vegas from NY, and Bill relocated to Savannah, Georgia. During this period, I learned and gained competency in assessing others, teaching people how to move well, get stronger and how to drop body-fat. My knowledge grew, but my humility grew more. Bill learned how to master Italian cooking in the heart of the south. He even briefly worked for Paula Deen. Southern cooking isn’t his passion, but he realized that there were valuable lessons he could learn from someone who had navigated a successful career in food. It was around this time we re-connected via Facebook. 


     I opened my training studio 2 ½ years ago, fulfilling a lifelong dream. It demands long hours, a lot of work, and as in many small businesses, you’re only as good as your last month. I couldn’t be happier. I realized a few years back, that my true passion is teaching and sharing with others. I realized that it bothered me to see others frustrated because they didn’t know what to do, or because they needed someone to help keep them accountable. It feeds my soul when I receive text messages from people sharing how I’ve helped change their life. There is an old Chinese proverb that sums up teaching and empowering others.


“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”


A few years ago, Bill opened a deli that offers Italian food. You can dine in or take out. His place is small, and he has a small staff. He loves sharing his passion with his team and leads by example. He jokes that when they are jarring his sauce, he’s right up to his elbows in crushed tomatoes, elbow to elbow, with his team. I guess we both are pretty lucky.

Is Spinning Enough?

   As 2017 draws to a close and we push through the holiday season, it’s a good time to reflect and take an audit of your overall fitness program, or lack of. It’s also a time to create new goals for the upcoming year. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART). I’ve used goal setting as an opportunity to take stock of myself and narrow my focus on things I need to improve. Mobility has become a priority the past couple of years. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to value the importance of being injury free. I’m currently creating a mobility program that I plan on using weekly, in conjunction with my strength training, for 2018. 

     I also use this time to question and challenge the norms in my industry. In the business world, they reference this as being a disruptor. I would not classify myself with titans such as Elon Musk of Teslar or Travis Kalanick of Uber, but I do have a tendency to go opposite of the pack in the fitness world. This has served me well. As I write my final blog post of 2017,  I would like you to ponder this question. Is your current exercise regime a complete exercise program or more of a skilled activity? 

     Tennis is a great example of a skilled activity. Playing lots of tennis will improve your ability to play tennis. The required running will improve cardiovascular fitness, but it has minimal impact in regards to improving strength and mobility. The amount of running is also greatly affected by your opponent. I do think it can benefit your power and muscular endurance. It does come with sacrifices and negative side effects, such as over-usage injuries, commonly experienced in the shoulder, elbow and bicep. 




This is not to just pick on tennis, as I view all activities this way. I have a simple formula that I use. Does it improve strength, mobility, cardiovascular conditioning, power and work capacity? 

     Running is another activity that has many benefits along with a few voids. I’ve worked with runners in the past and some of the issues they experience are overuse injuries of the foot and lower leg, posture problems, poor power development and weakness of the core. Before I get the running community in an uproar, I believe running is a superior way to improve lung capacity and muscular endurance in the lower body. It’s just not complete and is high impact leaving joints susceptible to injury. As people start to investigate different exercise programs before the New Year rush, I wanted to give you a couple things you may want to consider. 

     Does your workout improve strength? There isn’t a single population where being strong is a detriment. I typically tell people that as you age, strength training slides on the continuum from benefit to necessity. Some in the senior population experience a drop in quality of life due to the fact they aren’t strong enough to participate in many recreational activities. Strength training does have a beneficial carry over to other recreational activities. Have you ever heard of anyone losing a round of golf or a tennis match because they were too strong?

     Next, you should always want to improve and maintain mobility. I reference mobility, not flexibility, because I want to tie in motor control. Mobility is the foundation for which all activity is built. You want to move well and move often. The negative side effects of sitting has been thoroughly discussed and written about, at nauseam. Having good thoracic (upper back), hip, and ankle mobility are not only fundamental in all sports, they also play a key role in injury prevention. As we age, calcium has a tendency to accumulate in the ankle capsule directly inhibiting proper movement of that joint. At my studio, we mix in some minor ankle mobility drills with the objective to help members with their squats. Everything starts from the ground up. When mobility starts to diminish in the ankle, you can observe a loss in dorsi-flexion (pulling the toe up towards the shin). A healthy range of motion is 20-30 degrees of ankle flexion. I attribute the common senor shuffle, where people shuffle their feet instead of driving off the big toe as they walk. This lack of mobility is the cause of many spill and falls. 

     Spinning is last example of a skilled activity. This activity was popularized by the Manhattan based Soul Cycle Studios, which offer group spin classes and the new Peleton cycle which allows you to take a cycle class in the privacy of your home. You don’t have to look far for spinning studios, as they are popping up everywhere. It has become the new “in vogue” source of exercise. Before you jump on the bandwagon, please take a moment to consider if it improves power output, upper body strength and mobility.




I’ll leave you with this thought. Lance Armstrong had a strength and conditioning program he did off the bike to compliment his riding. If riding wasn’t a complete program for Lance, then you may want to consider adding a few planks and rows in your own program. 

     My objective of this article wasn’t to knock every activity outside of strength training and simply pick them apart. Something that can’t be understated is the amount of fun that these activities provide. No matter what you choose to do, it should be fun. In today’s modern world, where people are accused of sitting to death, finding an activity you enjoy and will consistently do should be the top priority. I don’t want my rant to hinder someone from increasing their overall activity. As an ambassador of fitness, my 1st responsibility is to get people to move and move well. Pick an activity and ponder if it is enough or should strength training be added. Happy holidays and I’ll see you in 2018.

Did You Get Your Workout on Pinterest?

  I want to touch on one of the most important aspects of working with a trainer. It rarely gets discussed and most gyms are happy that prospective members don’t ask about it. It’s exercise program design. There should be some type of plan with your workout. It doesn’t have to be ultra detailed or intricate, but nonetheless, it should exist. Here’s an analogy I frequently use. Do you get in your car and just drive, or do you have a destination? There are multiple ways to get to a location, but you should have some type of route planned. This leads me to why we do an assessment on everyone that starts a program at the studio, whether private or in a small group. An assessment allows us to know our starting point. Think about when you use Google Maps; the 1st question you must answer is ‘Where are you starting from?”

     The holidays are here and during this time I will typically have family and friends share their current exercise routines with me. After they explain their workout, the 1st question I ask usually is, “Do you like it?” Sometimes I’m asked my opinion and I’ll usually answer that question with a question. “Is it working?” This is where I sometimes get funny looks. If your workout claims to make you stronger, “Are you getting stronger?” If it promised to help drop body-fat, “Are you leaner?” That’s not a trick question. To be fair, it is possible to be on a program to lose body-fat and not lose a pound for 3 months. I’ve seen this before, even under the guidance of a good program.

     When you create a program for someone, there should always be a reason for everything you do. If you can’t explain why you’re doing it, you shouldn’t be doing it. When I mentor young trainers, I always tell them that because it makes you sweat or it’s hard are NOT appropriate answers. It’s a shame, but those criteria are largely what many people look for. I once had a woman tell me that I should crank the heat at the studio above 85 degrees because people will sweat and that’s good. This came from a smart person. 


It just shows me the misconceptions that exist out there with exercise. I’m going to explain how you put together a solid program for fat loss & strength.

     I always start with an assessment because I need to see if someone can squat, lunge, hinge (think deadlift), lift their arm overhead, stand on a single leg (walking) and brace their trunk (plank) without pain. Pain is a red flag and can notify us if we need to address something before we proceed into a workout program. If pain doesn’t exist, that’s good. I’m also looking to see the quality of the movement. Before you challenge someone with an exercise you have to make sure they can accomplish that movement pattern. If they can’t perform a lunge, they may need a couple months of lunges performed with assistance, before we progress to bodyweight lunges and eventually add load to that exercise. We may need to substitute an exercise for lunges entirely. During this building phase, I will also limit their reps. You want to avoid going to failure during this period, because your objective is for them to perform reps with perfect form before you progress to that next level. This process is for all exercises. Move well, show me perfect reps, and then we can push intensity. That may sound like common sense, but that’s not where many people start. As a coach I have to explain to people that we must build a solid foundation first. I love kettlebell swings, but if you can’t perform a toe touch, you have no business trying a kettlebell swing. It does take trust on behalf of the member, but hopefully as a coach you have explained this process, so they are aware and have realistic expectations. Once you have good movement patterns, it’s all about load and intensity. To create strength, you must use a load that is a stimulant. Your body is a great machine and builds based upon the adaptation process. I have a quote on a poster in one of the studio bathrooms. It reads “If you do what you have always done, you will get the results you have always gotten”. Simply put, to get stronger, you must lift more. More could be 3 lbs., or it could be 30 lbs. 

     After you dial in the appropriate load, you need to address heart rate intensity. I have always used heart rate monitors in my studio because it allows us to be precise. No guess work. Sweating is not the way to determine if a set of an exercise was performed at the appropriate level. I tell people I can sometimes start a light sweat during my warm-up. If I can manipulate the correct heart rate level while pushing a sled, I can guarantee that I’ll get the benefit of a metabolic effect, which is ideal for burning fat. 

     The sad part of the story is that as a society, many of us have gravitated toward Edu-tainment. In the era of YouTube and Facebook, people like to do exercises that look cool. The internet provides an unlimited ability and access for learning, but we want to be entertained also in the process. The right fit isn’t always a top priority for some. Sometimes the best exercises look very boring. Don’t confuse boring for not being challenged. Loaded carries are an awesome full body exercise. They are great for the core and help elevate the heart rate to increase work capacity. Watching someone walk carrying a heavy sandbag may not translate to 100,000 views or likes on YouTube. Standing on a stability ball will. That’s the entertainment part. 

     When creating your next exercise program, ask yourself if you have a starting point. We all start from different points. Do you address movement quality? You don’t want to get injured by compensating. Does it make you stronger? There isn’t a single population that strength is a detriment. Finally, do you push the intensity if your goal is fat loss? How do you know? Answer these questions and you should come out with a well rounded, well-structured program. 

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

See you at the studio.

Don’t Forget About Who You Train

   This Saturday I will be hosting the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Nevada state clinic at the studio. We have 8 speakers (including myself) scheduled to present 50-minute presentations on various strength and conditioning topics. Training the glutes, programing specific to mixed martial arts, and how stem cell therapy has influenced the fitness industry are a few of the hot topics that will be discussed. These events provide professionals in the fitness community the opportunity to maintain their certified professional status, acquire continuing education credits and remain current in the industry. Coaches typically leave events like this inspired, motivated and ready to apply some of the concepts on Monday. There in lies the problem. 

     Gray Cook is an internationally recognized physical therapist and one of the leading minds in the strength & conditioning field. He is one of the co-founders of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) which has become the gold standard assessment tool used by fitness professionals. Similar to having your blood pressure, temperature, and weight checked when seeing your physician, the screen allows a trainer to see how well someone moves before designing an exercise program for them. Gray recently did a talk for the employees of Google that was revolutionary. It was ground breaking because he was in front of a room of non-trainers and fitness practitioners. This audience didn’t possess an in-depth understanding of exercise. He couldn’t take many of the assumptions he usually can when presenting. He was forced to speak in simple terms to convey his point of how diagnosing someone’s movement quality is important when creating an exercise program. I watched the presentation online because I feel there’s a lot I can learn from the way he discussed his subject matter.

     A big problem in the fitness industry is after a trainer attends an event, they return to their clientele on Monday and proceed to “throw up” everything they learned over the weekend in a single session. I’ve attended events where legends of the fitness arena such as Pavel Tsatsouline, Charles Poliquin and Gray are featured. One of the key points that gets lost in translation is that these presenters are in front of an audience highly motivated to hear what they have to say as they listen, sitting on the edge of their seats. The speakers come from a high level of credibility, and nothing they say is questioned. For a trainer this is the equivalent to seeing Steve Jobs launch a new product at a Mac event years ago.

     The average trainer needs to understand that when they are speaking to Mary the school teacher on Monday they will have to first earn her trust, and then understand that she has a limited knowledge of exercise. They will need to take the necessary time to help Mary feel safe and comfortable. In her eyes, you’re not a superstar, just someone who may be able to help her. The trainer shouldn’t be offended when Mary ask, “Why am I doing this?” Mary is outcome goal oriented. She wants to lose 20lbs. and look attractive to her husband. The kettlebell swing may be apart of the process to get her there. As a trainer you should direct her towards embracing the process. Coming to you 3 days a week is the process. Pushing a weighted sled along the turf is part of the process. The key is to not lose Mary along the way. Keep her focused, provide emotional support when needed, and create a program catered to her needs. No matter how eloquent you put it, she could care less about hearing the benefits of shoulder stability while performing the Turkish Get up. She has a dress in her closet she wants to fit into.

     So, my message to my fellow trainers out there is to continue to learn and grow. Listen and read literature from the leaders in our field and then remember who is standing in front of you on Monday morning.

I Can’t Do the Workout for You

     This Friday I get the opportunity to travel to Anaheim, California for the day to present at the National Personal Trainer Conference, hosted by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. My topic title is “Successful Strategies of Running a Personal Training Studio”. It was a year ago that I was approached by a fellow speaker who thought I would be a good fit for speaking at events. I have spent many years being an attendee at events and now I get to be one of the people in the front of the room. One of the reasons I never considered speaking about many of the strategies I use at the studio, is because I thought many of them were common practice. After a few conversations with a few gym owners, I realized I was wrong. 

     My talk is broken up into 5 sections. They are marketing, finances, operations, sales and employee development. I enjoy employee development the most and have a fairly good understanding of marketing. The objective of marketing in the fitness world is to get people results and then share that story. Marketing expert Seth Godin (author of The Purple Cow, The Dip, Lynchpin and many other best sellers) has a great way of defining marketing. When he was asked to define marketing in an interview a few years back, his response was 

“Advertising is a price you pay for an undifferentiated product for the masses. Marketing is the way you avoid paying that price. You avoid paying that price by designing a product worth talking about.”

There lies the challenge for both the trainer and the client. Many trainers take the approach that it’s about Facebook ads of woman in bikinis and guys flexing a six-pack. I disagree with this approach. On the other hand clients sometime feel it’s about the price, not the workout or environment. I have a story about one of my female members who fought with her weight her entire life. She’s 50 years old and has tennis elbow. Her doctor told her she was 50lbs. overweight. She knew she needed to lose weight. More important to her is that she wanted to feel better. She went to a wedding last year and didn’t like how she looked. She was depressed and didn’t enjoy going to social events anymore. She found my studio searching through Google and decided to stop by. She instantly felt welcomed. She walked in during a workout that had 4 people working out. They looked like “normal” people to her. If she had to guess their ages, they were between 35-60 years old. She met with a coach who asked her a series of questions. He then mapped out a plan of her working out 3 days a week for the next 3 months. They scheduled a time to discuss nutrition. He explained that to lose 25 pounds, he would need her to commit for a minimum of three months. He answered all of her questions and scheduled her for an assessment. She completed her first week of workouts feeling challenged and very accomplished. She made new friends at the studio. She experienced tough workouts and received emotional support from the coaches. She learned how to push herself more than she ever thought possible. She now feels more confident and makes jokes about how much she sweats. One year and 35 pounds later she tells everyone that she has never felt better. She has decided to schedule a vacation with her new boyfriend and show off her body on the beach.

     She did the work. We gave her guidance. Telling her story is how I market. Changing her life is how I grow my business. Making a difference in someone’s life is how I define success. The cool thing is that I have stories like this walking all throughout my studio. I have a wall of testimonials right next to the entrance. I don’t have before and after pictures. I do have a wall of success stories and that’s more important to me. Part of my presentation this Friday is to motivate other gyms and studio owners to strive to do the same. 

See you at the studio.

P.S. If you need help reaching your fitness goal, send me an email at so we can schedule a time.

Why We Do HIIT Workouts at the Studio


      Have you ever noticed when things become a buzz topic, people find themselves using terms without truly understanding what they’re talking about? I feel that’s currently happening with high intensity interval training or HIIT. Part of why I write is to simplify many of the fitness topics that either overwhelm or confuse many people. Today’s blog post is my attempt to de-mystify HIIT training. If I start to lose you, please hang in there, and hopefully it will make sense at the end. 

     To understand how we got here, you have to go back to the origin of cardiovascular training. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper institute in Dallas, coined the term aerobics in the late sixties. The scientific definition of aerobic work means in the presence of oxygen. In reference to exercise, it refers to those exercises which demand “large quantities of oxygen for prolonged periods and ultimately force the body to improve those responsible for the delivery of oxygen to the muscles,” as stated by Dr. Cooper. There are many benefits in training the body aerobically, or cardiovascularly. One of the main advantages is the ability of the body to improve its heart endurance. As time progresses with training, the heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient in pumping blood to the working muscles. This is where steady state training became popular.

     This is where I may get “a little in the weeds”, but I’ll do my best to keep it simple. When you begin an activity, the initial energy (up to 10 seconds) is provided by ATP/PCr (adenosine triphosphate phosphocreatine). This energy is stored in a cell and doesn’t require oxygen to burn (imagine 3-5 jumps as high as you can). If you continue to exercise for longer than 10 seconds, up to 90 seconds, your body will start to use the glycolytic energy system. This is when it will start to use stored muscle glycogen as fuel. This takes longer to do for the body and isn’t readily available (think of kettlebell swings for 1 minute). If you continue to exercise for longer than 90 seconds, your body will start to use the oxidative phosphorylative pathway. This fuel takes the longest for the body to deliver and is why intensity levels will start to drop off. Have you ever heard the term “you can’t sprint a marathon”? It’s in this process that the body will start to convert stored fat as a fuel source. That’s why the goal in the past was to see how long you can go. The longer you go, the more fat you could potentially burn, was the mindset. The confusing part is how much fat is converted. This process is very complex for the body and the body converts fat at a slow rate. The amount of fat used has widely been overstated. 

     Let’s fast forward 30 years to 1996 when Japanese scientist, Dr. Izumi Tabata, completed this now legendary study on high intensity interval training or HIIT. Tabata and his colleagues conducted a study that compared moderate-intensity continuous training (walking on a treadmill) at 70% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) for 60 minutes, with HIIT conducted at 170% of VO2max. The HIIT workout consisted of eight, 20-second all-out exercise bouts, followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 4 minutes of exercise. These bouts were performed on an exercise bike. So to keep this simple, picture one group walking at a brisk pace on a treadmill for an hour, and another group performing these all-out 20 second sprints with a 10 second rest interval on a bike for 4 minutes. The study found that HIIT improved aerobic capacity to a similar degree as moderate-intensity continuous training, but also resulted in a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity. Those findings led to the development of a wide variety of HIIT programs. The HIIT group experienced better improvement cardiovascular and yielded a greater lose in fat (4 minutes compared to 60 minutes). Hence, the phenomenon of HIIT training began. 

     HIIT produced a bigger decrease in fat mass in less time. It was later determined that this was due to EPOC, or Excess post oxygen consumption. This has frequently been referred to as “the afterburn”. 

      As stated in Wikipedia:   “In recovery, oxygen (EPOC) is used in the processes that restore the body to a resting state and adapt it to the exercise just performed. These include: hormone balancing, replenishment of fuel stores, cellular repair, innervation and anabolism. Post-exercise oxygen consumption replenishes the phosphagen system. New ATP is synthesized and some of this ATP donates phosphate groups to creatine until ATP and creatine levels are back to resting state levels again. Another use of EPOC is to fuel the body’s increased metabolism from the increase in body temperature which occurs during exercise.” 

“EPOC is accompanied by an elevated consumption of fuel. In response to exercise, fat stores are broken down and free fatty acids (FFA) are released into the blood stream. In recovery, the direct oxidation of free fatty acids as fuel and the energy consuming re-conversion of FFAs back into fat stores both take place.”

     I utilize the HIIT protocol in our studio for our Torch & DVRT workouts. We slightly modify the heart rate targets because we want to emphasize strength exercises which require some skill. Our new workout, Metabolic Disruption, is more of a true Tabata workout using less skill type movements which will allow more all out effort, without risk of injury. 

     That’s what the research tells us. Hopefully this was able to clarify what a HIIT workout is, how your body responds to them, and why they are beneficial.


     I have been recently reading and researching articles about mindfulness. Mindfulness and meditation have experienced a recent surge in popularity. Part of this phenomenon is that we live in an instant access, always on the move MTV era. We have information readily available to us, via our smart phones & tablets, 24 hours a day. We are always plugged in, hence we become distracted by what just happened two minutes ago. One of the things I enjoy is that when I’m training someone they have no choice but to concentrate on what they’re doing. The workouts in my studio aren’t centered on sitting on a machine where you can have a conversation on your phone while you exercise. You have to be in the moment. Squatting while bear-hugging a sandbag or pushing a sled along the turf eliminates that dilemma. To help people get to that flow state, where they feel present and connected, they need to enjoy what they’re doing. Part of why people tune out is because they don’t like what they’re doing. 

     Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who just complains, glass half empty type of person, and you find yourself mentally fading away from the conversation. I know personally, when at the movies, if I’m not engaged in the first 15-20 minutes, chalk up my $20 bucks for admission as a rental fee for taking an hour nap in the theatre recliner. What really brought this to my attention was when I recently had a conversation with a client of mine. I asked him “How many people do you think enjoy what they do for a living?” He responded, “less than 10%.” My instant reaction is that he’s way off. No way! Google, Siri here I come. After a little investigation I was able to discover that he wasn’t too far off. Based upon a Gallup poll taken in 2013 and later printed in Forbes magazine, only 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs. “Engaged by their jobs” means they feel a sense of passion for their work, a deep connection to their employer and they spend their days driving innovation and moving their company forward.

      The vast majority, some 63%, are “not engaged,” meaning they are unhappy but not drastically so. In short, they’re checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.

A full 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning they pretty much hate their jobs. They act out and undermine what their coworkers accomplish. Wow. 

     This is exactly what has happened with exercise for so many people. Many hate or are disengaged with exercise because they don’t like it. I blame my industry on poor marketing that has led people to believe that if you don’t look like a fitness model you should give up. I’ve written before about the poor representation of the fitness industry in the media. We all know that mantra, “No pain, No gain”. 

3-myth-about-no-pain-no-gain 2

     Outside of the youth with blessed metabolisms and those with gifted genetics (you know the ones who don’t exercise and look great) I understand why people check out emotionally. Just like the job they hate. People work because they need money to survive in our society. They exercise because research has proven all of the positive health benefits. What if you found a workout you enjoyed just like finding a job you’re passionate about? Wouldn’t that be special? Can’t exercise be fun?  Can you be challenged and have fun at the same time? I know you can, because I see it every day. 

     One of the jobs as a coach is to know when you have to push people. More important is to know how much to push. A push can mean motivating someone to hold a plank an extra 7 seconds, completing a 30 second set. That may not sound like much, but it’s huge when they could only hold it for 15 seconds prior. The key is to push an extra 5-10% routinely. Too frequently you hear of people going from a 10 second hold for 3 sets to 5 sets of 45 seconds. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume their form may have been compromised. I compare it to being exposed to the sun. Exposing yourself to 10 minutes of sunshine can give you a slight tan and a healthy dose of Vitamin D, 2 hours can produce a bad burn. Some people experience adrenal fatigue because they have been misinformed. They believe every workout has to be “all out”. I have a sign I post in the studio about every 5 weeks. It’s green and reads “Throttle Back”. I use the week to back off intensity with everyone to avoid burn-out. It’s a great time to work on mobility drills or introduce a new exercise which will require some extra coaching time which will provide more rest. 

     The bottom line is find a place where you enjoy your workouts and the people around you. I guarantee it will make a big difference. Learn to be in the moment by enjoying what you do. If you don’t believe me, just ask my members. 

See you at the studio. 

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