Need best practices from Fitness Pros? [Interview, Tips, + More]
With the holiday season in full swing, hopefully, we all have been enjoying lots of good food, good music, and a good time of sharing and caring with family and friends and all of our loved ones. In many cultures and customs, these holy days are noted for the exchanging of gifts and the setting of goals for the coming year.
And for many of us, one (or more) of those goals we set is health-related. With a new year on the horizon, it is fitting to make fitness a priority. And with these helpful tips from the fitness professionals of Exercise.com, you can make sure that this year is the year that you not only set some exercise goals but that you also achieve and exceed them.
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Describe your philosophy and methodology of training in one word.
At MFF, we broadly often talk about “Ridiculous Humans. Serious Fitness.” Which for us means to have fun, be irreverent, but be very good at the actual fitness piece. Another thing we often say is: “Have fun, don’t get hurt,” which is to say that the first rule is: do not hurt others, do not hurt yourself, know enough about the body to understand what is injurious to joint function… So I tend to be pretty agnostic about what people do. I certainly have my perspectives about things that are going to be more efficacious, but, ultimately, for me, it’s really, “Find stuff you like and don’t hurt yourself.”
I feel like the first word that comes to me is overused, but empowerment, is empowering people. I just think any opportunity to grow somebody and grow their knowledge, grow their strengths, grow their mental mindset and their mental strength and physical strength. So I would say empowering them, achieving the best version of themselves is something that I often say. So I think the word that captures that is empowering.
I would say either fun or safe, and both for the same reason. If people aren’t enjoying what they’re doing, and they’re not getting better at it, then they’re not going to keep it up.
I’m going to cheat and use two words… Critical thinking… I think that understanding how to look at things, question things, analyze things, and to critically assess things is just one of the best gifts that you can give yourself.
One word’s a tough one, man. I would say progression. That’s the universal underlying thing no matter what you’re training for, no matter what the particular physical goals not really training if you don’t have some sort of plan of progression. That’s also the only way to sort of gauge is the training successful. Is it actually leading to what the goal is? Is there a progression over time? That’s the principle that guides everything I conduct and train.
That’s a great question. Let’s see. Hmm. In one word, one sentence. I would go with what I kind of use now. I think a lot of my programs, I name them, I use “Inspire. Motivate. Empower. Elevate.” Those would be the four—I don’t know if you want to call them methodologies… First of all, inspiration has to come from both of us. Motivation has to come from you and I have to be able to get you motivated. Empower: I got you motivated enough, now you’re able to go teach somebody else. So you’re showing other people exercises. And then elevating your lifestyle, elevating your game, elevating your performance. That’s my world and my methodology right there.
Strategic. I think you have to be strategic with it. You can’t just follow a certain set of rules. You have to follow a certain set of behaviors.
Efficient. To elaborate on that, now I believe that creating an efficient mover, especially at a young age—we train a lot of athletes that are eight, nine years old—and really if we can get them to do the essential movement patterns, your hinge, your squats, push, pull, all the basics at that age, then, whenever they get to middle school or junior high where they start manipulating weights and they start using things at school, we are really ahead of the , they’re able to progress and really grasp onto the training concepts a lot better. And so, if we can create an efficient mover, I believe at a young age, then we can create lifelong efficient movers and efficient athletes as well.
I think I always, whenever I speak, I talk about that I’m a principle-based strength coach instead of a philosophy-based strength coach. I would say principled is probably my one in my career, I had grown up kind of, I grew up down the street from a very accomplished weight lifter coach that coached several people to gold medals. I grew up around weight lifting and traditional periodization. When I went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was almost traditional high-intensity training. One set to failure.I saw the results of both and how they both worked. That was a really important part of my process is learning that there are lots of ways to skin a cat. There are lots of ways to train athletes. There’s always a cost-benefit ratio that exists, and you have to evaluate that. You also have different environments and different tools available to you that you have to be able to got to have lots of tools in the toolbox. You got to be able to call upon that. Being principle-based, having a set of principles that guide your training allows you to adapt to different situations.
What is the relationship between strength and conditioning, injury prevention, and rehabilitation? How do you help your clients to be proactive in their training and in their recovery?
Kara Palley: So, I think if you’re starting off with no injuries, and you’re lucky, then you just need to know how to do all the movements properly. You want to make sure you’re doing everything in the right form, and you’re using your muscles the right way, and you’re not using your joints primarily, and you’re doing things in an intelligent way, that you’re not going all out and using weights that are too heavy or too many repetitions or too many classes in a row. If you already have injuries, then it just becomes all the more important too to do things intelligently and not to jump in, but also not to rest too much, also.
Niccole Hendrickson: Yes. So it’s integral to connect all of those because first of all, you can’t get stronger, you can’t get more powerful, you can’t become more dynamic if you aren’t either catering to different injuries or making sure you’re properly warmed up or you have a proper understanding of what your form and technique looks like. Although it’s really catchy and beautiful to talk about the art of strength and conditioning, before you can get strong and before you can condition at a really intense level, you have to make sure that your base is really a well-oiled machine I would say. So I think that functional movement, so I always tell people we’re going to play around with all different equipment, whether it be barbells or kettlebells or all those different things. We’re in push sleds, we’re going to use battle ropes, but you’re going to also have a really solid understanding before we do any of that of how your own body moves. So that’s how we’re going to prevent injury by having an active, by having good body awareness, by connecting your breath and making sure your mindset is connected to those movements… So I think the huge tie in is making sure you’re priming your system and your mental mindset is connected to your physical mindset and you’re willing to do all of the steps leading up to that end result.
Kevin Hollabaugh: For us, it’s a balance. So our high schoolers and middle schoolers, when they come in, everything’s done in a group setting. So they’ll come in, they’ll have their individual workout sheets. We have their correctives or pre-work. We’ll do that before the session starts. Then we’ll warm up together as a group. They’ll go through speed and agility. They’ll come back over. They’ll go through their individual lifts.And then we’ll condition at the end. So it’s finding a balance to—Most of the kids enjoy having the extra correctives and free work at the top because they know it’s helping them. It’s specific to them, once again, so they’re more bought-in versus the mass mentality.It’s not getting too heavy into it is what I found. In a day, [concerning] injury prevention, most kids are just weak, right? Just finding out where they’re weakest and where their movements are leaking energy the most and then helping them by creating a program around that. Versus like some of the kids that come in, they’re fresh off surgery, they’re in like a return-to-play program.
Ally Diamond: Speaking from an Orangetheory standpoint, we recommend—it’s kind of your multivitamin if you will; it is what our owner actually calls it—that you need three to four times a week. And the recovery days in between are, I mean, at least by me, very encouraged.I think it’s really important that you allow yourself recovery time so that you’re coming in for your next training session ready to give it your all. I don’t want them to be coming in and dragging and feeling exhausted, because again, I think that overtraining can lead to injury.
How do you incorporate nutrition as part of your training with clients?
Jayme Limbaugh: So, I have a slow and steady approach. I think that’s been the greatest gift of having a second career built on the first one, is that I’ve already worked with people and behavior change and that it’s long-term sustainability.Nowadays, we want things now. We’re not willing to wait. We want to lose five pounds tomorrow. So really just going slow and steady and being like, “No, we’re just going to change two things over the next four weeks. Once those are accomplished, we’ll build on them and build on them and build on them.”Because my biggest thing is that your nutrition needs to be something today that will be the same five years from now. You’ll have some changes because we all age and have different nutritional needs, but the lifestyle, the behavior habits, they need to be built slow and steady.
Matt Grimm: Well, we will meet with everyone individually. Since we’re a smaller gym, we will meet with each person individually, go over what their kind of low hanging fruit is. It could be soft drinks, it could be something really simple. Start working on them with that, and that’s where we approach it from, but we will hit it, like I said, when somebody first walks in, you’ll normally address it while they’re foam rolling…I’ve done the plans in the past, and for the clients I have, it just doesn’t work. They just look at me like I’m crazy, and I’m telling them they should be prepping lean proteins and chicken, and fish. And they’re like, “When am I going to do this? I have no time to do this.”It’s just addressing it and being very consistent… but don’t overload them because then it just kind of becomes gibberish.
Melissa Morris: I’m going to go back to the nutrition because I think there’s so much information out there that’s really not true or not completely true. You know, you can Google things and find a wealth of information, but whether it’s based on science and [sound] research is always another question.I think everybody should take a basic nutrition class: just learning what your plate should look like, learning how to calculate calories, learning what nutrition does for you. I think there’s so much personally that you can benefit from [taking such a class].I have my students do an activity where they actually track four days of their intake and they put it into a diet analysis software like MyFitnessPal. And they get kind of a comparison of what they should be eating versus what they are eating. It’s really eye-opening when you do that.
Andy Luukkonen: Well, for us, it really depends on the clients. We’ve run a lot of challenges in the past where we’ve provided them with complete meal plans, and with others, it comes with just talking with them and reaching their goals and how much effort they want to put into it.One of the things we always do discuss is water consumption. So it really depends on the clients. As far as our practice goes, or our scope of practice, we’re not nutritionists, we’re not dietitians, so we have to be careful about how we go about that.But, when it comes to specifics on how it’s going to affect the strength training, what they’re missing, and then we can offer them advice that way.
Dustin Hassard: It is an absolute necessity. I mean, it really is. You’ve heard the whole 80/20. Fitness is 80% nutrition, 20% exercise. It seems to hold true, and the way I translate it to people when they hear that quote is, if you’re eating three meals a day as a standard, that’s 21 meals a week.Let’s say you work out four times a week, the score is now 21 to four. So, even if you have four of the most amazing workouts, you still have 21 meals that are going to either contribute or take away from those workouts. So, it is absolutely a necessity and I think everyone knows that too, but we tend to ignore it.I ignored it significantly because I just, no matter what I did, I just looked the same. Same physique for the most part. You could probably nitpick here and there, but I was just the slender guy and that’s just the way it was no matter what I ate. Whether I was eating clean or just eating complete garbage.
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How do you motivate your clients? How do you motivate yourself?
Josh Bowen: I accidentally got myself into a graduate-level sport psychology class, and the entire class was about something called emotional intelligence. I had absolutely no idea what this was, but the class basically was teaching you how to read people’s emotions and thus their behavior patterns, it would come after that. I think that was probably the most impactful class that I’ve ever taken in my life because, as a trainer and dealing with people one-on-one, you have to be able to read their emotions, the tone of their voice, in order to be able to help them.And then through that, there was also this concept that they taught us called motivational interviewing. I was able to be able to redirect and reframe people’s mindsets in order to help them motivate themselves, not me motivate them, but they get motivated or inspired or whatever, to accomplish whatever goal that it may be.
Calvin Richard: Part of it is, I think, really working on creating leaders to become leaders, to teach other leaders. So I want to bring new leadership roles out of that, not my clients. I tell them, I unapologetically want you to reach your family and neighbors and clients that I’m never going to see. And I don’t want you to just to go through the motions of this. I want you to ask questions and be educated and understand what you’re doing.You’re kind of my Fitvangelist. I need you to be able to go and share the message of wellness and health and strength and tell that to other folks. So yeah, part of it is really, being a leader myself and just really tried to get other leaders to do the same. That’s the message, to pass the torch on.
Pauline Juhle: That word motivation sometimes gets me, because I don’t know that I truly believe in motivation. Like, I don’t wake up every day and go, “I’m so motivated to go work out.” Some days I don’t want to. So I, for myself, am just like, “Do it.” Just do five minutes, 10 minutes.If you still have no interest in working out today, then your body’s telling you something and you need to stop, and I’ll let myself have a rest day. But I do that for myself because I’ve been working out for so many years that I kind of know myself and what’s going to work and what isn’t.So to motivate my clients, I really talk to them about consistency and how important that is to reach their goals, but I also highly encourage them to take one day off a week and let themselves do whatever they want. If they want to exercise, great. If they don’t, just sit on your butt all day on the couch and watch TV.It’s one day that you can kind of let yourself just relax, and I think that mentally that can help us in, help us keep going the other six days of the week. And then you start to find that exercise feels good, so even on that seventh day, you find [that] you’ll go out for a walk, or you’ll do something.
Michelle Richards: I stay passionate. I am not perfect and I have off days—well many—but when you get me talking about movement, my eyes light up and it shows. People respond to that and I will stop teaching the minute that fire burns out! I do not want to put anyone to sleep!
Eric Gremminger: Well, I focus on—I feel like I just hold up a mirror so that the client could find intrinsic ways to motivate themselves. I don’t think I could motivate you, but I could put you in a position and help to evoke what [already] is inside of you that motivates you. So that’s really, I believe, my job.As far as myself, what’s my why factor? When I’m doing it for a higher purpose, when I know that there’s a higher cause that I’m serving, like with Enlightened Recovery, it’s about so much more than me and that will allow me to get up at 4:30 and exercise and do what I need to do so that I’m in a position to contribute at the level at which I expect myself to contribute. So, it intrinsically drives me every single day.
How do you measure progress/success for your clients? For yourself?
Dustin Hassard: I’m just taking a guess. Haha. No, absolutely not. Everybody is on a program and through those programs, everything is measured. What gets measured gets managed, so it doesn’t matter what I think, but what I see on paper tells the true story.And a lot of times actually it’s instinctual for my athletes. They know when they’re getting stronger, they know when they feel better. So, they can simply answer that question for themselves without me having to say anything. But if they don’t have that intuition or if maybe they’re a little self-loathing or have doubts about it, the numbers on paper don’t lie.Every single workout is tracked. I have stats for every single thing they’ve done, from the first time we meet to every single workout. And when I see improvements or something that shows measurable progress there, whether it’s more reps, more weights, more advanced exercise progression, anything can be measured.I use that for ensuring that they get progress. They don’t have to wait for weeks or months or years to find out if something is working or not. I know every single workout if something’s improving or not. And if it isn’t, I make changes. I love it because it’s a lovely science. I don’t have to actually leave it up to guessing.
Eric Gremminger: Yeah. I’m a huge proponent of smart goals. I set goals. I try to be, of course, I always try to be, no matter who it is, just try to be a little bit better version of [myself] than [Iwas], but you need tangible items so that you could see the progress. Abstract concepts just don’t do it. So when you have some goal: “My goal this week is to bench press five more pounds than I did the day before,” well, that’s a measurable goal. It’s specific, it’s measurable, it’s attainable, it’s relevant, and we could do it within a certain amount of time. That’s usually the system that I use for measurement.
Sam Spinelli: So it can be a very tricky one. I don’t love the “It depends” answer in interviews, but it kind of does depend. In that, when I’m working primarily more as a rehabilitation professional—in the setting—it’s often looking at this person has x goal or is dealing with x issue, and so we will create some sort of agreeable goal based off of a few identifying factors that we will try to achieve.Whether that be that a person needs to acquire a certain level of strength on a back squat before they return to x level of activity, something like that. Or, I might be using some form of an outcome measure tests, a standardized outcome measure that’s been assessed and shown validity.And I’ll use that for consistency and have the person fill out forms or do some sort of measuring tests where I’m as far removed as possible or possibly, I might be doing something from—I don’t love the term injury prevention—but maybe if we’re doing an injury risk reduction work.
David Amundson: So for success for my clients, it’s very goal-dependent. So what’s successful for one client, might be unsuccessful for the other client. Last semester, I had a client who was new to the weight room and it was perfect because I got him fresh and brand new. So, we got all those newbie gains and he was gaining weight and gaining muscle. So for his goal, I would measure his body measurements with a tape measure and then also doing weights to monitor his weight, making sure that’s going up, so he’s eating enough calories…So it’s very goal specific, whether it’s losing weight, losing inches on their hips or gaining biceps or triceps or whatever exercise or getting stronger, too. Because I had one client who wanted to work on their deadlifts, and so the goal was deadlifts. So it’s finding out early on and even, I’ve had clients where we’ve shifted from, “Oh, I want to gain muscle, but now that it’s summertime. So I want to start cutting.” So we’re going to have a new focus.And then for [me personally], what I consider success, is I still love learning, so I’m glad I’m learning. I’m having fun doing everything so, and then I’m making money doing what I love.
Chas Cook: Well, number one, or the biggest one I think by far as common trait, consistency. Most common trait. There’s this one lady who has lost lots and lots of pounds. She’s done very, very well. And even now I don’t coach her anymore. She still sends me photographs of her food every day.
Ben Pickard: Oh, that’s a great question. I think a huge one would be open-mindedness or willing to set their ego aside. People who come in and are like, “Oh, that’s not what I used to believe to be true but I’m happy to try it because you guys are the experts.” Obviously, I’m being a little sarcastic about it—too lazy for conversation—but when they’re open to trying those things, that’s a huge, huge benefit.Contrary to that, if somebody comes in and they’re like, “I want to get to this goal but I want to do it this way,” it’s really hard to help that person succeed.Another big one would be, I guess, compliance. Even though it’s kind of got a negative connotation but if we’re working on a mutually agreed-upon plan that you’ve sat down with Kat, you’ve hashed out the details that these are your action steps on a daily or weekly basis and then you’re not doing them or not filling out your check-in or not having good communication, it makes it really hard to work with you through your goals. Having that willingness to do the work is crazy, crazy important.We’ve got a client who, crazy life circumstances that he was going through, he’s now at the, I think nine- or ten-week mark, give or take. Under three months and he’s down 30 pounds. We’ve been doing, I want to say, fundamental stuff but just executing it perfectly. He nails it on a regular basis. That’s why he’s getting such good results.
Breanne Celiberti: I think that the most common traits would be that they’re very mindful of themselves. Self-aware, I guess. Knowing what’s going to keep them from getting to their goals.They might know the specific schedules they need to train on. Just being aware like, “Okay, I need to go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday and get my training session in.” Where people who are more lackadaisical, they probably aren’t going to have as much success because they might be coming to me to train, they might be canceling, sometimes be late and it’s going to hinder your progress.
Keri Heickert: Wow, that’s a great question. I love analysis. So I’d like to say that everyone who’s successful is a professional in the corporate world. But I have some stay-at-home moms that are really successful. They have their own little corporation they’re managing.But I think there’s the sheer will. I can’t make you want to do this anymore. Believe it or not, I’m your coach, I’ll support you, but I’m not going to drag it out.So you have to have some sort of internal will or some internal motivation, whether it’d be very small. Because the biggest internal motivation, you’re doing it yourself. You just have to have some sort of will. Perseverance, because it’s not always perfect. It’s being able to go with the ebbs and the flows and be able to change. So you want to be adaptable.So perseverance, adaptability, and they’re really good at communicating. Some of my favorite clients are the ones that articulate everything. And I say everything because that means they’re listening. So they want to know about a lot and they have lots of questions and maybe they don’t understand or our points don’t even align.
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This was just a robust sampling of the motivation, mindset, and methodologies that our exercise experts have been providing to you, our audience. If you missed any of our previous interviews or if you wish to gain more wisdom on specific tips and techniques to help you along your fitness journey, visit our Fitness Experts Hub and get caught up.
The start of the new year is just around the corner. Goals are being set as we speak. But you don’t have to wait for the dawning of a new calendar year to begin receiving helpful hints for a healthy lifestyle. Incorporate some of these best practices shared by your fitness professionals and exceed your fitness goals.
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Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.