Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The ongoing challenge of educating

One of the primary functions of a training Coach is as educator.

We educate our customers, our athletes, our families and friends - in fact, we spend most of our day educating, in one way or another.

Education is an essential part of of our jobs, and empowering those who seek out our expertise is vital to their success. Whether they want to achieve improved Range of Motion, through a once injured shoulder, or finish an Ironman in under 10 hours, knowledge and information is a key ingredient in the recipe for their success.

As a Coach (read: Educator), your first step will be to carefully select at what level you should disseminate information to your audience. Do you need to dumb the information down or are they able to swallow and digest the full meal deal?

It is easy to forget that not everyone wants, or needs, the official Exercise Physiology 401 version, more often than not, the simpler the information, and message, the better.

The next step will be to craft a message that, when delivered, will be relevant and have an impact on our audience.

An example might be when working with a customer who is a golfer with poor Thoracic spine mobility, you might choose to explain how the Thoracic spine impacts their swing mechanics, and how the exercise selection will translate into an improved swing and ultimately golf game.

This might be obvious to us, but remember, many of our customers and athletes have limited knowledge and understanding as to how their bodies function.

By enhancing their knowledge and understanding, you will be providing them with:
  • a great foundation to help them realize their goals
  • increased confidence in you as their training Coach,
  • a superior level of body awareness.
A final ingredient missing from this post is ensuring consistency of information and delivery.

What I mean by this is that the information being delivered to your Customer, and the way it is delivered, should be along the same lines every time. It should reinforce the approach you are taking with them regarding their training, programming and long term development.

Ensuring a consistent approach will alleviate confusion, misunderstanding and ultimately frustration.

Strive to challenge yourself in every hour of your work day to educate your customers - the benefit to both you and your customer will be enormous.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning and Progress

"Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes." ~George Soros
Something that I constantly need to remind myself: sometimes... sometimes I'm wrong. You would think that I wouldn't need to make an effort at this - after all, it happens often enough (and believe me, there's always someone nearby to point it out).
That being said, though, one of my inherent flaws is an unsubstantiated belief that I know better than most people. Fortunately, though, I've been working in the health and fitness industry long enough to realize that what's right today, is often wrong tomorrow - and vice versa. Furthermore, I've seen methods and approaches that have worked for 5 other people not work for 2, and I've seen people doing something that we swear is going to hurt them having no effect on them at all. And it's because of this that I've become that much more inquisitive, and open-minded - just because something worked before doesn't mean it's going to work this time, so I'd better be ready with 3, 4, 5 other approaches unless I'm ready to admit quick defeat (another thing I do very poorly).
It's a fine line - we all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. However, there are times where we need to step back - if someone brings an idea to the table that's been tried, we need to consider whether or not the reason it didn't work before is because the idea was bad - or because we ourselves executed it poorly.
Sadly, I haven't figured out a personal "litmus test" to measure this - sometimes it's intuition, sometimes its the conviction of the person presenting it... and sometimes I need to just step back and watch to see what happens. And while this can be frustrating at times, at others it can be educational or, once in a while - even inspirational. I've been told my realism can, at times, border on pessimism - but I'm working on it. And the more often it happens, the more I can learn.
So take what I say, be sure that you're not simply making the exact same mistake that I made...
Then prove me wrong.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get ready to learn!

In last weeks post, I discussed the importance of continuing education for Trainers and Coaches alike. This week I would like to provide a possible solution to the problem of coaches and trainers not consistently updating their skills and expertise through continuing education.

The solution is called Innovative Fitness Coaches Academy (I.F.C.A) which right now, is in the infancy of its development.

Here are the nuts and bolts of I.F.C.A:

we have been working extremely closely with the BCRPA over the last few months, to get a number of IF developed courses recognized as Continuing Education Credit (CEC) courses.

What this means is that as a company Innovative Fitness is now able to draw on all of its experience and expertise, develop course content, and deliver it to Coaches and Trainers who are hungry for new and relevant knowledge.

Our first CEC course is going to be delivered on Saturday 16 October 2010, and will take an in-depth look at the Physiology of flexibility and stretching.

I will be presenting the courses to participants and our first few courses will be 6 hours in length, will consist of 3 hours of theory and 3 hours of practical content and will provide participants with 6 CEC credits.

Initially, courses will be delivered at IF Kitsilano, with a comprehensive plan for expanding both our course offerings and course locations for 2011, currently being developed.

Other course dates for 2010 include:

Saturday, November 20th - IF Training
Saturday, December 11th - Physiology of flexibility and stretching

For more information on these and other courses we are offer, feel free to get in contact with me james@innovativefitness.com.

James Greenwood is currently a veteran training coach at Innovative Fitness and Triathlon coach. He has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years, and is passionate about educating and sharing knowledge and expertise with other trainers and coaches.

Why management is hard.

Although there are millions of pages of literature written on ‘how to’ manage, the fact remains managing people is and will always be difficult. One of the most obvious reasons is people are different (genetically and environmentally) hence respond differently to different stimulus at different times. A great manager is able to gage how that person is feeling that day and provide the right mix of challenge, support, motivation and accountability to get the job done.

If we look at the most successful managers of all time we would likely find very obvious and consistent strategies, styles and traits; leading by example, clarifying expectations, providing positive & constructive feedback & motivating the group through actions and words. Regardless of the performing situation, there needs to be 3 constants in order to ‘qualify success’. A goal. Accountability. Incentive. Without a goal, there is no direction and the chances of achieving the desired outcome diminish. An absence of accountability prevents the goal from being a shared process and without incentive (a finals, a target, a reward) there is no beginning and end to the entire process making it much more difficult to remain focused.

Management also spans 4 very important categories. Self, Team, Operations and customers. Often people believe business is contingent on 1 or 2 of the 4 categories ‘me’ (self) and the ‘customer’. This is why 1 in 5 businesses fail to make it to 5 years and of those 50% fail to make it to 10. A great manager knows that all 4 facets of their business require an equal amount of attention to flourish and grow and failure to focus on all of them will result in overall failure.

With that, you could imagine the greater the number of people in a business, the greater the challenge of effectively maintaining balance across all levels, which is why management is hard.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kids and Fitness

Last week, I went out on a limb to try something new in my training career, and thanks to Mark Coates headed into the realm of dryland "training and conditioning" for summer hockey schools.

Now, I worked with kids for nine years as a counselor and outdoor school teacher, and I've been working as a personal trainer/strength coach for the last nine years, so I didn't head into the experience completely blind. That being said, though, this is the first time that I've combined the two.

The biggest surprise for me? Hearing what the kids do at other camps.

While I work to instill some healthy habits, quality movements and a good foundation of locomotion and stability - I shudder when some of the kids tell me that at ********** Camp, they had to do ten push-ups everytime they screwed up on the ladder. You see - I'm working with kids who, for the most part, are under ten years old.

Ten years old!! And they're doing "push-ups for punishment" when they make a mistake on something they're learning for the first time!!

Everything else aside, what bothers me most about this is the fact that they are learning to hate sports. Drill after drill, we are removing any joy they may have taken from participation and pushing them headfirst into a world of sitting on the couch and playing video games.

Please - to all parents, coaches, and trainers working with children... don't do this. Don't take the fun out of sports to try and breed the next generation of super-athletes... instead, instill a love of movement and activity in them. "How?" you might ask? Simple - let the children play.

Or, better yet...? Play with them.

Have fun out there, folks.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Risky Business

Anything I've ever done that ultimately was worthwhile ... initially scared me to death.

~ Betty Bender

I was talking with a customer the other day, and inevitably the conversation turned to what we had planned for the weekend. I mentioned that I was going river rafting with a group of people from work, and she immediately said, 'I would never do that, it's a little too scary for me.'

As our conversation progressed, she admitted that as she has gotten older she has become more cautious and less likely to try new things. This got me thinking, as kids we don't know any better and we'll try anything at least once, we assume that everything will be fine - jumping out of trees, biking too fast, exploring without knowing where we're going, we'll try all of it.

As we age, it seems the likelihood of trying new things decreases proportionally to our number in years. Everything we do has to be measured against the potential pros and cons of the experience and if we deem it too risky than we won't try it. Our sense of responsibility is overwhelming.

I think we need to find a balance between our childhood and adulthood, between throwing ourselves into things and over analysing everything that we do, because sometimes the risky things are the most worthwhile (and we're not getting any younger).

~ Sasha

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keep yourself continually educated

In the ever changing health and fitness industry, keeping ones’ knowledge updated is paramount to remaining a safe, effective and successful training coach.

With trends in the health and wellness industry changing faster than Usain Bolt covering the 100m, it can become very difficult to wade through the “fad trends” and those that have been tried and tested, and proven to effective.

Continually searching for, and acquiring, knowledge allows training coaches to make informed decisions about health and exercise prescriptions, and which practices are most effective and beneficial for their customer.

With this in mind, as a consumer, it is essential that you be proactive in ensuring your training coach is qualified to do the job they have advertised they can do.

Start by asking them what their qualifications and certifications are. Ask if they are CPR and first aid certified, and finally, ask them what and when their last Continuing Education Credit course was.

Many trainers and coaches are registered with a governing body (BCRPA, Triathlon Canada), who require them to keep their certifications current, much the same as doctors. This is generally achieved by earning Continuing Education Credits (CEC’s) through various educational resources and avenues.

Each member is required to earn a certain number of credits each year, with credits being acquired by attending workshops, conferences and seminars, even participating in webinars and completing on-line mini-courses.

It is an unfortunate situation, but the entire industry is not regulated as thoroughly as one would wish, leaving gaps for under-qualified individuals and many training coaches, who have not remained current with their certifications, to keep working.

If we want to be seen, and treated, as professionals within the heath care industry, we, as training coaches need to be more consistent about keeping our certifications and qualifications current through the acquisition of CEC's.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Every Choice Requires Responsibility

I like motorcycles. I really do. In fact, one of the things on my "Bucket List" is to drive across the country on a bike, dipping my right foot in the Pacific Ocean and my left foot in the Atlantic.

But lately, I've come to realize that a lot of the people who are riding motorbikes are idiots. And I don't mean "laugh at how dumb people can be" idiots... I mean "look at how cool I am on this fast bike oh crap I've lost control and am now going to cause a massive accident because my ego was far greater than my skill" idiots.

The thing is, I've watched them, time and again, driving down the shoulder to avoid traffic, or swerving in and out while moving at twice the speed the rest of the traffic is moving. Then, today, I heard about a group of motorcyclists that we're going mach 5, and when the patrolman who was after them crashed, they came back to a critically injured and trapped officer to taunt him, before driving away and leaving him there.

The thing is, this sort of behaviour usually catches up with them, and in Darwinian fashion they wind up losing their bike, their licence or, at worst, their life. And while I don't feel badly for them at all (in any of the above situations), I feel horrible for their families. For the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and children that these selfish clowns leave behind, and for the individuals who have to live with the image of the accident for the rest of their lives.

And I think that's what bothers me most about this example. It's not the motorcyclists specifically, but rather the breed of person that is so often represented by them... the ones that care so little about anyone but themselves.

Remember - every action, every decision, every step taken, has an impact... directly or indirectly... on someone else. Just for once, think of that other person first.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Be a Winner

Winners take chances. Like everyone else, they fear failing but they refuse to let fear control them.

Winners don't give up. When life gets rough, they hang in until the going gets better.

Winners are flexible. They realise there is more than one way and are willing to try others.

Winners know they are not perfect. They respect their weaknesses while making the most of their strengths.

Winners fall, but they don't stay down. They stubbornly refuse to let a fall keep them climbing.

Winners don't blame fate for their failures nor luck for their successes. Winners accept responsibility for their lives.

Winners are positive thinkers who see good in all things. From the ordinary, they make the extraordinary.

Winners are patient. They know a goal is only as worthy as the effort that's required to achieve it.

Winners make this world a better place to be.

~ Nancy Sims

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Be Different.

According to that little double-helix strand of genetic information we call DNA, you and I are different.
You might be stronger; while I might be faster.
You might be more logical; while I may be more creative
You might be more sensitive; while I might be more demanding & positively challenging.

The fact is, we all have strengths & talents, and we all have things we can improve about what we do.

The problem is, instead of focusing on what we can change, we (individuals businesses and even teams) often focus on what we can't change.

Instead of improving strategy to compete with a strong competitor in business, we look for dirt; or we advertise that "you don't want to work there, it's so corporate" without taking a moment to examine if the culture of the competition is something you can learn from.

Instead of focusing on meaningful interactions, lasting friendships, and exploring who they are and what they want to be, teenage girls instead compete for who has more friends on Facebook and who gets more text messages.

Instead of throwing block parties and building a sense of community, far too many people are interested in building a bigger house and buying a nicer car than their neighbour.

This does not define a life... this troubles an existence. There is a difference, and if you want to be different- than you need to learn how to differentiate.

1. What am I (what are we as a team/ church/ family/ business) great or best at?
2. Who would be interested in such a difference-maker (customer base, potential spouse, parishioners, student-athletes, etc)?
3. How do I reach this audience? (how does my business market/ do I hang out in bars or go for a hike/ do I post try-out posters in the mall or in the gymnasium)
4. How do I keep and grow the target audience? (how do I/ we retain the customer, how do we deepen our personal relationships, how do we grow the team relationships)
5. Who is nipping at our heels by doing a great job at the same things we are? (Is someone marketing to the same audience, is another guy interested in the same girl you are, is another sports team a tighter team with better plays and better fundamentals)
6. How do I/we reinvent ourselves to find a new difference maker?

You can be a unique (and therefore desired/ remembered/ quality/ attractive) person or business executing six steps to cyclically separate yourself in any business or personal environment...

Or you can be the cola or beer that advertises using young models having the time of their lives ("drink this and this hot girl will want you")
Or the guy/ girl who watches Jersey Shore, wears Rock 'N' Republic, listens to the number one hit of the week, and travels where they're told driving what they've been told all the while carefully managing their conversational contributions so as not to upset the group and their popularity status.

You can follow 6 steps to desired results and freedom and creating the life you want...

Or you can be a rat in a maze being led to consume the brands that the big business puppeteers desire; a shell of your creative and expressive potential.

Isn't it a waste of time, money, and talent to be one of the sheep competing for a 2 x 2 plot of land when you you can be an eagle 10 feet away that has the entire sky to themselves?

The ONLY way to be great is to be different. Even the brand names the sheeple are chasing are different in that they were first to market or better somehow than everybody else.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


In our increasingly scrutinized ‘perfect’ world it seems that no act (big or small) should not go unlinked to an obvious source or reason. The blame game has been around longer than Newton’s 3rd law and is the backbone of most media sensationalism.

First you have the act. It can be as benign as spilling a cup of coffee in your lap as you’re driving or as sensational as a flight attendant jumping out of an airplane but one thing we know for sure is after the story airs, there’s going to be a lot of inference, accusation and (you guessed it) blame. Lost in the blameology are two very important realities of life.

1. sh*t happens. We know, hard to believe random acts of mischief, turmoil and bad stuff can just ‘happen’ and well... probably won’t be prevented from happening again
2. the further away we get from taking personal responsibility for our actions, the more problems (and subsequent blaming) we are likely to see (and unfortunately) hear

Does the act of blaming have an argument? More often than not, chances are it doesn’t. See for something to go wrong, usually a string of unfortunate circumstances has had to come into play. Seldom, is it a single act and if we are truly interested in preventing a tragedy or event from recurring we would have to investigate every single circumstance and then make a swooping change. That takes time, isn’t interesting and costs money so instead, the faster we can pin the blame on ‘a’ reason or ‘a’ person, the faster we can get back into the blame game.

How does the blame game affect you.

1. limits the options and opportunities you may have. eg: unattended kid falls in the park pool, parent blames the park for not being kid proof, pool gets closed or is so tightly regulated it’s not fun.

2. costs you money. eg: the twit who spilled coffee in her lap and then sued for millions? Well, recouping that millions will inevitably be paid for by you. Each time you take a sip or your $5 coffee with your double cup and hand protector, you’re paying the tab of a blamer you don’t already know and her brilliant lawyer.

3. prevents us from personal growth. The REALity is, no one is perfect and we are going to make mistakes. If we we not so heavily scrutinized on each mistake we made and instead turned them into learning opportunities, we may actually LEARN more. Instead, we default and deflect that opportunity and place it somewhere or on someone else. This results in less people taking risks for fear of making a mistake and slows down the process of GROWTH.

It time to look at changing some of the rules in the blame game and that starts with us!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Defer to the Professionals

For this week, I'd like to make three suggestions/requests...

First off: when you meet a professional or tradesperson at a social function... don't ask them for personal advice. Expressing interest in what they do, or seeking general impressions - that's fine. In fact, they probably enjoy talking about it. But as soon as you ask them for specifics regarding YOU, it puts them in an uncomfortable position. They don't know anything about your situation, and hearing the "thumbnail" from you gives both a biased and generalized account, from which it's pretty hard to answer with anything definitive. Also... it's pretty annoying.

Secondly, and specifically to my industry - there are a few catchphrases that a new client can say that often fall under one of the two scenarios I'm speaking of here. Now, I will preface this by acknowledging them to be generalizations - but, from experience I can tell you, they are more often than not... true. So, here are three of the things that I hear most often when I first start working with people along with what is usually the truth:

"I eat alright." (No, you don't - but you're not willing to examine your eating habits because it would mean making changes you don't want to make.)

"My cardio's pretty good." (No, it isn't - you just don't want to be made to do anything that raises your heart rate.)

"My legs are pretty strong already." (Usually, though not always, said by a man... and no, they're not. You just hate doing legs because they're hard, and would rather stick to exercises like bench presses, curls and crunches. Maybe occasionally some pulldowns, but not often - you can't see those muscles in the mirror.)

"I put on muscle really quickly and get big - I don't want to do any 'heavy' weights." (Usually, though not always, said by a woman or an endurance athlete... and no, you don't. In fact, doing non-stop cardio and light weights with reps of 15-20 is probably part of the reason you're not getting any results.)

And finally - when you DO actually ask for the advice of an expert, don't argue when you hear things you don't want to hear. If you know better... why are you going to see them in the first place?


Friday, August 06, 2010

Courage to Succeed

It is easy to be ordinary or mediocre, but it take courage to excel, to be different from the crowd. That is why not many people can do it. The rewards are great, but so are the risks. It takes courage to sacrifice; to work long, hard hours when you could be relaxing; to work out when you are tired or sick; to focus on being the best you can be when there are so many distractions; to seek out tough competition when you know you will probably get beaten. It is easy to be average, but it is hard to be the best.

It takes courage to stand by your convictions when all those around you have no convictions.

It takes courage to keep fighting when you are losing.

It takes courage to stick to your game plan and the unrelenting pursuit of your goal when you encounter obstacles.

It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before physically and mentally, to test your limits, to break through barriers.

It takes courage to try to be the very best you can be when others around you settle for mediocrity.

The successful person is the one who continually faces the problems and challenges that life brings - and overcomes them all, no matter what the obstacle.

People have far more courage than they give themselves credit for. When tested, people find they have the courage to look deep into their souls; and do things they never thought possible.

Most people are unaware that they possess this type of courage. Why? Because if they were aware of it, they would have to test it - and that is risky. So most people play it safe and don't risk "going for it". They are afraid of going into the unknown.

There are no guarantees.

~ Anonymous

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Opportunity has a Cost???

Here's hoping most of your actions and decisions are on purpose. If they are not, or if you (as we often all do) forget that at times... it's great to revisit or teach what the cost of opportunity really is.

The opportunity cost of business success is time away from family and friends (as you have to put in long hours and be accessible 'off the clock' to truly run a successful business)

The opportunity cost then, of being a very present, engaged parent is at the expense of either work or friends, as there is no 'time off' as a parent.

To be a truly successful business leader, parent, and friend then - means to really effectively manage your time, and to prioritize; realizing you can't do it all, all the time.

The opportunity cost of leadership is that over time some people will jade you (those who act selfishly or out of only self-interested motives cost you personally more work, cost the team, they usually end up costing you/ the business money; etc) and most leave oblivious to their negative impact, though they would notice if you neglected them as employees.

The opportunity cost of not being a leader is ...?
THAT is the million dollar question.
As an infant, someone changes your diaper
As a toddler, someone holds your hand as you cross the street
As a youth, someone pays for & drives you to all your sports, school, and activities
As a teen, someone pays for your room & board
As a young adult, we start to realize how much we have to do for ourselves...

- someone still fronted the cash to start the business that allows us a job
- someone still fought and died in a war that allows us to vote in an election to be represented by hopefully responsible politicians
- someone gave birth to us in a hospital in a first world nation that allowed us a world of opportunity that we we born into (ie did nothing to earn)
- someone more responsible will cover our butt if we call in sick, quit with no notice, upset a customer, or don't do a good enough job.

There is an opportunity cost to not being a leader; and it is HUGE.

You'll make less money
You'll leave less of a legacy than you want to
You'll impact fewer people in fewer ways than you'd wish if you could write your life story backwards from your death bed
You'll deserve less in the afterlife; whatever that looks like in your belief system
You'll overcome fewer challenges thus you'll grow less as a person
You'll have fewer highs
You'll have fewer opportunities to learn, thus you'll be less of a teacher to your kids (especially since you'll be less of an example)
You will achieve less of your potential thus you will feel less fulfilled.

The key is to be focused on what you want long term and what you want short term, and if the two conflict - choosing the course that places you on the longer term trajectory. A small example - I want that donut right now, but I want to lose 30 pounds this year. These goals are in direct conflict and choosing the donut now satisfies one immediate goal at the expense of a more important goal in your deep psyche.

Focus on what you want; not what you don't. You may not want to do the extra work that being a leader involves, but what is a worse punishment? Would you rather more work on a daily basis that goes with it more job security and more opportunity, or less work and more ease right now followed by less fulfillment long term and less security leading to a point in your life where you have to work twice as hard just to keep up as opportunities have passed you by but your bills still accumulate?

As a leader, know that you are sacrificing now (and thus plan your balance in other areas of your life) but know that the world needs more people like you.

As a follower, hopefully you learned a little bit about what others do for you and you decide to step up... because those people who knowingly make more work for others and continue to do the same - should be ashamed of themselves and I don't know how such a person could ever truly be happy.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Accomplish Something Today

"The purpose of life is to live it. To taste experience to the utmost - to reach out eagerly, and without fear for newer and richer experience."
Eleanor Roosevelt
What did you accomplish yesterday? Did you get up, stretch, shower, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, zone out in front of the television, and then go to bed? How many things did you do during the day that you went at with intention, with purpose, with a goal? And how many things just "happened" as the day went on, because they were supposed to?
If that's how your day went - stop. Stop letting life "happen".
I want you to think about the rest of today, and I want you to make things happen. Do everything with intent, with focus - and relish the experience. When we stop ourselves from wandering through life, even the most mundane tasks take on a unique glow - the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
That's my challenge to you - don't just "exist".