This is another success story I’d like to share with my readers and anyone interested in what I do. This case really illustrates the gradual use of resistance to create tension and hold positions for spinal issues and how they can be improved.
Randi came to me through a referral from one of my local MAT practitioners. Often when these people are receiving treatment they require someone who has my skills to help increase their strength once their body is able to fire muscles properly again. Having this combination is a really great way to enhance your gains in strength and allow your body to develop at a much more rapid pace. By the way, I highly recommend MAT to anyone looking to improve their physical self, you can find more about it HERE.
When I first assessed Randi it was a challenge. In a nutshell, everything we tried caused pain in her back, localized mostly around the right SI joint area which was indicated as the main issue. This had been going on for almost eight years and caused her to give up a lot of things she enjoyed doing, like hiking, cycling and even caused her problems while walking her dog. She had trouble with simply standing in proper posture, which put pressure in areas that her back “didn’t like”. This became a frequent gauge of her pain levels during our first few sessions.
Doing what I do, I will at first admit that I miscalculated and didn’t realize how much Randi’s back would react to my initial movement pattern assignment. After our first session she was okay, but after the next couple her back was sore for four days to the point where she couldn’t do normal everyday activities. This is after doing much movements as simple hip flexion, mild bracing, some basic extension (ie hip hinging) and trying to integrate her hips with her shoulder girdle. I was surprised, but glad that Randi (after she recovered) allowed me to try again.
The lesson here for both you and myself, is that you can reduce any level of force to an appropriate one for any person. So what did I reduce to? Randi started out most of her subsequent sessions with postural holds (bracing in a standing position), walking in proper alignment, and then going through various drills and movements unloaded in order to teach her body to facilitate coordination without any load. Loads were added eventually, but using angles of her body and longer ranges of motion, not weights. This Is a very broad description, but it worked. Before long, Randi’s body was to the point where she could endure long car rides, do sustained long activities she enjoyed like cooking and was able to think about buying a bicycle for her main goal.
Randi’s main goal was to be able to bike 26 kilometers for her trip to the Canadian Rockies, something she had wanted to do for a long time. The first step was to get her back on a bike again. She lasted for only 45 seconds the first time we put her on one. Then, through gradual application and increasing of mileage not only did we get her back onto a real bicycle (after finding one her body could tolerate) but we got her to the point where she could bike for over an hour (with breaks) and while her back was tired, she was able to recover quickly and function normally afterwards. Progressions were done weekly and she was also given specific technique rules and ways she could approach what she was doing on the bike to take tension off of her back. With some movements, it is a matter of reteaching the body how to move.
One interesting weekend Randi pushed herself a bit too hard, not realizing that a 15km route (which was prescribed) was actually a 20km route with hills. Her back reacted accordingly, but the great thing was that she recovered fairly quickly. Recovery time is always a great marker for performance improvement. Normally what would have done her in for a week had her sore for a couple of days, which is fairly normal when you’re doing something you haven’t done in eight years.
I’m happy to say that Randi has made incredible progress. Not only did she successfully ride the trail in the Rockies, she is now dead lifting up to 50 pounds, performing movements like lunges and pulldowns and planks, and is able to recover from workouts quickly. Her MAT therapist has seen a significant change in the way her muscles hold onto position. This is all in a period of about six months.
Once of the best parts of my job is helping people like Randi and sharing in the results. Here’s a picture she sent me of her on the bike out in the Rockies accomplishing her goal:
Randi’s goals have moved away from reducing pain and into more typical goals like weight loss and strength gain, which is fantastic. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the great benefit that I tell my clients is that if you can teach your body to tolerate forces, then it will always improve. If you have any specific questions about my work with Randi (or anyone else) feel free to contact me through this site or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always willing to help if I can.
It’s that time again – I saw the first inspirational commercial yesterday, with two former NFL athletes who are now severely obese starting on their weight loss journey followed by millions of people. Complete with massive weekly weight losses, lots of crying and screaming from trainers, product placement shots from Jenny-O brand ground turkey and Subway and lots of manufactured drama we can look forward to another person losing up to 50% of their body weight whether it be healthy or unhealthy.
You might remember at the end of last season where the winner looked severely depleted on the finale and there was a massive public outcry about her weight loss methods and how unhealthy they were both physically and mentally (and then it was revealed that most of the finale winners do the same thing, she just did it better). So here’s a few revealing notes about this show and some things to think about when approaching your own fitness regime, if this show inspires you to get off of the couch and actually get healthier.
The Winner is pretty easy to pick right away
Here’s the thing – when your body was fit and healthy in the past it really, really wants to get back that way again. Some of the contestants have been unhealthy and overweight their entire lives, and these are the ones that have a hard time once they hit a certain point. The contestants that were formerly athletic and thin (and have a ton of weight to lose) make the final 4 almost every time (unless they get booted due to politics), and almost all of the winners have been fit in the past, either when they were younger or just a few years before. So when I’m watching and I hear that “I was a high level athlete in high school/college” or there is someone who turned 20 and then gained 200 pounds that’s the person you’re going to see going really far unless they sabotage themselves or fall victim to the game politics.
I won’t comment on the trainers except to point out that the workouts they put the contestants through aren’t anything revolutionary or different than what a decent trainer would do – except at a much higher intensity (which isn’t always a good thing) and with lots of screaming and drama for the benefit of TV. And just because they do it – doesn’t mean you should.
Lesson: Your body likes to be healthy – and will try hard to get back there even after you have done awful things to it. It might take a bit longer to do so, but odds are you can get back there as long as you stick with it.
What these people do daily is NOT healthy
Contestants on the show are contractually obligated to burn x amount of calories every day and eat x amount of calories, all of which is controlled. The workouts you see with the trainers are for about 1 hour of the day and are somewhat staged, but they do work out – for hours. People hurt themselves constantly and sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t, but if you watch you will notice how sometimes things like knee braces and support tape start appearing. When they go home, inevitably their weight loss slows down – because they aren’t working out hours a day and they actually have a real life time management situation with family, children and jobs. If many of you could dedicate 15-20 hours a week to exercise and eating right, you would lose weight too, possibly just as rapidly. Don’t assume that just because they did it, you can too – real, healthy weight loss is much more gradual.
Most of the gains you make while attempting to lose weight are done outside of the gym by eating properly, lowering stress and sleeping well for recovery so that you can exercise again as soon as possible. This is how real gains are made over time.
Lesson: Your body also likes to make change gradually, and will fight back against doing anything forced. Give yourself time and constant effort and the weight will come off.
Buyer beware with the products that they push
Please remember that the products that they promote are based on marketing dollars – not the best products. For example, on the most recent episode they were promoting canned soup. Low calorie, certainly – but canned soups are often high in sodium. There are also highly processed ingredients in them, even if they claim to have chicken or vegetables as an ingredient. Subway, which has been a huge sponsor of the show has been shown to not have much more nutritional value than many other fast food places. Things like Lara Bars and other quick snacks are fine once in a while, but should not ideally be eaten over something natural and whole. Ground turkey and chicken are good protein options, but possibly having a whole product from your local farm would be a much better idea (and cheaper). Instead of vegetables cooked in a plastic box, get them fresh from the produce aisle. The trouble is that the general public doesn’t know and will blindly purchase something because they paid the show to be a sponsor – don’t be that person.
Lesson: Just avoid anything processed as much as possible. Eat real food whenever you can. Period.
Don’t get discouraged if your personal journey takes a long time
The main focus for anyone changing their lifestyle should be HEALTH FIRST. In case I didn’t say that emphatically enough. Scale weight coming off is a nice by product of maintaining an exercise program and eating whole foods within your caloric requirements, but it should not be the top priority. In fact, stay away from the scale at the start if you can. Compare how your clothes fit, think about things like energy levels and sleep quality and improve steadily day by day – then step on the scale. Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise when you have had all of these amazing benefits plus you’re down 20 pounds. On the show they do some brief doctors’ visits with lots of tears and crying, especially when people do things like lower their blood lipid values or successfully reverse diabetes onset. The thing is – you can do that too. It’s really not that remarkable if you just start treating your body with respect.
Lesson: Getting started is the hardest part, but pretty much any condition can be slowed, stopped and even reversed if you do things the right way. You don’t have to feel the way you do right now if you’re unhappy – it’s a choice.
Television shows are meant for entertainment, and this show is a prime example. As I have said in the past, if this show inspires regular people to get off the couch and start exercise, eating maybe a bit healthier and changing their lives then fantastic. Obesity is a horrible epidemic that will continue to get worse if we don’t start getting smarter about it. This article simply means to point out some perspective on the fact that what you see (especially in the fitness industry) often isn’t real.
Until next time, losers. And I mean that in the nicest way.
Due to the fact that my industry is unregulated and anyone can call themselves a trainer after taking a weekend course, it is generally filled with some pretty interesting characters. What still amazes me to this day is the fact that people will blindly walk into a fitness centre and sometimes invest thousands of dollars, simply under the promise that they are going to lose weight, get ripped or be able to perform like a high level athlete in no time – and not even interview the person properly! Some trainers prey on this like a lion devouring a carcass, and take advantage of people who are emotionally vulnerable as a part of their selling process. You can see examples of this all over YouTube if you just search for “personal trainer sales”.
Other trainers will use a personal relationship to take advantage of their clientele and drop their service level – sometimes to the point of completely neglecting them and what they were hired for in the first place. Because they now see the client as a friend, they allow themselves to forget the professional side of the equation. Trainers generally aren’t good business people, which is why they get into an easy entry profession in the first place, and chain gyms pretty much guarantee that even a totally incompetent idiot can get clients if they just stick around for long enough.
This bothers me. I tend to take my job as a trainer seriously, and what a lot of trainers (and clients) need to learn is that when you a trainer is affecting someone’s body in a positive or negative way they are impacting a lot more than just their physical well-being. Also, I don’t know many people who can afford to waste $60-100 an hour and not get value for it. I know I can’t. Our industry is also rampant with unprofessionalism. Trainers texting, eating, or ignoring clients to chat with other people during workouts. Trainers who talk more than they coach. Trainers who come in to work hung over and brag about it. Believe it or not, this is actually common – and it really shouldn’t be.
So in a nutshell, here are some very good reasons to fire your trainer. If you are a client reading this and can relate to one of these, fire your trainer. Today. If you are a trainer reading this and get fired (or have been in the past) well then odds are you should probably stop doing one of these.
1) They don’t show up for work.
Trainers who constantly cancel, take loads of time off and always make excuses or reschedule should be fired immediately. You are paying someone for a service and they are supposed to be focusing on you and your results. A trainer who no-shows for any reason in this day and age should likely be fired right away. With texting, email, easy ways to communicate there is no excuse beyond a legitimate emergency and this should happen once in a blue moon.
I personally know a trainer who took over 65 days away from work last year and constantly cancelled sessions last minute – but then would charge his clients if they did the same thing. That’s 13 working weeks away from his clients, and for some reason – he didn’t get fired by some of them. Good thing he got paid up front! As a client, don’t let your trainer use a personal relationship to abuse the fact that they are hired to do a job.
2) When they do show up, they act like you are hanging out with a buddy.
If you are talking more than you are working then the session probably isn’t doing you a lot of good. A skilled trainer can maintain a conversation (if you really need them to) while you are doing movements. Frankly, if you are resting too much because you are chatting, why are you paying that person? Most trainers cost over a dollar a minute – make sure you are getting value for your time. Personal training also isn’t a therapy session or a “nutrition consultation” where you pay the person to solve problems that are outside of their scope of practice. Doing ten sets of exercise in 45 minutes isn’t going to get you very far either. There should be a plan, and it should be executed properly. I know that often I don’t even have time to get everything in that I want to do in an hour long session, never mind chatting.
One big test – if your trainer is talking to you about their own personal issues a lot, get rid of them. The session should be about you and what you are accomplishing towards your fitness goals. Be serious about your physical fitness and health and find a trainer who is too.
Oh, and if they ever pull out a cell phone during a session except to use it as a timer or they have an emergency, you might want to think about how much they respect the time they have with you.
3) They don’t have a plan, long term or even during a session.
“What do you want to work on today?” was a normal thing I heard when I worked at some gyms. Um…it is your job to figure that out and tell me, that is what I’m paying you for. Can they modify or change a workout in the moment if it is needed because you ended up moving furniture the day before and your back is sore? If your trainer doesn’t have a plan for that workout and then moving forward odds are they really aren’t focused on getting you what you want – results. If you tell them that you don’t want to work a particular body part because it is already tired and they give you blank stare, run for the hills.
Part of the skill as a trainer is also being able to figure out what is appropriate for that person in the moment and constantly be assessing ability. This can change even movement to movement. If a client comes in and hasn’t slept, didn’t eat right or has another problem and the trainer just goes ahead with a hard core circuit workout (that they have likely done with every client that day) then they are putting you at risk of injury. Is someone who either doesn’t know better or doesn’t care worth investing in?
I actually heard of a guy who would put a daily workout on a wipe board and have every client do it that day – no matter their condition, age, size, etc. Ridiculous. And not worth your money.
4) They have no experience dealing with your specific issue.
I know you have a personal relationship with your trainer and would never want to leave them, but honestly sometimes if your goals change or something happens you may need to find a new one. An example would be a client who gets pregnant and their trainer has never worked with a pregnant woman before – is that really a good idea? If I suddenly decided to enter a powerlifting competition and my trainer was a marathon runner that might not be a great fit. If I seriously injure myself and my trainer has no background in that particular injury, is it really wise to hope that they learn with you as a guinea pig?
A trainer with integrity will refer out when situations like this come up, not simply wing it hoping for a good result. Don’t be afraid to suggest that maybe they could find you someone more suited to your needs. Likely the money you invest will get you a better result. Personally I’m never insulted if/when this happens and I have a good network of other professionals that I can refer to.
I know that sometimes I am negative on my industry, but realistically these things happen less often than you think. Just make sure that they aren’t happening to you! In order to improve your results, you need to make sure you are working with a top quality professional, and they are definitely out there. Sometimes you just have to weed through them a bit before finding a good one. Let me know if there is anything you would add to this list and feel free to comment and subscribe!