Tagged: tips

Decide and Commit

As we move into 2018, we all get suddenly motivated to improve our lives and ourselves.  For most people this involves fitness.  However, my attitude especially over the past couple of years has changed on this topic.

We all basically want to FEEL BETTER.  That’s the ultimate driver in life.  Whether you think you want to be thinner, faster, have a fantastic relationship, a nice house or whatever it might be – this really means we want to feel good day to day.  We want to come home with a feeling of satisfaction and not have negative thoughts.  We want to not be tired.  We want to get rid of things that cause us discomfort.  When you break down living you’re either doing things that are moving you towards better feelings or embracing things that still make you feel crappy.

I’m not going to reiterate the same things you will hear from everyone else.  These are things you have heard about a million times.  You need to sleep more.  You need to cut out toxic things and people.  You need to change your work situation if it isn’t fulfilling you.  You need to move more.  These are basic simple fundamentals that people need to feel better daily and be happy with their lives.  And they are much easier to do than you think they are.

The main thing you really need to do is DECIDE to make a change and then COMMIT to it for a period of time – or even the rest of your days.  Once you commit and do something for a period of time, often you will realize that either you don’t even miss it, or the benefit of doing or not doing the thing provides you with enough benefit to outweigh the simple pleasure you used to get from it.


For example, I cancelled my cable probably six months ago.  I was wasting money and time watching television.  Anything I need for entertainment I can get with Netflix and/or streaming shows (for free) the day after.  Do I miss it?  Absolutely not.  Simple thing but it provided a benefit.

I started doing yoga daily thinking I was going to make it 365 days in a row – and then promptly stopped when I went on vacation.  However, I still got 20 days in a row under my belt and felt a ton better and still do.  I’m going to get back on that train as soon as I can.  Is that a failure?  I don’t think so.  It’s proof to my brain that it’s possible.

My goal for January is to do it alcohol and coffee free.  It will help my sleep, save me money and doesn’t contribute anything at all beneficial to my life.  And if I can make it a month, maybe I won’t even go back and just stay that way.  Maybe I’ll drink occasionally.  The point is to make an effort to be consistent and do something beneficial every day – and by the way, NOT doing something is the easiest way to get that done.

Deciding what to do is easy.  Committing to it is often harder.  My suggestion is to start with something small that will provide an obvious benefit almost immediately.  Cutting out one type of food – not a bunch of them.  Doing one small thing that will help your sleep like installing a blue light filter or simply cutting out screens altogether before bed.  Committing to one small bout of physical activity daily, no matter how small.  Any of these can give you momentum and teach your brain that you feel better, and that will make you want to continue.

So if you’re looking for something to do this year, think on how you’re approaching it.  Focus on the right things first.  Make small steps and just focus on consistency and you will be better off tomorrow than you are today, and then a week and a month from now.

If you enjoyed this, please feel free to like, share and let me know!  Until next time.


Read This Before You Hire a Trainer

It’s a New Year and gyms are flooded with people with the best of intentions.  They’ve set a weight loss or other fitness goal to work towards in the New Year.  Many of them have never been in a gym or haven’t used their membership in a long, long time.  So what’s a good idea?  Hire someone to help keep them accountable and help them with your goals, right?

Now before I go into the negatives, I believe strongly in my industry.  A good trainer is worth their weight in gold towards keeping you accountable, safe and progressing towards better health and physical movement.  Someone who is dedicated to their craft, learns constantly and uses many types of tools depending on the client.

The reason for this article is that in most chain gyms this is rare.  The personal training world has no barrier to entry.  I can direct you to a web site where for $200 and doing a quick multiple choice exam (which I got 92% on without studying a thing) you can get a certificate as a personal trainer.  Many certification courses out there aren’t much better than this.  Goodlife for one actually has their own training certification (called GLPTI) their employees are forced to go through (and have to pay for themselves) that teaches sales techniques, not proper training principles beyond periodization.  Here in Ottawa, I recently learned that another big chain gym (Movati) is doing the same thing now.  It’s not about results – it’s about money.  Sales drives the training industry, especially in chain gyms.

Training also has its’ share of people who really don’t care.  Most trainers (80%) leave the industry within two years and get into it for the wrong reasons.  They want an easy way to make money because training has a high pay rate per hour while they can work where they like to hang out – the gym.  At the beginning, maybe they have good intentions but quickly realize that they aren’t going to be working with athletes and fitness models and have to get up at 5am to service people.  So their motivation is gone, and therefore your results.

So what can happen is a lot of people who really need help hire a “trainer” who has no knowledge or intention to really do a good job.  Or, at most chain gyms you book a “free consultation” (ProTip:  EVERY TRAINER OFFERS THESE, IT ISN’T SPECIAL).  You get paired with not who is the best fit, but who has an open time that fits yours or a new trainer who needs to fill their schedule.  And you get results – maybe – or possibly a higher risk of getting hurt or bad advice.

So here’s my recommendations of what to do when anyone starts looking for a trainer, either at a chain gym or elsewhere.

Do Your Homework

Chain gyms often have a wall of trainers, with lists of their skills and certifications.  The newer ones will have less – or have things like “former college athlete” on their bio along with their one certification.  This is to fill space, it isn’t a qualification.  They will also be a lower level therefore cheaper to hire.  This isn’t necessarily bad, it is just an indicator that they haven’t been around as long and possibly don’t sell packages well (ProTip: At most chain gyms, the “Level” of trainer is based on sales – not skills.)

Read the bios, then if you find one that you think sounds like they have qualifications to match what you want – go find them.  Preferably WATCH them with a client.  Some things to look for:

  1. Are they paying attention and focused on the client?
  2. Are they writing things down or recording somehow (some use tablets now)?
  3. Are they coaching and correcting when needed or just counting reps?
  4. Are they doing proper rest periods or chatting for minutes between sets?

Then – if they seem to be doing all these things – approach them (or the manager) and ask specifically to meet with them for a consultation.  I’ve been doing this job for over 15 years and my consults are my time.  Why?  Because I as the trainer need to know if we are a good fit to work together, and sometimes I need to refer people to someone else if we’re not.  I just recently did this with a friend of mine because she wanted something I don’t specialize in, even though she wanted to work with me.

If you’re going the independent or at home trainer route, make sure to ask for references from people who have similar goals to yours.  Any good long term trainer has lots of happy clients, even if they are former clients for whatever reason.  If they can’t provide this simple thing, then you might want to be wary.  You also want to make sure that their style and facility matches with things like your location and how they will motivate you since you likely can’t see them work with people ahead of time.


Don’t Fall For Sales Tactics

A good trainer will have a plan, but if a potential client asks me how long it’s going to take to get to their goal my first answer is I DON’T KNOW.  I can give a rough estimate, but it depends on a variety of factors, the biggest of which is your adherence as a client.

Many trainers will sit you down and say “It will take x amount of weeks at this phase of training (usually using big words like hypertrophy or mesocycle) to get to the next phase, we go through these phases and then you’re at your goal!”  Hooray, right?  But that’s over a period of 9 months and most will tell you you need 3 sessions a week to get proper results.  Don’t get me wrong, you get the best results with more sessions – but cost (and time) is a factor for most people.  Any trainer who says you MUST have this amount to reach your goals is trying to sell you something.

But wait – the total amount might be $$$ but we can stretch out that amount and you can pay for it over 12 months instead of 9, so it’s affordable.  And then they start in with telling you all your flaws, or reminding you of that dress you want to fit into in six months and try to shame you into signing a big contract.  I had a former co worker who prided herself on making people cry during consultations.  Many trainers are really very good salespeople disguised as experts.  It’s a huge pet peeve of mine and honestly it disgusts me.  However, many trainers are hired by gyms for sales skills, not training skills.

A good trainer has a plan – but it is adjustable and takes into consideration things like time, budget and realistic situations.  Most of my client roster basically had three weeks off schedule recently because their kids were out of school for holidays.  A good trainer will adjust based on these circumstances.  If you are in a specific phase of training then it can be extended, adjusted or whatever you need.  Life happens.

If it sounds more like you’re buying a used car than hiring someone for a service then please think twice.  The person should be telling you about how they are going to do things, not haggling on prices.

Don’t Sign a Long Term Contract

You’ve found a good trainer.  You’re getting results, you get along and they seem to be a good fit.  Excellent!  But one day your trainer tells you that they are changing to a different gym that is inconvenient for you – or worse, is leaving the industry.  There are little to NO safeguards that you can get your money back if you have paid them up  front.

A chain gym will simply assign you another trainer (it’s in your contract).  If you do your vetting process properly as in my previous paragraph this may work out well.  But they will NOT give you a refund.  Find another trainer that is a good fit for you and hopefully you can continue on the road to results.  However, if you never signed a long term contract in the first place you can potentially move with the trainer which might be a better option.

If it is an independent trainer, then hopefully they are ethical enough to refund you, but this can be drawn out, and if they are more of a salesperson than a good trainer then likely they will simply disappear, especially if they are leaving the industry.  Buyer beware.  It’s much safer just to not have a long term commitment paid for up front.  If a potential trainer is trying to get you to sign something for a long period of time, be careful and ask for options.   (ProTip: Sessions should not cost less just because there are more of them, no other professional does this type of thing.)

Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Your Trainer

One thing that should drive the personal training industry is SERVICE.  Just like any other industry.  If your trainer is showing up late, constantly cancelling or rescheduling and you’re not getting the level of service you want then have a discussion with them about expectations and if they don’t meet them, you have the right to find another one who meets your needs.

The trainer/client relationship is often fairly close and can develop into friendship (which some trainers take advantage of in my opinion) so a client can “feel bad” for asking for good service from someone they are paying for a service!  This is ridiculous.  You’re paying $1 a minute for service – not a chatting partner or rep counter or someone who just doesn’t feel like working that day.

Just like any other professional, you have the right to expectations, and so does the trainer.  I can count on one hand the amount of clients I’ve actually fired myself over fifteen years, but it has happened.  Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and do what is best for yourself and moving towards your fitness goals.  Any professional will understand.


I applaud any of you who are looking to improve in 2017 and work towards getting healthier and in better shape.  Set some short and long term goals, and remember the key to your success is consistency over time.  The journey is worth it when you realize how good you feel and how much you can move without pain.  A good trainer is a partner in that journey with you and I hope that you all find good ones.

If you want to reach me for inquires within the Ottawa area or elsewhere you can reach me at strengthrehabottawa@gmail.com or head to my web site at http://www.srottawa.com if you have questions.  I’m always happy to help.

Happy New Year!



5 Tips for Beginner (and Experienced) Runners to Succeed.

Every spring brings with it clear roads, nice lush trails and always an explosion of new or reborn runners outside.  The year seems bright and shiny and new goals get set, sometimes held over from the year previous.  That ½ marathon that didn’t get done last year – this is the one!  I’m going to finish my first 10k race in under an hour!  I’m going to set a new personal best in May!  After coaching endurance athletes for over a decade I’ve pretty much heard all of them before.  This applies to those of you who ran regularly last year and haven’t consistently since November (when you finished your last race) too.  So I thought I might list off some of the biggest mistakes that I see new or renewed runners make early in season and hopefully it will make sure that a lot of those injuries I end up fixing in the fall don’t happen – at least to you.

1)      Start as easy as you need to.

Many beginners start out with a walk/run protocol until they can run continuously for 20 minutes – and you should too.  One mistake many beginners make is thinking that they can instantly hop out of their door and run forever without walking.  They get 1 kilometer down the road, are gasping for air and their muscles are screaming, limp home and never go out again.  I wonder why?  This applies to reborn runners as well – sometimes those first few runs are hard on the body and it needs time to adjust and get used to the movement again.  Try walk 1 minute, then JOG (not run) 1 minute and repeat for about 10 cycles – this is 20 minutes total, 10 minutes of jogging.  This is a good starting point.  Start with 3 times a week on non-consecutive days.  You will know you are improving when things get easier and then you can progress to 2/1, up to 10/1 and then try for a long continuous run.

Also, it has been proven that aerobic conditioning is incredibly important.  The majority of running at the starting stages should be at aerobic pace (meaning at least conversational).  This can be very difficult for beginners, so watch your perceived exertion levels!

2)      Warm up and Cool Down properly

Just putting your shoes on and going full speed right away is something even experienced runners shouldn’t do.  My athletes all start out with mobility movements and drills before starting, then slowly ramp up to their workouts.  High level athletes sometimes warm up for over an hour before their main workout starts!  This is important for blood flow, getting your brain into movement and making sure all is okay before you start pounding on your joints.  At the end of a workout, take some time to walk, evaluate how you feel and don’t just plop yourself down and stop moving right away.  Don’t necessarily just stretch, either – often your muscles are too taxed and you are potentially doing yourself more harm than good by stretching immediately afterwards anyway.  Treat every workout seriously, because if you want to perform well over time this is an essential habit to have right away.

Historically my athletes all tell me that if they had a crappy run it was because they didn’t warm up or do any movement before they went into their workout.  It also significantly increases injury risk.

3)      Progress yourself slower than you think you need to. 

I can’t stress enough that the majority of overuse injuries I see are caused by their name – overuse.  Some days are going to be a lot better than others for running, so ramping up mileage needs to be done weekly with a deload week once in a while (meaning just drop your total mileage by about 20%).  There are lots of good plans out there and if the plan calls for 3 miles, don’t suddenly do 5 just because you are feeling great that day.  My marathon runners spend months increasing weekly mileage from 50km per week to 70 and many more to 100 – you have to give the body time to adapt to stress under load.  I often explain it to people that if you walked into the gym after hardly bench pressing 100 pounds and suddenly tried for 150, likely it wouldn’t go very well and you could easily hurt yourself, right?  Running (and any other form of muscular stress) is the same thing.  Start with alternating days, then add in a day once you feel capable.  4 days a week is generally plenty for most runners unless you are trying for a very fast time, especially when you add in other components, like…

4)      Strength train.  Both with resistance and while running. 

Huh?  How can you strength train while running, you ask?  Well, the funny thing is that the body adapts to stress under load.  Especially for beginners, getting into the weight room and lifting weights (properly) has been proven to be better for your running efficiency, allow you to recover from workouts faster and severely reduce your risk of injury.  Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean bench presses – the strength movements should be tailored to the muscles that you need to be better at running.  A good strength coach (and I happen to know an excellent one!) can be your guide here.  Strength training while running can be done with things like hill workouts, hard track workouts and even simple drills you can do at the end of a good run.  Again, like anything else care has to be taken to do things properly at the start.  There are lots of good beginner strength programs out there for endurance athletes.

It also doesn’t require a gym membership.  I can outfit a decent home gym for less than $100, so if you need any guidance there or even if you don’t have a lot of space it can definitely be done.  In fact, you can get a lot of strength from bodyweight movements alone.

5)      Be realistic.

If a person comes to me having never run consistently and tells me they want to run a marathon, I tell them it will take 2 years to do properly and injury free.  They usually walk out at that point.  So many of us want that big goal without giving our body the time to adapt and get stronger while doing it.  If you want to do a ½ marathon (without walking) be prepared to be running up to 50-60km per week.  For a 10k it should be at least 30-40 – which requires time, commitment and preparation.  Don’t be afraid to downgrade your goal if you find you haven’t put in the training time, you are better off to do that then do the race you set and possibly set yourself back for the future as a result.  There are races pretty much every weekend during the summer – they will always be there.  Would you rather have a bad experience or a good one?  The road is long and if you take your time and do things right the first time, you can enjoy running for years without any issues.

All of this being said, a good coach is invaluable and will give you some perspective.  Just please make sure you don’t come to them with a list of goals – pick a top one and have a secondary one, but don’t expect that you will lose 30 pounds while also running a ½ marathon.  They are separate things and should be treated as such.  If you are interested in exploring either your first race or your twenty-first and are going for a personal best feel free to contact me.   I have helped dozens of runners get to that target goal they have been waiting for, whether you are just getting off of the couch or heading towards the Boston Marathon.  Feel free to comment, subscribe and follow me on Facebook!   runners-high-300x221