Last week Matt Hanson invited me out for a Burger ride with his cycling team. I know what you’re thinking: Is a burger ride what I think it is? Yes. We ride to a burger joint, have the American classic, and ride home. I opted for the grilled chicken sandwich because I’m smart like that. But not so fast… I still had the fries. And I had my first Blue Moon in forever. With the warm temps in Madison lately, that beer went down just fine.
The ride was very short – six miles one way. I wanted to go faster but I had enough learning to do with the hand signals. I didn’t put up the “brake” sign and a lady right behind me almost rear-ended me – oops. Plus the bike path is a little narrow so with oncoming bikers it gets a little thin out there. Nonetheless it was a nice introduction to group riding.
I can’t lie – I’ve been thinking about Best of Madison a lot lately. I am one of six finalists in the personal trainer category for Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison awards. When you’re in a business like health and fitness, so much of your opportunities are the product of your marketing and exposure to the public. Winning this completion would help in the short term with immediate exposure and in the long term as I can always say I was voted Best of Madison (well at least for a couple years). After Googling the other candidates, I’ve realized I’m in good company. At the same time there’s at least two other candidates that could/should certainly have been included but for some reason are not (sorry Peter and Pat). This tells me that Dane County has plenty of talent and opportunities for people to pursue their health in 2018.
This process has forced me to think of what I would do if I win. Could I leverage the moment of attention to build my brand? Will the publicity make me a better trainer? And what if I don’t win? Losing sucks, will that be a downer? Or will I compare myself more critically to the competition and up my game? I’ve realized competitions like this are pretty subjective. Looking across the candidates in the top six and the other notables “left out” makes me realize how difficult it would be to really determine the best trainer in Madison. I mean really… what makes the best trainer and how is the public supposed to really vote on such a small (niche) category? Which means this is really a popularity contest – which trainer can get the most people from their tribe to vote for them? But then why did Pat (with 30,000 followers) and Peter (Mr. VIP boot camp where hundreds show up) not get in the top six? What I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to know how reliable and accurate this voting is which brings me to my conclusion.
Win or lose Best of Madison, nothing changes for me. Everyone likes to win. But often it’s losing that helps us the most in life. I love to win but I really want to do what helps most in life which may be losing; or you could call it “not winning”, as in places 2-6 didn’t lose, they just didn’t win. I’m not writing this as a pre-emotive excuse for losing. I have a great shot at winning this thing. Why? Because I’m a really good trainer. I know my stuff, I know my clients, I have my protocols and training philosophy in place and I’m on a great journey of mastering my craft. When you’re in the business of behavior change, that’s right where you need to be.
What this competition has done the most for me is keep me focused on getting better each week. It’s interesting timing since I’m currently cranking through some coninuing education credits for my ACSM certification. What’s best for my career is always learning, always getting better, always moving the ball down the field. But this drive can so easily fall away in the hustle and bustle of dozens of client sessions per week. That’s why this competition has been great – it’s forced me to reflect on what I’m doing, always improve, and be ready in case the spotlight shines in my direction.
But win or lose, nothing changes. I’ll still be in pursuit of a healthy and disciplined lifestyle.
There’s a great scene in my favorite show of all time, West Wing. From Season 3 “The Indians in the Lobby” the episode opens with Sam starting the day informing his boss, Toby, that on President Bartlett’s watch there are now 4 million new poor people – never good for an administration.
Check out the scene (you can stop after 1:15, but the whole 4-minute clip is worth your time):
Most of the people considered newly hypertensive—largely younger Americans—would be urged to eat healthier and exercise more rather than take medicine, according to the guidelines, published by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
It breaks my heart that even language as clear as “eat healthier and exercise more” will fall on deaf ears. Of course that’s just fine for me as and exercise specialist – I’ll always have a population of people who could use my services. But my goal is still to help people pursue a healthy and disciplined lifestyle. High blood pressure is not healthy, and there’s plenty we can do about it.
“If we want to really capture the risk from high blood pressure and effectively reduce complications from high blood pressure in the United States, at this time the evidence is strong we need to be taking that lower, to 130/80,” said Paul Whelton, chair of the guidelines and a professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
A large hurdle for many people is that we do not worry about what we cannot see. By that I mean “out of sight, out of mind.” We can’t see high blood pressure, we can’t see clogged arteries. Heck we can see excess fat and adipose tissue and we struggle to fight that (establishted link, by the way). The struggle is real and if I’m honest with myself and my readers I’m guilty of this also. One of the first steps is to talk about it and then we need to take action.
What is your blood pressure? Do you fall into the hypertensive category? What are you going to do to get into the healthy category?
Last Saturday morning I had just finished cleaning up breakfast at the campsite with my kids (Dad’s Camping!), I was on my second cup of coffee sitting at the picnic bench and my back started to seize up. A few minutes later I was telling my brother that I couldn’t get off the bench. He checked on me for the next 60 minutes or so until I could finally stand unassisted as it slowly started to release. Do me a favor: don’t mention that I turned 40 just 50 days ago.
In the days that followed it look longer than expected to get better. I told a couple people at work and then made a mistake by making a comment about missing a workout with my Monday crew and then I got all kinds of questions. Well meaning, caring people is a wonderful thing – I just don’t do well with the (sympathetic) attention. But that’s not what I’m writing about today. As with injury and disease, what we are talking about is reducing risk. You can be a runner, swimmer, gym nut but still get heart disease. Why? Because working out only decreases your risk of disease (or injury).
I mentioned that I was camping when this happened. I was at an event called Dad’s Camping where I met a bunch of new guys through my brother and his friend who started this weekend gathering. My problem was that our first full day started with me not being able to move off a picnic table until I was able to get to the ground and stretch which made a couple guys ask, “is this your normal Saturday morning routine, Hans?” Ahhh! No! I’m actually in pretty good shape, this isn’t me!! But yes, this is me. I’m just another guy with a lower back injury.
Many of my clients are experiencing significant improvements in their health and fitness. But at any given moment a couple of them are dealing with very real barriers to progressing in their workouts. Set backs can be physical (my back) and they can be mental (“this is too hard, this isn’t worth it”). What’s important is identifying these barriers and working through them until you find a solution and eventually victory.
What barrier is in the way of you accomplishing your goals?
TRX has a lot going for it. It’s popular, it’s portable and it’s challenging. It has become one of my favorite pieces of training equipment. TRX is not cheap but if you are a member of a gym they probably have one (or a few). If you have the money motivation I guarantee you will get your money out of it if you purchase one. Personally I’ve lead TRX classes and I use it with clients daily. And this summer you should start using TRX also!
Three reasons TRX is awesome
TRX is awesome for a few different reasons. First, before you even get on TRX you have preconceived notions of this original suspension trainer. Someone suggests you try it or asks if you have experience with TRX and you get a little wide-eyed and your heart rate goes up because you’ve never had the guts to grab those two handles and try something. So TRX is awesome because it has a reputation.
The reputation doesn’t disappoint. TRX is also awesome because it’s one of the most challenging pieces of equipment in the gym (not many people own their own straps). Have you been working on “regular” push-ups? Try them with your feet in the straps. How about the back, have you been doing rows? Try leaning on TRX and doing rows! Pretty good at a squat? Stand with the TRX and do jump-squats as you jump agains the straps and they pull you back for more. TRX has a great slogan: “all core all the time.” The challenge with TRX is keeping good posture throughout your movements while engaging your core.
While not many people own a TRX, those that do love the portability of it. While traveling for work is usually a challenge, it’s entirely possible to throw the TRX straps into even a carry-on and bring suspension training on your business trip. It may take a little research and time to get TRX set up on location, but one additional perk is you’ll probably be outside in a park, under a tree, or in some other green space that’s sure to grab some attention and (hopefully) encourage others to get their fitness the way you are.
My experience with TRX
In the last five years I’ve taught a TRX class at both of the gyms where I’ve worked. Here at Pinnacle I developed a TRX/KB class – 60 minutes of TRX and kettle bells in high-intensity interval format. It was very successful for about a year. I took a lot of that class and incorporated it into workouts with clients. As I noted earlier, I like to take exercise people already do (push-ups, rows, squats) and add the challenge of TRX. Adding a balance/stability component is great for functional training. So much of exercise adherence is about keeping clients engaged. TRX affords them new ways to move including getting into positions (low squat) that are literally impossible to do without TRX. One of my favorite stories is from a client of mine who admitted one morning that she had a dream about TRX burpees. That’s right: one foot in the TRX strap, hop (on the other foot), drop to a push-up (remember, one foot is in TRX and the other is “floating”), TRX push-up, stand on the one free leg, hop on one foot and repeat. From HIIT training, to classic intervals and strength to golf stretches and assisted yoga poses, TRX suspension trainer has become a staple in my training program for both me and my clients.
TRX is for you
When I introduce people to TRX, I start with TRX chest press. I tell them: “I have challenged a high-level triathlete with TRX Atomic push-ups and I have had a 75-year old former professor on TRX chest press because you can choose the level of difficulty. Parallel to the ground, the triathlete is pushed to the max. Standing almost vertical the former professor is practically doing a standing wall chest press with the added benefit of the instability of the straps. All this means that I can get any client or member to an appropriate level of challenge on the TRX suspension trainer.
One key I’ve realized with TRX is to not be intimidated by it or think that it’s a stand-alone piece of equipment. It’s a curve ball. It’s a change up from your normal exercises. Find a couple of your strengths and experiment how TRX can challenge you in new says. I’ve used “challenge” six times in this article. If a workout doesn’t challenge you it can’t change you – TRX will challenge you and that’s a good thing.
If you want a couple challenges beyond the TRX chest press, row, and squat mentioned in this post, hit me up on Twitter or email me and I’d be happy to contribute to your workouts.
Today I turned 40 years old. It has been a fanstastic weekend. Some thought:
Family is the best
Norah made me an awesome card (and told me all about how she made the decision. Sorin tried to FaceTime us while we were on our half marathon today. My mom and my sister made it all around the half marathon course today. Then my sister and parents hosted a birthday gathering featuring two of my favorite treats: homemade Chex mix and peanut butter bars.
Katie is a champ
She ran the Conquor the Captial this weekend: twilight 10k last night and half marathon today! She and her friend (and my client) Sue ran the two races together and killed it! This weekend started as “her races” and turned into all kinds of activities around me turning 40. She was so gracious and our plans turned out to be amazing. We had so much fun and this paragraph doesn’t begin to describe my happiness at the end of these couple days.
Great friends matter
Sue’s husband and I spent last night tracking the ladies arising be the 10k course and had nice conversations and the four of us had some great laughs over the two races. Lunch today was with two families we love dearly, including baby Macie – what a diva!
Today was good for the soul. Do you ever have those days? To be clear, it wasn’t about the birthday celebration, though it was part of it. It was about memories with family and friends, and great results in our races. Katie finished a 10k (6 miles!) at 9pm then ran an awesome, strong half marathon at 7am. You should have seen her sense of accomplishment at the finish line! I ran my best half marathon and worked hard for every minute I cut off my PR. The finish line was almost 60 minutes hanging out with family and friends celebrating the races.
And Katie and I ended on the rooftop of the new AC Hotel at Eno Vino. What a meal, what a view, and what a conversation with my wife.
Up next? Katie and I are very excited about our family, our businesses, and our next race.
On Sunday I will be celebrating my 40th birthday running the Madison Half Marathon. It’s already Tuesday so I need to get this post out to give you guys time to buy my birthday present!
That’s right, I’m asking for a birthday gift. I’ve done this a few other times including when I ran the Monona 20k and when I participated in Save a Drink. More details this week.
The organization I’m running for is called Blood:Water. If you choose to support me by donating, click the button at the top and in the comment you can write #HansMadisonHalf and any other comment you’d like.
Yesterday I ran a fast 4-mile route through Oregon – gotta love race week and the taper! It’s only a half marathon but resting this week is critical. At work today a member mentioned that he saw me running and said I looked strong, so that’s always nice! He’s a good runner himself so I appreciate the love.
In reality today is your last day to buy me a birthday gift! Let’s be honest, Facebook on the weekend is just casual – nothing really happens.
Gifts of $5 and $10 are awesome because they cost us nothing and help in such big ways. It’s really all I’m looking for – a way to crowd-source my efforts into getting people involved in a great cause (clean water, people!) while I put in all the hard work running those miles!
Sunday I’ll be running my 8th half marathon: 13.1 miles through our Capital city. I heard yesterday there’s a “hill challenge.” Based on people’s chip times from the bottom of the hill to the top, the top three men and top three women win prizes. Very tempting but I haven’t found out where (mile-marker) on the course this is happening, so no decision has been made yet. It sure will be tempting to get a running start on that thing and go for it but boy, that effort will take a lot of juice out of the legs for the rest of the race.
Thanks again for considering supporting Blood:Water as we build wells and provide clean water for millions who are without. I am very excited for this weekend – partly for the birthday but mostly for the two runs. Katie is doing a 10k on Saturday night and then we are both running the half marathon on Sunday.
I’ll try to post a pic on Saturday of what I’ll be racing in so that if you’re on the course you can find me. I should be around 7:45/8:00-minute miles.
This week I want to share a brief insight into my vision as a fitness professional. Anyone who has worked with me for more than a couple months knows that I gravitate towards and leverage technology whenever possible. While technology is only a small part of my training, it is essential. The articles in this issue got me thinking deeper this week about the future of my training modalities and the direction of health care and the allied health industry.
My contribution to people’s health
When I am working with a client, my iPad is never more than a hop, skip, and a lunges away. I have all of my workouts on it and I’m always ready to take notes or take a picture to add to a client’s file. It is far from a perfect system and too much still falls through the cracks. But I recognize that with devices and enough apps that are fully customizable, there is continually less excuse to not have everything perfectly documented. When I do orientations for new members I want to send them their PDF as soon as our session is done so that they can start planning their next workout. When I need to see what a client did last week, where they struggled, where they won, or how they did a workout three months ago to today, I have that all on my iPad. In summary, technology makes my profession more thorough and more efficient. Hopefully this leads to increased trust and better results for the client.
Once members have started their fitness routine, I wanted to provide additional tools to help with exercise adherence and progressions. I developed a series called Fitness Tracker 2.0, the idea being that many of us have and use these trackers but don’t use them to their fullest or aren’t getting the results that we want. Since starting this series in 2016, I’ve learned that simply wearing a fitness tracker doesn’t guarantee success or even compliance and adherence. A combination of the client’s motivation, my coaching, and group (training) dynamics all contribute to this equation. But still there is so much potential for technology to not only educate us but prompt us to make better decisions. These are just a couple ways I use technology at Pinnacle on a daily basis to make things go well for me and my clients.
Apple’s contribution to people’s health
Trainers like myself have figured out how to help clients at the micro level of the industry. But there’s a lot happening at the macro level also. As I wrote about in the healthcare issue, companies will soon take information from wearable devices and integrate it with a person’s medical history to make healthcare more efficient and hopefully more successful. What if Apple Watch was more than a $400 over-priced notification gadget and half-baked fitness tracker? What if it was 97% effective at detecting irregular heart rates?! That’s what a study from the University of California, San Francisco reported last week. To be clear, I fully expect Apple and the fitness industry to have trouble getting patients to be compliant in wearing these devices in the same way that not everyone at Pinnacle is jumping into my FT2 classes. One thing I learned in graduate school was that getting people into scientific studies is a lot like exercise adherence – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. As a result I made it my goal to be a professional that bridges the gap between cutting edge research and science and the general public that needs (and wants) increased health. Regarding the irregular heart rates, Apple has provided the same bridge between consumer and the scientists. We now (potentially) have tools that mean we no longer have to go into a clinic to check for our heart health and that may even predict if a person is going to have a heart episode. Of course Apple and the clinics cannot advertise this but writing is on the wall that this is the direction of wearables and the health care industry.
No one wants the symptoms of an irregular heart beat, but fluttering in the chest, chest pain, fainting, or dizziness are usually present and help determine when you need to seek help. What if there were no symptoms? That’s often the case with the silent killer: diabetes. If the body cannot turn blood sugar into energy, the result is damage to the heart, kidneys, and nerves. I am sure there is wonderful technology around diabetes management and in fact I know a couple friends who have blood glucose monitors. But Apple is testing continuous blood glucose monitors that are (or could be) connected to an Apple Watch that would communicate with doctors and diabetes educators. This makes me so excited! Yes, I know education and monitoring are only part of the equation, but if a program can demonstrate success with these tools we can fight the disease that affects almost 10% of our population. All of a sudden a $400 watch seems like a tool that opens the door to not only health measurements but prescription and coaching. I want in on that.
I see myself always working one-on-one with clients and patients but increasingly I see myself putting systems and programs in place for population health causes like heart health monitoring and diabetes education. We need to get past the idea that tech is the solution; we can’t expect people to use these devices because they they will make them healthier. We need the human component in the form of group dynamics and coaching to help people use the right tools for the job. The tech is getting better, we are getting smarter and seeing the bigger picture, and coaches like me will continue to bridge that gap and help us realize a healthier society.
(Note: this is posting two weeks late – life happened)
There have been a couple hiccups with Apple Watch. I have been using Record by Under Armour for my workouts. I love the look of the app and I think the kinks will work themselves out but twice last week the workout paused while using the app. The first time I was doing TRX and Kettlebells and as I was checking the heart rate it showed the start screen. GRRRRR. Lost that workout data. Then yesterday I was on a long run with Katie around the golf course here in Oregon. Excited about the GPS and heart rate data (I'm using a Polar H7), in the last mile a quick glance after reaching the top of a hill showed me the start screen again. Not cool. I learned from the last glitch to not start a new workout because that would certainly eliminate all data. Plus what would I gain? One mile data after running 7.5? No thanks. So I just let the watch run and thankfully after getting home and in the middle of my cool down and stretching, the app showed my workout still tracking. So the data was there, I just needed to adjust the end time and then the estimated calories burned and distance traveled – no big deal but certainly a problem that I shouldn't have to deal with. I'm thinking it's a quick-start app timer on one of the watch faces that I think is overriding the Record app and messing up my display.
The Record app has been "hanging" too much
I am still loving the Breathe app. I'm talking to clients about it because of the mindfulness aspect of wellness. I am tracking my workouts and activity but I'm working on setting better goals for the three components: activity, exercise and stand. And lastly I've noticed many more people around the club and around town wearing Apple Watch. Part of the reason, I'm sure, is because Target just offered $70 off Apple Watch series 1. In fact I have a new client who took advantage of that deal. So that makes it essential that I keep learning the platform and figure out how work through these hurdles and leverage this tool to help people get healthier with Apple Watch.