Category Archives: exercise

Three Things I Learned Last Week at Ironman Wisconsin

I’ve been attending Ironman Wisconsin since its inaugural race in 2003. I’ve had numerous friends race and this year was no different. Two friends from church were in the race, one client from Pinnacle raced (and placed 5th in his age group!), and one friend from my Wednesday morning book study was there. This last athlete, we’ll call him Will because that’s his name, was the one I was tracking the most on Sunday.

If you’ve never been to Ironman, this needs to change. Especially if you’re here in Madison you need to realize that this amazing event is right in our back yard and offers so much to the community and will do wonders for your own personal motivation and appreciation for what the human body can accomplish.

I followed the race a little more this year than in years past because I’ve gotten to know Will better. It helped that I knew he would be doing really well – the guy can bring it! At the end of the day, I learned three things from Ironman.

Starting and Not Finishing is Better than Not Starting at All

Ironman Wisconsin 2015 start

When I was in college, one of my instructors introduced himself as an athlete that had competed in several Ironmans. When we followed up with details, we learned he actually never completed any! Each time he had injury or race-day complications that prevented a finish. At the time I dismissed his efforts, not realizing how much time he had put in. Fast forward to 2015 and I can tell you that standing at the start of Ironman Wisconsin I am very confident every athlete that gets into that water has put in countless hours of training. Most of them will finish, some won’t. But all the athletes have put in the training and now they’re treading water at the start line. Just getting to that start line is a huge accomplishment. You cannot finish without starting. Put in the work and get to that starting line.

Even Pros Get Passed

Will Ironman Wisconsin out of water 2015

Sorry – blurry because I had to raise my camera and couldn’t focus. The volunteers are ripping off his wetsuit so he can get to the run.

When Will got out of the water, he was in 52nd place. Wanna see? Check out this video. You’ll want to fast forward to 1:28:00. Look at the race clock in red, he’s the guy in the middle of the screen 58:35 ripping his cap off); here’s the video. Out of the water he was 52 overall. Will is not a pro but he’s darn good. And even the good ones get passed. Of course taking nothing away from Will, but almost 50 people passed him on the bike. (Editor’s note: he pretty much passed those same 50 people and finished 52 overall, same as when he got out of the water.) This is a good reminder that you can’t always be first; you can’t always be at the top. Please hear me out – Will is in the top percentage of this race at all times. But my point is that there are still times when we get passed. Do not get discouraged. Run (or in this case, bike) your race. But whatever you do, don’t give up.

Champions Play to the Whistle

In my football days the coaches always emphasized playing all the way through the whistle – never give up on a a play. You stop when the whistle blow and you never anticipate a stop in play. At about 4:30pm Will was on the race course and looking very strong. It was difficult to find him but once I did I got right behind him and was able to get a few pics. I was talking to him (assuring him he didn’t need to talk to me – “you need every breathe to run!”) and then I noticed something. Will kept checking his watch. He was at mile 23. There is nothing easy about the last three miles of a 140.6-mile race, but Will was looking very strong and I was taken back that he was still checking his pace. “Just finish” I kept saying in my head. Not good enough for Will. He needed to know who fast he was going and he was calculating just how fast he could go; what was in the tank to finish well.

Will has three miles to go

Will has three miles to go


Champions always play to the whistle. Each workout, each test, each project – there is a distinct start and finish to most things in life. Will reminded me that his Ironman was over when he finished the finish line. And that finish line was captured on video:

There’s not many events more inspirational that an Ironman. You don’t need to even want to do one to show up and cheer on these athletes. Go an watch, cheer hard, and learn a few things about competing with yourself and competing in life. I was honored watch Will on Sunday – from getting out of the water, to high speeds on the bike and as I biked along side him as he finished Ironman Wisconsin this year. He’s a champion. And he inspires me.

Monona 20k

On Saturday May 2 I ran in my first race in almost two years. I ran the Monona 20k for the first time ever and I was very impressed by the race. Initially the low cost ($30!) drew me in, but on race day the crowd and the party at the end was second to none. I finished in 1:36 which was faster than I expected.

My training was different than any run I’ve ever done. I had less miles, I got to those miles in a shorter training schedule, and I had 3-4 high intensity training sessions per week that I’ve never indluded in my preparation. Would I do it differently, yes. But I have no regrets. It was a great run, nice recovery, and I’ll probably run it again next year.

Daddy in sight!

monona 3

They don’t quite get that I had I couldn’t talk and had to keep going. That’s my friend Ed clapping for our family 🙂

For the first time ever, my kids were on the course cheering me on. I didn’t know how many times (or where) Katie would get to a spot. The first one was at mile four and it was so fun to wave and then have Sorin and Norah run up to me. After quick high-fives it was tough to keep running but they understood. They saw me two other times and then we got to talk at the finish line. What a great day!

I was pushed on the course right after I saw my kids – a client, Ken Woodford, caught up to me and we ran together until mile eight. He kept me going at his pace which was faster than I would’ve gone, but I had the motor to stay with him. The last time I was really pushed like that was the (Des Moines, Iowa) Dam-to-Dam a couple years ago when Grant (brother-in-law) pulled me through the course. I’m very appreciative of both efforts and the push those guys gave me.

The finish line was fun because I had another client there – Sue Koch had just finished her first 5k on the north side of the city and was already at our finish line. One of my training philosophies is to put a race on the calendar and go after a clear goal. What a morning celebrating her first win!

Running is good. It’s been awhile but it feels great to be back. There’s a lot of community on the race day and for me it’s the training that provides so much of the benefits not only to my physical health but my mental health as well. It was a great day for our family. Happy training!

monona 4

Lastly, thanks to my team who supported me and Team Blood:Water. We raised a little over $100 for clean water – what a great cause. Every race I do I’m going to train for a cause, and usually it will be with Blood:Water.

Niche HIIT Training

I’ve found my niche at Pinnacle Health + Fitness. It’s taken about four months of this training to fully develop such that people notice it and make comments about it. Bob says “you’re the only one who gets ‘em to sweat.” One prospective client knew she wanted to work with me because of how hard my workouts look: “I wanna do that!” And my newest clients admitted they were nervous about their first sessions because they saw my workout with another lady and can’t quite imagine them being able to complete it.

Of course I didn’t invent HIIT training, but I’m mastering it. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. In short, you sprint through an exercise (or set) and then rest and repeat for 30-40 minutes. It’s been shown to benefit many aspects of health, including cardiovascular health which is my number one focus. So I started training most of my clients with this method and it’s really started to work.

The comments from clients and other members have been fantastic. I’m making a name for myself with this type of training and I’m continually developing my execution. It’s not for everyone, and I’m ok with that. I want healthy clients and I want results. A lot of people come to me wanting to lose ten pounds – this is a great way to do it.

Pointing to Clean Water

Do you remember the ice bucket challenge from last fall? How could I forget mine? My (mischievously brilliant) father-in-law poured the slowest bucket of ice water over me at family reunion while onlookers cringed in their sandals. What a great event. I watched a lot of ice bucket challenges. Did you have a favorite? Mine was by Matt Damon. The ice bucket challenge was an awareness and fundraising campaign for ALS. Matt Damon is a clean water advocate, so he used the national attention of the ice bucket challenge and took it a step further

Clean water is a big deal. For the last two years, I’ve participated in a campaign called Save a Drink, Save a Life. The idea is for participants to give up a few trips to the coffee shop and instead donate that money to build wells where people don’t have access to clean water. This year I’m running the Monona 20k and so in the same way that Matt Damon pointed attention towards clean water initiatives, I’m doing the same thing with this run. Here’s my promise: I’ll train very hard and on May 2, 2015 run all the way around Lake Monona. I’m asking friends and family to join my team and give up a couple coffees or just donate to my efforts. None of the funds raised will go to my training – in fact you donate directly through Blood:Water, a non-profit that has raised over $24 million for one of our generation’s greatest burden: ensuring every human has access to clean water. 

Will you join my team?

Essencial Habits

If I were to drill down the best predictor of my clients’ success, it would be the quality of the habits they’ve formed. All of my clients have very specific goals. Success starts with goals but success makes progress with habits. How are you spending your time? What is a non-negotiable in your week? How often is that non-negotiable happening in any given week? When you have answered these questions, you can claim a habit as your own.

If you are anything like me, you have a few too many irons in the fire. Either way, a productive and efficient life will be defined by the habits you’re able to execute. I’m running the Monona 20k on May 2 – if running isn’t a habit, it will be a long day. Are you running a business? What habits make that happen? Are you trying to launch a business? What habits do you need to have to put in the work before you go live? Are you writing a book? Chapters don’t write themselves – you need to do the work and you need to write on a regular basis.

Think about your workflow. Think about your habits. Think about your distractions. Think about your goals and be realistic about what it will take to get there. Put together a game plan of habits and start stacking successful weeks on top of each other.

It takes a long time

It takes a long time

In the middle of my workout this morning, I was deep into a squat-to-press and I felt my muscles respond in a new way. This was surprising because I’ve been doing this without twice per week for about six months. I’m getting really good at it, I’m significantly stronger. But today it’s almost like the exercise clicked for me. The exercise seemed to slow down, I had additional focus, and I felt the muscles working more acutely than ever before.

Why did I feel this new level of accomplishment?

Getting really good at something takes a really long time. I know, obvious. But do you need that reminder? I did. Are you expecting quick results? Are you putting in the time? Are you spinning your wheels? Are you being challenged? Things worth having take a lot time to develop. Do not be discouraged. In fact, take pride in the fact that we are always learning new things, achieving new levels of mastery in all our pursuits. Do the work. Earn the sweat equity.

Sadly they is another side of the coin. While it is true that it takes a long time to build up a good thing, it takes a very short amount of time to destroy a prized possession. The reputation that is lost with one moral failure. The job site that has one mistake and now profits for the day are shot. One day of a short fuse with your children and they see Dad lose control. No back up of the family computer, it crashes and all your family photos are gone. A life time of health and fitness, a couple years off and now everything is more difficult and you’ve added 20 pounds. We work so hard and then it all can be lost so quickly.

Build, balance, adjust

It is essential to have a set of goals, both long term and short term. We need to use these goals as a compass for our lives. We need to build up strategic areas of our life and then keep them balanced and always maintained. It takes a lot of work. It’s not all going to move in the positive direction. There will be set backs. In fact if you aren’t failing a few times, you probably aren’t trying hard enough. But that’s where adjustments come in. Make your adjustment and recalibrate toe goals and your game plan.

*** Spring

Here’s the thing I’m feeling after my exercise advancement this morning. I’m wondering what’s next. I’m counting on that experience to spring me upwards and to the right, highly anticipating the next learning moment.

Not Done Yet

Lip o’ mayo

For seven years I worked with the college ministry at Blackhawk church in Madison, Wisconsin. I was part of the original team that got programing started, which included large group meetings, service projects, small groups, and special trips. On one of the special trips we made a food stop at Subway. I was at a table with my friend Al, a farm kid who one time brought baby goats in for a show-and-tell evening. If you looked at and talked with Al, you’d know you can’t take the farm out of this guy. On this particular lunch break, we were eating sandwiches and as I looked up at Al, I noticed a big glob of mayo on the corner of his lip. Conversation at the table was lively, full of energy but there was moment of silence so as I handed him a napkin I said to Al, “You’ve got mayo…” and I motioned which side it was on. Without stopping his chewing, without cracking a smile, just a quick connection of his eyes to mine, he responded, “I’m not done yet.” It was hilarious! He didn’t take the napkin, he didn’t clear his lip, no one really got the joke because they hadn’t seen the mayo, motioned with the napkin, or were denied the clean-up!

First Draft

Yesterday I was rolling through my Twitter feed and came across a similar comment from Ben Arment:

As I continue to perfect my craft of writing, I greatly appreciated this mindset of an accomplished writer. Not only did Ben demonstrate the process (first draft is necessary, don’t try to get to final draft in one shot), but he also demonstrated the mentality a successful writer must have. Excellent writing is a process; we enter the process, give it our best, edit, try again, and keep working and reworking until we get it right. That’s an exercise of the mind as much as it is the actual act of writing.

Exercise in process

In my world, this mentality is critical for successful athletes. And I’m not just talking about marathoners, Ironmen, or century cyclists. Many of my clients are with me to lose weight. My job is to constantly push them to their best, then challenge them to best their best. They need to have the mentality that “I’m not done yet.” It took them years of practice as they developed a less-than-desirable lifestyle and it may take them years of practice to develop a healthy and active lifestyle.


One thing I know about you

One thing I know about you: you’re not done yet. You have goals, some big and some small, some short term and some long term. Either you’re working on them or your not. Often it is easier to accomplish these goals with a coach. If I can be of service, you know how to get in touch. But you’re not done yet. What’s next?

“This heavyweight bout is scheduled for 12 rounds”

When I was young and just learning about all the major sports, I remember not being too fond of boxing but was fascinated by a 12-round fight. Team sports are usually in quarters, halves for college basketball. But “This heavyweight bout is scheduled for 12 rounds!” always had a ring to it. It was different, memorable, and exciting of course because even though it was scheduled for 12, Mike Tyson probably only needed two or three to do his work and end the fight.RTR12CJS-e1392662518973

It’s February. You may not be in a heavyweight title fight, but this battle is scheduled for 12 rounds and we just started the second. In this first week of February, it’s time to look back at your goals for 2015 and reevaluate. (If you didn’t establish goals, welcome to the pursuit – start here, it’s not too late.) After the first round, the dust is staring to settle. Maybe you’re getting in a groove. Maybe you over-committed. Maybe you’re capable of more than you thought. Don’t let another week go by without reflecting on your goals, your approach, and what you’re seeing for results.

I meet with a handful of clients each week that have extremely detailed goals. It allows us to have great discussions, I get to ask pointed questions because they’re valid. These people are on a journey, a pursuit and every workout is a step towards achieving that goal. Some workouts are just that – get the workout in. But most workouts, and certainly the ones with me are very ambitious and strategic. As they say, if you’re aiming for nothing, you’re sure to hit it every time. What’s your goal?
Some examples:

  • first 5k
  • personal best in a 10k
  • exercise adherence: exercise three days per week (entire month of February!)
  • eliminate sugar (whoa!)
  • drink 3 liters of water per day

Need others? Want to talk more about your pursuit? Find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Compare Yourself to No One

As a trainer, you can imagine I work with all kinds of clients. You name it, I’ve probably worked with them. Each client has different history with injury, different goals, different availability to train, and a different drive to compete and succeed. One clients is a 28 year old young professional who hasn’t been physically active since high school and needs to get back into shape. Another client is a year into retirement, has some extra time on her hands and would like to do the activities of daily living with more ease. As a personal trainer, I assess all of this information, compare it with their injuries and goals, and put together a program to help them pursue their health. This is what makes personal training so personal.

One criticism of personal trainers is their cookie-cutter approach to exercise design. Clients see a trainer doing an exercise (or a group of exercises) with multiple clients and think, “well that’s what he has me doing. Why is he doing that workout with him/her also?” The answer is pretty simple. It’s because most people need to be able to do a squat really well. And a chest press and row are excellent exercises, too. And battle ropes challenge your cardiovascular system without the pounding of box jumps or Bosu bunny hops. You see even though clients are doing the same exercises, they probably aren’t doing the same workload (weight, reps, sets).

Think about it this way. When you show up to watch the start of the Madison marathon, you see a lot of runners with a lot of training. On average, they all ran at least three to five times per week runs ranging from three to twenty miles. Many of them followed Hal Higdon’s training program. For argument’s sake, let’s say they all did Hal’s beginner program. Did they all do all the runs? Did they all do the runs at the same pace? Did they any of them add strength training? Did any of them do yoga or Pilates on their off day? It’s easy to see that the answer is obviously “no.” But if every person at the start line did Hal’s running program, the vast majority of their training consisted of running the same miles with very similar days of rest. In the same way if all my clients did squats, chest press, rows, and battle ropes, the only thing we can say about them is that they all have the same needs (namely more strength and cardiovascular training) and now they’ll see similar results.

Persoanl training is a science and an art. It takes me awhile to figure out each clients’ approach to their training. I learn what they’re good at, where they struggle, how they respond to my coaching. As our relationship grows stronger, I can push harder in some areas and change approach in others. And even if the exercises are the same, the individual challenge is always appropriate to each client. I don’t go through the motions with any of my clients. I want the challenge high and the results to be pleasing to everyone involved.

My job as an exercise specialist is to help you pursue your health and fitness. My goal is to get you to look inward at yourself and where you want to go. I’ll bring the tools, you bring the effort, and together we’ll accomplish whatever goals we set.