TLDR; compete against yourself, there’s a better version of you inside you
My triathlon training this summer foreshadowed the latest ad for Apple Watch. It all started with my easiest 1500 meters everfollowed by building on the bike and continued all summer. My message was simple: this triathlon was not about fast or competitive, but rather becoming a better version of myself which was the whole point of passing people.
The Apple Watch ad simply states there’s a better you inside you. Always be in pursuit of a better you.
A couple weeks ago I was the first guest on a new segment on a local radio station here in Madison, 93.1 JAMZ. The segment is called Fit and Fabulous and it’s hosted by Krista, a client of mine, along with Corrina and Jessa from Girl Talk (channel 57). The idea is to bring in guests with an area of expertise that will help the (primarily female demographic) feel… you guessed it, fit and fabulous!
When I was asked to be a part of the segment I immediately anticipated the struggle of speaking to an audience I’d never met, that couldn’t see me, and that I couldn’t feed off. As a trainer I’m very comfortable with instruction, coaching and adjusting to clients. But this medium would be a new challenge. Sign me up!
I knew I needed to bring my training expertise to the table but at the same time I couldn’t assume that many listeners were necessary ready to jump on board with what I was suggesting (more on that later). So I decided to create a Facebook group so that interested listeners could immediately participate with me and ask additional questions. We already have ten members.
I’m scheduled to appear three more times on Fit and Fabulous. I structured the 4-part series to assume listeners were starting from ground zero. I introduced the Faithful Four, four exercises that are ‘faithful’ because they’re with you where ever you go: push-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges. I shot a quick video for the Facebook group to demonstrate and put a face to their new trainer. We’re off to a great start!
You can watch the Facebook Live broadcast here. If you read this and want to join the Facebook group, please drop me a line and let me know this post closed the deal!
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?
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.
Two weeks ago a gracious client let me borrow his Apple Watch series 1 (since he had upgraded to series 2). It was a nice introduction to the platform since work had purchased a series 2 for me but it wasn’t arriving for a couple weeks.
I now have a full week under my belt with Series 2 Nike+ version and I’m loving this product. The general consensus among the Apple and tech community is that Apple “doubled-down on fitness” with this model. It boasts waterproof specs and has built-in GPS. Plus my Nike+ model has the Nike running app that I haven’t tried yet but I’m eager to jump into that community.
Breathe: my favorite app on Apple Watch
The Apple effect
For those of us in the Apple ecosystem, the Watch has been the best addition to the collection since iPad. From opening the box to setting up the device (more of a treat than I was expecting) to getting the first meaningful notifications, the Apple experience doesn’t disappoint. The screen is gorgeous. The navigation is perfect. And like the iPad, it’s allowed me to distance myself from my iPhone. At first I couldn’t believe how cumbersome the strap worked – tucking the band underneath itself seems as un-Apple as I’ve ever seen. But after a couple days it has grown on me. Regarding the form factor, I’m not a watch-guy so maybe my standards are different. But when I think of how it looks in relation to what it can do and the purpose it has in my (health and wellness focused) life, I couldn’t be more happy with this Apple product on my wrist.
Awesome sport band on Nike+ edition
Better tech for less tech
Many friends and family know me as a tech-centric person. I know the apps, the workflows, the tricks, the devices; I have a pretty good lay of the land. What people probably don’t know is that I view my technology like a world traveler views their luggage: with experience, less is more. People who passionately travel are often trying to make a trip with the smallest bag and the least “stuff” that they can. Less is more. Simple trumps complex. I absolutely love my iPhone (a 128gb computer in my pocket!). But my iPad gave me a device that was an extension of my phone while at the same time it was a work machine that allowed me to access messages and emails only when it was good for me. Apple Watch has taken this to a new level. It is not efficient to look at email on the Watch. It is not efficient to text people from the Watch. Reading the news should not happen on the Watch. But I’m learning how to lock down VIP settings so that only important notifications get through. And even throughout this process, I wasn’t expecting how easy it would be to see a message and not respond because it isn’t efficient on the device. It allows me to get more work done. Distractions derail me. Apple Watch has allowed me to keep control of my efficient work time yet still triage things that are being delivered to my desk.
Ultimate fitness device
In my first week with Apple Watch, my favorite app has been Breathe. This native application couldn’t be more simple: press ‘start’ and pay attention to your breathing for one minute. Slow down, Hans. That’s the point of Breathe: meditation, relaxation, margin, pause, be still. Will I continue to listen to my Watch when it tells me to stop and breathe? I certainly hope so. Interesting story: a Twitter friend said he had just read an infuriating political story (imagine that) and the next moment Apple Watch told him to Breathe. Kinda cool! Just today, something happened at the house that got my blood boiling and as I retreated to the couch to get away, buzz buzz buzz Apple Watch told me to Breathe. Does it sense the quick spike in heart rate? Not sure, don’t really care. All that matters to me is that I have tools, including a coach, in place helping me pursue wellness throughout my day.
Nike branding FTW
As an exercise specialist, the main reason I bought Apple Watch was for the fitness features. It has built in GPS and it’s waterproof. I’m learning how to leverage Health.app as the main hub for my wellness. I’ve given all the fitness apps permission to write to Health.app so that it’s all in one place. While a dedicated triathlon watch may offer more tri-specific features, I believe it could be done with Apple Watch and for most people, Apple Watch is the perfect fitness device. Now it’s not for everyone, but for all my iPhone friends, if they wanted a fitness tracker I would certainly point them to Apple Watch. Which brings me to my last point.
Just another tool
As much as I love my Apple Watch, it’s just a tool. It’s my job to use the different running and fitness apps. It’s up to me to listen when it tells me to Breathe (that’s the name of the app and why I capitalized). It will send me as many or as few notifications as I allow it – so I must master the platform. But it’s a blast to use and I see it as my primary health and wellness device. Moving forward, I think about tools like this for my industry. How can we use tools like this to help people get healthier? Can we build apps that are easier to use? Improve communication between clients and trainers, patients and medical staff? Can we use technology so efficiently that it actually gets out of the way so we can live healthier and more disciplined lives? That is my goal.
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.
Forgive me one last time if I’m a little cynical about new year’s resolutions. That’s why I’m always encouraging clients and friends to establish a SMART goal and use that as your road map. If you haven’t made at least one goal for 2015, there’s still time. In fact, I’m writing this to challenge you (whether your goal is in hand or yet to-be-determined) to examine your approach. Is it working? Is it still a relevant goal? Is it realistic? You’ve had some time to think about it and now is the time for your first gut check. There will probably be more throughout the year, but after the initial buzz to resolve aspect-X of your life is over, today we find ourselves four weeks into the new year and most likely back to our normal routines.
If you played football at Pewaukee for Coach Lecher, you can hear him . “Life is a series of adjustments!” He’s not yelling like he’s mad. But he’s firm because you’ve gone astray, something happened that knocked you off course and you need a redirection. Maybe your goal was too big; you bit off more than you can chew. Maybe your goal was too small; progress is rolling and you need an extra level of challenge. Maybe you need to adjust your schedule because family needs came up and now the workouts need to happen before work. What happened? How’s it going? Can you be honest with this conversation and make your adjustment?
Pursuing our passions and pursuing our health are difficult tasks. Are they worth it? I believe they are. It is the cognitive, thinking, reflective, strategizing person who can look at the last few weeks, make adjustments, and then put a new plan into place to reach those goals.
Is there any way I can help? You can find me on Facebook or Twitter – I’d love to hear from you.
The blog post he was referring to talked about Nanowrimo, which is a campaign to write a novel in the month of November by writing every day. Anyway, Brad’s take on it is that he wants to create art every day. Well as I wrote a a few weeks ago, I want to pursue my art, I want to develop my writing style and voice. I want to tell my story.
So my take on this November challenge is to use my two favorite publishing apps, Pressgram and Desk, to publish my story. Through pictures and various amounts of words, I’ll take every day in November and tell my story. The theme is very defined: fitness. It’s my new job, it’s my passion, and I want to tell the story well.