Category Archives: Wellness

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.

Fourth Week

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.

Art Everyday in November 2014

Today I read the following tweet from Jim Woods.

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.

Training at Pinnacle

Pinnacle Logo

Click image for my profile!

Two weeks ago I accepted an offer as a personal trainer at Pinnacle Health and Fitness. I am excited for this opportunity, especially after meeting a few of my new clients and experiencing the culture and business model at this facility. I’m finishing the current session at the YMCA teaching TRX, kettle bell, and worksite wellness.

The one big question

One of the big questions I’ve asked myself in this new role is “What is my area of expertise?” Our director has challenged me with the same question. This mentality is consistent with a popular mantra of Jim Collins: What can you be the best in the world at? Similarly, Andy Stanley challenges leaders to “only do what only you can do.” I get distracted very easily. I want to be a jack-of-all-trades. I want to be all things to all people. And that just doesn’t work. Clarity and focus are essential. So this fundamental question needs an answer if I am to succeed here at Pinnacle.

I am a runner. I’ve been running half and full marathons for over eight years. I’m starting to get into triathlon, but my expertise is in cardiovascular training for runners and supplementing this training with TRX and kettle bells. Also my training specializes in establishing short and long-term goals for maximal motivation and performance. Lots of people talk about goals. I have a slightly different take. I believe most people need a specific goal on the calendar to give their training context. As a runner, my goal has always been a race. So I’ve developed my training philosophy to put a performance on the calendar so that my clients can feel their training has purpose. They are preparing for an event. They are building with an end in mind.

There is a ton of potential at Pinnacle. I just had a great ad hoc meeting this morning in the lobby where we discussed some promotional ideas for my TRX/kettle bell class. I have a lot of freedom to create things and build my own business within the club. Lots of the members have found community there. It feels good.

Wednesday Mornings

Disclaimer: I’m a morning guy. I love mornings alone, I love being disciplined and getting up early to read, write, and pray. In the summer I like those early morning runs. But it’s been a long winter and (a) I can’t imagine early morning runs and (b) my workouts in general are significantly behind where they usually are at this time of year. Which is why Wednesday mornings have me completely jazzed.

You see I’ve been teaching these TRX-kettlebell fusion classes. One of them is at 5:45am on Wednesdays. I need my coffee and light reading each morning, small breakfast for the road, travel from McFarland is about 18 minutes, I have to set up for my largest class, so it requires a wake-up time of 4:30am to make it happen. Yes, since I’m teaching I have a back-up alarm just in case (haven’t needed it yet).

The class is going great but it’s 7:05 that really makes my day. By 7:05am, I’ve taught, worked out, showered, and made my way to Barriques on Monroe street bright-eyed and full of energy. Yes, I’m a morning person but I guarantee that non-morning people would do this for two weeks and feel the same energy for the morning as I do. The science backs me up here. That workout improves blood flow which makes the mind significantly more alert. The stress on the muscles from 5:45-6:30 transitions to relaxation and recovery soon afterwards. Maybe I’m more in tuned with my body that others. Or maybe you should just try it and see if I’m wrong (spoiler: I’m not).

Mornings aren’t for everyone, I get that. But I do a lot of reading on exercise and productivity and business stuff. There’s a lot out there on habits of successful people and morning workouts often find there way into people’s schedules. Of course that’s not true – they don’t find their way in, they’re intentionally put there by the people who want to succeed and are willing to set their alarm for 4:30 and 4:35 to start the day off right. I only do this one day per week. Maybe you could do it more, maybe you start with one like me.


Published Goals Require Execution

I love to execute. I love to jump into something where I know how it works, I know what’s going to happen, I see it through and get the results I expected. I love to execute. But what about when I’m executing something new? What about executing a goal I’ve had for a few years and I’ve failed just as long? Execution on tasks like this is a different bird. Execution is uncertain. If I’m honest, execution doesn’t even get a fair shot.

So what needs to change? I’ve published my goals for 2014 and I know they are important. They will get me where I want to go. They not only benefit me, they benefit my family. As it sits right now, I’m motivated to make these goals a reality. The reality, though, is that some of these goals are pretty big. Big enough that I failed in the past. I don’t want that to happen again. What do I do differently? execute

Instead of the mountain of a goal in front of me, I need to think about President Jed Bartlett. What? You’ve never heard of him? He’s the main character from the West Wing, a show that enjoyed seven seasons of Emmy award-winning honors and a cult following. President Bartlett was famous for saying, “What’s next?” He had big decisions in front of him, he had big meetings to conduct, big conversations to navigate. But he understood that the fundamental question to ask when big things need to happen is this: what’s next?

This week at church Matt Metzger was talking about living our lives in such a way that we pursue rules for Godly living. This is not a religious post, though. It’s a post about taking steps. Watch this video from 32:55-36:22.

Step one of this blog series was to identify the big goals for the year. Step two is to understand that we reach these goals by executing a number of small steps. What are those steps? I can’t launch my wellness program until I survey the employees to determine their interests. I can’t compete in an olympic triathlon until I train for a certain number of days in the pool, on the bike, and in my running shoes. Every project, every goal has a next step. Not a finished product, a fast track. But a next action step (as David Allen would call it) to move closer to the end game.

It’s a big task, but this week I’ve drafted every project (all the big ones, most of the small) and figured out the next action step on each project. This helps focus our daily efforts which in turn helps us conceptualize our place in the bigger picture of accomplishing these goals, finishing these projects.

As Jim Collins says, great work requires great discipline. This week I’m finishing a disciplined process to convert my big goals into manageable next action steps.

The Next Season

This week is my final week as a full time arborist.  For various reasons I haven’t used this blog as a forum to discuss my career.  But right now I’m at liberty to discuss the next season of my life.  I’m happy to report that a proposal I submitted to Transform Wisconsin was accepted.  I’ll be working under contract three days per week to create a platform for teachers to use resources which I’ll be coordinating from the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Health Services.  I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.

start new job

You’ll be hearing a lot about this process in the next couple weeks.  It started when I was invited by my friend Jon Hisgen invited me to come to the Best Practices conference.  I met a Jen Walker who then recruited me for this project.  But the story here is so much more than this new role.  The next season of my life has so many layers and moving parts.  I’m excited to process it here both to document my story but also to possibly encourage others in their journey of faith.

For now, I’m excited to get this job started.  There’s a lot to organize at the house so I can be successful right off the bat.  There’s a lot of tools to line up so that I can feel confident from day one.  And frankly there’s still a lot of praying to do because this is a temporary contract; this needs to be a monumental stepping stone.

Here’s to a wonderful fall season this year!


iCan iWill

On Tuesday I wrote about the importance of having a calendar component to your training.  My training philosophy is such that you need an event on the calendar to put your training into context.  This is consistent with goal-setting theories and intuitively we all know that putting a finish line on the calendar and having a goal is a great way to keep a person motivated and effortful.

So now that you have a calendar with a goal circled, you have a plan.  What’s next?  You look at the calendar and say to yourself, “iCan.”  But you look at your training partner and say “iWill.”

  • I will train.
  • I will be here.
  • I will work hard and smart.
  • I will compete and get better.

Having community in your training offers two benefits to reaching your goal.  First, it gives you come accountability.  Saying “I will…” forces you to make a commitment and now you’re on the record.  It’s not a coach or a trainer looking over your shoulder, barking orders, pushing you harder than necessary.  Rather it’s a peer, a friend by your side in the battle with you.  Training runs get long by yourself.  I love putting my ear buds in and listening to my iPod shuffle, but having a running partner, a biking partner, or a friend in the pool lane next to you makes any workout not only more challenging but more enjoyable.

That’s the second benefit to training with a partner.  It’s more fun!  Being relational and training with other people is what most people remember after the training is over, when the race is done.  I won’t get all nostalgic here, but I miss my high school teammates quite often.  That camaraderie from the practice field to the locker room to the game field, training is so rich when you have others by your side.  Of course with team sports that’s a lot easier to accomplish.  But as we get older it seems like our sports and activities are more individual in nature.  I’m a runner – solo.  I’m learning how to bike and swim – solo.  Therein lies the challenge.

I struggle a little bit here.  I kind of like training alone.  Part of it is my time commitments with juggling work and grad school.  But honestly most of it is (a) I’m a loner by nature, and (b) I don’t have a lot of runner friends.

My challenge to you is this:  keep your eyes and mind open to identifying a training partner.  I commit to do the same.  I will stretch myself, think outside my comfort zone (which is very comfy right now) and try to find a teammate, maybe a team.  I expect this to happen as I get to know the guys at the pool.  As I continue to train for triathlons, I expect to find some other run, bike, and swim training partners.

Have you thought about these aspects of training before?  Do you use a calendar?  Do you have a training partner or a training team?  

Training Philosophy: iCal iCan

When you workout as much as I do (which is not a ton) and talk about fitness as much as I do (my favorite subject), you realize that people who workout just for the sake of working out are few and far between.  You will never hear me discourage anyone from working out and doing what works for them.  But going to the gym to lift weights?  Getting on a treadmill with no end in mind?  And the step machine?!  Hey, any activity is good and maybe you’re doing it because you just know you should… but I don’t think it’s sustainable.

iCal iCan

I have this training philosophy: iCal iCan.  If I put something meaningful on the calendar, I can accomplish it.  No, four to five workouts on the calendar for three months straight doesn’t count.  I mean you need to put an event on the calendar.  “But Hans, I’m not a runner.”  Fine.  Then put together some kind of event together where you perform, where you complete, where you see if all your training and workouts have paid off.  This may take some creative thinking and planning.  I can help with that.  But I believe having context to your training is essential for anyone to adhere to a routine.

As most of you know, I’ve been a runner for over seven years.  Katie and I have made this a pretty big part of our lives.  I’ve run multiple full and half marathons, and each time it was this date on the calendar that allowed me to stay motivated for months at a time in pursuit of this single goal.  When you take this philosophy a step further, you realize that each workout has a purpose.  Each workout has an objective that fits into the framework of your training plan and contributes to your body adjusting to different workloads so that you can cross that finish line as fast as possible.  If this sounds too hardcore for you, I’m ok with that.  But we all can understand that in anything we do, a goal plus a plan is a recipe for success.  We work hard at work to get that next promotion.  We study in school to finish a class, pass a test, or graduate with a degree.  We do projects around the house with an end in mind – there’s a goal, so there’s a plan.  Health and fitness are no different:  iCal, iCan.


Tipping Point

What will be the tipping point for this country to value and pursue their health? You can’t refute (a) the health status of our country (33% overweight, another 33% obese) or (b) the science of how we get healthier. It literally blows me away that our country, the most powerful one in the world, is this unhealthy! It’s embarrassing and it needs to change. I think one of the most powerful arguments for why we need people in this country to exercise and be healthy was written by my friend Spence. Basically, he says you need to be healthy because your friends and your family need you. And they need you to be focused and working like a champ.

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