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Stand for something!

I was just scrolling through Facebook on my phone [side note: I took the Facebook app off my phone in hopes I'd stop using it so much...did not work like I'd hoped] and came across a “sponsored post” (aka paid advertisement) for a local area private gym.  The ad said — and I’m slightly paraphrasing because I don’t remember exactly what it said — “Our mission is to provide you with the BEST [their emphasis] and most efficient fitness”.

I became immediately annoyed.  What does that ad even mean??

Listen, I’m not going to claim to be an expert on writing copy, but that ad is just not good.  There’s nothing unique, nothing that identifies the facility.  There certainly is no branding going on.  How is it the best?  Why is it the best?

The ad just reminds me of a bunch of kids arguing.  “I’m the best”. “No, I’m the best”.  “No, you’re both wrong, I’M the best”.  Sorry kids, all of you are wrong.  I’m the best.

Can you build a business without standing for something?  Sure.  Will it be sustainable?  Definitely not.  If you don’t stand for something, how do you know who you are catering to?  And if you don’t know who you are catering to, you certainly won’t be able to go out and find them.

And you can’t say “my product/service is for everyone”.  Everyone?  Really?  There are a billion people on this planet.  I’m sure I can easily find a few people you’re product/service is not for.  Stop being lazy and figure out who you are and what you stand for.

All that being said, I’m going to go ahead and write some ad headlines for 202strong.

“The boutique, functional training experience DC has been waiting for”.
“Garage gym training, boutique gym atmosphere”.
“Small, intimate classes.  45 minute sessions.  Boutique facility.  Fitness is evolving…why aren’t you?

Are these great headlines?  I’m just spit ballin’ here.  I’m sure they could be better.  But they paint a picture.  They let people know what to expect from 202strong.

Sure, we think we’ll provide the best and most efficient fitness experience.  Yes, we think we have the best coaches.  Yes, we think we have the best programming.  Yes, we absolutely think we can provide expertise, knowledge and an experience unlike anything you’ll get anywhere else.  But every gym thinks that (or at least they should).  So it’s not enough.  It’s not enough to set anyone apart.  Everyone’s shouting the same thing.  Everyone’s standing for the same thing, which means no one is standing for anything.

When it becomes a shouting match, you’re bound to lose.

Plus I don’t like shouting.  I lose my voice too easily.

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Are you in control?

The lowest points in my life have always been the times I’ve felt completely out of control.

After my fifth knee surgery in 2.5 years when I realized my collegiate and competitive basketball career was over.  This was doubly devastating because I also realized playing basketball was the only thing currently keeping me in college.

The months leading up to the moment when I finally manned up and broke up with my girlfriend of 7 years.

When I realized I was stuck in a work situation that provided almost zero opportunity for advancement.

The moment I figured out the incredibly unconventional dating situation I had invested a lot of time and effort in was going nowhere.

[Reading over my “low” points, I realize my life hasn't been terribly challenging up to this point.  Or my memory isn’t that great.  Either way, I’m very lucky and grateful for this.  Also, #firstworldproblems]

Life is full of moments where you feel completely out of control.  The death of a loved one.  Stuck in a job or career you hate.  Accidental pregnancies.  Health issues.  On and on.  And the reason we feel out of control is because we feel like we don’t have any options.

The less options we feel like we have, the lower we feel. And these moments — when we feel out of control — and how we deal with them, dictate the path of our lives.

That being said, I can’t say I’ve handled all the low points in my life with much grace.

After my fifth knee surgery I dropped out of (err — “took some time off from”) school and worked at a pizza place for 6 months.  I grew a pair and finally broke up with my girlfriend of 7 years, but it took at least four months of being a total asshole before I pulled the trigger.  And I spent the entirety [literally] of the summer of 2013 drinking and partying because I had no clue what to do about my job situation.

But I’m getting better at handling these situations.  In part because of a Stoic technique I learned of awhile back, called negative visualization.  The essence of the technique is to take some time every few weeks and imagine the worst-case scenario for different aspects of your life.  Doing this mentally prepares you, and takes a bit of the sting out of the situation if it were to actually occur in real life.

And something else happens when you practice this technique.

You automatically start to find solutions to your problems before the problems even arrive.  You prepare yourself with a plethora of options to deal with situations that seem to take control away from you.  And this is incredibly empowering.

The more I’ve practiced this technique, the quicker I’ve been able to bounce back from the lows (and, the lows don’t feel as low either).

I can’t say I’m now able to handle every situation perfectly.  And I absolutely know I have nowhere near experienced the lowest “low” of my life up to this point.  I’m 26.  That’d make for a pretty boring life.  However I do know that every low point I experience, every time I feel out of control, is an opportunity to practice the ability to regain control over my own life.

And I recommend you practice the same.

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202strong Status Update

“So, when are you opening up downtown?”

I get asked this question probably once a day.  Which is great.  It means people are interested in what Maddie and I are working on.  Or at least pretending.  Either way I’m ok with it.  The worst thing at this stage in the game would be for no one to talk about 202strong.

I’m a huge fan of transparency when it comes to business.  I feel like when you hide things to “gain a competitive edge”, you are either: a) not confident in your product/service, b) have no idea what you are doing, or c) are a Shady McShadester.  And if you are any, or all of the above, eventually things will catch up to you.  I’m not saying that being transparent guarantees success, but my experience has shown me that the longterm ROI on openness and honesty is much greater than keeping people in the dark.

I’m NOT a huge fan of the “if you build it, they will come” attitude a lot of business owners have.  When you create a product or a service — as the creator — you have the tendency to believe it is the best thing since a knife that slices bread and toasts it at the same time.  And maybe it is.  But do you want to take the risk of pouring time and money into a product that no one wants??  Or for that matter, do you want to take the risk of pouring time and money into a product that everyone WOULD want but nobody has heard of??

That being said, here are where things stand with 202strong:

Pre-marketing:  This has been a big focus for Maddie and me. Getting the word out whatever way possible.  Whether through our blogs, Facebook, attending Law Firm Health Fair’s & Farmer’s Markets, or using our social connections to reach out to people in the DC area.  We want everybody to know we will be at 1722 I St. NW, DC 20006 this Fall.

Pre-Opening Sign-ups (Founder’s Memberships):  Pre-marketing is great, but people telling us they’ll sign up doesn’t pay the bills.  For a business to be an actual business, let alone a successful business, it needs customers.  If you have one customer and nothing else, you have a business.  If you have business cards, t-shirts, coffee cups, a Facebook page, inventory, an investor, a website, but no customers, you don’t have a business. Our focus over the next two months is on getting concrete commitments to our Founder’s membership.

So, here’s my plug:

We are currently offering a special for individuals interested in signing-up for our Founder’s membership.  This membership is a lifetime, discounted membership for the first 50 members who sign-up and register before we open our doors.  The membership costs $219/month  forever (once we open it’ll be $319/month — you’ll save $1200 in the first year alone!), and includes unlimited access to all our CrossFit classes, and any speciality classes we offer.  This membership also comes with a 30-day, money back guarantee.  Oh, and you won’t be billed until the first day we open our doors.

Don’t wait and miss out!

To register for our Founder’s Membership, email me – rob@202strong.com.

After we open, our membership packages will be:

  • VIP Membership – $319/month: (same as the $219 Founder’s membership mentioned above)
  • Premium – $269/month: Includes 8 classes/month, unlimited open gym, and unlimited specialty classes
  • Basic Plus – $229/month: Includes unlimited classes/month
  • Basic – $189/month: Includes 8 classes/month

How was my plug? Did you sign-up yet?

Permits:  We are still waiting on the damn building permits.  Apparently, the DC government during the summer moves slower than a slug crawling through molasses on a treadmill.  This is the biggest reason we still don’t have a concrete open date.  As soon as we get the permits, we can move forward with the buildout (which should take about a month to complete).

Website: At the moment, we have a very simple landing page (www.202strong.com) and should definitely have our fully functioning website up by the end of September (this is my job, and Maddie will kill me if we don’t).

Coaches/Internship Opportunities:  We are fortunate enough to have a very strong pipeline of coaches we can have work for us when we open our doors, but we are always looking for charismatic, passionate individuals willing to learn (Maddie and I are very particular about how we view fitness, health, exercise and most importantly, movement) and become coaches.  We are also looking for individuals looking to swap memberships for front desk hours, managing our social media, etc.  If you are interested, email me rob@202strong.com and we can set up an interview.

What you can do to help:
We are incredibly fortunate to have the guidance and support of our friends and family and we appreciate everything done for us (a more formal thank you will come down the road).  A few more things Maddie and I are going to ask of you in the way of help:

1)  If you plan on joining the gym once we open, sign-up for our Founder’s Membership!  You’ll enjoy fantastic savings ($1,200 the first year!), you won’t be charged until we open our doors, and it’ll help us start to form a realistic picture of how many members to expect once we open the doors.

Again, to register for our Founder’s Membership, email me — rob@202strong.com

2)  Show us some Facebook love!  Share this post and/or “like” our page if you haven’t already.

3)  We are always looking to partner with local businesses and have plans to get involved in corporate wellness.  If your business is interested, let us know!  We’d love to sit down and work out the logistics.

4)  Join our email list.  Besides getting people to sign up for our Founder’s Membership, building an email list is our biggest focus.  We love Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but in terms of building a rapport with current and potential members, sending quality information, and keeping everyone in the loop, email is the best medium. You can sign-up for our email list by clicking HERE.

Stay tuned!  More updates to come as they develop.

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What is 202strong?

Maddie and I made the announcement a few months back that we’d be opening a gym in Farragut North, but it dawned on me a couple days ago that we’d never really explained in-depth the question “what is 202strong?”.  And more importantly, “why 202strong?”.

Because when Maddie and I originally started planning out 202strong, we didn’t want to be just another CrossFit Affiliate.  There are over 10,000+ affiliates worldwide.  And to the lay person, they are all interchangeable.  Most people go to an affiliate because it’s the most convenient to where they work or live.  And that’s fine.  But we want more than that.  And as we were planning 202strong, we kept asking ourselves questions like, “what would make someone drive out of their way to come workout at 202strong?” and  “what can we do better than everybody else?”.

Below I hope to answer the question “what is 202strong?” and other questions you might have.

One of the smartest women I know once told me that self-talk was a sign of intelligence.  I hope she’s right, because the older I get the more I catch myself having silent conversations with myself.  And for whatever reason, these conversations typically take the form of Q & A’s.  So below is an in-depth, Q & A interview with myself, about 202strong.

What is 202strong?
Surface level, 202strong is a boutique CrossFit facility (coming to Farragut North in the Fall of 2014).  Most CrossFit facilities resemble garage gyms — for practical reasons (location, equipment needs, etc) — and we wanted preserve this feel, but upgrade it by including showers, locker rooms, towel service, toiletries, TV Screens to track workouts, a front desk, a bar for people to hangout, and a massage room.

Digging deeper, 202strong is the culmination of everything Maddie and I have learned from coaching thousands and thousands of hours, playing high school & collegiate sports, and experimenting on ourselves — movement matters most.  Whether your goal is to look good naked, get stronger, run a marathon, live pain free, play with your kids, excel at a sport, increase your energy, or just be more fit — knowing how to, and being able to move properly — is the #1 priority.  Everything else we do in the gym relates back to this, no exceptions.

What makes 202strong different from regular gyms?
The things that make 202strong different from regular gyms are the same things that make any good CrossFit Affiliate different from other gyms.  The sense of community, the camaraderie, the fact that people notice when you don’t show up.  On a daily basis, most people never receive any positive affirmation.  When you step into a good CrossFit Affiliate, you are constantly receiving praise, and not in a patronizing sort of way.  The praise is given because you earned it.  You tried something new.  You picked up a new skill.  You pushed yourself a little out of your comfort zone.  And once you’re part of a good community, people recognize and acknowledge that.

Ok, so what makes 202strong different from other CrossFit gyms?
Like I said before, we are boutique CrossFit facility, which immediately separates us from the majority of CrossFit Affiliates out there.  We’re on a lower mezzanine, we still have barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, pull-up bars, rings, etc, but we’ve upgraded the feel.  Made it a bit more clean, a bit more contemporary.

Not to purposely piss anybody off, but the barrier of entry for opening a CrossFit Affiliate is pretty low, and the barrier of entry for becoming a trainer is basically only $1000.  I know a lot of coaches whose only concern is how hard you’re breathing after a workout.  Like that’s the only thing that matters.  And it’s just not true.  Yes, there is a correlation between how hard you work and your fitness, but it’s absolutely not the main factor.

So the real difference lies in our approach towards fitness.  Movement matters most.  I think we do a really good job of gracefully balancing what people want [the feeling of working hard] versus what people need [functional movements, increased strength across joint range of motion, fixing postural positioning, clearing any joint or tissue restrictions].  And the results we’ve had with our clients up to this point show our approach works.

Why the name, “202strong”?
A lot of time was spent thinking about the name.  “202″ because it’s the DC area code and since we are located in the heart of the city, we wanted something that would identify DC.  Maddie and I both grew up right outside of DC (Maryland side) and I think anyone who grows up in the DC suburbs, whether on the MD or VA side, spends a lot of time in the city and is very proud of the culture and diversity the DMV has to offer.

“Strong” seemed like a natural fit — at first because of the typical cliches you hear in the fitness and CrossFit community: “strong mind, strong body” and “strong is the new skinny”.  And the more we thought about it the more we realized “strong” transcends the typical cliches and encompasses everything people look for in their lives.  Strong family, strong community, strong careers, strong resolve.  It’s not a dominant thing, but a confidence thing.

So I guess what it comes down to is the name 202strong resonated with us, but also comes across ambiguous enough to be left up to interpretation for the needs of our members.  We all want to feel like we belong to something bigger than us, and we believe people will be proud to associate themselves with 202strong.

How does a membership at 202strong work?
We have three different options for individuals to become members at 202strong.
1) Monthly group class memberships
2) Private session memberships
3) Punch card group class memberships

Each membership option comes with it’s unique set of perks for our members.  For example, all members have access to our locker rooms, showers, towel service, and Wodify access (performance tracking software), private forum, nutrition challenges, and excellent coaching.  Monthly and private session members have access to open gym hours.  And those are just some of the perks people will receive.

Who is 202strong for?
Everyone has the right to know how to move properly and pain free.  So everyone.  But not necessarily.  Anyone — no matter what fitness level — will fit in and find help and success in our community.  However, if you are of the mindset that more always equals better, or you aren’t the type of person that is OK with being humbled, than 202strong isn’t for you.  And that’s OK.  We want the fit to be natural, not forced.  But, if you are up to the challenge, you’ll have the best coaches, a great facility, and amazing coaches at your disposal.

In one sentence, can you sum up what 202strong is all about?
202strong is the movement oriented, results driven, approach to fitness you deserve.

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I am afraid of…

As any teacher or coach who gives a damn will tell you, the relationships and connections you make with the kids you work with on a regular basis are special.  They mean something to you.  You see these kids on a regular basis.  You teach them, mentor them, laugh with them (occasionally at them), and scold them when necessary.  You watch them grow.  And like it or not, you influence them and they influence you.

This August and September marks the first time any of the athletes I’ve worked with intimately over the past 3 years will head off to college.  As I sit back and reflect on the conversations I’ve had with these individuals over the past couple months, I can’t help but be reminded how hard it is to make that transition from high school to college.  Change in general is hard, but this will be the first time these kids have lived away from home, have had to make a whole new group of friends, maybe even had to do laundry for the first time!

What makes this change, this transition, so hard for a lot of these kids is they feel like they are going at it on their own.  And even as adults we tend to view ourselves as “special snowflakes” with our own set of problems we feel are unique to us.

This becomes an issue though, because if a problem is perceived as new and unique to you, finding a solution seems way less likely.  For some, almost debilitating.

So, new college kids (or anyone who feels their problems are brand new and unique to the world) let me be the one to tell you, your problems are not new.

You’re not the first person to move hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.
You’re not the first person to double major.
You’re not the first person to not know what they want to do with their life.
You’re not the first person to feel home sick.
You’re not the first person to start a business.
You’re not the first person [insert whatever here].

Hopefully this doesn’t come across as me sounding like a dick.  I’m saying this in the hopes you’ll recognize the things you are afraid of and feel better knowing you have more control than you think.

As a personal example, after a string of recent events occurred that definitely took me out of my comfort zone, I sat down and wrote a list of things I was afraid of.

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Here’s the list in case you can’t read the text in the picture:

  • I’m afraid I won’t be a success
  • I’m afraid I won’t be taken seriously
  • I’m afraid of being “average”
  • I’m afraid of losing my parents
  • I’m afraid of losing my health
  • I’m afraid I won’t leave my mark on the world
  • I’m afraid what I have to say won’t resonate with people
  • I’m afraid my work won’t be good enough
  • I’m afraid my knee will keep me from being as active as I want to be
  • I’m afraid to let people know I’m vulnerable
  • I’m afraid the expectations I set for myself are too high
  • I’m afraid the expectations I set for myself aren’t high enough
  • I’m afraid I’m taking on too much
  • I’m afraid I’m not doing enough

I’m not going to lie, getting this down on paper immediately made me feel better.

I was easily able to tell which things I’m afraid of that are completely ambiguous.  I’m afraid I won’t be a success?  What does that even mean?  How do you even quantify that?

I was able to identify the things out of my control.  I’m afraid of losing my parents?  This may be true, but there’s nothing I can do about that except make sure I make the time I spend with them worthwhile.  [Unless I invent some sort of miracle drug that keeps them alive forever].

And I was able to identify the things I can control.  I’m afraid of losing my health?  This is completely within my control.

Most importantly though, I know these fears aren’t unique to me.  How?  They’re all concerns that have been raised by friends or family members at some point along the way.  And if they’re aren’t unique to me, not only does it mean I’m not alone, but it means that I’ll be able to find ways to successfully deal with all my fears.

[Also, I borrowed the idea of writing down the things I’m afraid of from a picture Childish Gambino posted on Instagram]

So, the point of all this is to hopefully give my CFDR Sports Performance athletes some perspective on any fears or apprehensions they have moving forward with their lives.  Trust me, you’re not alone and you’ll definitely be able to deal with anything that’s thrown at you.

*Final little note: growth occurs when you push yourself outside your comfort zone.  This goes for spiritual growth, mental growth, or physical growth.  Don’t avoid that uncomfortable feeling you get when new and different things come up.  Embrace it.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

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Something’s Gotta Give

Starting a business is HARD.  Like seriously.  Raising money, negotiating lease terms, creating a marketing plan, making connections, meeting with architects, designing a website, on and on — all the while still working at my regular job.

Listen, I’m not saying this because I’m looking for your sympathy (though I’ll accept it if you want to give it).  This is a conscious choice I’ve made, and I have absolutely no regrets.  The whole process has been an invaluable learning experience.

I’m saying this because since making the decision to start a gym, the common saying — “something’s gotta give” — has really hit home for me.

A typical day in my life about a little over a year ago looked something like this:

  • Wake-up somewhere between 8am and 11am
  • Watch a couple episodes of Parks & Recreation
  • Workout
  • Return emails, phone calls, and work on other miscellaneous managerial tasks
  • Coach a couple adult classes at CrossFit DoneRight
  • Workout again
  • Coach CFDR Sports Performance Athletes
  • Go out on a date or meet up with friends in the city

Rinse, then repeat.  Great huh?  My days were pretty low stress, not very mentally stimulating, and I was making pretty decent money.  Some would say the ideal situation for a 25 year old (it actually started driving me a bit crazy, but that’s for a future post).

Anyways, as you can see from above, working out was kind of a priority of mine.  As I was preparing to take the deep plunge into the world of a being a business owner, many of the people I went to asking for advice assured me working out would be the first thing to go.  I told them I understood, but deep down I never really took that little piece to heart.

I knew I’d be able to make the sacrifice of watching less TV (that wasn’t very difficult).  I knew I’d be able to cut back on my social life (sorry to all the girls I’ve dated in the last year or so — in this case it’s definitely me, not you).

But cut back on working out?  No way buddy.  That’s my life.  I’ve been active almost everyday for as long as I can remember.  Plus, how difficult could it be to squeeze a workout in when I am not only opening a gym, but I already work at one??

I’m honest.  I’m an idiot.  I’ll be the second to admit it.

The last thing you want to do after staying up late thinking about different ways to grow a business is wake up early and go work out.  The work starting a business is seemingly never ending, and the last thing you have time for is something that won’t contribute to the “cause”.  The thought may not have been conscious, but what I was basically telling myself was, “I just don’t have the time to workout anymore”.

I’ve come to realize this is a terrible way to think about things.  Working out was/is a priority of mine for a reason.  I’m more productive when I work out.  My body feels better when I workout. I’m in a better mood when I workout.  [An ex-girlfriend of mine could always tell if I’d been more than 2 days without working out because I’d get incredibly moody and irritable with her for no reason.]

If a random meeting pops up in the middle of the day, I can make time for it.  I should be able to do the same with working out.

So, over the last couple months I’ve been experimenting with different ways to approach working out.  Ways to keep myself motivated and interested.  I wanted to share what’s stuck with me in hopes that whenever you feel yourself pushing workouts to the back burner, you can immediately find a way to make them a priority again.

    1. Keep your nutrition on point.  This has been the most important thing for me.  Research has shown individuals who start exercising will unconsciously change their diets and eat better.  I’ve found the opposite to work just as well.  I only keep quality food around the house, and I basically eat the same thing every day (bacon and eggs for breakfast, steak and veggies for lunch, chicken and veggies for dinner).  This allows me to keep my energy levels up and keeps me from falling completely off the wagon.  Working back into a consistent workout schedule after a hiatus is much easier when you haven’t been stuffing yourself full of pizza, pancakes, and pasta (the trifecta).  The urge to purge because you’ve been binge eating just isn’t there, which means I don’t have to try and make up for it by binge working out.
  • Create realistic expectations.  At first I tried to tell myself I’d get back to working out 6 days a week.  I mean, I was doing it before — sometimes with two workouts in a day — why couldn’t I jump right back into doing it again?  Because I’m an idiot.  Six days a week just wasn’t going to happen off the bat.  After much internal debate, I scaled that down to three days in the, gym, plus one day of playing a sport (basketball or football).  This works beautifully because it leaves me wanting to work out more days.  I’ll continue to follow this schedule until I feel like I can make the transition to four days with no trouble.  If I kept trying to force six days a week, I’d definitely give up.
  • Track your progress.  For awhile, I didn’t really track my progress.  At first it wasn’t a big deal, but boy did this play a big role in de-motivating me.  You can only do something so long without seeing tangible results before you either do things differently or give up altogether.  I did the latter.  I’ve gone back to tracking my progress and found I’m way more excited to workout.
  • Show up!  For most people, this means forcing themselves to go to the physical location of the gym.  Since I spend most evenings at a gym, this means putting on my workout clothes.  I tell myself if I go through the process of putting my spandex, shorts, socks, shoes, and t-shirt and still don’t want to workout, I don’t have to.  90% of the time if I get dressed, I workout.  100% of the time if I don’t get dressed, I won’t work out.

Like I said, the things above have stuck with me and have been great for helping me make working out a priority in my life again.  I’ve also found variations of the above to help with other things in my life I’ve been trying to prioritize (writing more blogs, making time for family, etc).

What gets you showing up on a consistent basis to workout?  What other things do you find important in your life that you “haven’t had time for” lately?  What tactics could you use to find the time and make these important things priorities?

Post to comments!  I’m curious what you have to say.

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Decommoditizing the fitness professional

A friend of mine recently posted an article to Facebook titled “The Uncertainty of An Exercise Science Degree”. My degree is in Kinesiology (the “pinky out” way of saying Exercise Science), so I immediately clicked on the link to see what the author had to say.

The gist of the article is summed up by this paragraph:

“…Strength and conditioning jobs are a revolving door and oversaturated with young professionals trying to break in. Personal training jobs tend to be part-time and with lousy pay while companies use your revenue to pay the bills. People are just flat out lazy and don’t want to exercise or already think they know everything about training [my emphasis]. Personal training only requires a simple certification and $500 (making you fairly replaceable). If you get lucky, you might find a private facility and become an independent contractor, but this is hard and usually requires knowing people. You’re also left to bring in clients.”

I agree 100%. Finding a job, let alone a decent paying job, in the health and fitness field is incredibly difficult. Unless your goal is to get your Masters in Exercise Science or go to Physical Therapy School, a degree in Exercise Science is akin to a degree in English [and I can easily argue that an English degree is more useful].

The fact is, the barrier of entry into the fitness profession is so low, the majority of people decide to get into it because they think, “I like working out, I’m pretty fit, and I’ll just tell people to do what I do”. However, these same people are the ones who can’t teach a squat, don’t know the difference between internal and external rotation, and overcompensate for their lack of knowledge by yelling at (“motivating”) people until they are blue in the face.

The point of this post, however, is not to rant about the difficulties of working in the fitness profession. The point of this post is to show how one can surmount the obstacles and stand out in this over-saturated, super competitive field.

How to de-commoditize the fitness professional.

The friend who posted the article on Facebook also posted his small commentary (or “rant”, in his words) with the article:

“Commercial gyms are crap to work for. Contracting out you get raped when it comes down to the actual money you get paid. It’s near impossible to start your own successful gym unless you have some kind of huge following….or if you’re an affiliate/franchise you usually end up getting raped for having a name to attract attention. Working for a team is unstable because you’re just an expendable coach. At the end of the day the pay sucks…or it’s inconsistent.

The bolded emphasis is mine. Those two statements say a lot in terms of overcoming the obstacles faced by people in the fitness profession.

[Side note: In reality, you are a commodity in any entry level position in any profession. That is, until you are not. That’s why people decide to do things like go back to school.]

My friend already identified what makes an individual successful in the fitness and healthy industry: a huge following and/or being indispensable.

So at that point, it’s pretty simple right? Do that! Make yourself indispensable and start attracting a huge following. Well, it’s not necessarily that easy. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes educating yourself (especially in things non-fitness related like marketing, accounting, finance, and behavioral psychology). But it does give the aspiring fitness professional a blueprint for success AND, since the majority of people aren’t doing those things, it makes it easier for you to stand out.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” -Mark Twain

So, how does a fitness professional de-commoditize himself/herself?

  • Start a blog. And write about something interesting and something others want to read about. Unless you are an elite athlete, no one gives a fuck about your workouts logs. The easiest way to do this is to check out what other top fitness blogs are writing about and put your spin on it.
  • Learn about behavioral psychology. Why do people workout? Why do people quit working out? How can you create successful habits in people? These are all questions you need to know the answers to as it will help you obtain/retain clients.
  • Create an identity. What do you stand for? What’s your fitness niche? You can’t please everybody. Do you specialize working with an older population? Are you the movement conscious guy or gal? Do you want to work with athletes (realize, also, this is a very competitive sphere in itself, so in this case you’ll need to niche down even more. For example, you specialize in working with tennis players).
  • Learn how to market. This is huge. If you know how to get the word out and promote yourself, this goes a long way. You can be the best [insert title here] but if no one knows about you, it doesn’t matter. On the flip side though, you need to provide an awesome service because your biggest asset will be word-of-mouth marketing.

The above should get the fitness professional started on the journey to becoming indispensable. Realize, that once you are indispensable, you have options. If you have a loyal following of 20+ personal training clients, you can leverage that into a higher percentage cut of revenue. If you grow an online presence you can sell information products. Once you’ve established your identity, you can seek out individuals in your niche and hold seminars for them.

You’ll have to be willing to put the effort in. You’ll have to be willing to look at yourself as an entrepreneur. But the opportunities are only limited by your imagination.

Final note, I hate the descriptions “fitness instructor” and “personal trainer” because it lumps me in with all these meathead dummies who just tell their clients to perform “3 sets of 12-15 reps” of a bunch of different exercises and go fetch their weights for them. I call these types of fitness professionals “weight caddies”. If this is you, no wonder you are easily replaceable.

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Can you pick that up correctly? Wiley Rein experiment recap

Can you pick an object up off the ground with correct technique (i.e. flat back, vertical shins, weight on your heels)?

This is the challenge Maddie and I posed to the employees of the Wiley Rein Law Office when we participated in their Health Fair/Farmer’s Market last week.

Initially, the idea for the challenge came about as a way for us to engage the Wiley Rein employees, but it quickly turned into an interesting experiment to see the level of kinesthetic awareness had by the general population.

We had 25 people attempt to correctly pick up a 25 pound kettlebell.  Guess how many out of the 25 did it correctly. 20?  Nope.  15?  Try again.

Give up?  The answer is 9.  Nine people out of the 25 were able to pick up the kettlebell in a position that didn’t look like they were going to break their knees or snap their spines in half.  That’s barely a third.  And — if I’m being totally honest — about 3 of those 9 were suspect.  So, that actually means a whooping 24% of people can pick an object up off the ground correctly.

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We told them what “correctly” meant and it still wasn’t even close!

Seriously??

I’m not going to lie, that’s pretty pathetic.  And arguably one of the bigger reasons why 80% of the population has low back pain at some point or another.

So the big question is…WHY?

Why can’t the majority of people pick something up correctly?  And along those same lines, why can’t the majority of people sit down and stand up correctly?  Or stand correctly?  Or walk correctly?  Or run correctly?  Or jump correctly?

Why can’t the majority of people correctly perform “simple”, routine tasks we perform on a daily basis?

Because they’ve never been taught (or they have some sort of joint restriction, but that’s out of the scope of this post).

Argue if you want (you’ll lose), but all these routine tasks involve a level of skill that needs to be learned by everyone [except maybe the most gifted of individuals, and even they can use the eye of an experienced coach to help them refine their movement].

Kelly Starrett — licensed Physical Therapist, owner of San Francisco CrossFit, and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard — advocates that all human beings involve themselves in a “movement practice”.  This could be gymnastics, yoga, CrossFit, olympic lifting, powerlifting, martial arts, etc.  These practices all have one thing in common:  the consistent learning and refining of proper movement and technique.  Movements and techniques that mimic the simple tasks you perform everyday.

Because what is squatting besides just sitting down and standing up properly?  And deadlifting is just the proper way to pick something up off the ground.  And pressing is how you take something from your shoulder and place it overhead.

My hope is that the couple hours Maddie and I were able to spend talking with and correcting the technique of the Wiley Rein employees helped save them from future back pain/discomfort.  Maybe we even opened their eyes and motivated them to find a movement practice (hopefully 202strong, when we open this Fall).

Finally, a couple interesting observations from our Wiley Rein experiment:

1) The three people who could pick up the kettlebell perfectly all had worked with personal trainers and taught how to deadlift.  Not very surprising, but helps reinforce the message above.

2) Only 5 of the 25 participants were men.  We had plenty of men walk by our table, so what gives?  My gut (and past experience) tells me that a lot of men are afraid of failing, especially when it comes to physical tasks, so they’d rather not try at all then potentially look like a fool.

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Common Sense

On this most awesome of holidays, I want to take some time to draw parallels between the independence of our beloved country and the health and fitness movement we are currently a part of.

Just as our founding fathers grew tired of unjust tyranny of Great Britain, a growing section of our population is growing sick– figuratively and literally– of the imposed “norms” of health and fitness imposed on us by so called experts.

-Why do people still blindly follow the calories-in calories-out theory for losing weight?
-If you asked 10 random people on the street what insulin is, how many will know?
-Can you pick-up an object of the ground without rounding your back? No? Well you should.

The system is broken.  Researchers slowly play catch-up on issues clinicians have successfully treated in patients for years.  If you suffer from some form of gastrointestinal distress, does it matter if the gluten or FODMAPS (fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-sacharrides, and polyls) that comes from wheat is the issue?  The solution is the same — STOP EATING WHEAT!  If you used a lacrosse ball or foam roller to alleviate knee, shoulder, or back pain, does the actual mechanism of relief matter to you?  Fuck no, who cares.  Your chronic pain went away and you get on with living your life.

Is this a radical way of thinking?  Definitely.  Is it irresponsible to treat people without knowing exactly why it works?  Perhaps, but it is no more irresponsible than prescribing the same ineffective solutions time and time again.

A recent paper about arterial disease and wellness points out that despite knowing more about cardiovascular disease (CVD) now than ever before, the current system for treating CVD (treating end-stage arterial disease) will eventually bankrupt western civilization.

“We now have the opportunity to shift to a platform designed to prevent disease, or at minimum treating it before it is evident. We do not need to wait for huge randomized double blind prospective outcome studies to prove such a platform will be superior.  We have no choice. We have proven that the current platform leads to insolvency. It is possible with a personalized, comprehensive, and holistic approach to determine the causes of the arterial disease in each patient.”

And this can be extrapolated to almost any health and fitness issues.  Why should you experience chronic low back pain when a knowledgeable coach or trainer can watch you deadlift and fix the issue before it starts?  Why wait until you’re 20 pounds overweight  before you address your nutrition? You could address it now.  It is a fundamental right for you to take care of yourself (it’s also a fundamental right for you to see your abs, just saying…).  And this means departing from the norm, questioning the status quo, and experimenting to find out what is right for you.  The benefits of thinking and acting this way far outweigh whatever excuse you can think of to avoid addressing your potential issues.

So, just as our Founding Fathers questioned the status quo, introduced a radical way of thinking, and championed change and growth, we too are involved in a similar pattern.  There’s certainly no way to accurately predict how things will pan out, but in order to continue to push forward with the current health and fitness movement, we must continue to question the status quo and evolve the way we view our health and fitness.

Happy Fourth of July!

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right”.
-Thomas Paine, Common Sense

 

Sleep-Deprivation

You Need To Sleep! Use These Simple Hacks To Improve Your Quality

We live in a world where it’s a badge of honor to pull an all-nighter at work.  We brag to our peers how little we sleep.  Hell, I’ve been called lazy on numerous occasions because I value my midday naps so much.

The truth is, we need sleep.  There’s no way around it.  And, not only do we need sleep, but a lack of sleep is keeping you from being a super productive, healthy, fit, sexy, BAMF (bad ass mother f-er, in case you didn’t know).  As paleo diet expert Robb Wolf put it, “If a person sleeps well, you can’t kill them.  If they sleep badly, you can’t keep them alive”. The consequences for missing out on sleep, both long term and short term, physically and mentally, include:

  • increased blood glucose levels to pre-diabetic status
  • increased cortisol levels & decreased testosterone levels, aka holding onto unwanted body fat
  • decreased mental acuity and increased cognitive impairment
  • decreased ability to recover from workouts
  • decreased performance during workouts
  • decreased sexual desire
  • increased risk for cancer

And the list goes on and on.

Listen – cutting short your sleep so you can have more hours in the day may seem like a great idea for getting more accomplished, but are you actually putting out a high level work with those extra hours?

Study after study demonstrates you aren’t.

In order to accomplish more throughout your day, you’d be better served to master certain techniques and principles such as Pareto’s Principle, Parkinson’s Law, leveraging, and delegating (more about these in later posts).

Now that I’ve outlined the importance of sleep, let me give you some hacks you can use to improve your quality (I’ve experimented with many of these.  Some work better than others, and it will vary from person to person.  Experiment and see what works best for you).

  • Eat more animal fat throughout the day.  Besides the other benefits that are outlined here, increasing your fat intake has been shown to drastically improve sleep quality.
  • Consume a few tsp of honey about 15 minutes before going to sleep
  • Sleep in a completely dark room.  No cell phone, alarm clock, TV, or LED lights of any kind before bed
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol (duh)
  • Consume roughly 5,000 IU’s of Vitamin D when you wake up
  • Lift heavy weights and/or sprint
  • Stand for 8 hours a day OR stand on one leg until exhaustion
  • Sleep in a cool room
  • Along similar lines as above, take a 15 minute hot bath before bed for the rapid cooling effect that takes place immediately after

Like I said, experiment with these different hacks and see what works best for you.  Post to the comments below if you’ve used these, or other techniques to improve your sleep quality.