approximate reading time: 12 minutes

This is year 7 .

That’s how many years in a row I’ve done this particular blog article, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.  Not only is it a neat and tidy summation of the year, but it also helps me gather my thoughts and look back on the most important lessons that occurred to me over that time period.  It also must count for something that in 7 years, there have been no repeats.

Things have gotten pretty busy for me in work, and I always use this to take a look at what’s been accomplished. Since I’m far from my own cheerleader, I think it fits:

  • I started down the academic education path as an adjunct college professor for Fitness and Health Promotion students. I taught 2 classes, and was asked to return next semester.
  • I was flown out to speak at two major events I was invited to this year – the Smarter Team Training strength coaches’ conference in Virginia, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s National PT Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s always great to get such opportunities, and it’s making for a nice transition into more public speaking. I’ve already got 3 more travel engagements lined up and confirmed for 2019.

NSCA PT Conference 2018 – Baltimore, Maryland

  • Despite being notably busier with work, I was still able to have my writing appear in 10 print magazines in 2018, including 4 appearances in Muscle & Fitness, and 2 in Oxygen.
  • I made 9 more appearances on national television, as a fitness expert on The Morning Show.
  • In March, I was able to break into The Wall Street Journal for the first time, contributing to an article on fitness tech.
  • I started an Instagram account this September. This may not be a milestone to many, but if you know anything about me, you’ll know this is arguably the most astounding feat on this entire list.

 

No Raptors playoff games.  Simply for one reason: I’m a big fan, but I’m tired of seeing our team go down in a round that doesn’t reflect their standing.  I won’t pay for another Raptors playoff game unless it’s the NBA finals.  You heard it here first.  I’ll wait.

But Enough about Me

2018 saw a number of lessons learned.  So many, in fact, that I actually had to narrow down the list to make what I found were the most poignant points fit into a ten minute read. Here’s what I came up with.

1 . If you Suck at Bodyweight Training, it should Take Precedence over Anything Else. Even Strength Work.

The debilitating double knee injury that I experienced during a basketball game in April of 2017 really opened my eyes to a plethora of realities when it came to training. At 30 years old, I knew that despite being young by calendar age, I was no spring chicken when it came to being top tier athletic.

Through my rehabilitation (which isn’t over, for the record), for a long period I needed to find substitutions for the movements that I’d grown accustomed to doing in the gym before being hurt. That’s where bodyweight training became my new best friend. To be honest, most of the movements I used during that time are still movements I regularly incorporate today, for both myself and my clients.

Truthfully, it doesn’t take much digging to find a humbling bodyweight exercise that completely nullifies your 300 pound bench press or 400 pound squat.  Beyond a certain point, such feats just demonstrate that you’ve developed a skill that’s very specific to the task at hand, and not much more. When that 300 pound bench presser or 400 pound squatter is faced with 12 pull ups, 15 dips, or 30 unbroken push ups, it’s alarming just how many people fall short at what should be a simple endeavor.

“Standards” aside, however, my real point is, you can get a challenging workout and more when you employ the right bodyweight movements. Even the moves I’ve listed above are a little generic in nature. Here are a list of exercises (and links) that you can pick from engineer into your own workout.  Try a full bodyweight workout using any 6-10 of them.

 

2. The Nutrition World needs to Get Itself in Check.

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a nutrition guy. I’m a training guy.

But I’ll say it here: I’ve seen my fair share of nutrition advice that seems to miss the forest for the trees, at least in my opinion.  Every client’s goals don’t involve staying “anabolic” at all times, building as much muscle as possible, and taking in the macros that only support those particular goals.  Deborah from finance who weight trains 3 days per week will be OK if she doesn’t have 180 grams of protein per day.

The truth is, most people who hire a trainer need help in the form of developing better habits with workouts, diet choices and recovery, and doing these things will help support their goals of getting in better shape, dropping some body fat, and improving strength.  These goals don’t hinge on a physique contest prep mentality, nor that of a competitive powerlifter who eats with little other than his performance in mind. Chances are, following a method like that will either lead to unfavourable results, or at the very least, stray the trainee’s mind from what’s most important.

Another thing: most times, the client doesn’t care. They don’t care about their macros or how much protein is in each meal, right down to the last gram.  They care about feeling and looking better than they did when they started. If that can be accomplished through good technique, more sleep, and consistent whole foods and meals (and of course, minimizing the bad stuff), then they’ll be in a much better place.  We can talk about being catabolic later.

3. Most People who “Pick a Side” in the Fitness Industry, Just Need a Place to fit in.

This subheading makes me out to be a hell of a misanthrope, I know – But hear me out.

Think about it: Most of the people contraindicating every single movement for its risk of injury, are neither too strong, nor too muscular.

This irony crosses over to most forms of extremism within the industries of fitness training, nutrition, and health.

It may be due to a fear of zeroing in and focusing on a goal. It may be due to peer pressure from those around spouting the same message.  Or it may be to try to stand out and get a bigger viewership. Whatever the case may be, I find it to be a funny reality that is rarely untrue.

In my last article, I discussed the fact that the metaphorical “pendulum” has swung too far in favour of disdaining goal-setting, abhorring physique tracking, and sandbagging much of any personal accountability for physical fitness that doesn’t revolve round how great you feel at all times.  It’s a classic case of a good message that’s been taken too far and bolstered by many of the wrong spokespeople to boot. In truth, many such spokespeople are those who have a history that involves bad memories specific to the topic, resulting in their newly taken stance.  It can easily lump many undeserving people into the same psychological category, which is no longer accurate or fair.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, an intractable, die-hard, battered and bruised fitness junkie with clear telltale signs of clinical obsession will use the “no excuses” mantra out the wazoo in order to vindicate what is once again an unclear line of balanced thinking on the subject.  In both of the examples above, more people than are willing to admit, are a part of each problem.

Interude: The Best Movies of 2018

There’s some good news, and there’s some bad news.

The good news is, this section of my year-end article is back, and I’m happy to come forward with my 12 favourites, in order.

The bad news: I’ll be the first to admit it – 2018 has been a notably weaker year in film.

I found 2013, 2015, and 2017 to have had a significantly high number of knockout films – all of which would have beaten 2018.  With that said, although very little blew me away, I still found a lot to like in what were my top 12 choices:

  1. If Beale Street could Talk – Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) directed a fantastic production here, with plenty of power in the empty spaces between dialogue. This heavy drama was marvellously acted, had a strong story, and contained one of the best musical scores throughout its runtime that I’d ever heard. Definitely a clear frontrunner for 2018 for me, and the best movie of the year.
  2. You were Never Really Here – Joaquin Phoenix came back in a big way with this very gritty character study that channeled plenty of 2 movies: Drive, and Taxi Driver. Phoenix’s subdued performance as a hitman with PTSD was a dark, captivating experience that stood out.
  3. Vice – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell all knock it out of the park, but Bale’s lead performance as Dick Cheney should put him on the map for another Oscar win. This was a snappily edited film that definitely stylistically borrowed from (and was almost as good as) its predecessor The Big Short.
  4. Sicario: Day of the Soldado – I found this film to be overcritiqued. It was a great follow to its 2015 original, making for a solid second instalment. Especially since the director changed, I was impressed that it maintained most of its gritty, raw, intense heartlessness that made the original a memorable experience. Definitely worth the watch.
  5. Searching – This was a found-footage film done right, and it contained a great mystery aspect to boot. John Cho had a very tough acting job based on the nature of this film, and he delivered. If you’re looking for different, you’ve found it. Probably the biggest surprise placement on this list.
  6. Bad Times at the El Royale – For about ¾ of this movie’s runtime, I thought this would be an A+, and secure the number 1 spot of the year for me. Despite faltering just a bit in its final act, this was still one of the most memorable experiences I had for 2018, due to flawless cinematography and tension building in the first two acts, along with a very intriguing method of telling the story.  I’ll be glad to own this one.
  7. The Avengers: Infinity War – If you’re a comic book movie fan like I am, this is what we’ve all been building towards for the last 10 years. And it built beautifully. The thing I liked the most about this film was actually the way it concluded. For me, that aspect was worth the price of admission alone.
  8. Creed 2 – Surprisingly, this is another sequel that did the first movie justice. And this brought a much more layered story to the forefront than its original. Though the fight scenes weren’t quite as elegantly helmed, this movie made up for it smartly by making the plot revolve around much, much more. That made it pack just as much of a punch as the first.
  9. Green Book – Based on a true story, this film viewed race and class through a different lens due to unconventional circumstances I’m glad were brought to camera. I saw this at Film Fest, where it won the people’s choice award for Best Picture of the festival. In addition to an Oscar nomination for best picture, Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali should both be locked for nods in their respective categories.
  10. A Quiet Place – John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) threw down the hammer on a directorial debut that was quite innovative. Any horror movie is heightened when one of the senses is removed from the table. In this case, that sense was sound. I respected this production and the tension this brought to the table based on this technique. It was also acted very well by Emily Blunt and Krasinski, who also starred in this film. Definitely a great thrill ride.
  11. First Man – The Neil Armstrong story was brought to the screen here, with a very visually stunning production from Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land). We all know how the film is going to end, but the way it was developed made it pack quite the punch regardless. Claire Foy was a standout as a supporting actress, and Gosling was his usual – quietly excellent.
  12. The Favourite – Captivatingly shot, this period piece watches a bizarre royal triangle fighting for the attention of an inept queen. It’s darkly funny and brilliantly acted by all three lead actresses – Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Coleman. This will be an awards circuit darling, I’m sure. For me, it managed to make it in for the final spot on my list.

 

There were a few films I missed this year, that I’ll still be looking to watch in the coming weeks. With that said, this list wouldn’t be fair to present without a hat-tip to a few honorable mentions:

  • Mission Impossibe: Fallout
  • Black Panther
  • Can you Ever Forgive Me?
  • A Star is Born
  • The Hate U Give
  • Beautiful Boy

Hit up your Blu Ray store or a movie theater. You owe it to yourself.

Back to business.

4. “Looking the Part” Matters. I don’t Care what Anyone Says.

This piggybacks a bit on the last subheading, but the way I see it, we as trainers have a responsibility to do our best to get and keep ourselves in good shape, as disciples of our own craft. No one’s saying we need to get contest-stage ripped – but If we can’t at the very least have a goal of being able to visually evidence that we’re in above average shape, then we should probably consider a career change.

Sure, looking like we’re in shape is subjective, but any client wouldn’t paint that picture quite as fluidly as we might as fitness experts. And in the end, their opinions count for a lot as far as our business is concerned.

In my eyes, it’s ideal to look at this all as pieces to a pie. If you’ve got the brains and knowledge, the personable nature and problem solving skills, and credentials that make anyone respect you as a legit and competent coach, why shy away from rounding things out to be a “complete package”, if your athleticism may present room for improvement? There’s no disadvantage to you in business or in health from getting to the point where you’re able to walk the talk, and proudly and healthily stand out as one who’s become fitter than the average person – especially if that’s what you’re trying to teach most of your clients to be.  Within reason, you’ll probably end up a busier coach, and you’ll probably live a longer life.

Dissect and find problems with these words as much as you like.

5. In the Gym, We Need to Respect Our Proportions.

One topic I’ve lectured and written about quite a lot recently has been that of respecting your anthropometry as a lifter.  Every sport has an “ideal build” for the most part, and anomalies to that mould are few and far between. When we strength train for performance, we must acknowledge that there’s an “ideal build” for our endeavors in the gym also. And if you’re built like a basketball or volleyball player, yours isn’t it.

There are certain movements that, though they’re great and respected by fitness pundits as beneficial, might cause more risk to those with unfavourable body types than others. It doesn’t mean we need to stop the movement altogether – in some cases, it could just mean that we need to modify our approach towards how much volume we add to it, or how heavy we go on a regular basis.  In other cases, being safer while performing the lift can be as simple as modifying your setup, like I’ve suggested for deadlifts below.

Too many fixed strength and size programs assume that we’re all built for this, and the truth is, we’re not. Trying to force-feed movements can often fit a square peg into a round hole and not customize our workout to our body’s needs.  And for a long time, I’ve been thinking that that needs to change…

6. Confidence and Clothing are Inversely Related – and that needs to change.

Habitually posting naked on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you have “more confidence”.

And refusing to do so doesn’t necessarily mean you have “less confidence”.

Of course, none of the above is what social media would like you to think.

I belong to an industry where that reality is even more sensitive than it would be for people who don’t belong to it.  Many of us have been contributing to the misleading ideology where these so-called leaps of confidence and courage are euphemisms for what are often cries for help and validation from those with a possible history of image insecurity.

The kicker is, many of the people guilty of this will still juxtapose their published nudes with some statement about inner strength, overcoming obstacles, or some other self-actualized platitude that hardly even befits what’s being presented.

Normally, I wouldn’t care about any of this. The problem is, many of the people who find fitness inspiration from the things they see online will pull from such examples. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by a great physique or a strong lift. But there’s a lot that hinges on how it’s presented, and whether the mental state of the individual setting it out is actually solid.  If we want to make people confident in their own skin, it’s going to take more than making it seem like the end goal should be to strip down for an IG photoshoot. If that’s what you see as “confident, happy and empowered”, then maybe you’re contributing to the issue. 

You’re not missing anything by keeping your clothes on and logging out. If it’s a business move, it’s also worth asking yourself exactly what you’re trying to sell, and to whom.

2019

Who knows what it’ll bring. But one thing I do know is I’m going to be quite busy! Keep up with new articles and media I put out here on my website, or on social media. No nudes or life advice – I promise.

I’ve got more than a couple of experiments on tap for the upcoming year, in addition to plenty more writing, speaking, teaching, and coaching. You’ll know where to find me.

If you don’t, I’m sure you’ll see me around.

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