Strong. Lean. Happy.

Shake recipe #2

This one is a little on the sweeter side because we’re throwing in half of a hard boiled egg. I have tried using whole eggs in the past, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you enjoy drinking eggs (I don’t).

Shake recipe #2

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 hard boiled egg
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1 tsp, or tbs, raw honey for sweetness

Add more honey to counteract the taste of egg if you’re not a fan. This is one of my more protein-heavy recipes since we have an egg in there (admittedly, it’s only a few grams though) and the Greek yogurt.

Shake recipe #1

Here’s my latest idea: I want to start posting my post workout shake recipes.

Why? Because I know they are super good, pretty darn healthy, and free of questionable supplements which are unfortunately ubiquitous throughout the weightlifting and movement community. It’s also a way for me to bring you some value in a hurry.

I’ll definitely continue to write on the usual range of topics, but let’s be honest, my posting frequency has declined to sad levels :(. My last post was two months ago! This is my way of getting my butt in gear to provide you all with some value.

So, here we go.

Shake recipe #1.

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup mixed frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 small leaf kale, torn up into small pieces

That’s it! Blend and enjoy!

Are you wondering where the protein powder is? Believe it or not, I haven’t added powdered protein powder to my shakes for almost five years now. Here’s why.

Stay tuned for recipe #2.


When corrective exercise isn’t the best answer

Early last spring I was training in a movement club and one of the coaches was taking me through a progression for mastering a muscle-up. For the uninitiated, a muscle-up is arguably the crème-de-la-crème of strength. It’s a relative symphony of mobility and brute power. I’m a strong guy, with 15 years of lifting experience, but I remain unable to perform one.

But I was going for it. Before long, there was a problem. At a certain point in the movement (not even full bodyweight), my right elbow hurt. Now, in my 20’s I probably would have pushed through the pain and ignored it. Fortunately, at 32 I was older and wiser and really tuned into this growing discomfort. However, when I told the coach this his answer was frustratingly simple: “Just stretch more.”

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right? I’m guilty of this myself. And looking back on this experience in the gym, I realize now that the coach didn’t want to say those dreaded words, “I don’t know.”

So, why this blog post now? Because I just figured out what was going on about three weeks ago. After working with my preferred soft tissue specialist and my ever practical chiropractor, we learned that my right shoulder, down through my elbow, and into my forearm was super locked up. My right forearm, in particular, was very hypertonic. This, I had known for some time. I figured that my thrice weekly forearm stretching would eventually cure me. I also didn’t know what else to do. So, I kept stretching prior to my workouts, but I also keep working out. And hard. But this tight fascia went higher up the chain, affecting my shoulder and at some point, pulling my elbow out of ideal alignment.

My ring exercises grew in intensity and with each new success in performance and aesthetics, my right forearm was growing tighter and tighter. Then one day after a good workout, my right wrist was sore. Sore enough that I couldn’t handle my ten inch cast iron skillet in the kitchen with confidence. This was a problem, but it was also a little scary. Sore quads and triceps I understand, but complex joints in the wrist, that’s scary for me. And I certainly couldn’t make it through one of my typical workouts. That’s when I went in to visit my A-team.

We’re all different, so I certainly don’t proclaim that this wil work for you, but for illustrative purposes: My solution involved massage, dao needling, more massage, and a realignment by a skilled chiropractor. Oh yeah, and about a month of significantly reduced lifting in the gym. Then a few more weeks later, things got better and I now feel like I’m back to normal.

This is a long-winded lead-in to my punch line: That personal trainers are often afraid of admitting that they don’t know something.

I am totally empathetic to this conundrum of the fitness professional. After all, they are experts, and experts are supposed to have all the answers, right? Not always. Good experts know when to refer out and are confident doing so.

Relevant to this article, one big thing that I’ve learned over my 15 years as a fitness junkie, is that the personal training world rarely communicates with the greater wellness community. Few trainers have a group of trusted chiropractors, or soft tissue specialists, or acupuncturists, that they regularly confer with.

And this criticism works both ways. Not many folks in the soft tissue world understand what trainers are teaching and/or why. A little cross pollination could go a long ways. This was part of my hidden agenda behind creating the Fit Mornings series, which ran back in 2014 in the Denver area.

Bodies are complicated. Super, super complicated. The better fitness professionals are at communicating with their peers, the better for their clients. And the better clients are at understanding how their bodies feel and move, the better for everyone!

It’s time for big box gyms to rethink their Personal Training model

Yesterday, while at a gym that I frequent, I witnessed a rare, but not all unfamiliar scene: A new-hire personal trainer was just starting out and with no clients scheduled for the evening, she was lingering around the training desk and understandably looking a little bored. It hit a little close to home because it reminded me of my early days in the business. But more importantly, it reminded me of why I chose not to work as a trainer in a big box gym: the lack of a sales personal trainer.

You see, in order to attract more clients, close more deals, and make more money, many of us fitness professionals have been taught to “work the room” and mingle with members. To always wear a smile and ever be on the lookout for organic opportunities to make conversation, answer questions, be valuable, etc. This is all well and good and it’s certainly key to being good at sales and making new connections with potential clients. The problem that I don’t feel is adequately acknowledged is that most of us in the personal training world are actually somewhat introverted people.

Over the past several years, let’s call it six, I’ve been a member at four big box gyms. Where ever I end up I tend to befriend a good portion of the trainers, at least half of them. More often than not, it was me initiating the conversations. Only at three of these gyms was I ever approached by a trainer, cold. That is, when a trainer would walk up to me and start a conversation all on their own. Interestingly, it was only one person at each of these gyms.

Think about that for a moment.

Over an average of eighteen months at each gym, only one personal trainer ever spoke to me on their own accord in the gym. And I’m a regular member! I like to think that I’m a very approachable guy. I’m never too serious looking and I’m usually making eye contact with folks in a friendly manner. So what gives?

Is this a small data pool that I’m pulling from? Sure it is. But think about your own experience. How many times has a trainer initiated a conversation with you?

Even more interestingly, over my tenure at each of these gyms, it became clear that this particular trainer, the one who had introduced himself/herself, was the highest earner in the gym. They had the most clients, worked year round, and were clearly the most engaged with their work, and yes, made the most money.

I’m certainly not saying that the best trainers are extroverted, and that if you’re a relatively quiet trainer then you’re doomed; not at all. But what I do advocate for is a restructuring of the typical “free for all” model of big box personal training, where each trainer is more or less a free agent in charge of marketing, business development, and sales. I think there can be a better system. One that helps each individual fitness professional highlight their unique strengths.

The concept of having a “Sales Personal Trainer” is something that fitness industry consultant Thomas Plummer voiced on his blog years back (I was unable to locate the exact blog post, maybe he called the position Sales Manager, I don’t recall the specifics). Since then, this idea has always been something that really resonated with me. Unfortunately, this box on the org chart of most big gyms is largely missing.

The conventional thinking is that merely by displaying simple flyers for a myriad of workout programs, members will sign up and purchase packages. As a result of these passive sales techniques, and the near complete absence of any long term retention strategy, most trainers aren’t left with any encouraging paths for growth in their current careers.

A Sales Personal Trainer (Sales PT) can be a valuable onboarding asset. Basically, this person is a business development expert, but one who is a certified and experienced personal trainer as well as a proven sales generator. He will work closely with the membership team to introduce new members to the equipment, learn about their wellness goals, and help them to find the right personal trainer, should they choose to work with one.

The purpose of the Sales PT is to find the right personal trainer for the right member and help to implement the appropriate short and long term personal training program. Their time will be relatively front-loaded with a new member or prospect and then they will step back into more of a guiding and supervisory role once the client is working regularly with their trainer.

While many gyms have a “lead trainer” or “master trainer”, these folks aren’t necessarily tasked with allocating new business to their team members. And if they are, I have yet to meet one who has an incentive from the gym to do so. Instead, the Sales PT works to keep her team busy and happy and the clients well serviced.

I see this model being employed to great effect in other industries. Here are two examples:

Firstly, the real estate market. Look around for a realtor in your city and you’ll probably find one with a small team, most likely in the luxury market. What happened is that this realtor was very successful on account of their own skills and in an effort to augment their business they built a small team to (1) scale themselves and (2) to offload some of the more tedious and mundane paperwork responsibilities, thereby freeing them up for more business development work (i.e. bringing in more clients). The former translates best to the training world.

Secondly, there’s the financial adviser world. Again, some of the most successful people go on to build out small teams to grow their business. They spend much of their time on business development and allocate new clients to their team members. You may be wondering, “but doesn’t the client feel sidelined if they thought that they were going to work with the team lead, but ending up having a meeting with a direct report?” Well, it all depends. If it’s a well run team, then the lead is still running the show and making the big decisions, such that client is still getting the benefit of this particular person’s guidance and expertise. They are still buying into that particular financial advising brand, so to speak. And if it’s poorly run, then the whole system will eventually come apart anyway.

Why isn’t this happening in the fitness world?

I think that this structure is a great way to motivate a team, highlight the strengths of individual trainers, and help everyone find more success, whether that’s measured by dollars or something else.

Here’s what I recommend to make it all happen. After all, this can be a tremendous change in the day to day operations of a big box gym so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

#1: Find the right person

You’re looking for a business development person. He or she may look like your typical Type A personality or they may not. Regardless, they will have a proven track record of bringing in new clients. If they are already on your staff, they are probably the busiest and the one that you can see starting their own gym one day.

#2: Give them the right incentives

Almost everyone wants to make more money and be more successful, so give your Sales PT the incentive she needs to crush it. This may mean a big salary, some sort of appropriate profit sharing system, maybe a commission structure, etc. Whatever it is, it needs to be exciting. Don’t pinch pennies here.

#3 Get everyone on board

And be sure to get everyone else on the team set up with the right incentives too. It’s incredibly important on any team, personal training or otherwise, that everyone feels valued and important to the team’s success. The best group is one that is comprised of team members that both understand and respect each other’s roles.

Wrap up

What do you think? How do you feel about this concept of having a Sales Personal Trainer? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you run a gym! After all, I don’t have a gym of my own (yet), but I will.

Please post a comment and tell me your thoughts, or just say hello 🙂

Finding the best pair of gym shorts for you (the complete guide)

It was about a year ago that my brother gifted me a pair of Lululemon shorts for my birthday. When I opened the box and saw what was inside, I have to admit, there was a part of me that thought to myself, too bad I can’t wear these to the gym. This is, of course, in direct contrast to the entire purpose of the shorts: to exercise in them! And thus got me thinking about how to buy the best pair of gym shorts.

First, a little background: I’m an athletic guy. I’ve been lifting weights for 15 years now. I’ve also competed in triathlons — including a 70.3 Ironman — lots of Adventure Races, calisthenics, O-lifting, etc. But above all else, I consider myself to be a weightlifter. That’s my constant. I can name every Mr. Olympia. I treasure the deadlift. Without it sounding too broscience-cliche, the sound of clanking weights in the gym feels like home to me.

Suffice it to say, I feel that I’m well versed in what is commonly known as gym culture.

Now, back to my Lululemon shorts. Upon opening the box and spying that little logo on the shorts, my first thought was a bit stereotypical: Lululemon = yoga.

Therefore, I can’t lift heavy weights in these.

But here’s the thing, I practice yoga. And I’m really good at it. It’s not unusual for me to be at or near as the same level of proficiency as the instructor. However, I’m also a weightlifter and these two worlds are very different from one another. Nevertheless, I wear my Lululemon shorts to the gym all the time. And the honest truth is, they aren’t my favorite. So, I wanted to take a moment and offer up my unsolicited two cents on how you can manufacture better weight lifting shorts for us gym rats.

Before we get into the details, I should address the clear fact that your menswear sales appear to be pretty spectacular. According to publicly disclosed company earnings, your menswear sales have increased by an average of 20% in recent quarters. However, among the cultish “serious weightlifting community,” a pair of Lululemon shorts remains hard to come by.

Ditch the pockets

When we’re in the gym we don’t carry anything in our pockets.

And on the rare occasion that we would, what happens? We end up getting down on the mat and rolling right over what delicate and/or pointy thing we were carrying around with us because we would never use it in the gym.

And pockets get caught on everything. Gym equipment. Dumbbells. Our own hands during different movements.

It may be the only time we say this, but seriously, we don’t need pockets on our shorts.

lululemon for men pocket on shorts


Forget the drawstring

Tying a draw string is just one more step that we’d rather not deal with. We will constantly work to find that sweet spot where our shorts are tight enough that they stay put, but loose enough that we can slip them off in the locker room easily. In other words, we’re trying to recreate the venerable elastic band. Good old elastic may not provide the ideal aesthetic, but it works just fine.

We’re not too particular on color, but…

This is tricky because I totally understand that it’s tough to design mens shorts that don’t look like (1) swim trunks or (2) yoga shorts. Bright colors and/or stripes tend to give the feeling that we’re looking for a body of water, whereas the standard Lululemon fabric patterns pretty much look like all things yoga. And my apologies to the designers in the room, but honestly, something relatively boring is just right.

Solid colors are best.

When most of us guys shop for shorts there are a couple of things running through our minds:

  1. How will a dusting of chalk look on these shorts after deadlift day?
  2. Are these shorts boring enough for the gym?

Get rid of the mesh on the inside*

Please don’t build shorts with an integrated mesh “underwear.” It’s always been a little weird for us. And honestly, we’re going to wear our underpants anyway because we don’t entirely trust that mesh.

[*To be clear, my shorts didn’t have any mesh on the inside, but I see them often enough on men’s gym shorts that I wanted to bring it up.]

Zippers aren’t our friends

Ditch the zippers. Entirely. We don’t need to zip any pockets closed. And as soon as we get down on the ground and roll around, albeit with our pre-workout stretches or any other kind of movement, we’re going to roll right on top of those zippers. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t feel great.

No fly

I should give credit where it’s due — there is no zipper in my fly. But then why is there a fly at all!? What I’m talking about is that flap of fabric meant to give the impression of a traditional fly.

The fly just gets in the way. It catches on things.

I realize that you were probably trying to design shorts that could be worn both in and out of the gym, but I’ll tell you a little secret, we never wear our shorts outside of the gym. Not only do they not have pockets, but they are probably smelly and covered in a light dusting of chalk.

And now, for some good news

I know this sounds like a whole lot of critical feedback thus far, so allow me to offer up one little bit of advice that I think would do a world of good: Start building shorts more like the MMA style, built with flexibility around the seat and an eye for extreme durability. 

(By the way, there’s a reason that I’m an incredibly loyal fan to Under Armour — I still own underwear that I literally purchased 9 years ago. The fabric is super comfortable. I don’t feel the seams, it’s soft and flexible, and it still looks like new.)

We don’t really care about anything else. We just want shorts that move with us, that don’t get in the way, and that last a really long time. That’s what a pair of weightlifting shorts is all about.

Lululemon, I know you can do it! You have the technology! You have some incredible products on the women’s side and with some thoughtful redesign, I believe that you can do it for us dudes too. I’m rooting for you.

P.S. And yes, please seriously consider ditching the logo.

Social marijuana use and fitness: A risky combination

With last year’s passage of Initiative 300, the social marijuana measure, the City of Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses is now hard at work trying to figure out how to practically make this happen. Meanwhile, local businesses are preparing in their own way. While the concept of smoking marijuana in a bar-like environment is easy to visualize, and something that many of us figured was bound to happen sooner or later, there are peripheral industries toying around with the idea of combining marijuana use and fitness. One industry is of particular concern: Fitness.

I read an article several months back about a yoga studio that is considering applying for a license. As a fitness enthusiast, I feel that encouraging the consumption of marijuana as part of a fitness program is at best irresponsible and at worst, dangerous.

First, a little background on Denver’s fitness scene: There are a huge amount of gyms in the Denver metro area. Gyms are in a constant battle for attention, specifically the small ones that bring a lot of value to their communities. It’s an incredibly tough market and running a fitness business is no easy thing.

From a business perspective, I understand that yoga studios and small gyms (maybe big gyms too) are weighing the benefits of social marijuana consumption either as an innovative marketing strategy or as an opportunity to hone their brand’s identity in a very crowded marketplace, but I can’t help but to look at the concept of fitness paired with marijuana use as, well, absurd.

Drug use in sports is nothing new. From steroid use to EPO, drugs have been involved in sports and fitness for a very long time, all ostensibly in search of enhanced performance. There’s also an ongoing debate with the NFL community regarding medical marijuana. There’s growing evidence that it may be a safer alternative to traditional, and very powerful, pharmaceuticals.

However, with Initiative 300, the thing that’s new is the context. Should marijuana use be allowed in a fitness environment, and perhaps even promoted(!), I think coaches would now be sending a message to the fitness community that marijuana may somehow enhance a workout.

I admit that there is little to no research on the effects of marijuana use and fitness. Perhaps the increased sensory perception that some users experience may actually enhance a workout. As a former engineer and still a very much technically minded person, I know that if I can’t disprove something, I have to leave room for it as a possibility. Yet when I take a close look at marijuana’s impact on the human body, I think it’s clear that it’s highly improbable for there to be any positive impact on a workout.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that most people experience elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure with marijuana smoke inhalation. In the context of a fitness class we have to look at the big picture, that classes are filled with all sorts of different people with varying levels of fitness. Sometimes their only commonality is that they signed the same waiver. Handicapping their cardiovascular capability with a drug and then asking them to exercise will be no small thing.

I think it’s important to remember that in order to lose fat and build muscle, the two things that most people want from their fitness programs, we need to get our heart rate up. Whether we lift weights, cycle, run, practice yoga, whatever it may be, we need our hearts pumping to burn those calories and induce the desired changes in our bodies. With the possible exception of some of the less strenuous forms of yoga (i.e. hatha or yin), we’re asking our hearts to work extra hard. Any sort of marijuana use, either prior to, or during a workout, will only further tax one’s cardiovascular system.

Of course, a smartly written waiver paired with carefully selected insurance would take care of things, right? Perhaps, but I don’t think that most people understand how marijuana use would affect their bodies, even if they are regular users of the drug – because remember, fitness is the new variable.

It remains to be seen how this new freedom will impact the Denver landscape. And I understand that as our fitness obsessed culture here in Colorado continues to seek out innovations and gyms and yoga studios search for that ever competitive edge, social marijuana consumption is being eyed as a potential benefit. Yet as fitness professionals and coaches, our job — our duty as ethical teachers of movement — is to improve upon people’s health and wellness while minimizing risk. It’s all about risk versus reward, in the context of movement. Cardiovascular training with a known irritant in your lungs and/or blood and with an elevated heart rate, tips the risk-versus-reward paradigm in the wrong direction.

I really hope that Denver’s fitness community – yoga or otherwise – can continue to be a model for the nation and keep social marijuana consumption where it belongs, out of the gym.