Conversations Over Crunches…

Exercising The Voice

As an exercise in creative dialogue, I have a question I sometimes put to friends or acquaintances as a means of generating intelligent discourse.  I most often use this question at the dinner table, or as an icebreaker at social gatherings.  However, this question generates the best results in dialogue, as something to expand on while running or hiking with others.  The question is this;

“Would you rather lose your vision, or lose your ability to speak and to hear?”

With few exceptions, the answers to this question confirm that most would rather lose their voice and hearing than their vision.  For all the times I have asked the question, I can only recall one person who would rather have their voice and hearing spared than their sight.  I will never understand this.

Though I do find my sight to be useful, I can’t imagine not having another audible conversation.  It is speaking with and hearing others that better connects me to them, and reminds me I’m not emotionally alone in the world.  To miss the inflection or the emotion in the voice of another, or to not be able to offer mine, lost only to sign language or some kind of an electronic medium, I would feel detached from the soul of others.

Nonzero Wisdom

One of the best aspects of being a fitness trainer is that I get to share the human experience via the spoken word.  I’m able to listen and learn from the wisdom and experiences of others.  I can also share my own experiences and perspective on things with people who might benefit from it – and I do throw it out there whether it sticks or not.  This exchange over the years, has been like getting a master’s degree in the subject of life.  These conversations have helped shape my adult conscience and consciousness, and have enhanced my life immeasurably.

Not all conversations are deep, though some are.  Nor are they all superficial, though some are.  In a given week, a majority of conversations in my studio will be roughly in the middle, and might include thoughts on entertainment, sports, current events, and local happenings.  Most often, the exchange will be equal.

Other conversations though, are true discourse.  These can be about politics, government, faith, philosophy, history, or the future.  I relish these because they give my day meaning as they give my brain food.  These conversations can be more intense.  They might include a laugh, a stare, an apology, a tear or two, and on occasion, even a raised voice.  I do not always agree with what my clients have to say.  Though they are foolish for it, they don’t always agree with me either.

On The Lighter Side; Food For Thought

In a twisted irony, food is probably the most discussed topic from week to week.  Not all of the food discussion is driven by fitness, though there is some talk of healthy eating by some clients.  Most often the food conversations center around meals had in restaurants, or what was prepared for the family the night before.  I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief as I watch someone do a lunge, a crunch, or peddle a stationary bike as they discuss which Cabernet they had with their beef bourguignon.   I am not judgmental about this, and often share my own eating indiscretions – such as the Domino’s pizza I had delivered right here to my studio several weeks ago – at 10:30am no less.

Deeper Thoughts; Tom, Bill, And I Save The World

Tom and Bill are 67 and 87 years old respectively.  They are business partners with multiple interests in real-estate.  They are both fit beyond their years – Bill just completed a 100 mile bike ride in the desert, and Tom works out 3 days per week and plays golf every Tuesday.  I’m sure either one of them could kick my ass in a cage match.

Bill is still quite active in business, and an spends a great deal of time studying and contemplating  economics.  I have learned much by listening to him during his workouts.  On issues of economics I mostly just listen since I can’t contribute the conversation on his level.  When we get into politics, government, and especially philosophy, we both tend to get pretty charged up, and on a given day feel strongly that the world would be better off in our hands.  If I want to push Bill harder in the workout, I simply mention the name, Barack Obama, and the weights get thrown.

Tom doesn’t like to talk much but when he does, I LISTEN.  Walking off a landing craft onto the island of Saipan during World War II, his group was ambushed.  The two men on either side of Tom were picked off by Japanese machine guns, as were many others.  We talk about that occasionally.  Tom still can’t reconcile why he wasn’t also hit by the flying bullets.  For my part, I stand humbled by this and similar stories, and make no attempt to hide the tears which form in my eyes whenever he discusses this.  Tom once spent an entire night in a foxhole – with a bleeding wounded “brother” on top of him. 

After the war, Tom parlayed a Christmas tree lot in Long Beach into a furniture store – which became many furniture stores, which became one large furniture store, which became a boat dealership, which became a development company, which still provides him dividends each month.  This, I learned from our conversations.  Tom’s capacity for recall is off the charts.  He can name nearly everyone on his high school football team, as well as the soldiers he served with in the war.

I make no decisions with my own business prior to consulting with Tom – none.

Silence Equals Success In The Gym

I once had a rule that no words be spoken in my gym unless they related to the workout itself; that if one is speaking, one can’t give supreme effort in an exercise, and I was all about supreme effort by my clients.  I also had a rule about friendship with clients, or a lack thereof.  As my client base has changed through the years, those rules have also changed, and conversation has become central to the experience.   

I am blessed and wiser for these conversations over crunches.  Since I still like to see strong effort by my clients, if the talking ever does get out of hand, I just increase the weights they are using and render them unable to speak.  It’s good to be king  🙂 .  Be well.  rc

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Please check back next week for Part III of my ongoing series on life as a fitness trainer.  Next week’s topic; Why Owning A Gym Does Not Guarantee Fitness For The Owner.  Please check back. 

Oh, and there is this by X; See How We Are.  Enjoy…

Conversations And Connections…

Here is a mid-week tease for my upcoming column, Part II of my ongoing series on life as a fitness trainer.  This week’s column, Conversations Over Crunches, should be up by Saturday, January 29th.  Please check back then.  In the mean time, below is an excerpt:

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 As an exercise in creative dialogue, I have a question I sometimes put to friends or acquaintances as a means of generating intelligent discourse.  I most often use this question at the dinner table, or as an icebreaker at parties.  However, it generates the best results in dialogue, as something to expand on while running or hiking with others.  The question is this;

“Would you rather lose your vision, or lose your ability to speak and to hear?”

With few exceptions, the answer to this question confirms that most would rather lose their voice and hearing than their vision.  For all the times I have asked the question, I can only recall one person who would rather have their voice and hearing spared than their sight.  I will never understand this.

Though I do find my sight to be useful, I can’t imagine not having another audible conversation.  It is speaking with and hearing others that better connects me to them, and reminds me I’m not emotionally alone in the world.  To miss the inflection or the emotion in the voice of another, or to not be able to offer mine, lost only to sign language or some kind of an electronic medium, I would feel detached from the soul of others.

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Please check back this Saturday for, Conversations Over Crunches.  Oh, and there is this by Big Country; Winter Sky.  Enjoy…

On work, success, and fun in a fitness career; they are not always braided…

Fitness Job; It looks good from afar…

I’m often approached by people about what is required to get involved in fitness as a career.  Generally the questions center around what education is necessary and what marketing tendencies might be required to maintain a successful business.  The primary question though, is about how much fun and how satisfying it must be to have an easy job.

Friends, people from the online fitness community, people from my real community, and occasionally even clients, present these questions to me; often woven together by the belief that a fitness career would be a far better, far more uplifting and far more fulfilling career path than the thankless and ordinary job they are currently slaving away at for, that asshole

I thought it would be fun this week to offer some thoughts, perhaps not otherwise entertained, to those who might be interested in fitness training as a career.  These are random, possibly incomplete, and in no particular order.  I may come back and write more on this topic later on in this series.

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Location: Choose your demographic wisely…

Straight up, a part of my success is that I live and work in a small, isolated community with a proportionately abundant population of people who have discretionary income and plenty of spare time; we’ll refer to them as retired millionaires.  I also have many working class clients with less spare time.  A part of my success is that I make equal time for both, and in-turn, have been able to weave my reputation well into my community at all levels. 

The “small, isolated community” part has been more central to my success than the average income per household.  In a small town when you do a good job for one person, ten more people know about in a matter of days, and this can help advance the business.  Conversely, do a bad job for someone in a small town, and twenty more people will know about it in a matter of minutes.  My demographic has been useful, but not exclusive in the success of my business.

Passion:  “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Mark Twain

That is absolute bullshit.  I do love fitness, and I chose this career that my body always be proximate to my exercise, but a J-O-B is a J-O-B!  Yes, telling attractive women that they need to arch their backs more and keep their chins high, and getting paid for it, is a rung on the ladder of success well above making sandwiches, washing dishes, and removing rats from the drains at the Bagel Deli as I did when I was 16-years old. 

However, work is work and days can be long – and hard – and frustrating – and some unforgiving.  There are typical business concerns that arise daily when I’m not in a client-session; invoicing, insurance, correspondence, scheduling, collecting money, and keeping my studio clean to name a few.  For every hour I spend in a training session, I might spend 15 minutes addressing some combination of these. 

A key part of my success is what I call the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of the time I act as my own employee, and 20% of the time I act as the business owner.  Since we all know the boss is always a prick and never works hard anyway, this rule helps me keep things in line.

Understanding the client:  Most people are more fragile than they seem…

A gym can be an intimidating place.  Even the most successful, best educated, and results oriented people, as well as many dedicated athletes, can be intimated when they enter a gym – whether they show it or not.  It took me many years to learn this.  The best way to overcome this is to foster immediate success with a client.  Not falsely, but consistently reinforcing all they do well during the workout.

A confident client acts confidently in the gym and is more likely to want to return.  A client broken down emotionally is more likely to stay down – I have seen it many times.

Commitment To Their Workout: You can lead a horse to water…

There must be acknowledgment from the trainer that most clients aren’t into exercise as the trainer might be.  Why else would they be paying for the assistance?  My clients range in age from 13 to 88 years old, all of them with unique personalities, agendas, needs, and levels of commitment to the program, but with one thing in common – if they would exercise on their own, they would exercise on their own.

The best way to get the most from a client is to find out quickly how much they are willing to give.  This is done by asking them – again and again and again.  Like echo-location during the workouts, continually sending out feelers about how they feel during the course of an exercise, I gather and use the information to help choose their future exercises and build their future workouts.  However, when I ask those questions, the eyes usually give more information that their words.

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That’s it, all I can think to share – for the moment.  If anyone has thoughts of fitness as a career path, or knows someone who is considering it, I am always available to answer any questions – you know where to find me. 

Please check back next week for Part-2 of this series, Dialogue; Conversations Over Crunches. Should be a fun one, wink wink, nod nod.  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this from Los Lobos — the best live band on the planet.  Enjoy…

A Life In Fintess…

With this, I’m kicking off my ongoing series on Fitness As A Livelihood.  In the coming weeks, I will be sharing various aspects of my life in fitness training.  With no agenda in mind, I will attempt to relate thoughts, ideas, and experiences from my life in fitness.

This series might include the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, and some of the less considered oddities and eccentricities which exist in the life of a fitness trainer.   I will attempt to pick a fresh topic each week until I no longer have anything to say.  Ok, I know I know, I hear your laughter.  Whatever.  Screw you.

This Saturday, January 22nd, I will kick this series off with some thoughts on success; on how I stay busy, even in a down economy. 

Oh, and there is this from the documentary Lightning In A Bottle.  David Johansen and Hubert Sumlin amazed me.  Why this has been viewed less than 200 times is beyond me.  It might be the most refreshing 3-minutes in music I have ever seen.

Please check back this Saturday for more on my new series.  rc

Act First, Think Later…

One more re-run this week while I settle back into my post-holiday routine.  Please check back Friday, January 21 for a fresh column on a fitness subject yet to be determined. 

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In any field of invention or application for early man, actions preceded structure. In the dawning age of man, this applied to everything. That is, things happened first and man, as his intellect grew, applied rules to his actions. After he recognized what had transpired from his actions, man then considered how that which had transpired might be improved upon and/or communicated to others. He applied structure to his actions to enable this. We call this institutionalism.

The (crude) analogy is this: Maybe 100,000 years ago an upright hominid may have hit a stick on a rock several times in succession. The she-ape beside him might have heard this and moved her hips to the rhythm and the sound. He might have noticed her movement, liked what he saw, and chose to hit the stick on the rock again in similar patterns. This course might have been observed and copied by others. The beginning of music might have been born this way – everything else after would be derivative of that.

 As man evolved, music evolved and expanded, was more widely practiced, and along the way became institutionalized. Evolved from and applied to music, long after the fist stick hit the first rock, were patterns, time signatures, notes, scales, bars, measures, etc. Over time the evolution of those boundaries became primary to music, and now the great majority of creation in music is taught to begin from within those literal borders. The initial act though, the stick on the rock, preceded these rules and was free to go wherever it might have gone, without fear of violating institutionalism.

 This applies to all avenues in life; faith, business, politics, science, art, and sport. First there was action; a stone thrown through a basket from a great distance away. Then there was the institutionalization of that action; the foul shot at the free throw line. Institutionalization is the largest part of the process — the process of how we have learned, and how we have advanced as a species. However, institutionalism is also how counter productive paradigms have been created. Actions born of those paradigms, can be why we have often faltered as a species. It takes free thinkers to identify and break from stale, or counter productive paradigms.

Like these other areas, fitness and exercise have been excessively institutionalized into a rainbow of paradigms. Some fitting and appropriate paradigms offer utility for the improvement of a man, and provide a reasonable path he can walk upon in achieving his goals. Others, stale and counter productive, silently steer a man away from his goals, despite his best intentions and the intentions of those directing him.

 Man has likely been taking inventory of himself and striving to improve himself with exercise since shortly after, or perhaps even before, that first stick was hit against that first rock to create music – exercise is that historic, and for many reasons. The act of exercise, be it for testing, for competition, or for self-improvement, had to be born of man’s inherent movement and abilities. I am not convinced that the institutionalism of recent science and research can contribute as much to a man’s exercise and wellness, as an individual man can contribute to himself by way of his own trial and observation – the scientific method on a very personal level. That is just my belief.  

I think of the elderly woman who came to work with me a few years back because she was having trouble getting in and out of her car. So we exercised. I took her to her car, supervised her, had her get in and out of her car cautiously several times during her first workout. We continued this over many weeks. In time, her ability to get in and out of her car improved markedly. I have little doubt that an educated physical therapist would have not used this approach. More likely, he would have just slipped her into a physical therapy paradigm, with minimal results.

On a large scale, the body doesn’t know 6 repetitions from 12, nor 3 sets from 5. What the body understands much better is fatigue, range of motion, and reasonable exercise form. Much can come from applying fatigue, range of motion, and proper exercise form within whatever number of sets, reps, poundages, and days per week one chooses – relative to one’s goals. Form is key. If one practices exercise form, based on what his instincts tell him about how that movement should transpire, he will likely move properly.

Though I appreciate the value of structure in exercise, I don’t always follow the traditional rules of exercise and encourage many of my students to do the same. Much of what I do and what I teach in the way of movement, I invent. Movements should be born of consideration for the objective one trains for – how exercise might help enhance and protect our lives, or allow us to reach our goals. This desire differs with each individual. 

Even standard exercises have less rights and less wrongs about them than one might think; a bench press done to the neck versus one done to the base of the chest. Lunges done in conjunction with a dumbbell arm curl, an overhead press, or juggling chainsaws. Proceed with caution, and mix things up. Explore range of motion.  Pay attention to form. Don’t cheat an exercise. Breath fluidly. These are the primary rules of exercise. Most every other rule is just someone else’s agenda – rules which limit possibilities. 

I’ve recently come to believe the world would be better served if individuals spent more time writing bibles than reading them.  That is, defining who one is in this way might serve the individual, and the world, better than copying who someone else is pretending to be.  Those who suggest that certain rules should always be applied to certain actions in exercise might be limiting your exercise progress. Further still, those rules might be limiting your enjoyment and your creative outlet with your exercise and your own body. Of course the same could be said of your faith, your business, and your politics. Be well. rc

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As always, thank you for dropping in.  Please check back next week.  Oh, and there is this, from the genius that is Knut Reiersrud.  Few color outside the musical lines as well as Knut.  Enjoy…..