Can Your Trainer Do, And Why Does It Matter.

Can Your Trainer Do, And Why Does It Matter.

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It’s time for another rant.

I’ve Always Thought This Should Be Obvious….

As a student (of martial arts and strength) I have always surrounded myself with people who, at some level, push me to do a little more than I can myself – by way of them doing “the thing” I’m going to them for of course.

So, when I first got into the “fitness industry” I was, well, appalled at the fact that so many trainers out there not only can’t do what they ask of their clients, sometimes they literally won’t even try.

I’ve always been a “skinny guy”, however, skinny doesn’t mean healthy. I wasn’t as strong as I should have been, and definitely had room for improvement in other areas(flexibility and whatnot). In fact one of my favorite quotes is:

Skinny Girls Look Good In Jeans, Fit Girls Look Good Naked.

I know, kinda riske, but it gets the point across.

I think to better illustrate the point I should really start at the start…

How I Got My Start10446221_643048292464958_1802765198409734958_o.

My first martial arts instructor was a national level competitor. Like, top 5, not an “I showed up and got a participation award” type competitor. He walked away with several awards within the top 3 back at a time when the TaeKwonDo circuit wasn’t turned into a “sport”. In fact, they barely count a punch as a point anymore(ironic considering TaeKwonDo literally means foot, fist, way…)

So, when I say that I’ve learned from some of the best, I’m not kidding. Unfortunately, being a good competitor didn’t make him a great instructor… But I still picked up more than a few things from him by way of just being around him and “learning by example” of how he did what he did.

And It Didn’t Stop There.

In recent years I’ve still surrounded myself with some amazing people.

Currently, my Hapkido instructor, Master Dan Piller, is not only a high ranking (6th Degree Black Belt) Hapkido Practitioner and Secretary General for the World Hapkido Association. He has also competed(and done well in) Judo and TaeKwonDo. In fact, he still does compete in Judo and, surprise surprise, still does well. Mainly because of the attitude he has toward constantly learning and evolving in his training. He passes that on and requires it of all of his students(myself included) so we can constantly be leaning and improving ourselves, and the people under us. He also runs a great little company (Strategic Defense Options or SDO) and has helped empower more people than I could ever count through self-defense trainings all over the world.

My kettlebell instructor Ryan Toshner, is (and he will probably argue this) one of the best in there is. Ryan is very humble, but also very strong and equally as knowledgable. He’s achieved 3 certifications through the Strong First Group as well as other kettlebell certifications over the years. He’s currently a Team Leader, Level 2 Kettlebell Instructor, and has Barbell and Bodyweight certifications through Strong First.

I’ve trained with other great instructors at one time or another over 14 years, as well as some other instructors who were… well, I think they shouldn’t have been teaching people, but I guess I’m just a bit picky. But I’ve gained some valuable insight from every single one of them. (Even though the time may have been short…)

On top of the people who train me, there’s the people I train with.13717359_10154366286566171_6201643383675078156_o

My good friend in Michigan Jonathan Shellnut is an accomplished wrestler, catch wrestler, kickboxing coach(under Eric Paulsen), talented hapkido practitioner, and world renown joke teller… well, as my girlfriend would say, he’s got a lot of “dad jokes”. But they make training fun.

The other students under my Hapkido instructor are just as surprisingly talented as the next. We have ex-military members, current military members(Master Sargent in fact), moms(who you shouldn’t mess with), and people from all walks of life. The crazy thing is this – they all train in AT LEAST one other martial art(and they’re no slouches if I do say so myself)

Closer to me yet, my long time friends and former co-workers Ian Jensen and Shannon Meade. Honestly, without them I don’t know if I would’ve stuck with martial arts training. They sucked me back in to it and are the reason I even know any of the people I’ve mentioned so far.

This, on top of the fact that Ian is a world class stick fighter(along with Shannon), he also holds a 4th degree black belt in TaeKwonDo, a 1st degree black belt in Hapkido, a blue belt in Brazilian JiuJitsu under Eric “Red” Schaefer, and is way under-ranked in escrima(sticks). He’s also a helluva cook!

So – Why All This Rambling About My Training?

Because ALL OF THIS MATTERS.

Talk to the people who “train” individuals on a daily basis. When you do talk to them, find out who they surround themselves with. What’s their experiences in training/competing. The more you talk to most of them you will find a good majority have a few traits that you don’t want in a trainer:

1. To them, this is just a “job”. In fact, it’s often advertised by personal training certifications that being a personal trainer is one of the top careers right now, because of how much money you can make… do you really want someone doing a “run out the clock” type job when they’re supposed to be helping you?
2. They’ve never done/attempted/thought of doing/would ever consider doing anything listed above, much less most of the things they ask you to do. Every single person I’ve worked with has competed in some type of physically and mentally grueling event of some sort. In fact, I personally won’t train under someone who hasn’t done a higher level of experience than I do myself. And most of them have accomplished things I probably never will, but I’ll sure try!

So What? You Say. Why Is This Important?

Because if they haven’t had these experiences or suffered through the blood, sweat, and tears – they are literally at a disadvantage when it comes to helping you.

I’ve been involved in tournaments where I’ve literally fought with a broken face(I didn’t know it at the time…) and I would go back and do it again. Not because I’m crazy, but because I’m passionate about it, and I learned something from the experience. Okay, well, maybe a bit crazy…

Even on the fitness side, as I’m typing this my hands hurt like a mother…. because I’m working toward my Level 1 Strong First Kettlebell Instructor Certification. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s 3 days of what I’m told is grueling work that tests you physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

I’ve done this sort of thing before for virtually every black belt test I’ve done (there’s been 7 of them so far, number 8 will be in October, and 9 sometime next summer), so I know what I’m in for, and I know it won’t be easy. So why do I do it? Because the experience I will gain is going to help everyone I currently work with achieve new levels of success. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. If it were up to me, I’d do more of the things I like and not spend 5 days a week(mostly my weekends) training for what is basically a piece of paper and some letters to put behind my name. Because when it comes down to it, most people won’t know, or care, what it took to get that paper and letters…

Yes, I do have a certification I got online, but that was after 10 years of training to master ONE martial art and getting started on integrating it into the next art that I spend my time on.

If you ever stop improving, you’re going backward. And I can’t in good conscience ask anyone I work with to do something I haven’t at least attempted on my own, I just won’t. And the thought of someone going out and training others without the same mindset does make me a bit sick if I’m honest. After all, it’s the only way I’ve ever known, and it’s the only way that gets lasting results for most people.

On another note, for your own success – if you surround yourself with top level people long enough, some things start to rub off. Like how to transfer knowledge and application of your craft to others. This isn’t a secret by any means, in fact I’m sure we’ve all heard it in a business sense before(you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around.)

Once you start surrounding yourself with highly successful people in their fields, you become immune to the B.S. everyone else is trying to shove down your throat all day and you start to get results – and keep them.

So, is who your trainer works with important? It depends…. do you want to be taught by someone who’s learned from books and hasn’t “done” before? Or, do you want to learn from someone with hands on experience who has other real people to reach out to for training and furthering their own development?

You Chose.

~Justin

The Strength Principle

The Strength Principle

Over the past weekend of training with my Hapkido Instructor (Master Dan Piller) we had a chance to explore what makes us, well, us….
(at 9,000 ft above sea level!)

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In other words, we explored what makes us stand apart from the crowd of martial artists all claiming there’s is the best…

This, of course, was meant to apply to Hapkido and particularly how Master Piller(and I agree with his stance on this) likes to see things done. In short, the idea behind the art(and the main principle) is that anything you do should be able to work on a non-cooperative(typically stronger/meaner) opponent – i.e. train for reality.

I found an inextricable link between what I do as a martial artist and what I do as a fitness professional.

The idea behind the training.

I’m a firm believer in one thing, no matter what you train or do, have some damn principles – and you need to stick to them.

In martial arts, I mentioned it above, in fitness, it’s almost identical. Train For Reality.

Here’s my “Principles” behind what I do:

Hapkido: The Way Of Coordinated Energy(the literal meaning of the art) is based on the principles of Yu(The Theory Of Flowing Water), Won(The Theory Of The Circle), Wha(The Theory Of Harmony).

The reason these aspects are so important to our art is simple – anyone can do a “technique”, however, the technique done without all 3 of these principles applied to it is much more likely to fail than if they were applied(especially against a larger/stronger opponent or attacker, remember, reality).

“It is better to practice a single technique 1,000 times than practice 1.000 techniques only once” is a great quote from my Hapkido instructors manual. And if you read between the lines, you should find a simple fact that is not so obvious to most people…. each repetition should be better than the last in some way, striving for perfection one step at a time.

I like to think of this as “Mindful Repetition”, keeping in mind the idea that “Practice Makes Permanent”(or “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”).

I could honestly go on quite a bit more than most of you would care to read…. so let’s move on to the next set of principles…

Fitness: **Important Reminder** Fitness(as defined by Dan John) is the ability to perform a task. It is NOT an indicator of health or any such nonsense, in fact, some of the most “Fit” individuals are the least healthy(look at NFL players after they retire if you’re still missing the point).

From this point we should determine some simple things – throwers are fit for the task of throwing(not swimming), just as swimmers are fit for the task of swimming(not throwing), well, you get the point. Keep this in mind no matter what you’re “training” for. Oh, and if you think you’re going to be able to “Train For Anything”, I refer back to Dan John who reminds us that if you’re going to prepare for anything, you might want to prepare for building a spaceship out of dental floss, or fighting off a great white shark with a plastic knife.(I’ve paraphrased this of course, if you want the actual quote, check out Dan’s book “Intervention” or check out any of his blog posts on various, well known & respected, fitness web sites)

With that out of the way, the first, and in my opinion, most important, thing you need to establish is what do you want to be “fit” for…

In other words, you need to find something that fits with your overall vision/goal.(this applies to martial arts too…)

Once you have that established, create a plan and stick with it… please, no “prepare for anything” nonsense… I think we covered the reasons why already…

If you don’t know what to do – Here’s what I suggest: TRAIN TO GET STRONGER.

This involves much more than you think… First, you learn HOW to move, THEN move with heavier weights, progressively, and eventually work up to more complicated versions of the movement(or more difficult bodyweight movements).

Also, sometimes you need to be resourceful… I hear things like this all the time from friends/aquaintences who like to opt out of improving themselves physically when they really need it(even though in reality they don’t want to put in the work…. you know who you are)

“But I don’t have access to weights…”

To which my response is:

You can apply this ‘principle’ to training without weights as well with bodyweight training. It’s a great way to get stronger, it’s easier on your joints, and it teaches you how to create tension once you start progressing to the difficult versions of the movements.

In fact, I hear this type of thing from people all the time when it comes to conversations about fitness and mind bogglingly(at least to me) self-defense. They’re called excuses, and they won’t lose those 5 pound, tone your muscles, or protect you in any way, in fact they accomplish nothing – they especially prevent you from having a set of principles to live/train by, so let’s dispense with them already, okay?

Sometimes, you just need to start where you are to get where you’re going(so please, don’t tell me you need to lose weight before you start working out…)

Back to the idea of Mindful Repetition

Keeping in mind “Practice Makes Permanent”.

If you want to continue to train, become stronger, faster, whatever – you need to focus on technique…. there is no exception to this rule, and it’s why professional athletes are professional and amateurs are, well, amateurs.

The person who spends their time on how they do things is always going to be a better(i.e. more fit for the task) than someone who is JUST DOING THINGS. Talent without skill is useless, yet skill without talent is invaluable to your goals. Talent will always take a backseat to skill(again, mindful repetitions).

Before I go off on another tangent, I’ll wrap up with this….

No matter WHAT you do, the principles you apply need to focus on pursuing perfection.(AGAIN – mindful repetitions. If you aren’t progressing, you’re moving backward.)

This “principle” thing is also a great way to figure out if something is actually worth doing.(or at least if the people helping you are aligned with your overall vision/goal)

-Starting a Martial Art? What’s the instructor/organization’s mindset for the long haul?(do they stop training you at black belt? It’s sad, but it happens all the time)
-Switching career? Is there room to advance within the company?
-Looking for a “personal trainer”? What’s their ability to help you progress after you’ve met your initial goals? Can they make suggestions? Can they help you plan/execute?(you’d be surprised how many can’t even accomplish their own goals, or have none…)

These are the type of questions to ask yourself before starting in on something significant, which, in my mind, is anything you do with your time. We only have so much to dedicate to doing things outside of just making a living, it’s hard to find balance(a constant struggle of mine).

After all, why would you want to take up your precious time doing something that doesn’t directly improve you? Remember, anything worth doing, is worth doing well. And if you keep that mindset, the sky’s the limit my friend.

Stay Strong!

~Justin

I Suck, Therefore I Succeed

Being the best is overrated…

  “My main goal in life is to help people to, um, how should I put this – not suck. Or, maybe I should say – be better at being them.”

Often people who are the most talented, have the most potential, or are “genetically gifted” often struggel just as much(if not more) to accomplish their goals. There are exceptions to this, of course, but for the most part it has more to do with a concept that Steve Jobs(co-founder & former CEO of Apple, R.I.P.) stated back in the early days of Apple.

WAIT!! What does Apple have to do with anything? I mean they do computer stuff, and Steve Jobs was some kind of genius!

Hold your horses… it’s really not about the computers, it’s about the IDEA behind how he viewed life and succeeding…

Here it is(it’s a long one…)

“…When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money….

That’s a very limited life, life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you…

…and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use…

And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, if you push in something will pop out the other side, you can change it, you can mold it… that’s maybe the most important thing…

To shake off this, erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just going to live it. Versus embrace a change, improve it, make your mark on it…”

…”Once you learn that you will never be the same again”….

Here’s a link to the video(with a few other good bits of advice)

So, yes, not so fitnessy or sexy(like my gooder english…), but it definitely applies to life as we know it. Not to be fit into a box predefined by yourself or someone else… (although, we often put the biggest limitations on ourselves.)

My biggest limitations I’ve ever faced I put on myself…

When I started my martial arts training, let’s be honest – I sucked. I would literally fall over practicing kicks and footwork drills because my balance and coordination was so terrible. I got discouraged, frustrated, angry, and even considered quitting a few times. Probably the biggest turning point in my training is when, frustrated as I was, my then instructor, (now friend) Michael Olds, told me while doing some bag sparring “Man, I can tell you’re going to be really good at this”. He doesn’t remember telling me this out loud of course… but he says he always knew soon as he started working with me I had it in me to be very good at this TaeKwonDo thing.

I had honestly at that point never thought of myself as good at anything(and I still suffer from this), so I started training as if I was going to be as great as he told me I was capable of. My physical skills dramatically increased, my attitude changed, I started practicing more at home. And really, out of all the people I’ve trained over the years, I see what he saw then, that we all have the ability to be great if we put our minds to it and really give it everything we’ve got!

So, did this high school aged assistant instructor magically give me this ability and found some way to physically improve me, or did my mental image and beliefs of what I was capable of accomplishing change? I would hope you agree with me that it was the later…(although Master Olds is damn good!)

And, to paraphrase what Mr. Jobs said, once you realize you can poke life and something actually comes out the other side your life will never be the same. And that’s what happened with my training, I poked, pushed, prodded, and got the results I deserved for the work I put in.

Am I now the best? Well, no, not really… not even close(I’m no Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris) Am I better than I would’ve been if Master Olds had not had that 1 second pep talk with me? Hells yeah! Oh, by the way, he is a whopping 1 year older than I am, so really the age of the “coach” or  “role model” makes no difference. His confidence and experience in his field that gave me reassurance what he was saying was true.(He used to be one of the top ranked TKD fighters in the country and has a knack for teaching the art too, a rare combination)

To contrast, another student who started at the same time as me and was quite talented(doing backflips and crazy kicks most of the black belts wouldn’t dare attempt for fear of failing) used to be quite discouraging to me… partly because of his “natural talent”, but mostly, it made me want to quit because I didn’t believe it was possible to be at his level. But after my little pep talk, I started pushing myself to go beyond him. (By the way, he no longer trains and never really improved from day 1…)

I could go on about other areas in my life that this same story has played out and I unnecessarily banged my head against the wall, but I think you get the point… It’s all a matter of perception, take the bad and find an opportunity in it.

This all boils down to my main point…

My main goal in life is to help people to, um, how should I put this – not suck. Or, maybe I should say – be better at being them. And I hope that, even if you never step foot in PostFit or train with me ever, you can take something away from this and change your life.

So, why should your life be any different? (I mean, after all, I told you how I was when I started out…) Find a way to make things work for yourself through hard work, discipline, and constantly pushing yourself to try things that scare the hell out of you (as long as they don’t literally kill you – be smart!).

Just try one thing this week you’ve always been afraid to try, just one(ask out that girl – or guy, try working out, join the adult soccer league, jump out a plane – my personal favorite, please use a parachute), and you’ll be amazed at the feeling you get just in the trying of the thing…(succeed or fail, you’re still breathing). Just keep the mindset that you will succeed no matter what!

Your Life Will Never Be The Same – Live Your Dreams

~Justin