Is Becoming a Personal Trainer Too Easy?

I get the question of how one becomes a personal trainer quite often.  The answer surprises nearly everyone.  Buy the book, pass the test.  That’s it.  There’s no practical application or hands on work.  This was the exact process in getting my NASM certification, which is a highly regarded certification.  Personal trainers deal directly with a client’s physical well-being, shouldn’t there be more to it than a multiple choice exam?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the ease of the certification process.  If it wasn’t that simple I may still be sitting behind a desk staring at a screen all day.  I was able to make a complete career change in my mid-twenties, years after college.  But to be honest, the personal training certification process really should be more rigorous.  I’m good at my job solely from experience and being a practitioner in the gym myself.  That book and that test didn’t change a damn thing.

I’ve seen some crazy shit at the gym.  Frankly I’m surprised more people don’t get injured, which goes to show how much the body handle.  But the wear and tear will eventually catch up and the body won’t be able to cope with it.  If you get bad advice from the beginning, you’re screwed.  Habits are hard to break.  A book worm that can memorize some vocabulary words won’t always be able to properly explain tension, posture, and form.  One-on-one interaction is a completely different ballgame.

The solution is simple.  Keep the textbook bullshit, it’s still somewhat relevant.  And make no mistake, I’m not trying to make this a four year college degree.  But every prospective trainer should have to complete an internship.  Shadow an experienced trainer for awhile, perform a few sessions yourself, and work with different people with different levels of fitness.  Get in the gym yourself as well, there’s no reason to not ‘walk the walk.’

Another controversial topic is the concept of out-of-shape trainers.  One argument is that a knowledgeable and successful trainer doesn’t necessarily have to be in shape.  The other argument is that the trainer should set a good example and maintain a high level of fitness.  I certainly favor the latter.  You don’t have to look like Phil Heath, but to me it’s hard to take an overweight trainer seriously.  There’s an overweight trainer at one of the gyms I frequent.  I’m sure he knows his stuff, but dammit when I see his pudgy ass shouting instructions I can’t help but shake my head.  And as I’m writing this I just had a spontaneous thought; a trainer should have to pass a physical qualification test similar to the police academy.

Being a personal trainer is a noble profession.  You can really improve the quality of someone’s life by getting them into shape.  There is a bit of a stigma with trainers though, and I think much of it has to do with the simplicity of becoming one.  If we change the process we can change the perception.


UFC Will Surpass Baseball or Completely Flame Out

Most young sports fans, myself included, were not around when boxing was king in America.  But it was.  Ali, Foreman, and Frazier were must see TV in the 60’s and 70’s.  As the heavyweight division became weaker, baseball reclaimed its place at the top.  It’s called ‘America’s Pastime’ for a reason.  Now, football has the country’s attention by a landslide with baseball falling to second or third.

Point is, sports are cyclical.  The UFC is at the height of its popularity and Major League Baseball is struggling in the post-steroid era.  Mixed martial arts is a unique sport, in the sense that it’s only been around for about 20 years.  In the early years, it was regarded as a freak show due its no holds barred nature.  Now, it’s getting more attention and becoming a fixture on Sportscenter and Fox Sports.  Can it take the next step in terms of popularity?



Argument in favor of UFC


Today’s youth will gravitate towards mixed martial arts

This applies to both men and women.  Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey showed that you can make serious money and become a national star as a mixed martial artist.  I feel that young women in particular view female professional fighters as strong and even heroic.  For the boys, there’s now something to strive for after high school wrestling.  High school wrestling is a big deal and amateur wrestling is considered to be the best skillset to have for MMA.  This is how sport popularity transitions take place.  A great young athlete will most likely thrive in any sport they choose.  The question is, what sport will that be?


Aside from the NFL, all professional leagues are vulnerable

Baseball is dying.  It lacks the stars, personalities, and home runs that draw in the casual fan.  Who is the face of Major League Baseball?  Bryce Harper?  Mike Trout?  Ask the average person if they know who those guys are.  Then ask them if they know who Tom Brady or Lebron James are.  Speaking of the NBA, it too is in an unusual position.  Super teams like the Warriors and the Lebron/Wade Heat teams make for drama in the playoffs, but destroy the intrigue of the regular season.  Last year the Warriors broke a regular season wins record that seemed untouchable, yet it was considered one of the most boring regular seasons in recent memory.  When stars are stockpiled on three or four teams, there is a lack of competitive matchups.




Argument against the UFC


The UFC is TOO unpredictable

There have been six title changes so far in 2016, and it’s only August.  The volatility of every fight makes it interesting, but it can be difficult to develop stars if the title is passed around like a hot potato.  Last year Holly Holm was on top of the world, now she’s lost two straight fights and is reportedly taking some time off.  Certain fighters can survive a losing streak and remain a draw, but they are few and far between.  The unpredictability of mixed martial arts and punching with 8 ounce gloves can be both a blessing and a curse.  As strong as the UFC brand is, you still need individual stars.


The C word

We can thank the NFL’s mishandling of the concussion issue for bringing it into the public eye.  Hell they even made a movie about it.  I mentioned earlier that every league aside from the NFL is vulnerable, and I’m sticking with it.  Concussions and the resulting brain trauma are for real, but I think that the system for dealing with them is evolving and improving.  Any contact with the head is basically illegal and there are new precedents in place for penalizing teams that do not diagnose concussions properly.  The NFL is not a noble organization by any means, but the new safety precautions are better for player health.

Fighters know the inherent risks of the sport, but is the juice worth the squeeze?  There is a huge gap in pay from a main eventer to a guy on the prelims.  Brock Lesnar made $2.5 million at UFC 200, Enrique Marin made $13,000.  An NFL practice squad player still makes six figures.  Can the UFC grow fast enough to satisfy the needs of an average fighter?



Final Thoughts

The good news for the UFC is that it does not yet have the Muhammad Ali or Junior Seau-like figure that illustrates the dangers of its sport.  As mentioned earlier, the sport itself is so new that it really hasn’t had the opportunity to show the long term dangers.  It’s safe to say that it has surpassed boxing, but catching a sport like baseball is a much larger task.  The UFC was recently sold to WME-IMG for four billion dollars.  They have to keep the momentum going and develop new young stars while Conor carries the torch.  Jon Jones’ suspension was a killer for them, as he is considered the best fighter in the world and a polarizing figure.  UFC 200 was a letdown, they need to capitalize on the New York card in November.

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5 Keys for Success with Flexible Dieting

When people ask me what flexible dieting is, I tell them it’s advanced Weight Watchers.  It’s not meant to belittle the diet, I think it’s a fair description.  Instead of a point system, you track how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you eat on a daily basis.  It doesn’t matter when, what, or how, your primary concern is to hit those numbers, hence the word flexible.  Many people thrive under this diet because of that freedom, but like any diet there will be struggles.  As a practitioner of this diet (which is damn important for giving advice for all you armchair quarterbacks) here are a few keys to get the most out of IIFYM.


1. Avoid eating out

The most frustrating thing about calculating macros is finding out later on that they were inaccurate.  It’s the cynic in me, but I have my doubts about the macros restaurants post on their website.  Even if you use your best judgement, there’s so much ambiguity.  What oils are they cooking with?  Is it a fatty cut of meat?  Remember, it tastes good for a reason.


2. Experiment with different eating patterns

Just because you have the freedom to eat whenever you want doesn’t mean you have to.  Flexible dieting was the counter to the six meals a day bodybuilder eating pattern.  But that works for a lot of people.  Don’t change for the sake of changing.  Similarly, you can use flexible dieting within an intermittent fasting eating pattern.  Find what you are most comfortable worth and stick with it.


3. Make measuring a habit

This works in conjunction with #1.  If you eyeball a handful of nuts and are off by a few ounces, it can ruin your macros for the day.  I suck at estimating and I know I suck at it.  Using a food scale is tedious, but you can rest assured that everything is accurate.  Habits are hard to break, both good and bad.  Once you start using a scale on a regular basis, it won’t be such a hassle.


4. Take advantage of IIFYM’s purpose

Dieting is a mental game, cravings will happen.  The purpose of IIFYM is that you are able to fit some junk into your diet if you want it.  Do people abuse this?  Absolutely.  But, if you feel like having some ice cream after a bad day at work, do it!  The whole point of flexible dieting is the freedom to eat dessert without the guilt if you plan for it.


5. Take a break

Not necessarily from your diet, but from tracking it.  Odds are you generally eat the same foods every day and have a grasp on their macros.  As I mentioned, it’s important to make measuring a habit, but it can be mentally debilitating after doing it for a long time.  As long as you trust yourself to get back on track, I recommend everyone take a few days off from tracking every now and then to give your mind a reset.


Top 5 Mistakes Noobs Make at the Gym

1. Too Much Too Soon

Just because you can handle the workload doesn’t mean you should take it on.  I rarely have a client completely new to lifting work out more than three days a week.  The idea is to maximize progress doing as little as possible.  This leaves reasonable room to add workouts, thus eliminating the potential of a plateau.  If you have someone working out five days a week right off the bat, what happens when they hit a sticking point a few months down the road?  You’re going to have a novice working out six days a week?  Doing two-a-days?  You have to be patient.

Dieting works the same way.  If you’re a female jumping right into a 1,200 calorie diet, what happens when the weight stops dropping?  Are you really going to compromise your health by eating 1,000 calories or less per day?  On the other hand, if you were able to exhibit patience and lose a little bit of weight eating 1,800 calories then that leaves so much more wiggle room to adjust.  You don’t have to dive into the deep end right off the bat.



2. Too Many Isolation Exercises

I take pride in making every workout different for my clients.  But after awhile I felt I was getting a little too cute and ‘machine happy.’  Compound movements are hard.  Compound movements work.  Exercise is a stress, and the gains you make are the adaptation to that stress.  You can only stress the body so much with isolation movements.  Don’t be the person doing set after set of hammer curls that can’t do a pullup.  It’s not efficient and quite frankly it’s embarrassing.  Learn the hard stuff first, you’ll be a better person and accomplish more in the long run.



3. Disregarding Core Exercises.

I’m basing this entirely on observation, but I would say the most common injuries are lower back and shoulder injuries.  It’s so hard to put into words how vital core strength is.  It affects your posture, balance, and overall strength.  Many people don’t realize that your core isn’t just your abdominals, it’s your obliques and lower back as well.  Do your core exercises first, not last.  If you wait until the end of your workout you won’t give them the respect they deserve.  It’s a nice way to warm up and prepare your body for the workout itself as well.  Piggybacking off of point #2, many compound movements engage the core in addition to the target muscles.



4. High Expectations Without Patience

How many people at your gym truly have exceptional physiques?  Three or four?  Less?  I’m not talking about angled, filtered, amazingly lit Instagram celebrity photos.  Real human beings in the flesh.  So what makes you think you’ll look the same in a few months?  This isn’t a lecture, it’s just reality.  The ‘it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon’ cliche is true.  Building strength or a quality physique is a skill unlike any other.  If you want to be great at playing guitar or painting, you can practice for unlimited hours.  The body, on the other hand, has it’s limits.  You have a short window each day to maximize your workout.  It’s one of the few things where more ‘practice’ can be counterproductive (see point #1).



5. Not Having a Specific Goal

I want to lose weight.  I want to build muscle.  If this is your goal you’re fucked.  You need to be as specific as possible or else it is impossible to determine if you are making progress.  I want to lose 20lbs of body fat in six months.  Now you have a specific target and time frame.  Now you can make adjustments along the way because there is no ambiguity to your goal.  Think this is obvious?  Next time, ask some of your gym buddies what their goal is and see how many reply with one of the first two sentences in this paragraph.


You now know the rules, if you want a specific plan or have any general questions you can reach me at


7 Bold Predictions for the 2016 NFL Season

1. Redskins Repeat as NFC East Division Champs

NFL experts will lead you to believe the Redskins 2015 division title was a matter of circumstance.  The Giants underachieved, the Cowboys were injured, and the Chip Kelly debacle ruined the Eagles.  I don’t believe that and I don’t think Kirk Cousins is a flash in the pan.  He has incredible talent around him, including Jordan Reed, the best tight end in the game sans Rob Gronkowski.  DeSean Jackson is still a threat, Pierre Garcon is a reliable possession receiver, and Josh Doctson has a chance to fly under the radar and contribute.  I like Matt Jones in the backfield, although question his ability to carry the load in the long run.

I also don’t believe those who say Josh Norman is a system cornerback.  He’s not Byron Maxwell, he’s a legitimate shutdown corner.  The injury to Junior Galette worries me, but the Skins have a decent pass rush regardless.



2. Jameis Winston Finishes Top 3 in MVP Voting

Winston showed flashes of greatness last year, as you would expect from the #1 overall pick.  There is plenty of opportunity for success in the NFC South.  The Saints and Falcons have holes in numerous positions, and I expect the Panthers to suffer a bit of a Super Bowl hangover.  Winston has the physical tools to make big plays with his arm and legs.  In addition, he has a quality group around him.  Mike Evans is a legitimate #1 target, often overshadowed by other receivers from that great draft class like Beckham and Watkins.  Vincent Jackson is also a solid target and I expect Austin Seferian-Jenkins to make strides in his third year.



3. Jordy Nelson Leads the League in Receiving

How quickly we forget.  In 2014, Nelson caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns.  By the way, he still has the best Quarterback in the game throwing him the ball.  Torn ACLs are no longer career ending injuries.  It’s not unusual for a player to return to his old form after ACL surgery (see Adrian Peterson).  I expect ‘White Lightning’ to do the same.



4. Jimmy Garoppolo Goes 4-0 in Relief of Brady

Bill Belichick made Matt Cassel look good.  I’ll just let that sink in.  Obviously, no one knows what to expect from Garoppolo and this prediction is based entirely on intuition.  But one would expect Belichick to put him in a position to succeed, i.e. you have a safety valve named Gronkowski on every play.  The Patriots have a tough opener in Arizona against the Cardinals, but after that it appears to be smooth sailing with games against Miami, Houston, and Buffalo.



5. Mark Sanchez Leads the Broncos to the Playoffs

The first image that pops in your head when the name Mark Sanchez is brought up is likely the ‘butt fumble’ against the Patriots years ago.  No matter what you think of him, Sanchez has lead teams to two AFC championship games.  Those Jet teams were very similar to this current Broncos squad; great defense, solid running game, and quality receivers.  Sanchez had two receivers during their prime in Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes during those AFC title runs, and now has Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  He won’t be asked to do much aside from avoid mistakes.  If the roster remains as is, he won’t constantly be looking over his shoulder since Paxton Lynch is not NFL ready.



6.  Thomas Rawls Wins the Rushing Title

Believe it or not, only seven players rushed for over 1,000 yards last season.  This can be attributed to the NFL being a pass-first league and most teams splitting carries between runners.  Rawls will win the rushing title because the Seahawks don’t fall into either category.  They are still a run first team and with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, Rawls will have to carry the load.  In only his second year in the league, he’s young enough to handle it.  I don’t expect Christine Michael to give him much competition either.



7.  Megatron Returns to the Lions as an Actual Transformer

Yet the Lions still only go 5-11.