Ten years in the bag

by | July 16, 2019 | Diet and Nutrition, Fitness, Health, Sleep

Back in 2009, I had just finished my personal training certification….
It was time to take on my very first athlete.
Did I know what I was doing? 
I sure thought I did…
But, man, was I wrong.
Ten years later, 
I can look back on all of the old stuff I did,
And be grateful that I am where I am today.
Eric Cressey says that if you’re not embarrassed by the coaching and programming you did in the past, 
Then you’re not growing.
Well, I guess that means I’ve grown a ton! 
This article will definitely outline some mistakes to avoid in the fitness game, 
But it’s also a celebration of 10 years of being a coach.
I am so grateful for all of the friends and family that have supported me, 
And the clients and athletes that have put up with me along the way.
Here’s to 10 years in the fitness industry!
And here’s 10 mistakes I’ve made along the way.

Mistake 1: Prescribing something that you haven’t done yourself 

I did some work with the Wesmen baseball team back in the day. 
I wrote them a bit of a doozy of a program.
Here’s the conversation that went down with one of the athletes:
“Hey, have you tried the new program yet”
“No, but Marshall did.”
“How long did it take?”
“He said about three hours.”
My bad. 
Workouts should not take three hours!
And if I would have done the program myself, 
I would have known that it took three hours,
And cut it way down, 
And just focused on the essentials. 
Honestly, if I would have done…
A throw, 
a jump, 
a sprint, 
some horizontal pulling,
Some horizontal pushing,
Some deadlifts,
Some squats,
Some single-leg work,
And some carries,
That would be all that was necessary…
But I didn’t.
I had so much stuff in there that the damn program took 3 hours!
Ugh, so embarrassing. 

Mistake 2: Overcomplication and complexity 

My friend insisted that I write her up a diet.
Oh boy…
I was definitely in no position to do this. 
Nonetheless, I took a crack at it.
I had 2/3 of a tablespoon of healthy fats at some meals.
Three ounces of grass-fed beef at some meals.
I had meals perfectly timed around her workouts, 
I had a perfect 4:1 carb to protein shake in her workout,
And a perfect 3:1 carb to protein shake for post-workout….
But, It didn’t take her life into account at all.
It was built as if she was a full-time bodybuilder,
And she wasn’t.
She was busy.
She needed simple.
She didn’t even need a diet.
She needed to build habits into her life that supported a healthy body.
I realize now that meal plans aren’t great for busy folks, 
Building habits is more realistic. 
Here’s why….
What happens when you take away the plan?
You have no external regulator telling you what to do…
So you revert back to your old ways.
Trust me,
In this case…
Simple and actionable is better than complicated and complex….
Even if it’s not perfect science. 

Mistake 3: Reading and not applying 

My grandma used to give me Chapter’s gift cards for my birthday and Christmas.
Plus, my mom loved to read, 
So, I naturally became a pretty voracious reader.
When I got into coaching, 
I would read everything I could about fitness, 
Behavioural psychology,
You name it. 
I would read it. 
But, once I finished a book,
I would be right onto the next one, 
Without any regard for the book I had just read. 
Now, when I read,
I think about how I can apply the material to my practice. 
I basically look for 1-2 golden nuggets from each book and take action on them! 

Mistake 4: Science > relationships 

I love science, 
I love exercise physiology, 
And l love nutritional biochemistry. 
But, athletes and clients don’t.
They like the results that come from it, 
But, what matters more to them,
Is the fact that you smile and get pumped up when they walk in, 
That you high five them when they do something awesome, 
That you actively listen to them when they talk, 
That you tell good stories,
That you’re funny, 
And that you actually care about them. 
Knowing the science is your foundation and that’s still important, 
But, you can never be too funny,
Too good at communicating,
And too good at listening. 

Mistake 5: Fear of candor 

Now, despite what I just mentioned above, 
Sometimes you still need to put your coach hat on, 
And tell people difficult things. 
Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to tell them the truth,
And not sugar-coat it. 
Kind of like If someone has spinach in their teeth, 
You tell them.
Because although they may be embarrassed at the time,
You save them a world of hurt later on.
I struggled with this at the beginning and I still struggle with this to this day. 
But, I have gotten better. 
Sometimes, you need to have difficult conversations,
You need to tell people what’s up.
It may sting a little in the moment,
But, over the long run,
Candor can help people achieve what they want to achieve. 

Mistake 6: Giving more than 1-2 coaching cues for a movement 

Kyle walks in for his first day at the gym,
We set him up for the deadlift and then this happens
“Hey, Kyle, 
For these deadlifts, 
Squeeze your butt on the way up, 
Keep your abs tight the whole time, 
Rip the floor apart with your feet,
Feel the full foot,
Crush the handles, 
Show the pits of your elbows forward,
And tuck your chin,
All at the same time”
Ummm, that’s a lot to think about at once. 
It wasn’t until I got some coaching and this coach gave me 4-5 things to think about in one lift 
that I realized how overwhelming this was.
It’s better to focus on 1-2 things that will have the biggest impact on the movement.
Dial that in,
And then move on to another 1-2 aspects of the movement.
Perfect form and mastery of technique is a lifelong process.
Rome wasn’t built in a day,
So, slowly chip away at mastering your exercises. 


Mistake 7: Telling people what to do instead of asking them what they want to do 

Maybe this works at the moment, 
but people won’t internalize the behaviour.
It’s not something they actually want to do. 
Therefore, they probably won’t do it in the future. 
We are autonomous creatures.
We want to do what we want to do,
Not to be told what to do.
The best way I have found to remedy this is to give people options when it comes to the behaviours that will lead to a result,
Or to have a conversation with them about what their next action step will be. 

Mistake 8: Rewarding outcomes over behaviours

This puts the emphasis on the outcome.
Which isn’t all bad,
But then the emphasis strictly becomes achieving that outcome. 
Rewarding fat loss says I am only worthy of praise if I lose fat.
And sometimes you can’t control whether or not you lose fat.
You can only control the actions that lead to that fat loss. 
When things go south and you get a little off track,
If you just focus on the fat loss, 
You may sometimes find unhealthy means to lose fat again.
But, if you emphasize the behaviours,
Then you will simply revert back to those healthy actions that led to the outcome in the first place. 

Mistake 9: Thinking I had to do it all myself 

Being an effective professional is a team game. 
I used to think I had to fix everything on my own,
And do it all myself. 
But, I learned that I don’t. 
I now collaborate with other allied health professionals.
I have physiotherapists,
An athletic therapist, 
An osteopath 
An MD,
A naturopath,
A massage therapist,
And a dietitian in my network. 
And I am always looking to expand the crew I can refer to.
Everybody wins with this strategy. 

Mistake 10: Not using training AND nutrition to get results

Training is awesome. 
It’s essential for building strength, 
Building muscle, 
Injury prevention,
Revving up your metabolism, 
Moving better, 
Looking better,
And feeling better. 
But, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. 
The results you get will not be optimized without some sort of nutritional intervention.
Things like eating lean protein,
Eating fruits and vegetables, 
Eating slowly,
Eating mindfully,
And eating smart carbs all make results easier to achieve. 
The combination of the right training, 
The right habits, 
The right mindset,
And the right amount of recovery gets results.
Real results. 

Bonus Mistake: Sleep

Again, this is another one I struggle with personally, 
But it has gotten way better. 
I remember a time in the early years of my career, 
When I would pull all-nighters working,
When I would wake up at 3:30 am to train athletes at 4:30 am, 
And when I would sleep in my car overnight because I was working so late. 
Ugh, again, I cringe when I think about this. 
We now know that sleep is the super elixir of life. 
Or read his book,
And you’ll realize that we suck when we don’t sleep.
Out memory is shot, 
We can’t learn,
We don’t lose fat,
We eat more,
We’re less social,
And we increase our risk of so many conditions, 
Heart attacks, cancer and diabetes to name three.
It’s just a bad situation. 
Plus, sleep may wreak havoc in the other pillars of health. 
Your training may suffer from a lack of sleep, 
Your nutrition will be off,
Your recovery will suck,
And your mindset probably won’t be in a good place either. 
So, use a solid pre-bed ritual
And aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. 


Really, 10 years is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to a career. 
I still have so much to learn, 
So much to do, 
And so much to achieve.
The next ten years will definitely bring some new challenges, 
But I’m pumped to grow in what I consider the most important industry in the world. 
Here’s to the 10 that was! 

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