Category Archives: General fitness

True core training….It may not be what you think.

True Core training….It may not be what you think.

The topic of today’s post may be somewhat controversial, however we must always challenge the norm and be open to changing the things that we “know” to be true. So with that in mind, the best way to train your core isn’t crunches, it isn’t V-Ups, it isn’t hanging leg raises and believe it or not, it’s not even the mighty plank. Ok first some terminology. What is your core? Well, cut off your head, legs and arms and you’re on the right track. Abs, Core, Trunk, and Pillar all refer to the same thing, the muscles that make up your torso, from your glutes to your pecs and from your hip flexors to your traps and everything in between. So I will from here on out use all of these interchangeably with each other.

Conventional knowledge says that we need to isolate our core training as a separate body part just like the rest of the body and we should do it at the end of our training session. Well, conventional knowledge has missed the mark so badly here that, if we were to replace “core training” with “Driver training”, there would be so many accidents that we would be left with no choice but to walk everywhere. Let me explain. First, the concept of isolated muscle training is a relatively new concept when we talk about physical fitness, and really wasn’t popularized until Arnold Schwarzenegger came on the scene and body building took a mainstream spotlight. Now this is not a can of worms that I want to open right now but let me just say, if you haven’t yet read some of Grey Cooks work, do it. One of my fav quotes of his is, “Train movements, not muscles. Train patterns not parts”. More on that in a minute, but let’s get back to Pillar talk. The idea of doing a bunch of crunches to get a strong and “ripped” core might make sense to you now, but it’s time to unlearn what you have learned. Think about what your core is responsible for doing: It keeps you up-right while walking around, it helps transfer energy from the top of your body to the bottom and vice versa. It controls Spinal flexion, extension, rotation and movement side to side, among many other things. So spending hours doing crunches (spinal flexion) only trains the core in one plain of motion. But the biggest job of the trunk is one that very few people know about because it’s something we don’t have to think about. The core is reflexive. It responds to movement, to keep our bodies under control. If you slip while walking, your core helps to keep your feet under you. When you swing your baseball bat and you have to adjust to a curve ball at the last second, your core is there to help this happen or when you sit up from your lawn chair and the back support slips, your core keeps you from totally falling out of the chair (provided it’s not impaired by the margarita you are trying not to drop ;). There are so many muscles that impact your core function it is impossible to train each one individually.

So how do you train the core you ask? Well by mimicking

The Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish Get-Up

movements that you do in your day to day life, with precision and perhaps additional resistance. Remember, “train movements, not muscles. Train patterns not parts”. What does this mean then? Instead of holding a plank for 4 mins, hold or carry weight beside you, in the rack position or maybe overhead for 4 mins. Instead of doing 12 different variations of the crunch, try the Turkish Get-Up. I have been asked so many times “what’s the best core exercise?” and my response gets so many eye rolls is almost funny, but for the foreseeable future it will always be the Deadlift. The trick to core training is that every exercise that you do, is a core exercise. I personally haven’t done a specific “ab training session” in my own training in years! Instead, I suit case carry something heavy for 1 – 10 mins, I crawl, I roll, I do Turkish Get-Ups, I swing a kettlebell, I deadlift, I do pushups, I do pull-ups, I do overhead presses. Everything that I do, I focus a tremendous amount of attention and effort on control and “owning” every position. And let me tell you, I have never had a better “ab workout” then carrying a 60 Lbs kettlebell for 10 mins! Now to qualify the effectiveness of my training I’ll say this; As part of my job I have to do a fitness test every year and part of this test is max number of full sit-ups in 60seconds, and having not trained a full sit up, I can do over 40 in 60 seconds. I can hold the plank position for over 3 mins. I have a “strong core” by actively avoiding all of the things that we have been told to do. My time is valuable and I would rather not have to spend an extra 10-20 min at the end of my workout doing crunches and side bends to get a “complete workout”. As a disclaimer, isolating your pillar with specific exercise does have a place, but it’s more in the realm of rehab from injury or working to correct movement dysfunction.

So how do you get a sexy and ripped 6 pack? I really hate to break it to you, but it has everything to do with what you do in the kitchen and so very little to do with how many crunches you can do or how long you can hold the plank.

So when you are thinking core training, remember, walk tall and carry something heavy.

Thanks for reading

Matt Kingstone

Remember this feeling!

FullSizeRenderCongratulations! You made it through the first week. Now remember this feeling

Maybe you’re a bit sore, maybe a little tired but you feel great! You might not be able to explain why you feel so good, other than to say “I feel alive”. Now remember this feeling. Think of five or six words that describe how you feel and put them in places that you will see them. If things get tough or you run into some challenges, you need to be able to remind yourself why you MUST continue or get back to what you’ve been doing. We can easily forget how things make us feel, especially if it makes us feel good, its human nature. It is also human nature to take the path of least resistance, which for a lot of us, is not exercising or being active. But if you are easily reminded of how much better you feel moving, sweating and enjoying it, the more likely you are to keep it up through the whole year.

The human body was made to be used. Aches and pains are more likely a result of disuse than an effect of use. An 18th century physician Tissot said “Movement as such may take the place of many remedies, but all the remedies together can never take the place of the effect of movement.”

Keep moving, keep it simple and keep it at the top of your priority list. Your body will thank you.

Thanks for reading

Matt Kingstone

www.kingcobrafit.ca

Tone Deaf

“Tone” deaf

 I think there comes a time in every educated Personal Trainers blogging career, if you can call it that, where we feel a strong urge to talk about the mythical creature, Toning. And while I’ve always tried to separate myself from the “mainstream” Personal Trainers out there, there is just something about having a conversation with someone; client, friend, passerby which, when the phrase “all I really want to do is tone….” dribbles out of the persons mouth I want to turn and walk away. I liken this feeling to the dietician when they hear someone say that they are following a low-fat diet. Or something else that seem obvious to you but clearly not obvious to others. You think to yourself, “there is so much information out there, how does this person still think this?” I would like to connect a few dots here. The same person who says that they want to tone is that same person, who in the same sentence quite often will as also say, “I just don’t want to get bulky” (another very popular blog post to be sure). These thoughts/beliefs are not this persons fault. The amount of misinformation that is out there is incredible. In order to sell copies, your favorite fitness magazine will avoid phrases that might scare a potential reader off. Would you read an article or click a link that read, “Top 10 ways for women to add muscle”? Most of you would not. But in fact the concept of “toning” means exactly that.

In order to have that perfect beach body, we must add muscle to our bodies, period. Muscle is important to any fitness or body composition goal.  Let me put it this way, under your skin, and other soft tissue, you are a stickman. Think about that for a second. We all have the “same” skeleton. If you want to have “sexy” arms or a “firm” butt you have to put something between your sticks, aka bones, and your skin. Your choices for this are simple: you can either fill it with fat or muscle. The conversation about plastic surgery is beyond the scope of this blog so we will pretend that option doesn’t exist. You tell a woman that you have a great new program for her that will help her really pack on some lean muscle mass and fill out beautifully, that woman will leave a roadrunner plume of dust behind her as she runs away. Why are women so afraid of putting on muscle? It seems like in the mainstream media, there are two styles of “fit” women depicted. One is lean and slim (to which most woman will say “eat a cheese burger”) and the other is a muscular strong looking body builder or Crossfit champion. And because that is all we see in the media, that’s it right, one or the other? Obviously not! There is a happy medium and it exist in the realm of “toning”. The problem is that most people have it backwards. They think that toning is hard and getting muscular and “bulky” is easy. I invite you to, politely, ask the next muscular female you see, how easy it was for her to attain that figure. I promise you that there are more hours of hard work in the gym and even more time and effort in the kitchen  in that physique than you can imagine. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that realizing your personal fitness and body composition goals will be easy, it opposite in fact, it will take hard work and dedication, however, anything worth having takes work. What I am saying is that you should not be afraid to build a little muscle in order to get there. I don’t know where muscle gets such a bad rap, but I’d like to drop some knowledge on you. The more lean muscle your body has, the higher you metabolism will run and the more calories your body will have to use in order to just survive. And that is even at rest! A little more muscle means that you can burn more calories sitting on the couch! More muscle, generally, means you are stronger. If you are stronger then life in general is easier. Jars open with ease, moving the couch to find the pen you dropped is a piece of cake, the groceries come inside in one trip not two. So don’t be afraid to get away from the low weight, high repetitions that you have been using for the last four years and challenge yourself with 10 more pounds or a weight that you can move 6 – 8 times instead of 20.

There are many different components to fitness, and if improving your general fitness level is your goal, having a myopic approach to improving it, will always sell you short. So get off that toning routine, forget about the “burn” for a few weeks and pick up a dumb bell or kettle bell that makes you grunt a little. You have to get strong to be strong.

Once again, thanks for reading,

Matt www.kingcobrafit.ca

PS (for the fitness pros out there)

After writing this I have come to a realization. It’s not the word “toning” that I have an issue with, it’s the mentality that it brings with it and the stigma that it re-enforces. I encourage all of the trainers who read this, let’s take back the word toning. Let’s re-educate and inform our clients, friends or passersby to the true meaning of the word. Empower people to feel confident in training the way the body wants to and was designed to be used. Build strength, add muscle, and get toned!

21Days Later: A Challenge

21 days later: A Challenge

 Over the last few months I have extended 21 day challenges to my clients. Statistically it takes 21 days to create a habit, so the idea was to challenge them to focus on one thing for 21 days that may otherwise be a behaviour that could be neglected. I have also taken up the challenges and the experience has been an eye opening one.

To date the Challenges that I have laid out have been A) To drink 8-10 cups or 2-2.5L of water everyday B) To eat 6-8 servings of veggies every day and the latest challenge C) To be mindful of your self-talk and if you notice it going to the negative side attempt to put a positive view on it. The latter I believe to be the most difficult so far.

It is quite shocking though, how focusing on something as simple as drinking enough water in a day can prove to be more difficult that you might think. Now I won’t pretend to be some 21 day guru and claim to have met all of the challenges so far with ease. To be honest there have been some days with all of the challenges that I have failed miserably. But I really think that the awareness of failure is a win in and of itself. The whole concept is to bring attention to healthy behaviours that can have a positive impact on your health and wellness. The process of realizing that work has to be put into certain areas to improve your health and wellness is huge step. Much can be learnt from failure. And the biggest lesson to be learned is not to give up. Just because you’ve had one bad morning or day or week for that matter, there is always time to turn that day around.

Another part of the challenge is to identify road blocks, things that have kept you from meeting your daily goal. Once we pinpoint things that get in our way we can set in motion steps to combat them. If you realize that when you forget you water bottle at home your water intake takes a kamikaze nose dive, then you know that you need to ensure that you don’t forget your water bottle. Sometimes just saying “I won’t forget ever again” just isn’t realistic, so maybe stashing a few bottles in key places that you spend your time would also be a good idea. Some challenges are more difficult for some than others. A number of my clients had no problem with the veggie challenge. That one by the way was a difficult one for me. I found having veggies pre-cut and ready to go was my key to success. However, that takes a considerable amount of work to stay on top of. But that is the whole point, eating my Canada Food Guide recommended 7-8 servings of veggies every day is something that I need to do in order to maintain optimal health. So meeting that goal should be a must and I need to change my priorities around to ensure that I meet it.

Where do your priorities lie? What’s important to you? If you identify something as being important to you, figure out what you have to do realize that ‘something’. Set yourself one manageable goal to accomplish it and do it every day for 21 days. Be aware of what is causing you to miss the mark now and again and be proactive to turn it around. When you reach your goal or are successful with your own 21 day challenge, reward yourself. Treat yourself to something that you want or need as a pat on the back. Just ensure that your reward is something that doesn’t set you back. If your goal is centred around weight loss for example, rewarding yourself for a pound or two change on the scale with a piece of cake or a sweet treat may not be the right message to send yourself. Perhaps instead try a massage or a trip to the spa, something that is positive and makes you feel good.

Remember, this is your life and it’s yours to control. If there is something that you want in your life, go get it! If it seems too big to think about, break it down to small changes or challenges to turn into habits. Just don’t forget them once you’re through your 21 days. A new habit still takes nurturing. And if it doesn’t feel like a habit, chances are it isn’t and you still need to work on it. Focus and determination are keys to success. We won’t always be successful on the first or even the fourth try, but if we keep trying we can never truly fail at something. Chins up, Eyes open, keep pushing.

Thanks again for reading everyone, see you next time.

Matt Kingstone

King Cobra Fit

The three C’s of movement (and cool isn’t one of them)

“The three C’s of movement” (and cool isn’t one of them)

Everyone wants to do the “cool” exercises. The Power cleans, snatchs, clean and jerks etc. It’s pretty awesome to do something in the gym and have everyone watch you in, well….awe. However, if you are in such a hurry to do the “cool” movements, and forget about the foundational movements that allow you to do the “cool” movements safely and effectively, you leave yourself at risk for injury and wasted time in the gym. The three C’s of movement are IMG_1645Control, Competency and Confidence. If you cannot perform a Turkish Get Up or a single leg deadlift or a crawl with Control, Competency and Confidence, what makes you think that you are ready to ballistically put weight over your head? The answer is you aren’t.

Control is of the utmost importance. If you can’t control your body you will never truly be able to control added resistance to an exercise. Controlling your knees, hips and spine during an Active Straight Leg Raise or Leg Lower, translates to standing on one leg in a hip hinging straight single leg hold position (I call it an L-Hold) which translates into anything you can think of that involves hip hinging ie deadlifts, cleans, snatches, bent over rows, picking up a bag of dog food….you get the idea. I’ll be the first to admit that these aren’t the most exciting exercises to do, and many of my clients may tell you the same, but they serve a greater purpose than being entertaining. Without the ability to control your body or light weight in various positions that require an attention detail, like a bottoms up kettlebell position, you have no hope of performing more complex movements with an acceptable level of Competency. What a segue into my next point, all those essays paid off haha.

Competency can be defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. However, when we speak about movement competency, just doing something isn’t enough, that ‘something’ must be done right. Just because you can lift 400 Lbs off the ground, doesn’t necessarily mean you successfully deadlifted it, If you had to lift it at the expense of form and safety. If you are competent with a movement then you do not have to succumb to any compensations in order to perform it. Movement competency also takes into account pain with movement. If a basic movement like putting your arms over head causes pain, it is no longer a “basic” movement for you, and it is now a movement that you are not competent with. Remedial or therapeutic measures may have to be taken in order to “clean” this movement up. We put up with pain far too well for our own good. I am a perfect example of this, for a long time I have had shoulder pain with many “basic” movements, including things like putting on my jacket. I have recently given my head a shake and have been putting a lot of work into making movements such as putting on my jacket or reaching into the back seat of the car competent, pain free movements. It can be a slow and at times boring road but what is the alternative? Pain for the foreseeable future? Surgery (which still includes rehab)? No thank you. I’ll keep working through my corrective exercises and earn pain free range of motion. The presents of movement compensation whether through a lack of control or pain avoidance does not show movement competency, and compensation does not lend itself to confidence.

As a Certified Personal Trainer, when a client demonstrates confidence with a movement is when I am comfortable with them doing that movement without supervision. I realize that this statement may seem a bit excessive to some, but when we are talking about movements like deadlifts, squats or overhead pressing it is a must. Confidence is empowering,  and only when confidence with a movement is present should additional weight be added. There is too much emphasis on moving heavy weight these days. As Grey Cook says, you have to “earn the right” to move forward. If you skip a step in the process of gaining confidence, chances are you haven’t earned the right to lift that weight off the ground or worse yet put that weight overhead. This is when injury becomes a real threat. Confidence isn’t given, it’s earned through perfect practice and time. Don’t rush it.

Watching someone who is truly comfortable with a movement is a great thing as a trainer. And knowing that client realizes that they have earned that confidence through exercising control of the parts involved, and demonstrating competency in all of the movements leading up to it is an extremely rewarding experience. Life is about movement. Being able to move through your life with Control, Competency and Confidence is living. The stronger your three C’s are with basic, foundational movements the greater your enjoyment of the little, and big things in life will be.

Thanks for reading. Until next time

Matt Kingstone

King Cobra Fit

My guide to Weight Loss (It’s Nothing Crazy)

I take my clients goals very seriously. I try to give them all of the tools that they need to make the choices necessary to reach those goals. Hearing any of my clients say that they aren’t seeing the results that they were hoping for, is by far the most stressful situation that I have experienced so far as a trainer. I pride myself on providing challenging, functional, fun and educational fitness classes and sessions that lead to results. This is what my philosophy revolves around, and if it doesn’t work then my philosophy is flawed. That is what stresses me out. Like butterflies in my stomach and keeps me up at night kind of stress. Fat loss is by far the most common goal of any of my clients. This is the hardest one for me to ensure happens. Getting a client stronger, faster, moving better or performing better in an event, is easy compared to guiding a client through a weight loss journey. There is so much information out there regarding fat loss, some of it good, most of it bad and confusing; I take for granted that my clients are doing everything right when we are not together. One of the hardest parts with this is that many of them are legitimately trying. Following programs that they have found on line or that are provided by an App on their phones or sticking to what they remember working in the past. The problem with this is many of the programs on the internet or found on apps are not nearly personalized enough to provide the weight loss that they are looking for. I encourage you to read my blog “When am I going to see results”, I talk about the need to focus on more than just weight loss as a “result” of healthy lifestyle choices. However, I realize that weight loss is a very important goal for some people, and it can have medical implications for some. So with this in mind, I wanted to provide a guide to weight loss (should be called fat loss). Here are six basic general rules to follow that, if you follow them at least 80% of the time day in day out you will see the results you are looking for. No gimmicks, no fads just truths.

Strength train.

The best calorie burner your body has is muscle. The best way to build muscle is to strength train, period. The idea here is that the more lean muscle mass you have on your body, the more calories your body will need use to just sustain life. Now don’t for a minute think that because you have the goal of adding muscle mass that you will get “bulky”, this will not happen, especially if you are a female. Getting “bulky” isn’t so easy that you can do it unintentionally. But you have to lift heavy to cause your body to feel the need to add muscle mass, so don’t be afraid to use more weight than you’re used to, but can lift with correct form. I generally build in at least one “strength” day a week into my programming for my clients.

Sweat every day

If your goal is weight loss, working out 2-3 days per week is not enough.  If your goal is weight loss, working out 2-3 days per week is not enough. Just like you need to make smart food choices day in, day out, you need to make physical activity a daily priority as well. Sweat every day for at least 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy; go for a hike, play with the kids, ice skate, power walk, play squash or racquet ball, anything. The key is, use your body. You spend 2-3 hours a week with your trainer building strength, mobility and endurance, what good is it if you don’t put it use. Enjoy what you can do today that you couldn’t do yesterday!

Eat 

This is the hardest concept for most people to comprehend. If your goal is weight loss, and you are being physically active, a huge reduction in daily calorie intake won’t work. If you are not fueling your body to recover from your workouts then you are doing yourself a great disservice. There are many different philosophies out there when it comes to eating. The best one that I have found, that works for almost everyone, is also the most difficult. It’s not difficult because you have to eat gross tasteless foods, or do some crazy juice fast to start it off or even go for long periods feeling hungry. It’s difficult because you have to eat; you have to eat more food than you think. “Grazing” is a concept of eating every 3-4 hours starting with breakfast no more than an hour after getting up. Three main meals a day; Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with small snacks between at least breakfast and lunch as well as lunch and dinner. Eating breakfast is very important. It triggers your metabolism and tells your body that food is abundant and that it can use its own fat stores for additional energy without concern of a famine. Continuing to eat throughout the day reinforces this concept and will help your body to be comfortable with letting go of stored body fat. This is where I have an issue with “Apps” that tell you how many calories you have to eat in a day. Does that app take into account what physical activity you did or are going to do that day, or what you did the day before?  If you are serious about losing fat and changing your body composition for the rest of your life, then the changes you make have to be sustainable and realistic and work for you. Put down the app and make an appointment with a nutritionist or dietician who you can speak to face to face and work out a meal plan that works for your lifestyle, your likes and dislikes and your longevity. They are worth the investment if you are serious about making a change. Food is by far the most important step in any health, weight loss, vitality goal, don’t half ass it, take your needs to a subject matter expert, you’ll be shocked with the difference that it will make.

Drink

Water is the nectar of life. It will make or break any healthy living strategy including weight loss. Drink plenty of water. I really don’t think I have to say much more about this one. 2 or more litres per day is a good start.

 Sleep

The time that you spend in the gym is the time you spend doing “damage” to your body. You are forcing it to do things that it is not used to doing. You are causing it to say “holy crap! What just happened? I’d better add some muscle so that isn’t as hard next time”.  It is while you are resting, relaxing and most importantly, sleeping that your body does this. Aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep every night is tough. Believe me, I know. I get up at or before 5 am 5 days a week. As a 30 something male, it’s hard for me to force myself to go to bed before 9 pm most nights. But let me tell you, if I’m up past 11 pm more than a couple days in a row I’m useless. Sleep and recover, allow yourself time to recharge. You will see the changes in your body composition, energy levels and mood.

Own your choice

If you truly want to see results, I mean really want it, you have to prove it. Not to me, or to your kids or the friend that is helping keep you accountable. You have to prove it to yourself. If you make a decision to change, do all the way. Own the choice to make the change. Losing 20 – 50 lbs of body fat won’t happen on its own or overnight. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to take work. You’ll have ups and downs, hold on to your successes and let go of your failures. Dwell on your victories not your defeats. Part of owning your choice is giving it enough time to show you results, if the result isn’t what you were hoping for  after a few weeks or a month, make one small change and keep going, giving up because what you are doing isn’t ”working” is not owning anything. You spend 2-3 hour a week with your trainer, you spend 24 hours a day with yourself, following all the rules is up to you. Make the choice. Trust the process. Do it. Live it. See it. Own it!

Putting it all together

Ok so here it is. If you add muscle to your body, causing your body to need to use more calories in a day to just survive; If you are active every single day for at least 30 minutes, using your new strong body, enjoying life and burning calories without even thinking about it; If you get guidance from a nutritional expert and feed yourself enough healthy, nutrient rich food so that your body can recover from your workout as well as be convinced that there isn’t a famine and that it can sacrifice stored body fat; And if you can do it all with conviction, passion and trust, I can guarantee that you will see all the results that you have ever hoped for. If one of these is missing  or lacking, you will not see the results that you want. Make your focus the journey not the destination and you will be there before you know it.

Thanks for reading

Matt Kingstone

King Cobra Fit Personal Training

Why do you train?

Ok this is my first post, so bare with me, I’m going to try and not come off preachy

How would you answer the question, why do you train? Everyone has their own reasons to workout, exercise or train; To stay healthy, To look better, for a sport or event, Because “they” say its important. The list goes on and on and its as individual as the person themselves. However, if we strip that question down to its bare bones, grass roots, how would you answer it? Everyone will have the same answer or at least should, and that is ADL’s. Activities of Daily Living; Walking to the grocery store or up stairs without any undue stress, lifting the kids or grand kids off the ground without pain or discomfort, or simply getting out of bed without stiffness (this is of course something that everyone who trains has experienced and is a different “stiffness” than that experienced by a de-trained individual). Now I know what you’re thinking and I can see the eye rolling. You’re thinking “Well obviously, but that is too basic. I train cause I’m going to Mexico in a month and I want to be shredded”. That is a valid reason, however I put this question forward; How is training for the beach in Mexico and training to make your every day life easier any different? Should they be approached differently? My personal answer to that is no.

Just the other day I listened to a pod cast on Functionalmovement.com by Grey Cook about exercise economy. Not speaking about economy in the traditional monetary sense but specifically about how efficiently or economically you use your time when training. Are you doing bicep curls, tricep push downs, and a1000 crunches? If so, without sounding cheeky, why? Now, I want to say, there are no bad exercises only poor technique and form, having said that, there is a chance that some people are spending time doing some movements that are taking time away from arguably more important movements. How heavy is that fork that you are curling up to your mouth? Or how many times do you plan on sitting straight up in your pool chair? And to be honest, I can’t think of a practical, real world application for the tricep pushdown/extension movement. I guess the point that I’m trying to make here is; Are you spending time training functionally or solely for aesthetic appeal. Can they not be one in the same?

The importance of functional excersies will be the topic of a future post but for now all I’m saying is its not a bad idea to stop and think about the movements you are choosing and how they will translate into your everyday actives.

Ok, so now, why do you train? Your answer; To make my life easier, more enjoyable…and to get a few double takes from the girls at the gym. That feels pretty good too 😉

More to come. Thanks for reading

What makes a good trainer, a Recipe for success Part1

I’m a personal trainer and I love my job. I love every part of it. Well, ok being up and ready to teach a 5 am bootcamp took a little getting used to. But I’m inspired every time I teach an early fitness class and see the determination and dedication of everyone who is there to look after their physical health before most people’s day even starts.  There are many things that make a good Personal Trainer, but a passion for the job and admiration for the people who look to you for guidance along their fitness journey is paramount.  I feel that I am good at what I do, however, I still have a lot to learn and that is a prospect I look forward to. Knowing and accepting this is one thing that makes me a good trainer.  I’ve been very lucky so far to have the experience that I’ve had and to have worked with the people I’ve worked with. Malcolm Gladwell says that to be considered an expert at something, you have to have done it for at least 10 000 hours. If you’ve done something for 10 000 hours, I think you could say that you’re experienced at that something (I have not reached 10 000 hours but it’s only a matter of time). However, just as important as experience, formal education is irreplaceable. Would you go to a dentist that hasn’t been to school for dentistry but has been doing it for a few years? I wouldn’t. Formal education is one corner stone many personal trainers are missing.  Lastly, a Personal Trainer has to love people. Not just put up with them or just like to watch them, but love to study and learn from them and more important than that, they have to want to spend time with them. Working closely with a client who is sweaty and feeling vulnerable is an interesting situation all trainers find themselves in. It takes a certain amount of decorum to not only feel comfortable yourself but more importantly, ensure your client is comfortable. My goal here is to give you an idea of what to look for when you are searching for a Personal Trainer, not all Personal Trainers are created equal. If your Personal Trainer is experienced, educated, and passionate about helping you be your best, you’re in good hands.  If not, perhaps it’s time to look for someone who is.

In my, to date, four years of working in the Fitness industry in beautiful Victoria BC, I have had the privilege of working with literally hundreds of clients and fitness class participants. I’ve sat and tried to actually come up with a ball park number and my honest estimate is 500+. That number comes from the one on one clients I’ve worked with to the fitness classes of 60+ participants that I’ve taught and everything in between. Working with this amount of people in my relatively limited time as a Certified Personal Trainer is a dispensation that not all trainers are blessed with and I do not take it for granted. However, it is experience that builds confidence and an understanding of people, what they like/dislike, how different people respond to different approaches and just simple raw face to face time with real people.  In my day to day classes, I’ll get a workout mode stuck in my head. Whether it’s a countdown or a ladder or combination of movements and I just can’t stop thinking about the possibilities or the options that the idea or combination provides. So I will use that same idea all day or throughout the week with all the different groups and one on one clients that I work with. Ok, I may not use it for everyone and will always adjust it to fit each client or groups fitness and competency level, but the core idea will be in there. I don’t’ do this because I’m lazy and just don’t want to come up with a new idea. Part of the reason is, like when the first song you hear on the radio when you wake up gets stuck in your head, and the only way to get it out is to belt it out and sing the words out of your head; exploring every option of the idea helps me get it out of my head and gives me a number of subsequent ideas at the same time. It also gives me the opportunity to watch how different people respond to similar stimuli. I find it so interesting to watch a group of middle aged women beast through a tough workout and then use the same workout for a group of young men who barely make it through. This provides me with experience points that are invaluable and help me learn, not only how to adjust movements and intensity for one group over the other, but how each individual person in that group responds.  I love challenging myself to keep things fresh, new and interesting; this also keeps me gaining experience. When I teach a SPIN class I try very hard not to teach the same class more than once; I change at the very least the order of the drills to see if it makes a difference. The point here is experience. Experience comes in many forms and at unexpected times; looking for it, learning from it and applying it the next day is the sign of a good Trainer.

However, experience isn’t the only thing that a good trainer needs. While experience is a great asset, there is still more that is needed. Education is Experience’s big sister. I will talk about education in Part two of “What makes a good trainer”. Until then, as always, Thank you for reading and happy Thanksgiving.

Matt Kingstone (King Cobra Fit)

Throwdowns and swings….Just awesome

I’m all about balance; I put a lot of effort into ensuring that my workouts involve all kinds of balance. Single sided movements, single leg movements, instability and having a balance between pushing and pulling movements all have made a permanent home in my exercise bag. Now I realize that this isn’t a ground breaking concept and may seem overly simplistic to some, but I’m in love with it. The exercises you choose don’t have to be complicated or complex but there must be a balance. My new favorite movements to pair together are kettlebell swings and medicine ball throw downs. They’re perfect complementary movements to each other.

The Kettle bell swing is a great full body conditioning movement, it closely mimics the flexion and extension of the hips during activities like running; it engages the whole core; challenges coordination and balance. There aren’t very many compact, dynamic movements that are better than a Kettle bell swing for overall conditioning. They can be done by nearly every healthy participant, with the alternative movement being a dead lift with a high pull, similar movement pattern just less ballistic.

Pair that with a medicine ball throw down and you have a great workout. The throw down again takes an everyday movement pattern, picking something up and putting it down, and makes it dynamic and ballistic, think chopping wood and you’ve got the right idea.  Like the KB swing, it challenges you to focus on maintaining a tight core; it requires coordination and balance, and works cardiovascular endurance. Throw downs are best done with large, soft med. balls. Dynamax makes a great one that comes in many different weights. One contraindication would be limited shoulder ROM, adjusting the movement to stay in pain free ROM is an option.

The powerful concentric action of the glutes during hip extension while KB swinging combined with the explosive flexion of the hips and torso when throwing down is what makes these two movements so fantastic. They play off each other so well and flow together just like the sweat dripping off your nose while doing them. Whether you build them in as superset within a workout; put them in a larger circuit; or just use them paired together on their own you really can’t go wrong. Next time you want something dynamic, ballistic, low impact/low risk, fun, not to mention satisfying (I tell people that if they can break my Med Ball, I’ll give them $10, talk about stress relief), try adding in these two awesome movements.

Teaching is my tonic

I’m human. I get into bad moods; get tired; get grumpy. People have endless ways of getting out of blue spells; Exercising, eating, drinking, crying, yelling. I teach fitness. It doesn’t matter what mood I come into a fitness class in, I leave not thinking about what was bothering me and walk out feeling like I hit the reset button. And no, I don’t take out my frustrations on my class and beast them extra hard. I do what I always do, give the best class I can. If its a great class I leave feeling like a million bucks, if its an ok class, I leave feeling like half a million bucks. Either way, I feel much better than I did coming in.

I think the key is finding a way to gain some perspective on everything. Distract yourself from the emotions of the event and come back to it a little less bias, a little more clear on what’s important.

The next time you are burning in the face mad, tearing up sad or pulling your hair out frustrated, even if you don’t feel like it, take 30 – 60 mins and do that thing that lets you hit the reset button.

 

(my disclaimer, this is not the place for food, booze or drugs. Find a healthy distraction. Go for a run, play the guitar, take a walk, go to the beach. The key is to remove stressors not add them.)

 

As always, thanks for reading

Matt

King Cobra Fit