Episode 29. Dealing with Sickness, Stress, and Injuries

Episode 29. Dealing with Sickness, Stress, and Injuries

Show Notes

You’re sick. Should you go to the gym? How do you work out around an injury? Obviously you want to “do what you can,” but the fact is, our minds play tricks on us, and you have to make sure you’er not just prolonging the sickness/injury or causing more damage in the long run. In this episode Scott, Kevin and Mike tackled these questions from a few different angles.

Sickness ‘n Fitness:

  • Don’t go to the gym if you’re going to infect everyone! Be considerate!
  • A large part of it is knowing your body: what will help, what will just prolong how long it takes to recover?
  • At the same time, don’t use sickness as an excuse.
  • Remember that pain is usually trying to tell you something.
  • Scott noted that it’s amazing how many record-setting performances have been done when someone had a cold, or flu, or some injury that should have prevented them from doing that.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecies can work for you or against you. If you believe you’re too sick to work out, you will be. If you believe you “never get sick” — well, that doesn’t make you invincible, obviously (c’mon, let’s be real) — but it will have an effect.
  • Chills or fever are usually a sign that you are sick. Not just “a stuffy nose” — but truly sick.
  • One of the best things you can do is focus on sleep.

Stress

  • The body adapts to the stresses you subject it to. For example, think of high-performing politicians who deal with a tonne of stress, get very little sleep, travel around the globe 80% of the year, and so on. Neither Scott, Kevin, or Mike would do well with that kind of job. But someone like Trevor Timmins makes it work.
  • There were a number of allusions to high performance athletes and politicians. On the one hand, some politicians (e.g. the freaking President) do amazing thing in terms of how they handle time and stress and lack of sleep; on the other, research is clear about things like the importance of sleep, and 95% of people who say, “Oh, I thrive in such-and-such an environment” are actually lying to themselves. At the end of the day, as Kevin said, your job demands what your job demands.
  • Scott brought up the fact that Presidents (to build off that specific example) end up living very long lives. This isn’t just access to healthcare, especially given the nature of their position. It illustrates that how you view the stress, and whther you’ve “chosen” it, has a huge impact. Someone who is running a country likely gets a lot of meaning from their work, and that will mitigate the so-called “negative” effects of stress. (See McGonigal’s new book on stress.)
  • Abelism: You own stress, or stress owns you.

Dealing with Injuries and Workouts

  • Don’t fall into the “why bother?” mindset, even if that’s where our brains want to go. It’s more important to do what you can.
  • Kevin had a serious knee injury and did what he could “around” the injury, and went on to win a bunch of powerlifting competitions. You will get better. Just do what you can.
  • Working “around” an injury means listening to you body. So much is dependent on your body, and your muscles, that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription, such as “Oh, you tore your ACL, as soon as you’re able, just do squats this way.” No. Maybe you just need to leave squats out for longer, or you need to do them some other way. It depends, and it’s always different. The only way to figure it out is to experiment (within reason).
  • There is almost always a way to work around different injuries, especially as you get closer and closer to being 100% again.
  • For example, Kevin had a torn meniscus, but simply modifying his foot position (to make his shin more vertical) helped with bulgarian split squats. At the same time, he wouldn’t dictate to a client that this was the only way to do them, in order to make the exercise work. You need to figure out what works in your specific injury situation.

Links & Resources

Scott’s Physique After 50

The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

 

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Episode 28. Vegetarian Diets and Vegan Dieting

Episode 28. Vegetarian Diets and Vegan Dieting

Show Notes

Mike currently eats a mostly vegetarian diet (he has fish occasionally), and many of Scott and Kevin’s clients have been vegetarian, vegan, or fell somewhere else about the spectrum. We discussed reasons why people should or definitely should not start eating vegetarian.

(Over the course of the episode, Scott became a bit obsessed with his favourite textbook, Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, since it mentions vegetarian dieting and has a bundle of related statistics and points.)

(Scott was basically reading this the entire time we recorded.)

(Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. Scott was basically reading this the entire time we recorded.)

Why Choose a Vegetarian Diet:

  • Mike eats as a vegetarian for ethical reasons; he thinks eating animals just isn’t something we should be doing, if we can help it.
  • A lot of what people do for their diet depends on why they did it. So your average vegetarian dieter who just cuts out meat without having a good basis of what to eat instead ends up turning to convenient “faux” foods (usually based on soy, tofu, etc.). But a hardcore fitness competitor often sticks to “real” foods, but they also cut out starches, legumes, and things like that, and basically eat pounds and pounds of leafy greens, which is… taking things to an extreme.
  • Both Scott and Kevin have seen a lot of “hiding behind the label” of vegan or vegetarian dieting that ended up being an excuse for what is (in reality) disordered eating.
  • Long story short: don’t use a vegetarian diet as an excuse to eat in a disordered way. Try to be brutally honest. Is this about health, or ethics, or is it related to body image?
  • Scott keeps an eye out for people looking to “a diet” as a reason to restrict foods, as opposed to making a series of specific, individual choices.

How to Eat a Vegetarian or Vegan:

  • Scott loves Michael Pollan’s formulation: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” A lot of the benefits comes from turning to real, whole foods, and not eating giant portions of them.
  • Mike mentioned a point Michael Pollan makes [ I think it’s In Defense of Food, but it could be Omnivore’s Dilemma — M ] about looking at the habits of people who take a lot of supplements, but then ignoring the actual supplement part of the equation, since they do so little, if anything. It’s simply that those people are health conscious, so yeah, they tend to be healthier, live longer, be leaner, etc.. They also tend to not smoke, to get more sleep, and things like that.
  • There was a bit of a debate about carbs. Scott and Mike both think carbs are important for satiety, though at the same time, Kevin has eaten low carb for years. But they all certainly agreed that just eliminating foods for the sake of eliminating foods is never a good idea.
  • You have to listen to your body. If you switch to eating a vegetarian diet, don’t eat so many cruciferous veggies that you spend all your time on the toilet. Experiment with foods. See what makes you feel best. (Mike, for example, is still eating more dairy than he’d prefer, but it provides far more satiety for him than does various combinations of rice and legumes and so on.)
  • Don’t get into “Calorie Counting” at the same time as you switch the content of your foods. You should be trying to do both these things at the same time.

General “Wrap Up” Tips:

  • Don’t get into calorie counting at the same time as you switch.
  • Don’t also suddenly restrict starches (or go “low carb”) at the same time.
  • Eat a variety of foods; be an omnivore.
  • Eat stuff that you want to eat.
  • None of these things apply to special populations (children, pregnant women, anyone over 50).
  • Don’t do it all at once if you’re not comfortable doing so.
  • Scott’s final wrapup: consider the health of the planet and the treatment of animals (if for no other reason than it takes diet into another realm entirely and represents a totally different approach to food and eating).

Links & Resources

A… let’s call it a “gastrointestinal” story on Scott’s blog

Michael Pollan’s books on Amazon

This post has a daily breakdown of Kevin’s low-carb diet

NASA’s site on climate change

A PDF containing Vegetarian and Vegan meal options from a couple of Scott’s diets (right click, save as)

Episode 27. The Business of Personal Training and Personal Training Certification

Episode 27. The Business of Personal Training and Personal Training Certification

Show Notes

You see personal training and personal trainers in just about every gym you go to. That’s the model. And many fitness enthusiasts view personal training as a potential career path. But there are some realities to consider before doing so.

In this episode we talk about what clients or consumers should look for in personal trainers, what should change in the personal training industry, and what personal trainers themselves should be thinking about in terms of their own career and some of the trends that are going on.

The Trade or Craft of Personal Training

To be blunt: Scott thinks a lot of personal trainers are not very good, and that is based partly on how the industry is built. Personal trainers are “certified” by gyms who don’t need “good trainers”; they just need bodies on the floor selling programs.

Kevin told an anecdote of a friend’s daughter who signed up to get certified, but she ended up only getting a few days of relevant training… and then several weeks of sales training.

Kevin referenced his work with cars, before he became a personal trainer. When he worked there, the system was under an apprenticeship and mentorship model. You didn’t do a 2-day weekend course. First you spent time doing such-and-such a course, then you worked in a shop for year, then you went to school, and then you needed 1,500-2000 hours of experience before you were put under a mentor. This meant you got actual hands-on experience, and it’s not all theory.

This is the basic model for a lot of trades. Mike would argue that this is precisely how a lot of personal training certification program position themselves, even though what they are providing is really not the same thing.

Part of describing what could or should be improved about “personal training” is defining our terms. What should a personal trainer be involved in? There is a difference between being hired, specifically, to show someone how to do X, Y, and Z exercises, versus being hired to (for example) help someone lose weight… which just happens to involve doing X, Y, and Z exercises. Where does the personal trainer come into play here? Does nutrition come in? What does the consultation involve? What should it involve?

For Scott it should always be about the client. Look for trainers who don’t use the pronoun “I,” but instead talk about you, the client, the client’s needs. Pay attention also to word choice. The words “get jacked” will resonate with one client, and not so much with many others!

Mike adds, though, that he learns a lot by learning from people who are just open and honest about what works for them. Sometimes you don’t want any “Well, you should do this” kind of advice. It’s very easy for personal trainers to say, “Well, you should do X because of principle Y.” When in reality, a simple, “Oh, for a bicep curl, I do this and that tends to help” might be more useful. (Especially if the person listening can ask a few other people, then make the decision for him or herself.)

Scott gives the example of Fred Hatfield who’d basically say “shut up and lift the weight.” From there he could correct you.

Personal Training as a Potential Career

Kevin built his own business with simple word-of-mouth. He’s won contests and powerlifting championships, and in his opinion, that might have given a bit more credibility, but it’s not the foundation for how how build his reputation and his business.

Scott thinks the market is way over-saturated. Scott prides himself on being ahead of the curve, he quotes Wayne Gretzky, who is often quoted as saying he doesn’t go where the puck is, but where it’s going to be. If Scott were just starting out today, he would do things very different because of how saturated it has become. When he started, he was one of the first in his local town to simply… charge for a program or a diet.

The “riches are in the niches.” Mike isn’t sure who said it first, but he heard the phrase first from Pat Flynn. Niching down means drilling down, and defining a niche based on an unfulfilled need or burning pain.

Links & Resources

Whole Body Hypertrophy

Episode 26. Learning in a Crowded Fitness Industry: Who to Listen to, How to Learn, and What to Look for in a Coach

Episode 26. Learning in a Crowded Fitness Industry: Who to Listen to, How to Learn, and What to Look for in a Coach

Show Notes

An “experts” will tell you to listen to them, and tune everyone else out. the only problem is every expert says this, including the ones who disagree. So: how do you deal with this? How do you know who to listen to? How do you learn? (Or… “learn to learn”?) How do you separate out the wheat from the chaff? The wisdom and science from the pseudoscience and nonsense?

We addressed this first about personal learning, and then in terms of hiring a coach.

The Wheat from the Chaff:

  • Scott and Kevin both emphasized that things have changed a lot since they were coming up. Online information overload is nothing like it was. This, obviously, has both benefits and drawbacks.
  • There is also a preponderance of online coaches/gurus who have the “look” of expertise (i.e. marketers) but not the education to really back it up.
  • Scott noted that this not the information age, but the “post-information” age.
  • Mike also mentioned how it’s kind of insane how much power is at our finger tips, via things like search engines and so on, and we constantly, constantly don’t take advantage of it. Yes, there are issues with not always getting the best results, but often times it’s not a deep topic — there is a clearcut, definitive answer, and it would take us 10 seconds tops to get it. And yet… we don’t.
  • Scott mentioned the phrase “Conspiracy against the laity,” which is a phrase popularized by Warren Buffett, but comes originally from George Bernard Shaw. (Lookit that. Five seconds on Google.)
  • Mike quoted Oscar Wilde saying “All education is self-education.” That might have been Isaac Asimov (the sci fi author) or Louis L’amour (the Western author). Scott followed up with the quote, “It takes an education before you can become self-taught.”
  • This blog post makes some nice points regarding the idea and play between a “formal” education and a self-taught one.
  • Scott brought up the fact that the fitness industry is mostly lead by marketers. Kevin also brought up the fact that there plenty of “no names” who have lots to contribute but you will never ever hear about them online. But, at the same time — Mike acknowledged — in order to be heard from online, those people need to contribute something in a form that, say, a search engine can understand. Also, most of them don’t care about being found online. They’re too busy.
  • Mike’s opinion of “intelligence” is that it’s 99% hard work, on both a macro level (learning, digging in, following up on who’s writing about what, say, “Hm, I still don’t understand this, I need to read more,” etc.) and on a micro level (holding two competing thoughts in your head, i.e. tolerating ambiguity even though it’s not that pleasant).
  • “Take What is useful, discard everything else.” Aristotle? Bruce Lee?
  • Mike came up with 3 (4?) weirdo personal rules for learning:

Mike’s Three Weirdo Rules:

  • 1. Be stupid (i.e., Just open your mind, assume you don’t know, be willing to not know)
  • 2. a. Disrespect those whom you think deserves respect. (This doesn’t mean be a jerk; it means don’t put gurus, authors, or whomever on a special pedestal. Everyone is flawed. Smart people make mistakes.)
  • 2. b. Respect those whom you might think don’t deserve respect. (Stop. Wait. Before you dismiss something, truly entertain the other perspective. Everyone “says” they do this. Then…. they don’t. We don’t argue against the other position. We argue against stupid strawmen version of the other position.)
  • 3. Shut up for a bit. Criticism and questioning is all good. But it’s also very, very useful to be able to simply absorb.

 

  • Kevin talked about his work before he was a coach, which involved a lot of manual labor. there’s nothing worse than someone who was new to the job, but thought they new everything. (See Rule 1 and 3!)
  • There was a bit of a debate about point 2, and when it is okay to “go back to normal,” as it were (i.e., when to say, “Okay, I’ve entertained the other position. I still think it’s stupid and not really deserving of respect,” or to say, “Yep, no, this person is still a cool dude and on the mark.”)
  • There is absolute nonsense being spouted off. It’s hard to try to find the value in what is being said when it is such low-level.

COACHING

  • Mike thought this was even harder than just “learning” because with learning, it’s a take it or leave it kind of thing. At the end of the day, you can trust your own judgment. By contast, with coaching, you have to trust your coach and not always go backed on your own judgment. (If you’re going 100% by your own judgment… why are you hiring a coach?)
  • This kind of thing can also get very political (at least in the fitness industry).  People know that what they’re doing is wrong, but are afraid to quit their coach because it’s known who their coach is. This is not okay. Also, sometimes “who your coach is” affects your placing (!) if you’re a competitor.
  • Scott thinks people really need to be careful with hiring a physique competitor because often the competitor is just trying to fund their own competing — that’s their priority, not their clients.
  • Scott also warns consumers that often a coach, who is coaching people with eating disorders, is themselves dealing with an eating disorder. Not, “has recovered from” a disorder, but currently has one.
  • Similarly, you also have to be wary of “natural” coaches, and all the other lies that go on in the industry.
  • A lot of times, people want an answer. But sometimes the answer that people are giving — which sounds great — is total nonsense.

So, you’re looking for a coach… what do you do?

  • Look for communication skills. Coaching is not the same as doing. Wayne Gretzky admitted he wasn’t the best coach.
  • Don’t just look for coaches who mirror your own beliefs about “fitness.” Look for coaches who can look beyond that.
  • TALK to your coach. Don’t ask just one question. Dig. Speak to them. Get a feel for what they’re like.
  • Talk to their other clients!
  • It’s a huge investment. It is a relationship. It requires trust. Do the work up front. (It will be worth it down the road.)
  • A good question to ask: “What can you do for me?” If the answer is just them trying to dazzle you, move on. If their answer is actually about coaching, then keep digging, asking, and hopefully start to build that trust.

 

Links & Resources

Mark Rippetoe’s books

Episode 25. Visualization and Pragmatism

Episode 25. Visualization and Pragmatism

Show Notes

Building on our discussion on goals and process, we dig into visualization, “vision quests,” and the roles of these things in (fitness) success. This discussion also turned towards pragmatism versus positive thinking. This included the need for more pragmatism and realism, but also the potential dangers of pragmatism when you’re in a position of authority (teacher, coach, expert) and have influence upon others.

Visualization

  • Scott thinks vision quests are ultimately process-related.
  • Mike thinks the benefit of goals — and by extension visualization — is that they give you focus: goals help you reverse-engineer the process that will get you there, visualization gets you more fully invested into that process. Visualization is like the connective tissue between process and goals.
  • A vision quest is about who am I being, who do I want to be, what kind of character do I want to show.
  • Kevin: how you do or approach one thing will often map onto how you do other things.
  • Mike mentioned, with respect meaning, Victor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning, which describes Frankl’s time in Nazi concentration camps, and how some men and women were still able to retain meaning in their life, despite the horrific things being done to them.
  • Positive thinking by itself, without meaning, won’t get you far, especially when life throws really, really unpleasant stuff at you — and it’s rare that someone won’t go through that, at some point in their lives. “Assuming” you’ll be able to deal with it easily isn’t positive thinking; it’s arrogance.
  • For Scott it’s not about being cynical or positive, but pragmatic.
  • Mike is big on “implementation intention,” which is pre-planning how to deal with life’s hiccups. You need to do this practically and concretely (“what will I do if I have to stay late at the office?”), and in more abstract forms, since you can’t predict everything.
  • For Scott and Kevin you don’t need goals to go on real vision quests.
  • You also have to be willing to let go of older goals, and “graduate” to a different point in your life. For example, if Scott hadn’t let go of his physique goals, he’d probably be dead right now. There are many others in the fitness industry who didn’t, and they did die before their time.
  • A lot of the decisions you make will take you towards something or further away from it. Stagnation is always in some way a little worse than pure stagnancy.

Pragmatism

  • Comparing yourself to others can be okay if you’re trying to be humbled, yet not envious, and using that as leverage. But just throwing in the towel because “Oh I could never achieve that” is… less useful.
  • Mike thinks, however, that pragmatism has limits — it can be very dangerous to impose limits on others, especially if you are in a role of a teacher, a coach, or something like that. Telling someone You can’t do ___ is — if there is ANY chance you’re wrong — actually a totally disgusting thing to say.
  • Kevin notes that you can still overcome this if someone says this to you, but for Mike those are the exceptions, and they’re why we always focus on those stories when they do happen. How often is a person’s potential squashed because someone in a position of authority, who had their student’s or client’s (or whatever’s) respect, told that person, “You can’t do something” when — in fact — they could have? Sure, it’s great when that person overcomes this. But there will be people who don’t, and not because they are “weak,” but because they just plain trust the person who told them.
  • Scott thinks Mike is being naive; Mike says yes, but that’s purposeful. The risk of being naive and wrong is usually all on the person being naive. Being pragmatic often puts the other person at risk.
  • Of course, as Scott pointed out, this goes both ways. Saying, “you can do it” to someone who should stop before they hurt themselves is not helpful.
  • Mike points out there there are studies in pedagogy where children are basically told they “can’t do something,” and it’s shown that this is 100% faulty perception on the part of those teachers, which in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can say “Yes, but that’s not fitness,” but the point is to ask and dig into how much that kind of thing might carry over.
  • Scott and Mike basically agree on that: dig dig dig.

Links & Resources

Victor Frankl’s book, Man Search for Meaning

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