Friday, September 21, 2012

Gym Etiquette

I spend most of my day in a gym. Whether it's in a commercial facility or in a collegiate weight room, I see it all. There are some do's and don'ts that everybody should know before entering a gym, and I think its high time that I go over some of those here.

1) Put your shit back where you got it - This one should be self-explanatory. If you took a barbell off of a rack to use it, put it the fuck back where it came from. The gym clearly left it there for a reason (squats, presses). Also, take a look at the dumbbells; they all have numbers on the ends. These go in ascending order, usually in 5 pound increments. Since you're lifting weights, I'll assume you can count which means you sure as shit better put the DB's back on the rack in the right order. "5, 10, 15, 65, 20" does not make any damn sense.

2) Don't be a dick - Ok, I get it. You have a lot of sets of benching to do (it is Monday, after all) but don't be pissed at 6 p.m. when someone asks if they can work in with you. Most people won't have the time to wait for you to finish 12 sets of presses so they can get in their quick 5x5. By the same note, if you're using the cable-crossover to do your flys, or double bi's or whatever, don't be surprised when someone asks if they can sneak in and use the pull-up bar.

3) Don't be a dick - If you need to sneak into the squat rack while someone has 345 on the bar so you can squat 155 and change the bar height, dont do it. Just wait.

4) Nobody cares - This one goes both ways. Ladies, seriously, guys aren't looking at you. I know that Healthworks built their business on the basis that guys are leering and drooling at women in the gym, but it doesn't happen. On the other hand guys, theres no girl in the gym who really gives a rats-ass if you can curl 25 pounds for 30 reps. You know who cares about that? Other dudes. If you want to attract the attention of other dudes, grunt and groan your way through your set. If you want to get a chick to notice you, go to yoga and try to do yoga.

5) Don't be a Chatty Cathy - It's cool to know other people where you lift; it's part of the fun of training. You go lift at the same time every day and see familiar faces. You chat about the (shitty) Pats game or your line of work. Keep it simple. Chit chat is fine, but don't take away from my workout. Once you detract from my workout, you become a dick.

6) Don't be a know it all - One of the nice things about being in a weight room is that you know the people around you are at least somewhat interested in something you're interested in. If you know a lot, thats great. But don't impress it upon someone who doesn't give a shit. It's one thing to say "hey, try and keep your elbows in on your bench" and it's another to dive into why they should be doing a Periodized High Volume German Concentric-only Dynamic Effort program. You know what? Sometimes people are there just to lift a few weights and go home.

7) Ask for help - If you have a question, ask one of the trainers or one of the other people who seem to have a handle on what they are doing. There's no such thing as a stupid question, only a stupid person for not asking.

8) Don't slam your weights - No matter how hard you drop them, 30 pound dumbbells aren't going to sound like 70's. Drop weights during Olympic Lifts and such; there's really very little reason to drop weights during biceps curls.

9) Leave your cell phone in the locker - Gym rules always state "no cell phone use". The reason is because every phone has a camera now and they run the risk of some invasion of privacy issues if you start filming the old guy on the upright bike who's nuts are hanging out of his shorts. The better reason? Because if you can't leave your phone in the locker for 60 minutes while you lift, you're a douche. Turn yourself off for a while! De-stress! Forget about everything else for a while and move some weights, dammit!

10) Just don't do it - For fuck's sake, DON'T CURL IN THE SQUAT RACK. Unless you can do a barbell curl with more than I can squat, don't fucking do it. It's a surefire way to get kicked in the babymaker.

These are just the basic gym commandments. It really comes down to common sense, but we all know how few people have that.

Go lift some heavy shit today!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Times, they are a'chaging

I've been working at the same gym since the day that it opened it's doors: going onto 5 years at this point. I started off as a front desk employee and made the shift to (epic) trainer. Over the course of this time I've seen quite a few employee's come and go. Some were friends and some I wouldn't recognize on the street anymore.

This is pretty standard fare for a commercial fitness facility; the turn-over for employees tends to be pretty high. However, we just had our biggest shift since we opened.

It really started in June when Justin and Jen left. Then in July Dan left. Then Chris and Drew in August. Now in September Kristen and Kelsi are leaving. What is so special about these people?

Jen - Level 2 CrossFit coach with several years of coaching under her belt; attending PT School.
Justin - BS in Exercise Science. NSCA CSCS with several years of coaching both athletes and general population; great knowledge of functional anatomy.
Dan A. - BS in Exercise Science. NSCA CSCS, BIOSIG 1, CrossFit Level 1 coach with a ton of experience as a power lifter, high level athlete and aspiring strongman. His level of attention to nutrition is ridiculous.
Dan M. - BS in Physical Education and Exercise Science. NSCA CSCS. Worked with the Chicago Cubs organization for a bit.
Chris - NSCA CSCS and a DPT. One of the few marathoners (he's run 4) who understands the importance of strength training.
Drew - BS in Exercise Science, DPT. Great functional anatomy and capable of working with rehab or healthy populations.
Kristen - Our full-time front desk employee. Spent years as a therapist and is pursuing her (second) masters in (probably) Nutrition. Understands how food quality can make a huge impact on your daily life.
Kelsi - Our babysitter. A former D1 distance runner, she still competes in races. She has also recently found a love for weight training (squatted 155x5 after 8 weeks of training) and just got certified as a personal trainer.

What's so special about this group? Absolutely everything. For about a year almost all of our trainers had an educational background in Exercise Science. Even the ones that didn't were moving forward in their education with related fields. Everybody lived and loved "The Life". We often trained together, and pushed each other to get better. Our love for lifting heavy and eating cleanly created an environment in the workplace so viral that all of the other employees caught on with it too. Even our babysitter was a savage!

The culture at the gym was one built around the desire to improve and the need to keep learning. We constantly talked shopped: Did you read this yet? What do you think about this technique? I'm having trouble getting so-and-so to do this, any ideas? We all learned from each other and supported each other because we understood each other; we all lived the same lives. Nobody thought it was weird that someone was eating 12 oz of beef for breakfast. We had to make room in the fridge for everyones hard boiled eggs. Bagels were something to be shunned. We shared a disdain for soy and gluten and a common love for bacon and avocados.

Now, it's different. Our staff is all turned over and there is only a few of us from The Golden Age. The new staff is good, but the vibe just isn't the same. Having a collection of trainers with those backgrounds and abilities in a commercial gym is a pretty rare thing.

It was a special group. I miss you guys.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Can't Stop

My name is Mike, and I have a problem.

Everywhere I go and everything I do strength and conditioning is on my mind. Just the other night I was at a bar with a bunch of friends. I went to take a leak and realized that before I peed I set my shoulders down and back. I laughed at myself, and went back to the bar. I told my buddy Justin and he laughed and said he does the same thing all the time. Birds of a feather, right?

Every time I walk down the street, I spot movement dysfunctions in people. (It's really not so hard with most people walking around). She has zero pelvic control. His hamstrings are weak and his feet are externally rotating. Her feet pronate so much she's collapsing the inside of her Chucks.

It's non-stop and I can't help it. I can keep these thoughts inside my head most of the time, but if I'm with some of my other trainer/coach friends then it's a wrap. Not only do we point out dysfunctions that we spot on random people, but we crack jokes about each others contraindications. Nice posture dick, why don't you try keeping your neck packed while you pick up that beer.

This is an industry that you truly need to live in order to be successful at. If your life doesn't essentially revolve around strength and conditioning, you're going to get passed by. Fitness is truly part of life; everything we do in the gym has a correlate to daily life.

I'm at a disadvantage because I found this industry late in life; I didn't start studying it in school until I was 26. I am, however, lucky that I found this industry at all. My job revolves around helping people feel better, move better and get stronger. I help people live happier, healthier lives and that means the world to me.

Go lift something heavy today!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fatigue Masks Fitness

I've noticed a trend lately with a lot of my clients. To be truthful, it's a problem I see mostly with my female clients. It's not sexist, it's a trend. I'm pretty much doing statistics here!

This trend is that my clients want to train and train and train, with very little recovery time. Yup, some of them routinely go 6 or 7 days straight without taking a rest day.

While this isn't an awful problem to have (better than not even getting off the couch to go to the gym once per week) it's still a problem. If you train and train without giving your body any time to rest and recover, you're going to eventually break down. This break down could be mentally or physically, but it will happen eventually.

You could be tired and not have your mind in your lift that day. You try squatting with minimal focus and end up dumping the weight and hurting yourself. Or maybe your mind is super sharp and you want to crush this weight, but your body isn't up to the task anymore and you hurt yourself.

Beyond that, your body will just stop responding well to training. You get filled with cortisol and other stress hormones and your body stays in a constant state of catabolism. You stop seeing gains in strength or body composition, so you train harder in the hopes of over-coming your "funk". This is, of course, a vicious circle that just results in more fatigue and fewer results.

Take your rest days (and by "rest" I mean just that). Go home from work and sit on the couch and watch TV or read a book. Don't go run hill sprints or do stadium stairs. Don't do a light recovery workout. Just rest, please. Eat some good food and get some good calories into your body. Remember that you're not going to reach your fitness goals in one workout. Time takes time! Fitness and being strong is a lifelong goal, so plan to be able to train for that long.

Have a great day, and consider NOT lifting something heavy today!