Why I Do My Job

Nothing makes me happier as a personal trainer than seeing a client make progress. The most meaningful progress can’t be neatly summed up with a before-and-after pic on social media. The most meaningful progress from my perspective is an improvement in quality of life. Today I was privileged to witness a long-term client able to push herself to near-failure on the lat pull-down machine. This is significant because, in the space of a few months, she has gone from being in constant pain due to muscular dysfunction in her upper traps and exercising purely to rehabilitate this dysfunction, to being able to explore the limits of her strength with functional, integrated muscle recruitment. In simple terms, it means no more sleepless nights with headaches and back pain, not needing to see a physio multiple times a week, and being able to consider exercise goals beyond pain management.

Moments like these are the reason I do my job.


Preventing Neck Injury

I get some strange looks when I do my neck exercises in front of BJJ and especially Muay Thai folks. It looks strange to see someone apparently running around on their head, but there a solid method and extremely sound reasoning behind this activity.

Leo Frincu is a former wrestling world champion, successful entrepreneur, and has been strength and conditioning coach to champions like Ronda Rousey, Diana Prazak and Romulo Barral. In the video above, he demonstrates the carousel, and some regressions of the front-to-back bridging sequence.

I started looking for effective neck exercises while trying to return to training after spraining my cervical spine during BJJ training in 2011. Previously, my neck had been strengthened through the process of Muay Thai clinching, which had given me very strong and active upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles, but had not prepared me at all for the myriad of positions in which one finds oneself while grappling – falling or being dropped on the mats head-first, posting and bridging on the head, being stacked, and resisting chokes and neck cranks (intentional or otherwise.)


What Do You Really Mean When You Say “I Want To Lose Weight?”

Most people who tell me that they want to lose weight are not telling the truth.

It’s not that they’re lying to me, it’s that they’ve been fed lies by popular culture about what weight loss will mean for them.


Exercise and Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid is an important gland in the endocrine system. Most people don’t pay attention to thyroid function until they’re experiencing some of the side-effects of a thyroid disorder, which can influence everything from metabolic rate to mental health.

As is the case with most chronic health conditions, exercise can play an important role in helping a person to maintain their quality of life, but only if understood and applied correctly.

Below is a very brief overview of common thyroid conditions, their causes, symptoms, and the implications that they can have for exercise.


Where Did You Want To Be Two Years Ago?

I was recently prompted to “write the post that was on my mind when I decided to start this blog.”

I went back over my archives and read my first post. It was February 2012. I was enjoying my first year of good health after chronic fatigue syndrome.

I wrote:

Me, 2012, with cake and neck injury
Me, 2012, with cake and neck injury

“Where I’d rather be now is reaching more people through my personal training business, competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, fighting in Muay Thai again both here and in Thailand, and making my debut in Mixed Martial Arts. These are the things that have formed the basis of 2012′s Resolutions, which in turn determine the actions I take each day to make these a reality.” 

Since then, I moved some goal-posts. Transitioning from Muay Thai to MMA was more difficult than imagined, so my goals to have more Muay Thai fights and to go to Thailand have been superseded by my focus on grappling.

I have seen how competitive the personal training industry has become, and how much more clients need than basic exercise programs. I continue to work with fitness clients, while making myself a better exercise specialist and, eventually, a holistic nutritionist through formal study.

One area of my life has gone according to plan, and that’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Losing via ground-and-pound stoppage in an MMA fight against Arlene Blencowe last year turned out to be a blessing. It has driven me to develop my grappling skills.

Last weekend I competed in the South Australian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu State Championships – my first competition as a blue belt.


Why I’m Tired of Hearing People Say “You Should Learn to Love Your Body.”

From scan of copy belonging to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, courtesy of Wikipedia CommonsMost of the marketing which is aimed at my supposed demographic – women in their twenties – at best irritates me and at worst just plain offends me. (Don’t get me started on how much of a f*ck I do not give about whether a new car has a shoe compartment, iPod connectivity or a “support network.”)

This rant in particular is about magazines and soap companies. You know the ones. The ones who have slender, skinny-fat models in their fashion spreads and most of their ads, but occasionally run a “real beauty” campaign showing over-weight women who haven’t had their cellulite airbrushed away, or who do a “body-image” issue showing “real” unfit women in unflattering underwear. For all the fluffy crap about “loving” yourself or accepting your “flaws,” all I really see is a consolation prize, a way out for under-achievers. “Don’t worry,” is what they’re really saying, “Here are some unflattering pics of out-of-shape women so you can compare yourself to them and feel better about yourselves. We know that you’re not happy with the way your body looks and feels, but it’s okay because not everyone can be perfect. Here are some real women.” (So, the models in your ads and fashion shoots aren’t real? Athletic women aren’t real? Women who are actually happy with their bodies – probably because they don’t put their time and energy into taking on your self-contradicting crap – aren’t real??)

Now at first you may think that this is callous, that I’m drumming up business by attempting to “shame” women into getting all OCD about their diet and exercise. Stick with me for a minute.


Is A Little Vanity Such A Bad Thing?

Unashamed bathroom selfie with a few of my beauty products!
Unashamed bathroom selfie with a few of my beauty products!

Let’s face it, in our quest for good health, functional fitness and an inclusive environment, society and even the fitness industry have given a bit of a bad name to good looks. We all secretly laugh at the big guy doing bicep curls or the fitness-model look-alike in the crop top and hot pants squatting in front of the mirror.

While there are definitely more important and rewarding reasons for exercising and eating well – reasons like increasing your lifespan, improving your quality of life, reducing your risk of diseases like osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes – it certainly doesn’t hurt to throw some vanity into the mix.