Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New blog post heading your way via constantforwardprogress.com

Help join the Constant Forward Progress movement!

A new blog post will go live very soon-about the 4 quadrants of fitness, their importance, and when it would be appropriate to train within certain quadrants, and when it would be critical to stay out of others. This post was inspired by clients who've had success recovering from serious injuries and/or surgeries by training in specific ways that worked for them, as well as my own success coming back from a serious chronic injury of my own!

Check it out at www.constantforwardprogress.com!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This blog is transitioning to constantforwardprogress.com


It has been a few weeks since I last wrote anything significant on here. A LOT has happened in the last month, but it has all been for the good. I'm now self-employed, doing personal training in Wilsonville, OR under the name Constant Forward Progress LLC. I'm also learning all about website search engine optimization, all about YouTube, and all about how to market effectively when there is little $$$ to devote to marketing. All in all, it has been a highly stressful, but highly educational month!

I want to personally thank each and every person who has read this blog over the past 11 months. The feedback I've received has motivated me to continue writing. I'm excited to announce that the wave of momentum this blog has created will be transitioning to a new space, where all of the previous posts will still be accessible to read.

Welcome to....


At the end of September, 2014, this blog will officially no longer be active. I will not be posting anything new here, only on www.constantforwardprogress.com. If you'd like to continue reading new stuff (as well as old stuff), jump over to the new site!

The new site also has a video library with some video series I will be rapidly expanding upon in the coming months.The video series will include:
-How To instructional videos on exercise technique and progressions
-Coaching Corner instructional videos on how to be a more effective coach in individual, small group, and large group situations
-Philosophy videos, which are personal video blog posts where I will be speaking on a specific training related topic based on questions I get in emails from readers. If you have any questions you'd like answered in video, please email me at bret@constantforwardprogress.com. I will do my best to answer any and all questions with a video response!

I look forward to seeing you at the new site! And remember, if you'd like to continue reading new stuff, like the multi-part series I'm writing about The Road to Strongfirst, it will continue at www.constantforwardprogress.com.

See you there, and thank you for your support!


Friday, August 22, 2014

The Road to StrongFirst: The Beginning

In the coming weeks and months, I am going to publish a multi-part series about my journey to achieving a level 1 Kettlebell Instructor certification through StrongFirst. StrongFirst is a company that certifies coaches, trainers, and athletes in various specialties, such as kettlebells, barbells, even their own bodyweight. Becoming a disciple of the StrongFirst principles is similar to studying a martial art (which I did for 10 years of my life) in that to pass the certification/Black Belt test, one must be a "master of the basics".

I am not among the certified elite in StrongFirst, nor do I feel deserving to be...yet. I am on the home stretch of healing a seriously stubborn shoulder, upper back, and neck injury. It has been this injury, among others, that has been the biggest stumbling block in learning, practicing, and honing some skills very specific to the certification. However, it has been this injury that has kept me driven, kept me believing, and kept me steadfast in my faith that one day I will validate my healing process by achieving that level 1 certification.

I could look at my injury with the perspective of frustration. But I do not. For it has given me the opportunity to master the fundamentals so well that they have become automatic. It's also given me the opportunity to hone my coaching skills slowly, successfully coaching dozens of people to a level of proficiency when performing the swing, Turkish get up, goblet squat, as well as cleans and when appropriate, overhead presses,

Truthfully, I don't care if I become the strongest person alive (Hint: My genetics suggest I won't. Thanks, Mom and Dad!). My goal is to achieve a level of mastery with this skill-set that says not only am I personally proficient in the skills and techniques involved, but that my coaching skills are at a level of mastery that few others achieve. Because in the end, it is through my coaching that I want to inspire others to achieve things they never before thought possible! It was Steve Jobs who said, "Leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could." That's my ultimate goal: to inspire, and then have the skill-set to guide others to achieve greatness. 

The story I'm about to tell has been a deeply personal journey that has made me question my faith in God, cause me to fall in to a deep depression, anger me, humble me, gradually restore my physical strength and mental confidence, and eventually renew my faith once more. This journey has caused me to question how and why I've done anything and everything I was once coached to do in athletics. It's caused me to question the screening and assessment process that all people go through when starting to exercise, regardless of if they are a competitive athlete or not. And it's a journey that has helped me to move and feel better, and ultimately to become the man I am today. My wish for whomever is reading this is for you to use my lessons to help better yourself, and maybe avoid some of my pitfalls in your own life's journey.

What follows is a brief synopsis of what is to come--a teaser, if you will. Each part will be a separate post that I'll write when the time is appropriate. I don't know when I'll finish them, for I don't know when I will become certified! But what I know is this: I've never illustrated this story in such detail to any person before. Not even my wife, Megan (I didn't want to bore her).

-Part 2: The Rise
Born scrawny but speedy, my speed became my identity. Even as an elementary aged student, I was smaller and weaker than most of my peers, but I could sure outrun them. That trend continued as I grew older, and it affected my psyche greatly. As a high school junior sitting at 5'10" and 140 pounds, I certainly wasn't going to attract any attention at Muscle Beach, that's for sure! "I may as well have something on those beefy guys, right?" That was my thought process, then, at least. If I wasn't running faster than everyone else, I had little to no self-esteem. I didn't know this about myself (yet) because I ran faster than most everyone else, which was okay with me. I continued to grow faster as I got older, all the way up to my freshman year of college when disaster struck.

-Part 3: The Fall
Function over form was my schtick. I didn't care what I looked like, how mobile I was, or how I felt as long as I was running fast. Speed became my identity so much that I lost sight of why I was running in the first place. Then I completely tore my left hamstring. That injury was God's way of waking me up and saying, "Hey stupid, pull your head out of your butt. Don't forget, it was Me who gave you your speed. And now I'm taking it away." 

-Part 4: The Decision
In the fall of 2007, after sharing the results of my MRI, my doctor told me that I shouldn't compete in track and field anymore. He said if I injured my hamstring further I would require surgery, and that realistically my competitive career was over, as I'd never have the same explosiveness again with only two out of three functioning hamstring muscles.

His words spurred me to continue competing. Not once in my life have I listened to what a person said I couldn't or shouldn't be able to do. Science thought man couldn't run a sub four minute mile...until Roger Bannister came along (then multiple guys did it within the next year!). Just because a doctor said I shouldn't run didn't mean I wasn't capable of coming back stronger than ever. The decision was made.

-Part 5: The Drive
What came next were two years of hell. Before I hurt my hamstring in March of 2007, I weighed just under 160 pounds, and by my measure, was pretty strong. By the time I returned to school in September, I had lost over 12 pounds, weighing in at 147 dead. My legs had atrophied from the lack of ability to run and lift without pain.

Thus began my drive to return to form. Between the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2009 I dedicated myself to my athletics more than ever, but it wasn't exactly smooth sailing, as there were lots of small setbacks along the way. However, it was during this time I came to Christ not for the first, but for the second time, thanks to a supportive coach and a friend who came to mean a whole lot to me over the course of our college career.

-Part 6: The Reconstruction
Following the conclusion of my collegiate athletic career, my body fell apart. Again. Apparently all of the injuries and stresses of the last five years had taken their toll on my body, because I felt like I was 22 going on 80. Getting out of bed was a chore because my back felt so stiff. I could barely reach my hands past my knees. It was at this point in time I decided to restore my body to a state where I "felt good". I didn't care about performance any more, I just wanted to feel normal! Little did  I know what kind of undertaking this would become, for that was the spring of 2011, and here it is, over halfway through 2014...and I'm not...quite...there yet! It was during these last three years when I learned why I had all of my injury problems, and how to remedy and prevent them from happening ever again.

-Part 7: The Resurrection
Getting to a point where I "feel good" has been the most intense, emotionally draining, and incredible learning experience I've ever had. It's also been the most rewarding. Between work with Josh, my physical therapist, Andrea, my acupuncturist, the kind words of encouragement from SFG certified coaches Noel, Lance, Tony, and Mira, and of course my parents and girlfriend Megan (now my wife), I never gave up on myself. I could have thrown in the towel at any time and gone the surgery route for my hamstring, back, neck and shoulder, but never did. This is the part of the story where I'll share insight on what kind of strength training has been most effective for a person who's had injuries, but wants to train in a way that is sustainable, safe, and most importantly, still drives results. This is also the story of how I felt like I rose from the ashes of my broken body and became a newer, stronger, more resilient version of myself.  This is the part where I'll shed light on Constant Forward Progress, and how it grew in to something much greater in meaning than I would have ever anticipated.

-Part 8: The Finish
It's hard to write about something that hasn't happened yet. When the time comes, this will be where I'll write an account of the SFG certification weekend, the people I met, the friends I made, and the experience that will surely stay with me forever. Whether I pass or fail does not matter, what will matter is the fact I got to a point where my body was tough enough to withstand a weekend such as this. It will be validation of my healing.

-Part 9: The Aftermath
Life will go on, training will continue. I'll shed light on my next few goals, where I'd like my training to take me, and how the knowledge I gained from the SFG weekend has affected my coaching, as well as Constant Forward Progress.

Thank you for reading, I look forward to sharing my story, and Constant Forward Progress with you and anyone who may benefit from it!




Saturday, August 16, 2014

75% off! 15 online training spots available

Dear Constant Forward Progress readers,

The time before the new website goes 100% live is edging ever closer, and I'm becoming truly ecstatic to share my vision and passion with the world in a new way that leverages modern technology. 

Personal training, historically, has been a luxury many couldn't afford. My goal is to provide incredible service, great results, and coaching tools for anyone and everyone, at a price that is sustainable! 

I'll be brief:

If you, a loved one, or a friend would be interested in doing online personal training, I will be offering a finite amount of 1 Month Trial Memberships (15 to be exact) for $23.00, which is 75% off the normal 1 Month Trial Price of $89. The trial will include a Functional Movement Assessment, a 30 minute video consultation, and two 20 minute video training coaching sessions. All clients who sign up will be expected to follow through on their training, meaning don't expect anything out of it if you don't put the work in!

Here's the catch:

*At the end of the month, you are free to go, no strings attached. My only requirement is you submit feedback based upon your experience, and I will have a form for you to download and re-submit back to me.

*If you enjoyed it and would like to continue, I will discount your first membership purchase (available in 3, 6, or 12 month contracts) by 50% (for the life of the contract, not just the first month).

*Any time you refer a friend, I will send you a coupon code for 50% off your next membership contract purchase!

I sincerely appreciate the fact you have continued to read my blog, and I apologize I haven't been as consistent with it in the last few weeks...my time has been taken with developing the website on my own time outside of work--time I normally devoted to writing. That will end shortly!

Spots will go quickly, as I have offered them to my own friends and family as well! First come, first served! 15 and counting...

Contact me at bret@constantforwardprogress.com if you'd like to sign up, I will provide you with all the materials necessary to get started.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Video blog: Proper body placement when coaching a group

Quick video on how to more efficiently coach clients and athletes in a group setting. Simple and effective change that will make you a more effective teacher immediately.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Five Pounds a Month

For many folks the prospect of gaining some true strength can seem daunting, even impossible. It's for those people I am writing this call to action, for I can tell you truthfully, for a person who strength has not come easily to, it is possible to become crazy strong at a rate of five pounds per month. For a person who is only deadlifting 1/3 of their body weight, the prospect of pulling your entire body's worth of poundage off the floor is scary. But if you look at training as a marathon versus a 100 meter race to the finish, results will come surprisingly easily. Below, I've outlined each factor, how it helps, and why it is important to long-term, sustainable strength gains:

1. Consistency
Consistency of training is the most important factor in long term strength gains. Nothing irritates me more than a person who comes in once in a while for a "pick-me-up" training session where they toot their own horn about how pleased they are with where they've come "after all these years", yada-yada, bla-bla, I've stopped listening at this point because on paper said person is no stronger than they were a year ago. There is nothing impressive about maintaining (or in some cases losing your strength) strength levels if your goal is to get stronger.

The bottom line is this: If getting stronger is your goal, don't be wishy-washy about your training. Don't miss a session. If you have to, and life will get in the way, make it up. Find a way. Because we always find a way not to do something. So flip that around and turn it in to a positive; find a way to do it.. But don't miss it. Three times a week for a full-body strength training session is all it will take--preferably on some sort of ABA, BAB rotation.

2. Train where you are, not where you want to be
By no means do I take credit for this factor, but I feel it is extremely applicable to strength training. You may have heard of the Couch to 5k program, which is a running program designed to take a sedentary individual and ease them in to running at a pace that will allow them to, by the time the program is through, successfully complete a 5k run without stopping. The reason I like the idea behind it is it meets a person where they are at.

It wouldn't be reasonable to expect Grandma Betty, aged 75, former smoker and sedentary for the last 35 years, to bench press her bodyweight immediately, would it? Hell, she may not even be strong enough to lift the bar, for that matter. So her training program had better meet her where she's at. If that means she starts with some crawling, assisted push-ups, and some rows to develop some upper body strength, then that's exactly where we'll start.

The main thing to take in to consideration is to know where you want to be, and then find out where you are in relation to the goal. On Grandma Betty's training "Road Map", once she's knows where she is and where she wants to be, picking the right road to get there will be as easy as standing on your own two feet! Until she figures those things out, training likely won't be very effective.

Starting out with too much volume, too much intensity, or too much frequency is a shortcut to plateaus, frustration, and eventually injury. Using the deadlift example from the introductory paragraph, if Grandma Betty started out safely deadlifting 60lbs for five reps, in a year she would be pulling 120lbs if she were to gain 5lbs of strength every month. Progress is progress. It's not a race.

3. Have patience
People pay for trainers to get them results NOW, dammit! Patience, grasshopper. Well, unless you're Brad Pitt and you have 12 weeks to get ready for your next Hollywood blockbuster, chances are you'll be able to afford a more long-term, safer, sustainable outlook on training.

Gray Cook loves to say "Move well first, then move often." Focus on quality of movement first, then quantity later. You're asking for an injury if you push in to higher loads when your body isn't ready for them. Even if it means taking the time to un-learn old poor habits, do it. Stuff your ego in the back of your gym locker and leave it there until you're done with your session. Any trainer worth their salt will have enough patience to get their clients good results without injuring them. You should too.

Patience may mean not expecting to put another 10 pounds on the bar every week from here until eternity. If you did, you'd be the next Andy Bolton, deadlifting over 1000 pounds and benching 900. Chances are you won't, though, so stop thinking that way. Make small increases in load over a steady amount of time. As an example, on my last set of 5,3,2 I went from 245/5 to 250/3 to 255/2 on my back squats. The next time I did the same workout, I did 3 sets of 3 reps at 250/3, 250/3, then at 255/3. That is a very small increase in load. Essentially, I got one extra rep on my last set. But then again, progress is progress. The idea is to keep moving towards achieving your goal!

4. Do as little as possible*
The big asterisk is there because I am not condoning you be a lazy slob. What I mean is that in order to maximize results and minimize injuries, finding the minimum necessary investment of training is the best way to go for sustainability. If you think of a training session not as an increment of time, but by the volume (total reps) and intensity (weight) of the lifts, you'll have a clearer picture of how much is too much. And there is such a thing as too much. 

For example, at some point in time, doing workouts that consist of 3 sets of 10 reps (30 reps) or 3 sets of 15 reps (45 reps!) will become ineffective. The volume of these days will become too great if you have a goal of putting more weight on the bar (increasing intensity) consistently. Therefore, dropping into volume ranging from 10-15 reps total per whole-body lift (squats, deadlifts, snatches, clean and jerk, etc.), divvied up in sets ranging from 2-5 reps, will probably become your ticket. If you've read Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline's Easy Strength, you'll probably recognize this philosophy as something similar to their principle of the "Rule of Ten".

The main idea here, though, is find what works for you to keep building strength while maintaining or improving quality of movement. Do no more, no less. What more can you ask for if you are stronger, performing at a higher level, and feeling better than ever before...with less work?

5. Leave some for another day
After torn MCL, completely torn left hamstring muscle, impinged shoulder joint, lumbar vertebra derangement and an angry facet joint in my T-spine that gave me headaches (all of which I've fully recovered from through a lot of therapy and dedication on my part, mind you!), I feel qualified to say that training with a goal of peeling yourself off the floor after is stupid.This may be tough to digest for all you weekend warriors out there who love to go and destroy your body in marathon workouts. I get it, I've been there, done that, and got hurt along the way. Save yourself the hassle! Again, stuff the ego in the locker and pick it up on the way out. 

Train with the expectation of feeling better post-training than you did when you showed up. Leave a bit in the tank for another day. Dan John loves to say that each training session is an "investment in the bank". But you can't wipe out your savings in one fell swoop and expect to have some to fall back on when you need it most. No way! Invest it consistently over time, and let it do the work for you (you don't get stronger through training, you get stronger from your recovery. Think about it), and withdraw it when you really need it most, like at a competition or race of some kind!

The above five principles are points that have served me well as I've changed my training focus since being a college athlete. With a goal of maintaining a healthy, pain-free body first and foremost, versus training for performance above all else, they have served me well. Almost all of my previous injuries were results of a lack of balance in training and emphasis over taking the time to move better. I realize now that it was a flawed approach. Ironically, I'm stronger and faster than I ever was when I was a sprinter in college. I hope the wisdom I've gained from my personal losses and struggles can be helpful in your own training journey.

Why kettlebells kick your butt

 Yesterday's training sesh needed to be abbreviated to allow time for a new client assessment, so I cranked out a quick 12 minute workout with a single 16kg kettlebell.

Here is the workout:
Ascending ladder style with a switch between starting on the next rung. Did 1 rep of the clean, press, squat, snatch, then switched hands and did one rep on the other side. Then went to 2, then 3, and so on, up to 5 before starting over.

Total reps performed in 12 minutes:
Clean x30ea
Press x30ea
Squat x30ea
Snatch x30ea