TrueFN - What I've Learned Over the Last 2 Years

On October 1, 2013, on a dark and misty morning, True Fitness and Nutrition was born. This was 2 years ago - both a second and a lifetime for me. In a lot of ways I'm the same person I was then. I've got the same beard (despite all the hipsters) and I'm still a crazy Redskins fan (despite well...you know). But in a lot of ways I'm a different trainer since launching TrueFN, and I'm glad I am. I've learned a thing or two along the way from seeing what works, and learned even more by seeing what fails. I use all these pieces when working with clients to get them where they want to be a little bit faster than I could before. I hope I can say the same in another two years. Here's what I've learned:

Attitude is Everything

I can usually tell on the first day if a client will be successful or not. The clients who are successful come in with an attitude that expects to make progress and only needs to be shown the way. They already see the need, the benefits, and the pitfalls, and all they need is some direction of where to thrust their efforts. The biggest difference isn't motivation, it is how they see the world. Successful clients see the world and their bodies as things they can change, and it's within their power to do so.

Clients who aren't successful do not feel the same way. They see the world as something that happens TO them. They cannot lose weight because they don't have time to cook, or their boss is mean, or the gym is too expensive. They see outside forces conspiring against them to prevent them from getting where they want to be. The truth of the matter is that there is NO REASON to not be successful, and the problem is often looking at you in the mirror. As long as someone maintains this idea that outside forces can prevent their success (which isn't true) they'll never lose the weight or gain the strength the way they want to.

There is nothing that can hold you back. All it takes is to realize this to start the process. Disagree? How's your fitness? Bet it's not where you want it to be. Attitude isn't important. It is everything!

Habit creation is a science


We like to think of ourselves as unique little snowflakes. That our perceptions and choices are 100% within our conscious control. This isn't exactly true. We use parts of our brains for a lot of our decisions that don't require any conscious attention. Ever drive home and wonder how you got there? You were on auto-pilot the whole time. That's a habit. You hit the gas, the brake, made the turns, stopped at red lights, and a thousand other things without even needing to pay attention. The cool thing is you learned that habit, and you can create others just like it as often as you like.

When learning how to drive, you practiced, practiced, practiced until all those tiny driving parts became automatic. Getting to the gym, making healthy food, and getting to bed on time are habits as well, and can be learned. But you have to practice first. If a client has never eaten healthfully in their lives, they will make decisions (McDonald's, Protein-free meals, etc) without even thinking about them. First they need awareness, and then repetition. This is why forming habits takes about 2 weeks. This is the amount of repetition necessary to take these habits out of the conscious mind and put them in the part of the brain that can work automatically.

Ever heard someone say that fitness is a lifestyle? They are right. Ever wonder how some people make it look so easy? It's because they've created habits that they literally don't need to think about anymore. Would you ever walk outside without pants on? Of course not, it's a habit that is ingrained as deeply as it can be. Then create more habits and never have a meal without protein, and never go a week without exercise.

Breathing is the key to technique

Anyone who has worked with a competent trainer knows that there is quite a bit involved to executing proper technique on a compound exercise. The Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Overhead Press, and Pull Up involve quite a few cues. "Shoulders packed, knees out, ribs down, glutes on" is just a start and it can be a lot to think about. However, I've learned that almost all of these cues, all designed to incorporate total body tightness and stability, are related to a single component: breathing.

Your average person does not breath correctly and this is a problem. Try it out. Take a deep breath. Now do it again with your hands across your chest. Did your arms move? Then you did it wrong. The breath is supposed to go DOWN into the abdomen and pelvis. This uses the diaphragm and allows stability of the midsection/core/abs/lower back. If this stability is present, all the other joints become more stable as well. If not, then well, they don't. This is the foundation of the body's stability, and there must be stability before there can be movement.

Breathing and bracing this way takes practice, so here is a quick drill to work on the skill. Lie face down on the ground with hands above your head. Take a big deep breath. Focus on pushing the belly out into the ground, and expanding across the obliques. Hold this for about 5 seconds. You should not feel your chest rise at all. Practice for about 5 breaths as often as possible, and see if your technique on everything doesn't get a bit better.

People hate change

This is natural of course. As humans we act in similar ways in similar situations. One of those common situations occurs when something about our world is changing. We hate it. We have a fierce protection of the status quo. The status quo represents safety, and likely something that 'works'. When we try something new, it might not work out, and could even cause pain and loss. We don't want that, so our brains convince us we don't want change.

Allow me to give an example. Imagine a politician presenting a new tax code. Everyone would pay less tax, and we would still be able to afford all of our social programs. It's the perfect plan, and both Republicans and Democrats would hug and dance in the streets. You're thinking, probably not right? Even if there were such a plan, people would poke holes in it, and bicker and argue and fight because well...we hate change. It scares us, and we have to think about 1,000 ways around an issue before we might, maybe, try to adopt it on a smaller scale.

Our reluctance to change is a good thing as a whole. It's allowed us to succeed as a species by not just jumping into bad ideas. It keeps us safe from the unknown and the unexpected. But this same inclination can prevent us from making positive changes. Eating more vegetables, eating more protein, and lifting heavy weights are all good things. Nothing bad happens from any of these habits when adopted properly. And yet, many rational individuals will fight against these changes. 'Isn't that bad for you?', 'I read an article that said...', 'I just can't do that with my lifestyle', are ways that our brains change the subject to prevent change, and the possible pain that sometimes accompanies it. Nothing bad can happen if you do it right. I promise. All positive growth happens when we release ourselves from our stifling comfort zones and accept the risks of living with both arms.

These are just a few of the conversations I have with clients and trainers here at True Fitness and Nutrition on a weekly basis. I love coming in everyday and wondering what the day will have in store. So cheers to the next two years.