Saturday, July 13, 2013

What is a Personal Trainer?: Part Two

In our last installment, we looked as some of the roles that a personal trainer plays: Role Model, Cheer Leader, Disciplinarian, Teacher, Student. Today I'll wrap up this short series with four other important hats that a trainer has to wear, along with the qualities I hope to bring to my own work as a trainer.

Be a Counselor. This is a touchy one. A personal trainer has to remember what they call the "Scope of Practice." There are boundaries beyond which a professional must not go. A good trainer can assess physical issues, and give advice, but never forgets that a trainer is not a physician or a nutritionist or a psychologist. We aren't social workers, and we aren't even close friends. We are people clients pay to help them improve their own wellness. To the extent that my advice can help you to become stronger, more fit, and more able to meet your own physical goals, I can be your counselor. When you enter realms like personal finance, crumbling relationships, and mental health, a personal trainer should be able to keep their advice to themselves.

Be an Observer. Even more important that the things a trainer says are the things a trainer hears and sees. A good trainer is always watching, always listening, always paying attention and giving feedback. Spy on them a little. When they are with a client, are they connected for each repetition and movement, or are they staring at their watch, their clipboard, their phone, or the shapely rear end of someone on an elliptical trainer across the room? A trainer who can't show up and stay with you isn't worth your money. When I am training a client, nothing can be more important than their face, their form, their breathing... their safety and success. The best trainers are always scanning. They notice things that your partner might miss. The direction of your foot. The bend in your knees. The angle of your chin. They also see changes and improvements. A good trainer may tell you a lot of things you didn't know about exercise, but they'll also tell you a lot of things about yourself that you couldn't have seen from the inside looking out.

Be a Producer. It's easy to forget, because the time we spend is often fun, but my relationship with my clients is a business relationship. They are paying me for a product - their own improved wellness - and they expect me to deliver. The data matters. Are you getting stronger? faster? more flexible? Is your endurance improving? Do your clothes fit you better? A good trainer always knows your goals, and helps you to work toward them. Initial assessments, and periodic follow-ups should help you to keep track of your own progress. Trainers are accountable to the business for the revenue their clients generates, but they're also accountable to their clients. For sure, there is only so much a trainer can do to help you reduce your waist or increase your bench press - most of your progress depends on your own behavior - but if you know you're sticking with the program and you're not seeing the growth you expect, it may be time for a talk. Remember, you're the client here. You're not just the customer, you're also the employer. You have a right to expect results or to know why you aren't getting them. Good trainers care about producing those results.

Be an Inspiration. This last role is a little hard to put your finger on. In many ways it's a matter of personal style. Each trainer finds their own way to make you want to be better. One might have such a commanding presence that you want to be like them. Another might fill you with awe and respect so you want to earn their high regard. My own favorite trainers have a way of making be believe in myself. They seem to see me doing things before I know I can do them. Yes, I want to please them, but they make me want to please myself, too. It's like that song about "You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings." Great Trainers know how to help you soar higher than you knew you could.

I started this two-part series as a way for potential clients to know what to look for when shopping for a trainer. It's turned into a kind of a manifesto about the kind of trainer I hope to be. Still, I hope you find it useful as you make your own decisions about who you want to pay to help guide you toward your own wellness goals.

Till next time: Sleep well. Eat clean. Lift heavy. Run hard.


Friday, July 12, 2013

What is a Personal Trainer?: Part One

Assisting Coach Chelsea at the Y
A good personal trainer plays a lot of roles. Their job isn't to get you in shape, it's to point you in the right direction. I tell my clients, "I can get you to 5. Getting to 10 is your job." That doesn't let me off the hook, though. Here are some of the things I think a Personal Trainer needs to do to be good at their job: things I strive to include in my own work.

Be a Role Model: I don't think a trainer needs to look like Arnold or Jillian, but their appearance and conduct should reflect a commitment to wellness. I wouldn't reject a trainer out of hand because they have a big butt or a pooched belly, but seeing them in the break room with large fries and a coke might get my attention. Physical, mental, and spiritual health go hand in hand. A good trainer is working for balance in their own life, even as they are coaching clients to strengthen themselves.

Be a Cheer Leader: When I told my friend that I would be leading a group exercise class, she asked, "Are you going to have to chirp 'GOOD JOB!' every three minutes?" What I've found is that sometimes I have to do it even more often. When my trainer encourages me like this, it isn't to convince me, or even to praise me, really. It's to inject positive energy into my workout. Four push-ups may not be an earth-shattering performance, but that little boost could be the difference between giving up and pressing for five. The truth is, you deserve praise for showing up. That may not be the most strenuous part of your workout, but getting off the couch and into the gym is surely the most important part. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric once said that Leadership is knowing when to kiss and when to kick. I've found that a kiss is usually a lot more encouraging.

Be a Disciplinarian: Having said that, there are also times when a boot to the butt is what you need to get you over the wall. Fighting for your life, (and isn't that what we're all really doing?) is a battle between pride and shame, love and fear. My trainer has probably said, "You're doing great!' to me a hundred times, but the day I'll never forget was during a brutal set of Burpees in the sun when I fell to the hot asphalt, panting on my knees and she shouted, "Don't you give up on me, Bob!" She had earned my trust. We were a team. I would have died out there rather than not finish that last rep. Not because I was afraid of what she would do if I disappointed her, but because I was afraid of what it would feel like to know that I could have gone on, but didn't.

Be a Teacher: Ultimately, a trainer's job is to make themselves obsolete. Just as you outgrew your third grade math teacher or your freshman writing professor, you may very well outgrow your need for your trainer one day. That might mean moving on to a different coach. Or it could mean taking the things you've learned and designing your own programs. A trainer should always be helping clients to increase their knowledge, not just the size of their biceps. That could mean a quick cue on how to perform a squat more safely, or it could be a 10 minute conversation on how to get to sleep at the end of a stressful day. A trainer who does nothing more than carry a clip board and count reps is not worth your money.

Be a Student: Like any good teacher, a personal trainer must first be a student. The good ones are always reading, listening, watching videos, studying other trainers. Exercise science is growing every day, and knowing what works and what doesn't; what's an effective mode of exercise and what's this year's latest fad is important. Every professional certification requires continuing education. If your trainer is certified, that suggests to you that they've made a commitment to learning and staying current on the state of their art. A new client has the right to ask about their trainer's education AND experience. I want to know that the person teaching me to use combat ropes has spent some time at the end of a pair of them, not just watched somebody else use them on YouTube.

A trainer plays a lot of other roles: Counselor, Listener, Producer, Inspiration. We'll take a look at them in our next installment. Till then,

Sleep well. Eat clean. Lift heavy. Run hard.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

What Does it Mean to Hire a Personal Trainer?

Shameless self promotion...
Recovery from any illness takes many small steps, and a few big ones. I was blessed to be able to take a big one this week when I received clearance to return to my work as a personal trainer. By way of celebration and shameless self-promotion, I want to spend some time talking about why hiring a trainer might be right for you... or not... b

First, last, and always, wellness is a commitment that you make to yourself. Training partners and classmates might count on you to be there. Teachers and trainers rely on you for their vocation and income.  Your loved ones depend on you to be present and alive and strong for them. Your country and community might even call upon you to be fit enough to serve in war or peace. Many hold a stake in your wellness, but there is only one person to whom you are really accountable. You are the only one who knows the difference between 98% and 100% effort. Others can help to motivate and educate you, but ultimately, the only person you have to answer to for your wellness is the one in the mirror. Will a Personal Trainer help to hold you accountable? Sure. But sooner or later, you have to decide to save your own life. A PT ain't gonna "take you to raise."

Let's be clear: a PT works for you. You rely on them for expertise and good judgement, but if you don't trust them, you need to sever the relationship with all loving haste. Neither of you should ever forget who does the hiring and firing in this business.

At the same time, hiring a PT involves certain promises from you that you owe it to yourself to keep. You promise to pay your bill, but chances are that your Trainer is working for a gym or club who won't pay them until they have provided you with service. In other words, when you fail to show up for a session, the gym still gets paid, (you probably paid them up front anyway,) but your Trainer doesn't. The doctor can bill you for not showing up. A health club is much less likely to do that. It's more than just common courtesy... it's helping your trainer to pay their bills and stay in a profession that is probably more about passion than wealth for them. Even as you ask them to honor your commitment to wellness, your promise to honor their commitment to professionalism and to your best interest.

But enough about your Trainer's pocketbook... what about yours? Hiring a PT isn't ever cheap. You owe it to yourself to get your money's worth. That means more than just showing up on time and ready to work. It means putting the things you learn to use between sessions. Unless you're meeting with a trainer several times a week, 90% of your workouts are going to be on your own. Your Trainer is there to supplement your wellness program, not to be a substitute for it. Meeting 30 or 60 minutes a week with a trainer is not going to get you where you want to be all by itself. When I worked with Coach Carrie, I knew that I would endure 30 minutes of hell most of the time, but I also knew that she was teaching me workouts that I needed to repeat several times during the week if I was going to see any real benefit from them. If you show up for your Thursday session with your PT knowing that your last real workout was the previous Thursday... you're breaking a promise to yourself and being a pretty lousy steward of those dollars that you spent when you signed up.

Hiring a Trainer costs you a lot more than money. Is it worth it?

In exchange for my investment of time and money and effort, here are some of the benefits I received from my own Personal Trainer:

  • Scientifically designed workouts based on the knowledge and experience of a certified professional.
  • Initial assessment and monitoring of my progress based on my own performance.
  • "Teachable moments" when Coach took the opportunity to educate me about the art and science of the fitness business.
  • Exposure to new exercises  that I would not have found on my own.
  • Careful, specific observation of my technique with feedback to make my exercise safer and more effective.
  • A professional motivator, cheerleader, task master, and fan who shared my goals and worked with me to achieve them.
Look, I'm a very motivated guy. I work hard. I go the extra mile. But my Trainer helped me to levels that I would not have reached on my own. Maybe that's because I wanted to please her. Maybe it was just because she believed in me and convinced me to believe in myself. Whatever the reason, I know that I am faster, stronger, and healthier because I worked with a Personal Trainer. My work with Coach was time and money well spent.

I believe anyone can benefit from working with a Personal Trainer, as long as they are willing to keep the promises that relationship represents.
  • To be present
  • To work hard
  • To apply the things you learn
  • To trust your trainer's judgment, and your own
  • To accept the responsibilities of stewardship for your own money, time, and wellness
  • To end the relationship and find another solution when you are not seeing tangible results.
You may not be ready to keep those promises. In that case, congratulations for being self-aware enough to know it. You can still work out, educate yourself, ask questions, and get fit. Maybe you're just starting out. Maybe you've been working hard for a long time and really need to dial it back a little. Or maybe you have some other reason that's keeping you from taking the Personal Training plunge. There's not a thing wrong with that.

But if you are ready... if you feel like you could do better for yourself if you had some help, then hiring a PT might be just the right step for you.

Just be sure you hire a good one. (Insert coy self-reference here...) In our next session, maybe we'll spend some time considering just how you can tell if you've found a good one. 'Till next time...

Sleep well. Eat clean. Lift heavy. Run hard.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thoughts on "Eating Clean"

A friend has asked me to reflect a bit on what I mean by the exhortation to "eat clean" that is part of my closing for RBR. Since I'm not a nutritionist, and not even really a very good role model in this regard, I'm going to throw a little shopping list of thoughts down on paper. Pick the ones you like, and pass on the ones that don't ring any bells for you.

  • If it's good for you... eat it.
  • If it comes from a garden instead of a factory... eat it.
  • If your great-great-grandmother would recognize it as food... eat it.
  • If you have to wash it first... wash it... then, eat it.
  • If it isn't particularly bad for you, and you would never make it yourself... go ahead and eat it if you want to.
  • If it isn't particularly good for you... but eating a little bit of it would make you really happy... for heaven's sake, eat it!

  • If it has a long list of ingredients... careful.
  • If it comes in a jar, a box, or a can... careful.
  • If it requires no expiration date... careful.
  • If it contains things you would never put in there if you made it at home... careful.
  • If Dr. Oz or Jillian or some other celebrity guru says it's the next big thing... do your homework... and be careful.
  • If the label says it's "natural," "light," "organic," "healthy," or in any way good for you... be very careful.
  • If it comes in rows, stacks, or tightly uniform, geometric shapes... pass.
  • If it has a theme song, a cartoon mascot, or a marketing budget... pass.
  • If it includes ingredients that you can't recognize, identify, or pronounce... pass.
  • If you have a hard time envisioning the process by which it made its way from the farm to the shelf... pass.
  • If is is served in a cardboard cup, a Styrofoam clam shell, or out a drive-through window... pass with extreme prejudice.
  • If you just kind of have a funny feeling about it... pass without shame.
  • If it hurts your teeth, rots your gut, damages your brain, or gives you cancer... don't be stupid.
Those are some of my thoughts about eating clean. What are some of yours?

Sleep well. Eat clean. Lift heavy. Run hard.

Who must confess that before his 16 mile run this morning, he had a cup of coffee with skim milk, and half a dozen glazed donut holes. 'Cause rules are made to be broken...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Program Building: Balancing Stress and Recovery

2012 Iron Horse Half Marathon
Recovery isn't always pretty...
Building a training program is about balancing stress and recovery. Allow me to over-simplify for a second here. You ask your body to do something that's hard... much harder than it's used to doing. Something like running a mile or lifting a heavy iron bar with weights on the ends. Once that task is over, the second it is over, in fact, your body starts a conversation with itself. "That was hard. We might have to do that again. We better divert resources to making those muscles and blood vessels bigger and stronger and more up to the challenge."

And that right there is the whole of exercise physiology in a nutshell. Everything else is details. But here's the tricky part. Your body needs the right amount of work to trigger that process, and the right amount of recovery time to allow it to happen. Too little time between workouts, and you never get the chance to rebuild what exercise tears down. Eventually you reach a state called "over-training" where you are actually getting weaker as your body fails to keep up.

So what is the right amount of work for you? Depends on your current condition and your future goals. Right now, I'm trying to run about 25 miles a week. Pretty modest by some runner's standards, but consistent with who I am, what I can do, and why I'm doing it.

And what is the right amount of rest? For me, it's every other day. I run both days on the weekend sometimes, but I don't make a habit of it. Other runners can be out 5 or 6 days a week. I'm not one of them. I start to get tired, I slow down. I don't stop hurting, and worst of all: I stop enjoying my runs. And remember, running is a keystone of my mental health. It's pretty important that I not hate doing it.

Right now, I'm not training for any particular distance. I want to be ready to run any 5K or 10K that comes along, and I have a half and a full Marathon in mind for the fall, but this month, I'm in maintenance mode. To allow for the every-other-day pattern I prefer, I write my own programs on a 14 day cycle that looks like this.

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Week 1
5 miles
5 miles
5 miles
Week 2
13 miles
5 miles
5 miles
13 miles

XT means Cross-training. Those are the days I swim or ride my bike or walk. I also use those days for strength training. The point is, I don't use the same muscle systems in the same way two days in a row. Recovery happens on a microscopic level. That's why you can run on Monday and walk on Tuesday. You are not challenging the same muscles in the same way. 

I think of the weekday runs as "Purpose" runs. They always have a purpose and there are lots of possibilities. Recovery runs are light and easy, a great way to wring out the joints after a race. Tempo runs help you to learn your ideal speed and to know it by feel. Speed runs are designed to make you stronger and faster. Hill runs... well, they are just what they sound like. Awful. And beautiful. As in, "It feels so good when I stop."

The long runs on the weekend have a purpose too, but it's always the same: to build endurance. The short runs train your legs. The long ones train your will.

When I'm training for a long race, I stretch the distance on one of the long runs and shorten up the other. I've found through experience that I can add about 2 miles every 2 weeks to my long run. When I start training for my next marathon, I'll take that Saturday run out to 15 miles, and drop the next Sunday one down to 8 or 10. The week after that, I should be able to go 17 on Saturday. The following weekend, I'll run 10 or 12. A really long run requires more recovery time. That's why I won't try to run 20 miles two weekends in a row or to run 28 miles the week before a marathon. 

There's a lot of art and science involved in building a program, and I am not going to pretend to understand more than a sliver of it, but this is the way I train myself. Serious runners might scoff at these tiny numbers. Newcomers might despair at them. To the former I say, "Screw You! Don't you people know I'm a natural wonder?" To the latter I say, "Don't compare yourself to anybody. I once thought that a 5K was an unimaginable distance to run. I got to this place one step at a time, and so will you."

Find your own rhythm of stress and recovery. Your legs will tell you when it's time to test yourself, and your heart will tell you when you're ready for the test. Other runners will offer advice, some good, some not. Some authors will speak to your soul and others will talk right over your head. Your job is to listen and learn. And to keep running.

Sleep well. Eat clean. Lift Heavy. Run Hard.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Program Building: Goals are the Bridge

For all but the most self-satisfied among us, there is a gap between where we are and where we want to be. Goals can help us to bridge that gap. I'll offer a couple of my running goals as examples in the hope that they may help you to set your own.

Remember the steps that led me here.

  • Know who you are: I'm a runner whose mental health plan includes regular workouts, whose age and condition requires frequent recovery days, and whose tendency toward over-training can lead me to wear myself down.
  • Know why you're running: I love the peaceful feeling I get when I'm running, no matter how tough the hills or how much my body hurts. I love the way my leg muscles feel when I flex them. I love the solitude of running, but I also enjoy the company of runners. I love the feeling that I keep getting better. Running makes me feel more alive.
It's pretty clear that my running isn't about competing. I'm not really thinking about winning when I run. There aren't that many people I can keep up with, let alone beat in a race. My goals are much more internal. I want to be faster. I want to be stronger. I want to run long distances without hurting myself. I want to keep doing things I've never done before. I've set three goals for 2013, with all that in mind.
  • Run a sub 60 minute 10K
  • Finish two marathons in under 6 hours
  • Log 1000 training miles
Each of these is pretty ambitious for me. Each meets the SMART goal criteria. And they are just far enough out of my comfort zone to be a little scary. Reaching them is going to require me to make a serious commitment to running for the next 6 1/2 months. My program is what that commitment looks like in practical form. The details of that program will be the subject of our next episode. 'Till then:

Sleep well. Eat clean. Lift heavy. Run hard.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Program Building: Why Are You Running?

You can approach running as a scientist or an artist or a little of both, but whatever your approach, you need to know why you're running to set goals and build a program that will get you there.
  • Maybe you're trying to get yourself into shape, (or back into shape!) You don't want to compete and you don't want to spend hours and hours pounding the asphalt. You do want to strengthen your heart and burn some fat. You want to get yourself a pair of those fantastic legs. 
  • On the other hand, maybe you think you'd like to test yourself. You like the idea of running fast or even piling up some distance. You've watched as other people run organized races and thought to yourself that you'd like to try.
  • And you might be an experienced runner who wants to go farther, but isn't sure how to break through the plateau you've been on for a while 
  • You might hate running, but you think it's the best way to get yourself fit. You have put it off for years, but you're finally ready to get serious.

Everybody is going to have their own reason for running, but it's important for you to know yours before you start. That will tell you how much you value running, and where it fits into the rest of your life.

You're wanting to get fit? You need a program that is tough. A little light jogging isn't going to cut it for you. You need to burn calories.

Your goal is distance? You might need to take the opposite approach. Don't get me wrong. You'll still have to work plenty hard to get up to those 3, 5, and 10K events, but your priority is going to be efficiency. The fat burners want to use up energy fast. You need to learn how to go fast and far and still have gas in the tank for the finish.

Stuck on a plateau? It may be time to try something different to your training. You could be missing out on the benefits of long-slow runs, or of short, hard intervals. The other possibility, and a dangerous one, is that you could be over-training: burning yourself out by running too hard or too frequently and breaking down your strength instead of building it up.

Are you a running hater? There might be good reasons for that. Maybe you've hurt yourself running in the past. Maybe somebody used running as a punishment in practice or gym class. You might prefer team sports and not like the idea of training as an individual. I want to be clear: you can work around some of these, but the bottom line is if you really hate the idea of running, you shouldn't run. You will quit. No sane person will commit to doing something that they hate when they don't have to. The reasons to run might seem strong now, but once your feet start throbbing and your eyes burn from the sweat in them you will start finding much more compelling reasons not to run. Look elsewhere for your fitness life. Walk. Lift weights. Take a class in Yoga or Spinning or Dancing. What matters most is that you find a way to move that you enjoy. You won't get Marathoner benefits from bowling, but you won't get any benefits if you stay home and watch poker on the TV. If running doesn't do it for you, keep looking. Something is going to appeal to you.

Knowing who you are, and why you're running are the foundation for your program, but you need to build a bridge that takes you from where you are to where you want to be. Choosing the right goals, SMART goals can make your program just that. And that's what we'll talk about next time.

Till then, sleep well, eat clean, lift heavy, run hard.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Program Building: Knowing yourself

I want to talk about how I build a training program for myself. And let me make that clear as spring water. This is how I lay out plans for ME. My approach is very specific to 1) my physical condition and 2) my running goals. This approach could be perfect for you, or it could put you in a world of painfully slow times (or worse, painful injuries.) It really benefits you to learn from an experienced runner, or even better, an experienced coach as you make a plan to suit your own body and personal goals.

First, know what kind of shape you are in. This is the surface stuff. I'm 52 years old, (but not for much longer!) quite a bit over-weight, and prone to fatigue and stubborn over-training. This is stuff I know about myself. Some of it is quite obvious, but some of it is the fruit of hard lessons learned from past mistakes.

One other thing: physical exercise and running in particular are the core of my treatment plan for my mental health. When I don't run, I get depressed. When I get depressed, I don't feel like running. And so the bipolar monster feeds itself.

When I stack all this data together, I come to some conclusions:
  • My program must involve frequent, moderate workouts that give me the emotional boost I need without wearing me out so badly that I have to take a long break to recover. 
  • Frequent recovery days are as important as workout days... maybe more so. 
  • I have a tendency to push myself hard, so I need a disciplined approach to workouts that allows me to test my limits without breaking myself down.

And that is step one in program building. Step two is a little more introspective. Why do I run, and what do I hope to achieve? I'll take a look at those questions in our next installment. Till then...

Eat clean, Lift heavy, Run hard, Sleep well.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Values, Roles, and Goals, Part 3

In Part 2, we looked at how values can help to define the roles you play in life. Goals are the tools we use to help bring out roles into line with the things we consider to be important

Choosing a goal isn't that hard. Let's come back to the gym for a while. Your new trainer asks why you want to work with a Persona Trainer. You hadn't really tried to put it into words before...

"Well, you know... I work out because I want to get fit and lose weight."

My trainer friends tell me that 95% of new clients are going to present with some variation on this theme. "I'm weak and fat. I want to be strong and thin. "

Strong and thin is not a goal. It is a motivation. What makes a goal different? You've heard this before I'll bet. The best goals are SMART.
Specific: You can state your goal in one simple sentence.
Measurable: You have a number to tell you when you have reached it.
Attainable:  It is challenging, but realistically possible.
Relevant: You care about achieving it.
Timely: You have a deadline.
See why "I want to lose weight" isn't a goal? It isn't SMART. Here's a stab at something a little more useful...
I want to lose 15 pounds in the next three months so I can look fantastic at my high school reunion in October.
Or how about this one...
I want to be able to swim 400 yards so I can qualify for lifesaving class in March.
Here's a tricky one.
I want to be fit so I can be alive to play with my grandchildren.
Staying alive may be a value for you, but it isn't a goal. You can't measure it. Even worse, you can't actually achieve it. There will never be a point in time when you can look up and say, "Hey, I did it! I stayed alive," because you won't be finished, yet. You will always have farther to go.

Still, there's no question that there is a powerful value at the heart of your statement. How do you piick a goal that leads toward that value: playing with your grandkids? A SMART goal is not so much a destination as it is a milestone along the way. Once you reach it, it's time to pick a new milestone. Use your values as your compass. Then choose goals that lead you toward the things that are important to you. 
I want to be able to bend over and lift  a 50 pound child over my head by the time the kids come to visit in August.
Now you're talking. Keep it simple. Keep it clear. Keep it real. Make it matter. And make it urgent! That's the SMART way to set a goal. Here's mine for the summer.
I want to get below 20% body fat by October so I can knock 20 minutes off my time in the Iron Horse Half Marathon.
Now THAT's a goal. I know what I want, and I know how to tell when I've reached it. Does it matter to me? It makes my mouth water, just thinking about breaking two hours in the Half. Even more important, being stronger and faster will help me to work harder and stay alert longer when I work at the Y or at home. The things I learn will make be a better trainer and give me even more things to write about here. And my lower body fat percentage will improve my life in many ways beyond just lowering my time in the Half.

So how do I get there from here? That will take process. I'll have to do lots of research. Ask for advice. Make a plan and stick with it. But those are the "How?" questions. They're a lot easier to answer once you know what you want, and why you want it.


Eat clean. Run hard. Lift heavy. Sleep well.

Values, Roles, and Goals, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at ways to identify just what our values are, and to discover whether we're living our lives consistently with those values. When we find, as I did, that the way we're living does not reflect what's really important to us, goals can help to bring our life into line. But goals don't just come out of thin air.

How to build a bridge between our values and our goals? Here's an idea that I stole from Stephen Covey, who stole it from someone else, I suppose. Make a list of the roles you play in life. Here's mine, in no particular order:

  • Grown-up
  • Trainer
  • Athlete
  • Child of God
  • Writer
  • Son
  • Friend
  • Husband
It's going to be interesting to compare your values list with your roles. Remember mine?
  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Fitness
  4. Service
  5. Finances
  6. Hospitality
  7. Learning
  8. Writing
At first, it may seem like there's a one-to-one relationship between the two lists, but actually, there will be aspects of several values in each role.

As a grown-up, I have responsibilities to take care of my money, to look after my family, to stay fit and to continue to grow spiritually and intellectually. 

In my role as trainer, I have to stay fit and knowledgeable of course, but I also have to offer hospitality and service to my clients.

Do you see how values can shape the roles we all play every day? In Part 3 of this series, we'll take a look at how those values can help to define goals that are meaningful and consistent with the rest of our lives.


Eat clean. Run hard. Lift heavy. Sleep well.

Values, Roles, and Goals, Part 1

Before you get in your car, it's almost always best to know where you are going. Knowing how to get there helps, (of course there's always the GPS or the dreaded "stop and ask for directions,) but knowing where you want to end up is crucial. Otherwise, all you're doing is burning gas and spinning your wheels. Wellness is like that. If you have a goal in mind, you can always find your way, or find someone to point you in the right direction. Otherwise, all you're doing is sweating.

So, how to pick a goal? The first and most important step is to ask youself, "What is important to me?" If you don't know what your values are, what matters to you, then you will never be able to chose a goal that points you in the direction you want to go. Your values are your compass.

So, what are your values? Here's one way to find out. Start with a list of the things you value the most. Mine might look like this:

  • God
  • Family
  • Service
  • Fitness
  • Writing
  • Learning
  • Financial security
  • Hospitality
Next, find your priorities. Put your list in order of the things you think are most important.
  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Fitness
  4. Service
  5. Financial Security
  6. Hospitality
  7. Learning
  8. Writing
Now here's the hard part, and the one that requires a lot of honesty. Where do you spend most of your time? What gets most of your energy? Here's the same list, only ranked by my actual personal investment in each.

  1. Fitness (3)
  2. Service (4)
  3. Writing (8)
  4. Learning (7)
  5. Finances (5)
  6. Family (2)
  7. God (1)
  8. Hospitality (6)
A little out of whack, isn't it? Integrity is when your life and your values are consistent with one another. Looks like mine could use a little polishing.

Fitness is the physical ability to do the things you want to do. Wellness is something bigger. Wellness is getting you mind, body, and spirit firing on all cylinders. Before you even think about exercising, it's worth taking a look at your life as a whole, and seeing just how fitness fits into your wellness program. 

What does my second list say? Looks like this client is using exercise to avoid other, more difficult things. He says he values God and Family above everything else, but he spends less time on them than nearly anything. His pursuits take him inside himself, or outside the house. Looks like the man has some adjusting to do or exercise just might become counter-productive for him: a way to hide from other important parts of his life. 

Next time, we'll look at a way this fellow might use to bring his life back into alignment with his values. Only then will he be able to set goals that contribute meaningfully to his overall wellness.


Eat clean. Run hard. Lift heavy. Sleep well.

Welcome To A Whole 'Nother Thing

Today, I'm launching Run Bob, Run. It's going to be a very different kind of blog than the ones I've written over the past few years. Pennsyltuckian was about my spiritual life. Fat Man Running started out as a diary of my exercise life, but it evolved into a blog about running, cancer, mental health, and whatever else came into my life that day.

Run Bob, Run is going to be a little more intentional. I want it to be a magazine about wellness. That means more carefully crafted and researched articles. Less intimate revelation. More information to help you on your own wellness journey. I'll even have guests contribute from time to time. I hope you find it to be a useful tool, and look forward to hearing from you through the comments sections.


Eat clean. Run hard. Lift heavy. Sleep well.