Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Discipline: The desire to achieve is rooted in discipline.

Motivation will wane moment by moment, it is the consistent action of doing the work towards your goal that will help determine your success.


White belt to black belt mastery:  Process and building the foundation of success.

When it is our desire to learn we do so as a beginner. Through our studies and with a patient and disciplined approach we continue our growth. This takes us to new levels as represented in the color of our belts. But deep within the levels or belt colors lies lessons beyond what we see or experience or for that matter what the belt color might tell us or others. The true mastery is going beyond the lesson of the belt and observing and learning the deeper lessons being offered.


Teachers and being a student: The best teachers are students.

The best teachers have teachers. Even the master has a teacher. Yes it is possible to learn something from anyone, any situation. But learning from a master provides a level of understanding that goes far beyond learning in random situations and circumstances of daily life. Teachers have a wisdom that can help convey and teach lessons that go beyond the experience. Teachers can help to understand what is beyond say the movement or sport. Learning from an experienced teacher and being open minded like that of the white belt mentality will provide more wisdom than can ever be obtained otherwise.


When setting a goal it is important to be clear what it is you wish to achieve. To broad a goal and it will be difficult to set in place a plan and properly prepare. As the great coach John Wooden once said, ‘failing to prepare is preparing for failure’. Additionally preparation provides a number of other potential benefits when it comes time to achieve your goal. In cases of performance it can help alleviate many of the stressors aka much of the noise that potentially will hamper or hinder you potential. Understanding what lies in hand and ahead is a powerful way to set your minds potential and adjust your attitude to a place/vision of success.


Know your limitations:  We all have them regardless of what you may believe.

These limitations are an opportunity to empower oneself. They offer us a deep insight and understanding of who we are and what it is we need to be our best self. Respect the limits, know the limits, understand the limits and move within and beyond.

Become your best self, there’s nothing to achieve: 

Contrary to popular believe there is nothing to achieve other than that in which you have determined worth achieving. If you allow others to determine what is important you will not be living your truth but theirs. While we may see something another is doing or has done as a source of motivation it is important that it aligns with our true self, our true nature. In a world where everyones ‘achievements’ are easily shared it is easier to be distracted and become derailed. It is difficult to ignore what are some amazing human feats and the potential that exists, but it is crucial that we understand how these relate to us before allowing them to impact our direction and choices.


To be good we must learn, we must study, we must observe, we must listen and by all means we must take this into a daily practice. Practice must be clear and directed. One must practice with attention to detail and an open and critical mindset. Practice should not be taken lightly, it is the foundation of success. “All practice takes hard work but not all-hard work is practice.” Practice helps not only develop the skill but also the mindset of success.

It’s not always fun: 

Truth be told, training, practice, preparation and the process is not always enjoyable and it should not be. The essence is the moment, being present and be challenged. Moving the body and mind in a healthy way requires learning how to do so. Most skills take time and have a significant learning curve. Many of the tasks along this curve will be less than enjoyable and leave you wondering if its worth it. I can say that if it is important enough then yes its worth it. Its not always the goal that we are chasing but we don’t often understand this until we are deep into the process and training. As Bruce Lee famously said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”



S.M.A.R.T., Structured, Progressive Training = Results

In some circles the idea of progressive training is rather poo poo’d. While there is a case to be made for those whom choose to do as they wish rather than plan, I am a big believer in planning and preparation.

First lets start with a simple idea known as S.M.A.R.T., a method used for goal setting.


I have rarely if ever met an athlete of any caliber whom did not wish to improve their performance. Whether this be a 1 rep max, a time related goal, etc. most if all athletes train with the idea of getting better. What I know the best athletes in the world is they all have a plan in place to do exactly this. There is little left to chance or error. Minuscule details and 100th’s of seconds can be the difference between gold and no medal at all. I believe this point is clearly evident in many sports especially observed in the Olympic events such as track and field, swimming, ice skating, skiing, gymnastics, etc. And what must also be noted is not always does the ‘best athlete’ or even the ‘best prepared’ athlete win.

The reason this topic came to my attention was a bit of self reflection. While I am not competing on a particular stage, I am always competing in the gym and training against myself. I have specific goals with easily measurable aspects and achievable outcomes available. All of these goals and potential outcomes require attention to detail and very specific programming. While there is room to play and have fun, this is just more part of the process and something enable as such. And just to be clear, achieving goals is fun.

So looking at my numbers over the last number of months and even couple years I have specific examples of measurable and achievable goals I have reached and continue to surpass to new goals which are as a result of prior outcomes.

Example 1 is the Kettlebell 1 arm Swing. For the past 3 years, nearly every Saturday I have done some sort of variation in terms of reps, sets and weight with this movement. The programming is done by our Coach Mark Reifkind and as he will tell you we PR nearly every week in some way or fashion. In laymen terms we are consistently improving our performance and it is backed in real effort and numerical statistics. And note we have successfully completed each test day over the length of this timeframe.


Example 2 is the Deadlift. Since July of 2016 I started back on a deadlift program. It has been 6 years since my last program cycle which resulted in a PR of 560lbs. My current program is based of a specific rep number and total each week based of a percentage of my PR which I most recently achieved. At the end of my 5 week cycle I will attempt a new PR which at this point I have successfully achieved at the end of cycle. Note the last lines 455, 481.5 and planned PR attempt have yet to be completed at this time. What is important is that regardless I will do the work at 455 and 481.5 and take a 545 minimum attempt because this is the planned work and end of this cycle, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.


(Notations ex: 70% for 1 rep every 30 sec x 15 reps. The black numbers aka 7/19 is the date of the lift). What these numbers show is the importance of planning and setting realistic goals. Also, the first cycle was arbitrary meaning I choose to work off what I felt was reasonable considering my past and present. Cycle 2 I simply added 20lbs to each week sans week 4 where I wanted to feel a bit more weight as an specific adaptation. Cycle 3 (515lb) and 4 (535lb) are based of the cycle 2 and 3 PR’s respectively. This will be the case for cycle 5 and beyond.

Example 3 is Gymnastics. Currently I am following the gymnastics bodies foundations program. Since June of this year I have spent an average of 5 days a week training progressions and movements based off the programmed laid out before me. I have had to be humble and patient to allow my body to adapt to the physical demands and stressors of not only the current movements but what lies ahead. I have a specifics goals, with a measurable program which has set out achievable results. This program is far from easy, quite demanding on time and getting more so as I continue to improve. And, yes week by week I just get better setting more PR’s and most important improving my competence in the movements.


The point of this article and the examples to show how Smart planning and programming in a progressive manner produces true results. Week by week, training session by training session I know I am getting better. This is not just by feel but by specific application of in terms of numerical performance, statistics and overall physical performance. Setting PR’s of week in and week out feels great and it is truly a testament to my training and the planning. And yes it is simple progressive resistance training based of real numbers. I realize this approach to movement and training is not the most appealing due to the structure, it does produce results.

A personal philosophy of mine is to simple to work to get a little bit better everyday in all aspects of my life. Having structure and goals helps to make this possible as does having a tremendous support system and coaching. As a coach myself I value the expertise of other coaches and thus use their wisdom and experience to help guide me along my path. The commonality amongst my 2 coaches is they both come from a gymnastics background and know and understand the value of structure, planning and preparation. The results speak for themselves.



Why Iyengar Yoga is Perfect for Athletes

What is Iyengar Yoga

In short Iyengar yoga focuses on proper form and alignment of the body in yoga Postures. It incorporates tools such as blocks, straps, blankets and more to help people find their optimal position. In addition, more advanced practitioners of the practice are further instructed on breathing principles which are keys to deeper effects within the practice.

What you need to Know

Think of this a deep and prolonged stretching series that focuses on increasing flexibility, range of motion and overall muscular balance to the body. Most athletes suffer in some form or another in all 3 of the above. The Iyengar practice is an active practice where the athlete uses the bodies innate kinesthetic, anatomical and bio-mechanical principles to effectively stretch the body. While the postures make appear to be static they are far from. Using the concept of reciprocal inhibition and contract/relax such as in PNF techniques, the individual is meant to pay attention to the finer details and actively create the posture.

Athletes Do Not Need Another Workout

Athletes do not need more workouts therefore practices such as Vinyasa, Power or Bikram Yoga are not suited for their needs. All athletes have specific needs and it is important to provide them with the postures that suit. In the Iyengar system, the Teacher can pick the appropriate postures to address the needs. In addition, the deeper and more prolonged stretching will help to active the parasympathetic nervous system creating a relaxing feel and a gentle active recovery.


Athletes in general need far more specific work, much greater attention to detail within the work and generally simpler not more complex movements and instruction. We as Coaches and Sports Medicine Practitioners do not need to step beyond the basics to effectively address the challenges 95% of the Athletes and People we treat face in the Orthopedic side. Any movement provides the opportunity to be therapeutic, it is our ability to effectively teach and translate to the individual and their ability to do as asked that often determine the success. Iyengar Yoga is a system that allows us Practitioners to put our Athletes in positions that address common issues.

Components of Training, Forming a Strong Foundation

Below is a list of some essential components of training. As an athlete of all levels it is important that we have a strong awareness and foundation of these components. Training and competing is more than just showing up and doing the work. We must have rhyme and reason behind what we do. If not it is more than likely we will under perform, injury ourselves, burn out, etc. I like to think of training as a life long journey. Along the path it is likely that we will learn new methods, approaches, techniques, sports, philosophies and the like. Whatever it is we do it must be steeped and rooted in an underlying philosophical approach to success and integration. The foundation which we build is the key to the additions we will add throughout our life. Having a solid foundation is the key to building a strong and well integrated structure of varying physical activities, movements, sports, etc. Here are a few things that come to mind.


Elite level athletes follow the simple concept of progression. If your not progressing your digressing and in the world of athletics and in general this is a bad idea. Tudor Bompa does a fantastic job teaching how to program a progressive program for optimal performance. He gives you the framework and concepts. Additionally, it is my professional opinion that the conjugate method is the best for the majority of athletes who are in the lifting world of sport and athletics. This system was Developed and fostered in the old Soviet Union and popularized for good reason and measure by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, in this case the numbers. We must plan and execute for success and in order to do this we must have a system in place that addresses our strengths and weaknesses with the overall goal in mind. Progress does not happen by guessing and hoping, it is determined with an overall picture of the goal and the work that needs to be done to get there.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same results. In training this rings true. Again looking at progression and the conjugate method as an example of, they embrace the idea of change. It is crucial that ones program and movement is in a constant state of change. Variation, stimulating and learning new movements, changing weights, reps, rest, etc. Are all part of variation and progressive adaptation. For instance, one does not squat the same weight for the same reps and sets week in a week out. This would lead to a negative adaptation if continued for  any length of time. The body is like layers, it will build and add upon itself and will need appropriate stimulus to do so.
Pattern identification
We must understand that the body moves in patterns and sequencing. We have to understand what it is we are working to achieve and be sure to enhance that particular pattern and sequence with our training. Weaknesses must be known and addressed but we must never forget where our strengths lie in the process.
Your weakest link
The old adage says, one is only as strong as their weakest link. How true it is. If for instance you have weak hamstrings this will have a direct effect on your ability to sprint, squat, Deadlift, clean, etc. A program should honor the individuals strengths and weaknesses. The program should see the body as a pattern of sequencing with a chain reaction. If one of the links of the chain, or the sequence fails to fire correctly the body will be compromised and unavailable to attain true peak potential and performance.
Form and function matter
In order to function at your highest level and achieve maximal results from your efforts you need perfect form. This is especially true in sports like track and field, gymnastics, ballet, martial arts, etc. But it is also true in sports where we attempt to achieve max effort lifts such as Weightlifting, Power-lifting, and even Crossfit. If you move better you will be more efficient and this will enable more movement potential as you will expend less energy. These two principles flow together to form perfection.
Technique is key to success
As the above states, technique is the difference. If you look at sports other than Track, gymnastics, Weightlifting, etc. and take a look at Crossfit and its top competitors you will see they move heavier weights/loads more efficiently. This is due to their technical ability and law of specificity in training context. But as we discuss technique, even in Crossfit technique is the one of the key differences between the best and the rest. Just watch Athletes like Rich Froning and Julie Foucher.
Breath matters
Breath into your diaphragm activating your deep core muscles and creating a stable environment for your spine and his enhancing your “core strength”. Remember where you have ribs, you have lungs this means your breath circulates around the whole body. Coordinating breath and movement is another crucial aspect. You must learn and know how to breath for the movement. For instance with a squat, we inhale as we squat and exhale at or on the rise.
Rest is the missing link:
I love how people are really pushing the limits and testing human potential. From pro athletes, Crossfitters, Ultra Endurance athletes, etc. Humans are pushing into new areas of performance. Another key to optimizing this performance is rest. This includes sleep and rest days from training. The body and the brain need a break. If you listen carefully to your body it will tell you via a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors it needs rest….I.e. Elevated heart, insomnia signs, low energy, poor appetite, injury, slow recovery, etc. A good program and coach will be sure to include rest into the plan and hopefully avoid these factors that signal towards overtraining.
Listen to your body
Yes, your body is really smart and it will clearly communicate to your brain what it needs. Most likely we fail to observe and listen and this gets us in trouble. This is less of an issue with elite athletes whom are being coached. The challenge I have seen is the non professional who is competing at a high level in sports like crossfit, triathlons, marathons, etc. All these sports almost allow one to overtrain easily simply due to variation.
Mind over Matter
Physical ability is one thing but the difference between great and good is in the mind. Training in itself is a process of mental preparation and training. The old saying goes that training should be harder than competition. This is certainly true as far as I am concerned. Competition has so many unknown and unfamiliar variables that present potential distractions, the last thing we want is too feel unprepared physically and mentally. Now, as a coach and athlete we should always understand and prepare for the unknown to minimize distraction and optimize performance, this also goes along with the mind over matter. It is not just physical!

Simple & Short Series of Movements To Stretch The Psoas

This series is a great series for stretching the Psoas. The key is how we use the body in the series to strengthen and stretch the hips as a whole. Often times the gluteals, in particular the Gluteus Maximus is ineffective at doing its job. In this series it is crucial that the Gluteus Maximus performs properly in order to help release the Psoas. This relationship is crucial for the hips in terms of Bio-Mechanics and healthy function. So, we are not only ‘stretching’ but we are strengthening as well. Most important a consistent practice and use of these methods will help develop the all too important neuro-muscular coordination and function of the hip complex and more.

What you may also notice is mention of the core, the concept of squeezing the legs together, the use of the Lats and more. These are crucial concepts for proper function of the body on the whole. Yoga and this practice is Physical Therapy. Practice this and your body will thank you. Some of the concepts may seem esoteric therefore finding a good Yoga teacher may be helpful.

Psoas Short Series

Why I Train, A 40 year olds Shifting Perspective

I suppose this is an honest question worth asking myself, especially at 40. Maybe even more so why do I train the way I do which includes following a structured plan (albeit with room for play and learning new things), with a focus and intensity aimed at improving, and as an integral part of my existence.

First things first: At 40 structure is important.
This does not mean I cannot go out and have fun and play around because that is included in my structure. Meaning that my training helps me to be ready to do just about anything or activity. But mostly I train structured because of the need to stay healthy physically in terms of joints, muscle aches and the like, the need to minimize stress on my body and my mind, and to continue to adapt and improve. So, recovery and performance are the dictators of my strategy, structure and plan.
The simple truth is at 40, with a lifetime of sports under my belt I am more conscious of the long term prospects. I feel fit, strong, flexible and capable. I am consistent, dedicated and enjoying the process. And I feel healthy mentally and physically. I have no need to be a pro athlete, a super athlete, etc. if anything I am now focused on helping others get to their goals.
Intensity and Focus:
I have a choice on any given day to train or not. Too me training is a microcosm of life. I am in the gym not just to exercise but as a deeper look into my spirit, my humanity, my person. To me sport is a microcosm of the life we live. I feel professionally it is best to lead by example. I would not ask of others (unless pro athletes) what I would not ask of myself. I have been fortunate to personally experience many realms of sport and I believe this helps me to better understand how to coach others.
Training is also a deep meditation for me. My intensity and focus are an opportunity in that moment to be one with myself. My mind quiets and I take all those years of moving into that moment to get the best and most of that moment and myself. This ties into structure and the idea of practice makes perfect. Indeed it does or at least brings one closer to perfection. It is evident in factors such as weight, sets, reps, time, technique, etc. For example when I roll out my mat to do yoga I know the poses, I have been there countless times so I am able to actually flow and dig into a deeper awareness and state of consciousness within the pose both mentally and physically. This is also no different with lifting weights, and other sports. Practice brings about an ease and that intensity and focus is part of being skilled and able to embrace the moment and feel at one with it and that activity at hand. Nothing seems separate and all seems connected.
Integral Part of Life:
As elluded to above, training is an opportunity for me to enhance my being not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. It is in these times as an athlete or during my training and practice that I learn so much about myself and others. It is a way to exert energy, exercise away stress, spend quality time with friends, have fun with your partner, share a platform with your buddies, spend time with your dog, etc. So much of my life personally and professionally revolves around training, sport, exercise, health, wellness, etc. I have chosen this path and I love it. I met my wife and best friend as a result of being part of this world. I have numerous quality people in my life as a result. And I am fortunate to make a living and be able to afford to live and have time to do  what I enjoy as a result. As I said above, training is a microcosm of life.
Another facet which cannot be ignored is the fact that I have as long as I can remember been a curious person with an adventurous personality. I enjoy learning and experiencing life in all facets and means. As a result I have been fortunate to walk many varied path and experience many a varied thing. I have travelled the world, accomplished 3 degrees including 2 Masters and all in different topics; I have studied and learned professionally with and from some of the top names and the list goes on. It is not this list or the list itself that matters. What the list shows is again how everything is a microcosm of my self, the person I be. This helps explain in large part why I chose the life I have and continue to do.
Of course a key aspect of my life is marriage. I must always consult and take into consideration my wife, where as earlier on in my life this was not the case. I have found my wife by in large to be supportive but also keep a healthy perspective on us and our larger goals. The best part is I can satisfy my curiosity and adventurous spirit in my everyday existence and part of this is training. I certainly desire to rekindle my love affair with nature which means more hiking, trail runs and mountain biking versus time in the gym. Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient and the Sun and being in nature certainly fulfills this.
At 40 I feel healthy, fit, flexible and free to just enjoy the process. I do not feel the need to prove, accomplish, win, compete, etc. I am more curious to dig deep within and continue to explore the depths of my being. I hope to be a father and as so be able to lead by example. I suppose I would be lying if I did not say that I hope our kids have a similar love as my wife and I do for fitness, sport, and health.

Principles of Corrective Movement & Therapeutic Exercise

Principles of Corrective Movement & Therapeutic Exercise: It’s all about Anatomy and Biomechanics 

The human body does not lie, it is up to us, the clinician to discover and see the truth.

1. It’s all about relationships

It comes back to anatomy and biomechanics. The body is an interlinked system aka connected albeit joints, tendons, muscles, organs, etc. understand the relationships, understand the movement mechanics and you have begun to solve the puzzle.

2. It’s all linked.

Yes we are made up of connnective tissue and thus must understand a connective tissue disorder in one area is bound to reach beyond to a much larger area. Again biomechanics, anatomy and relationships.

The picture below is a great example of the interconnected dynamics of the body. I use the plank as a tool to teach and understand how the body integrates and then further apply to other movements. The cues for example are looking at how the shoulder girdle connects to the hip girdle including the role of the navel; how the hips girdle connects to the knees and how the action of squeezing the legs ever so slightly together enhances this; and how the knees connect to the ankles. This is only a small sample and goes much further but sets the tone for a deeper understanding of the body in action.


3. Use the best method and tool for the job to produce the result. 

The better ones understanding the better equipped to successful do the job. More is not better, better is better.

4. There is no magic & no tricks.

The body is logical and works accordingly. Understand the anatomy, biomechanics, relationships and modalities application as such as you are that much closer to getting the results.

5. Make it applicable.

Understand what it is the person does in sport, work, sleep, and daily life. Besides history which helps provide framework, I want to put them in position, teach them the position and cue them within the position. I do not just release the pain & rehab I also teach in particular the how to of what it takes to do the movement aka anatomy and biomechanics. A educated patient and client means they are more likely to succeed and never return because they are healthy movers.



Inspired by a conversation with friends I decide to look within myself to better understand what motivates me to train my body and mind.

I think back to my younger days as a youth into college and my early 20’s to 30’s and it was clear, I was an athlete competing in sports. This made motivation easy. But, truth be told I never understood when I was competing what it took to be my best. Because of this I never achieved anywhere near my potential. Today, through years of competing, coaching and training I have a much different understanding of what it takes to achieve ones personal best as an athlete.

First, I do not consider myself a competitive athlete in terms of competing in a sport. What I am is competitive within myself. I am interested in learning, exploring and experiencing all sorts of different fitness and athletic endeavors. Currently I am learning the sport of Weightlifting and have put a focus on these particular movements. Highly technical and skilled movements they take a tremendous amount of energy, time and focus which I am glad to dedicate. Because I am not competing in a meet anytime soon I continue to practice my yoga and others forms of movements.

One thing I have embraced is the idea of enjoying the process. As a friend said to me, we are healthy and fit and it is a privilege to be so, therefore we should train and explore. I could not agree more, it is a privilege to be of sound mind and healthy body.

Another aspect comes to be a role model for my patients, clients and students. I am a firm believer in actions more so than words. We are inundated with words these days with ample forms of content available. I, personally cherish forming relationships and the direct contact I have with people both as a student and a teacher/practitioner/coach. Therefore, as a student I reach out and do my best to learn from others in all forms of movement.

But I understand my true motivation is intrinsic. I do this for me, myself as I value and appreciate  the internal effects I receive from being disciplined, studied, and consistent. I value exploring the depths of my person inside and out. I value that I will one day be a role model for my wife Sara and I’s children. I value my wife and want to be healthy physically, emotionally and mentally in order to be the best friend, husband, father, partner possible. Movement not only keeps my physical body healthy but also my mental and emotional states of being. This is why yoga and meditation are so crucial for my well being.

Note, I am of the meditation concept along the lines of Vipassana. To quote Gil Forsdal “Insight meditation aka Vipassana is nothing more mysterious than developing our ability to pay attention to our immediate experience.” This is the idea of mindfulness or concentration/focus on the moment and the task at hand. For those of who train or have competed you most likely know of this feeling even if never described as such or understood in this manner. When I move I feel very connected to the moment and use it as a way to build my meditation practice.

This is why when I train I enjoy distractions. These distractions challenge me to stay in the present moment and focused on the task. I believe this is a valuable tool for any athlete to develop as 99% of the time you will compete in an foreign environment surrounded by all sorts of distractions. The athlete must not allow these to interfere with their task at hand.

It is conceivable that I will one day compete in a game, on a platform or in a race. Maybe it will be for fun or maybe it will be because of a higher goal of testing myself, whatever it is, it is the process and journey to the depths of myself that interest me most. Sure, I love seeing big numbers, feeling more fit, getting better, etc. these are absolutely wonderful experiences and things I believe that should naturally come with right action aka consistency, health, discipline and a good program design. Nothing beats the feeling of inner peace for me and the love I have for my family, my clients/patients/students and my simple peace that I am of a sound mind and healthy body.