3 Tips to Choosing a Fitness Professional For Your Exercise and Health Goals

What makes a fitness professional worth the investment?  Working out on a few machines every week isn’t that difficult right?  Adjust the settings to your size, figure out a weight to do 10 reps with for a couple sets, and you transform into a fitness model in 30 days or less guaranteed!  That’s what social media and advertisements have you to believe.

Since I was a early teenager I have been attracted to working out.  Even though I played soccer most of my life along with other sports growing up, weight training was something I knew I needed for better athletic performance and because I had little self-confidence as a thin kid.  As most teen boys wanted, I also had the desires to bulk up and look HUGE!  All I needed was to lift a bunch of heavy weights, read some bodybuilding magazines, and instant massive physique! Wrong.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Finally, at the age of 18 I received my first gym membership after working out in my room with a curl bar and doing push-ups and pull-ups.  Unfortunately, I still had no idea what I was really doing until I studied for and became a personal trainer in 2008.  I went 15 years of bumbling along reading only the same bodybuilding magazines as a guide.  Let me guess, you have done basically the same thing with some kind of magazine and now YouTube sensation to guide you.  I’m willing to bet a large sum of money you also are still clueless and have not achieved what you want regarding your athletic performance and overall health.

A fitness professional is an investment, no doubt.  Remember that fitness professionals also made an investment in themselves by spending $400-$500 on a certification, sometimes multiple certifications.  Plus, they have continuing education credits to maintain that certification, which are also a financial investment.  Fitness professionals are not just the biggest guys and hottest girls in the gym. 

How do you know who to invest in for your health and fitness goals?  I’ll share with you three characteristics of a good fitness professional.

  • Relationship oriented: they show a true interest in their clients beyond taking their money.  You truly matter to them beyond the 30 or 60 minutes a couple times per week.
  • They are a product of their product: they “look” the part and enjoy being fit.  A fitness professional doesn’t have to be the biggest, fastest, strongest, and best looking, they do need to exemplify a healthy, active lifestyle. 
  • Their own workouts are similar to what you enjoy: fitness professionals train others similarly to how they workout, it’s being human.  Watch them and see if you gravitate to their style.

Not all clients stay with the same professional, and that is fine.  Work with a few until you feel comfortable.  Ask them questions about their experiences both in fitness and life overall.  If you’re a 55- year-old male, a 27-year-old female may not understand what’s going on in your stage of life.  The relationship has to be win-win.  Fitness professionals are also counselors because our clients are in a vulnerable state and they feel comfortable sharing about their lives.  Being able to trust each other is crucial for maintaining a long-term relationship.

You are investing in their knowledge and expertise to get you where you have not been able to go.  If you’re health is worth it, then hiring a fitness professional is worth it.  Just like having a CPA.  Sure, you can do your own taxes, is it worth the risk of fines, penalties, and levies if the job isn’t done right?  Only you know the answer to that.  Your health is the same risk assessment.

For questions about my experiences with clients, email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Go to my website and learn how to be on the Athlete in the Game of Life Team to receive a FREE copy of my book.

Moderation Examples, Not Extreme Behavior to Achieve Your Resolutions

Extreme right wing, extreme left wing.  Extreme heat, extreme cold.  Obesity, anorexia.  Overuse injuries, injuries from underutilization.

When it comes to new health and fitness goals, extremes are way to common for January resolutions.  Waking up at 5:00AM to run 3 miles when you never wakeup before 6:00AM and haven’t run since PE in high school.  Drop 40 pounds on a liquid diet in 15 days, and you barely drink 3 glasses of water per day.  What are the odds of success in these situations?  Not much.

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

As a fitness industry expert, I have personally gone through different extremes with my body.  None of these extremes have ever lasted long for many reasons.  The body and mind cannot deal with depravation and over training for long periods of time without injuries.  What has lasted is a moderation of healthy lifestyle habits and activities that I enjoy.  The lessons learned from training for a bodybuilding contest and elite level obstacle course races, helps me maintain a fitness level that works for my personality and body type.

  • “I need someone to be super strict with me or I’ll never lose weight.”
  • “I have to workout for two hours every day.”
  • “I’m cutting all carbs from my diet and eating only meat.”

Do any of these statements make you nod your head in agreement?  If so, has that thought process worked for you beyond the length of a program/diet/contest?  If the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second is no.  You have reverted back to your previous self and feel like a failure for doing so.  This cyclic behavior is self-destructive and why your resolutions never work every year.

Regardless if you started and stopped already, or haven’t started yet, try a new moderate approach to changing your lifestyle.

  • No alcohol Sunday-Thursday
  • Replace soft drinks with flavored mineral water
  • Join a group to try new physical activities like hiking or cycling

In an article on NPR about a Swedish study on factors that help keep resolutions, ones that are for pleasurable activities instead of depriving are more successful.  Moderation in your lifestyle can lead to better choices overall.  Look at choices about exercise and food changes with an “if I do x, then I adjust y”.  For example, you’re going to dinner with friends on Thursday night.  Adjust your breakfast and lunch choices to allow for anything you want at dinner.  You fully enjoy the outing without guilt and still on track for your goals. 

NPC Physique competition 2014

Life is meant to be lived, not constantly have the fun taken away.  For 6 years I have maintained body fat percentage around 10% or less.  I don’t skip meals, turn down alcohol, or workout excessively.  The hard work was done during the bodybuilding contest prep.  Since then, I learned that is not the lifestyle for me.  Overall, I don’t drink sodas, keep alcohol to the weekends, and don’t buy sugary foods at the grocery store.  Total calories I eat are more than most people daily, the food is just not processed and full of fat. 

2021 doesn’t feel much different so far than 2020.  What you can take into the new year is a more focused view on your health and fitness to strengthen your immunity and reduce risk factors for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.  In turn, you will be happier and have more self-confidence to take on the challenges 2021 will bring you.

For help with your goals, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Join the Athlete in the Game of Life Team on my website and receive a free copy of my book!

On Your Butt and In Pain – From My Book The Athlete in the Game of Life

I have a client who has no choice — she has to sit on the job.

That’s because she’s an amputee who lost her left lower leg in a lawn mower accident as a child. She now works in medicine, assisting surgeries for most of the day and in her office for the remaining hours—and during all that time, she’s sitting. When she started experiencing pain because of it, she came to me. Since I’m a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I was able to assess and work with her in addressing the dysfunction in her hips and hamstrings, the result of prolonged sitting.

Many fitness trainers, however, ignore those particular muscles. They’re used to guys who want to bulk up the upper half of their bodies and women who focus on glutes, quadriceps, triceps, and anything abdominal related. So, I felt gratified and validated when my client showed me an article in a magazine dedicated to helping amputees in all aspects of life. The article suggested all the exercises I had her do in previous sessions to increase mobility and strength in her hamstrings and hips — and she was impressed that I knew to focus on those muscles, since I had never worked with an amputee before.  I told her it was simply a result of all my experience working with executives and other individuals who were relatively sedentary — I learned over time where the physical problems hit the hardest and how to correct those imbalances.

It all centers on the hips. From an evolution standpoint, we weren’t built to sit for long periods of time. Your muscles have to work overtime to support it, and you end up stretching hamstring muscles, tightening your quadriceps and remodeling your hips. Also, nerves can become compressed and common issues such as sciatica (back pain) can occur.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

When you stop sitting and decide to get upright, you’ve got more potential problems on your hands — or more accurately, in your hips. When you go to stand up, you end up trying to put the pelvis back into a standing position and some of these muscles get irritated and strained in the process. Lower back pain is a frequent result. The hips, while often overlooked, are critical to your body’s alignment of your legs and torso. They must be strong to do that job — but sitting weakens them and gravity suddenly becomes your worst enemy. Your legs will collapse inward, put pressure on your kneecaps and eventually cause flat feet.

But at any rate, now you’re standing. When you go ahead and take a step, however, and the hips are no longer strong enough to hold themselves up, you end up with hip pain. Meanwhile, the lower back tries to take some of the burden off the hips — and that’s not good for the lower back. The pain that results travels up the spine and in your neck. And you can also end up throwing out your lower back.

All of this negatively affects your posture, because you’re twisting your muscles into positions they don’t much care for. Those muscles become strained and it creates more weakness in your body.

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

The fact is mobility in the hips is key to movement in all directions. The glutes are the largest muscle of the body and responsible for producing power when you squat, lunge, jump, swing a golf club, pick up a bag of mulch, and all other movements related to bending at the knee and lowering your hips. All those movements become much more difficult when your hips lack the strength and flexibility to function properly. As you grow older, you begin to have basic balance issues and falls are the unfortunate result. I actually see this developing in people as young as their early 40’s!

To order my book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, go to my website mattpeale.com and click the banner at the top. You can also download my free report on back pain to enter for a free signed copy of my book. You win either way!

Consumer Shift in the Fitness Industry as Gyms Reopen

Gyms, health clubs, and fitness facilities were among the first businesses, along with bars and restaurants, to be closed in March for the Coronavirus pandemic.  As a personal trainer working in gyms and health clubs since 2008, my world flipped upside down literally overnight.

Over the past few months, home gym equipment has leaped off the shelves of big box stores and backordered for months from online retailers.  Amazon delayed any shipping of fitness equipment until mid-May and into June.  Companies like Peloton are now having record breaking sales with people forced into purchasing higher priced items from continued gym closures and reduced capacity once reopening begins.

at home senior exercise

National and local gyms, and personal trainers of all types have taken to offering free or reduced-price classes to keep members and clients plugged in.  The health club I work at in the New Orleans area also took and is still taking part to an extent, with this model.  With a set of light to medium dumbbells, gym goers can do body pump, Zumba, yoga, cardio kickboxing, etc., from the comfort of their living room any time of day.

#Reopening.  Along with other businesses, gyms are now faced with decisions on how to reopen “safely” at 25-30% capacity in most states.  Some states as of this blog are already up to 50%.  Social distancing and sanitation/hand cleaning requirements also add into the mix for attracting members to come back.  To be honest, most of the sanitation issues have been rules posted in gyms for decades.  Members did not follow these rules and yet somehow aside from an occasional cold or flu, everyone miraculously survived over the decades.

While you may think people are lining up to pack the gym at its reduced capacity on day one, you are sadly mistaken.  Fear still dominates members’ minds even though guidelines are in place.  Realistically, it’s not possible for some of the guidelines to be implemented.  What do members do with all the home gym equipment and accessories they invested in?  Using their membership is great, yet a new routine has taken hold over the past 60 days and now is entrenching into a habit.  Free online classes are still available.  Older members are remaining at home.  Childcare is still closed for a little while longer.  Food services and gatherings for coffee or lunch are still off limits.  Personal trainers also remain furloughed in some health clubs or are making more money traveling to clients’ homes.

Fit and healthy people have stronger immune systems, regardless of age, and are more resilient to bounce back from illness.  Unfortunately, this was and is overlooked by public health, and an industry that literally can save lives, is currently in the doghouse as a den of Covid filth.  Many larger health clubs will feel the economic sting more than smaller ones.  Large health clubs have higher overhead, higher dues, and require more employees to operate.  Small gyms like an Anytime Fitness, typically have minimal to no staff, and at primetime, are still way under the fire marshal 25-30% capacity.  Could the fitness industry see a shift away from high-end, large footprint health club back to smaller boutique or franchised business plans?

A small footprint doesn’t require childcare, group classes, paid training staff, and food services.  Membership costs are low and 24/7 access from a network of locations may make these now more attractive than ever for investors, and members seeking to reduce personal expenses.  A market will always exist for higher incomes wanting perks and the latest in gadgets, classes, and equipment.  What happens to the remaining 80% of potential gym goers who are evaluating their options?  Time will tell the changes in consumer confidence and tastes for what they desire.  The gym landscape has shifted indeed.

“New Normal” at Gyms? Nope, Impossible! Old Works Just Fine, Time to Reopen

“New normal,” a phrase the media throws around to cause shock n’ awe with the public.  Does this phrase truly mean anything long lasting for gyms and health clubs?  The answer is no.

A gym is full of equipment spaced apart just enough to maximize total number of machines, dumbbell racks, benches, etc.  People need people close by to spot them for safety.  These attributes are diametrically opposite of “social distancing”.  While phase 1 (whatever that means) says people have to stay six feet or more apart and only a limited number of members inside, let’s not get into wearing masks while working out, everyone knows that is not possible.  Phase 2 (whatever that means) allows for more people inside and some other freedoms to socially interact.  How many phases are there?  Who knows?

The reality is gyms and health clubs are social places.  Close contact and body contact are standard modes of operations for members.  Germs are everywhere due to constant touching of equipment, sweat, and temperature of the room.  Cleaning everything by employees after each use is impossible and impractical.  Self-policing by members to wipe down equipment is and has been on every gym’s rules since the dawn of time.  How many people follow this rule?  Not many.  Sure, they will in the beginning, then taper off and back to the “old normal”.  What is truly amazing is how many people are not sick with colds, flus, and viruses on a regular basis from all the shared touching.  It’s called herd immunity and has worked for decades.  Hmmmm, maybe there’s a lesson to learn there, but politicians, media, and “Karens” don’t want to admit this.

When gyms open their doors, social distancing rules will go out the window within a couple weeks if not days.  Charging members full amounts while limiting their access is a recipe for disaster.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget the number of employees needed to run a facility.  You have to add those body counts into the total number allowed on premise.  And one more factor, childcare.  The small humans don’t take up a lot of space, but they do count towards total bodies in an area.  In America, restrictions on our freedoms do not bode well.  Restricting usage for a paying membership population also doesn’t bode well.

On a side note, one of the preventative measures for contracting COVID-19 needs to be gym use and nutrition counseling!  It’s the elephant in the room the media isn’t addressing, go figure.  Obesity + Coronavirus = DEATH.

What is the “new normal” for gym operations?  There is none.  Gyms will be packed shoulder-to-shoulder the first opportunity to be opened.  A stampede and mutiny will happen by all the full paying members who are denied access.  Time to move forward and allow the healthy population to stay healthy.  The immune system of a gym goer is stronger than the average person and needs to be on the forefront of everything health related.  We get sick less and for less duration because of our health condition.  To truly make a difference and get the economy going, the new normal is the old normal for gyms and health clubs.  Reopen them at full strength and include government encouragement to join one.  It is a fact among humans and all animal populations, the strong do survive and create a stronger next generation.  The CDC can’t deny and change what millions of years of earth history has shown and continues to show.

New, welcome back old.  More things change, the more they stay the same.

Changing Your Rate of Aging

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, or the beer can doesn’t fall far from the trailer.  This is fairly true on our personality and behavior characteristics but doesn’t have to be so with our physical health.  In a recent study by Professor Michael Snyder, he identified four ageotypes based on health factors.  A common link between them are the controllable factors of diet and exercise that can help identify and reduce specific risk factors.  While your mother has high blood pressure, you can make changes to lower yours even though you have a genetic predisposition.

Lifestyle is a 100% choice regardless of what’s in your wallet.  The healthy and unhealthy purchases at the grocery store and daily physical activity levels are learned traits.  When you’re born, you don’t have a predetermined genetic type of foods that are assigned to you like eye color.  Your parents may choose high fat and sodium snacks for you a child, and of course you LEARN to like or not like them.  As an adult with a source of income, you can make different choices from all the information freely available to you online and in the free magazines at the store.  Because your parents are 40 lbs overweight does not require you to be also.

The choices made in your 40’s have a direct and significant impact on your physical and resulting cognitive health in your 60’s and on.  Identifying potential biomarkers that can lead to diabetes, stroke, cancer, and dementia in middle age will result in a higher quality of life 20-30 years from now.  The same impact is now heavily being affected in your children.  The habits you have today teach them how to shop, eat, and be active as they reach adulthood.  Give them help by helping yourself with healthier lifestyle choices.  Nothing is sadder than seeing three generations of obesity and knowing it’s all a conscious and voluntary choice.

For all of the information out there, Americans still are getting fatter with more health problems and wondering why medications are more expensive.  Is it laziness or denial or both?  Recognition and admission are the first steps to changing your ageotype, then you have to execute on the changes.  It really isn’t rocket science to stop eating high fat and ultra- processed carb foods.  Small adjustments now yield big changes and a happier existence in the future.  Your rate of aging can slow down to allow you more enjoyment with family and friends in years to come.  Additionally, your entire extended family reaps the benefits and may actually join you in helping themselves reduce their own aging rate.  Life is truly a win win at that point!

How to Participate in Active Classrooms Week December 9-13

Active Schools US is an amazing organization dedicated to promoting more PE and physical activity in schools across America.  I’m honored to sit on a work group that helps develop marketing for promoting campaigns regarding these important issues.  December 9-13 is Active Classrooms Week by Active Schools US.  It is dedicated to incorporating more physical activity into regular classrooms for all grade levels.  The best part of the campaign is that it’s free to participate!

An overwhelming majority of classroom teachers and school principals are fearful of introducing physical activity into standard classes.  While evidence confirms the contrary, current school practices frown on PE, recess, and anything that takes a child out of a desk.  Active Classrooms Week is the perfect opportunity for schools to experiment with various ways of introducing techniques, programs, and methods of including physical activity into normal classroom tasks.  Active Schools provides an online toolkit to help parents, teachers, and administrators have an enjoyable experience during the week.

A teacher and principal’s previous experience as a child with PE and recess play a vital role in why and why not, their school or class institutes physical activity.  These biases also include their current fitness level, lifestyle, and attitude on the importance of health in their own lives.  People do not like change as a general rule.  Starting this type of a program can be overwhelming to those who have unhealthy lifestyle habits.  What better opportunity than to learn and participate with their students in being more physically active.  The benefits of more physical activity are not limited to children.  Adults reap the results of physical activity in the same way with improved attendance at work, lower health costs, and less behavioral issues.

Why participate?

  • Active Kids Learn Better. Movement increases brain function. Physical activity increases blood flow which brings more oxygen, water and glucose to the brain and improves concentration. Physical activity also increases endorphins, which have a positive effect on mood.
  • If a child is sitting too long, they are missing out on vital movements that could help them learn.
  • Classroom physical activity helps K-12 students feel better, work together as a team, reduce anxiety and maintain focus.
  • Classroom teachers can contribute to their students’ need for the nationally recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day while simultaneously teaching and reinforcing academic concepts

Active Classrooms Week is also about community and sharing what you’re doing with others for motivation and inspiration.  Use #ThisIsYourBrainonMovement for all social media posts and tag Active Schools US whenever possible.  Old fashioned and grassroots methods of telling others can create fun and maybe friendly competition throughout the week.  Any school public or private, and all grade levels are welcome to join in.

If you’re not sure what to do, Movement Academy is offering FREE use of it’s Active Classroom Program for the week to any school that asks.  Email me, Matt Peale, at mpeale@movementacademy.net and I’ll set up your school with no obligation.  I believe in the science behind physical activity and movement both as a certified personal trainer and as a father.  Don’t let excuses exclude you and your school from taking the next step to enhance test scores and academic performance.  Active Classrooms Week December 9-13 is the difference maker for all students.

PE Teachers as Health Coaches

Health coach.  It’s a term used by almost everyone in the health, fitness, and wellness field to describe what they do or their actual title.  A health coach is not a graduate of any college or university, nor is it required to be certified in any type of health, fitness, or wellness training.  One vital occupation that fills the role of a health coach and gets none of the credit is a PE teacher.

In theory, and not always practice, a PE teacher is your first experience with anyone knowledgeable in health, fitness, sports, and wellness.  The elementary school PE teacher provides kids their initial dive into what being a healthy and fit person means.  Doing the job correctly means being a healthy and fit person yourself as a role model, and consistently learning how to make a larger impact on the health, fitness, and wellness of your students.  Unfortunately, this view is not currently taken by PE teachers, administrators, parents, and students.

From a business standpoint, many network marketing companies instruct their distributors to label themselves as health coaches to describe their work in selling nutritional supplements.  Yes, I have worked in that business arena extensively in the past.  Truthfully, a network marketer has more nutrition education and information than a PE teacher, which is extremely sad!  PE teachers receive minimal to no education and professional development about nutrition and healthy eating to share with their students.  Have you seen the childhood obesity problem?  The lack of education given to kids is a significant part of the problem as they become adults with buying power.  The CDC says barely 56% of health teachers across the United States even receive professional development on nutrition at all.  FYI, health teacher and PE teacher are not always the same person.

My company Movement Academy recently conducted a PD for a New Orleans area school district’s PE teachers.  As a personal trainer I can give guidelines and general facts about healthy eating and macro nutrients, but no specific diet recommendations.  The teachers in our sessions were generally clueless about healthy eating and discussed little to nothing with their students.  They all agreed overweight and poorly fueled kids are an issue yet didn’t think their jobs were to give students any insight.  That blew my mind!  Physical education is not about dodge ball, kickball, and only sports.  Healthy eating is crucial to overall physical fitness and on the same level as teaching movement skills before sports skills.

Here’s a thought, change the title from elementary school PE teacher to elementary school health coach.  Make it incentive pay based on health assessments and indicators of the students in a school.  Who cares how far a kid can throw the football, what is his disease risk factors score.  Is he a candidate for type 2 diabetes and heart disease?  The health coach not doing his or her job doesn’t receive the top pay.  That’ll get some of the roll out the ball PE teachers actually doing their job!  The teachers may even speak up and have their school leadership pay for worthwhile professional development to help them hit their incentives.  And oh btw, academic performance and attendance just tripled while behavioral issues dropped by 50% under such a program.

“Hi, kids!  I’m Mr. Matt, your health coach this year.  We are starting every class with a cheer about healthy eating.  After that we are learning some awesome skills together so you can have more fun and energy!  First, everyone has to smile and be ready to move.  Ready, here we go!”

Pill Popping: There is a Better Way for Good Health

Remember the handful of pills your grandparents used to take on a daily basis?  Maybe you played with their pill boxes to store Legos, doll parts, or a myriad of other small objects.  You didn’t think one day those pill boxes could be yours and your parents.  Unfortunately, if you’re similar to the majority of Americans who don’t take care of their health, living out of a pill box is a reality.

Today doctors prescribe medicine at an alarming rate for every ache, pain, possible condition, prevention of conditions, and for the hell of it.  A pill brings you up, another down, and another one in case the other two didn’t work.  Instead of treating the root cause, doctors are trained to treat symptoms in the name of good health.  Have you seen the health level of your doctor?  That’s another story for another day.

With obesity and type 2 diabetes linked, more medicines are being developed to give you an alibi for making bad lifestyle choices.  Yes, pills are like rabbits and multiply quickly with continued poor decisions over years of living.  I’m not talking about legitimate genetic diseases that need controlling with specific medications.  Do you know what helps those medications for genetic diseases to be more effective?  Yes, Pinky, the same thing we do every night, moderations in diet and exercise.

I have trained hundreds of clients since 2008 and none of them ever said they want more pills to take daily.  It’s quite the opposite, how can they get off all those damn pills!  They finally had enough and realized it’s their lifestyle creating a prime environment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and other risk factors.  If they made a couple slight daily modifications to their normal day, the risk factors and pills seem to disappear.  Another unfortunate event is medicine’s amazing marketing.  Doctors are quick to prescribe pills instead of prescribing lifestyle changes.  Pharmaceuticals are huge business and doctors enjoy various perks when they write prescriptions.

Let’s imagine a utopia where health clubs, farmers, and personal trainers called on doctors to have them prescribe exercise and food changes for lifestyle risk factors.  It could be revolutionary!  “Joe, I want you to exercise three times a week at Zook’s Training Studio and don’t buy anything in a box from the grocery store.  Come back and see me in three months.”  What kind of results will Joe see?  I’m betting his results will be life changing, cost less money in the long run, and make him a happier person than adding three more pills to his daily regimen.

The ugly truth is taking a pill is easier than making lifestyle modifications and doctors overall are readily prescribing them instead of treating the actual cause.  One day maybe my utopia will occur.  Businesses are still profitable, just different types, and the American economy shifts its spending to healthier alternatives.  Maybe people take more vacation because they’re healthier and have the energy to do stuff.  If someone somewhere really loves taking 10-15 pills a day, please have them contact me because they definitely are the rarest of the rare.