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Check Yourself: Accountability Check #1

21 Mar

I turn 31 this Sunday.  Bear with me, things are going to get a little personal.

I know that this is the blog where I give helpful advice on how best to achieve your goals, and how to keep your head about you in crazy derby space, and how to smash your training and nutrition.

I love doing those things.  But it is my birthday, and I’m going to be selfish and write a post almost entirely about me.  And goals.  And derby.  And training.  And accountability.

I had a list of things that I wanted to do by the time I turned 25.  And then when I turned 25, it was like, ‘I really wanted to do those things before I turn 30’.  Now, BAM, 31.   I made some pretty bold proclamations in a post shortly after I turned 30.

I said,

“Thirty is the year that I take that career into my own hands and try to make something of myself.  I am terrified, but thirty is the year that fear doesn’t stop me.  Thirty is the year that I have lots of new things to say to people I haven’t seen since high school. “

BIG PLANS.  Big words.  So, reality check:  How did I do?

Answer: Needs improvement.

I talk a lot about finding the bright spots and celebrating your successes. By and large, I think that’s the best way to keep yourself trying to get better each day. In the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, keep moving forward. Don’t dwell on past failures.  Revel in the small wins.

I like to send positive messages.  I compliment people when they do things well.  I work to make my criticisms constructive and to deliver them in the most beneficial way for the receiver.  There is tons of social support in both fitness and derby.  It encourages people to try things they never thought possible.  I am convinced that a large percentage of the amazing things that happen in the gym, or on the track, happen because of a shared community ideal to push your limits and get better.

Positive self-talk and a strong community are great tools to use against your internal fear when it needs to shut up and get out of the way.


If you’re up against a wall (of blockers, or a metaphoric wall), thinking about how strong the wall is, and how you’ll never get through, and how tired you are is NEVER going to help you get through.  Find your people, talk yourself up, and just keep pushing.

So, why then do I mark myself as Needs Improvement if I’m all about positive messaging and relying on the support of your community?

Positive thinking doesn’t get you a free pass.

When you get down to it, positive messaging is a tool.  Community strength is a tool.  Self-help books are a tool.  Education is a tool.  Coaches are a tool.

You still have to take your tools and build something. 

Deciding to do it doesn’t make it so.  Putting it on your to-do list doesn’t make it so.  Even blogging about it doesn’t make it so (sigh).  Only doing it gets it done.

A good friend of mine always tells me to feel the fear, do it anyway.

That’s where I stumble.  And then procrastinate, and then say I’m working on my business, and then find all sorts of little things I can do to feel productive so that I can ignore the really big, scary thing (quitting my day job, so that I can ACTUALLY focus on what I love doing).

Which leads me to refine my steps to goal success:

Celebrate the small wins, but don’t lose sight of the big picture.  If you want to be a first-string jammer, celebrating your awesome blocking accomplishments will help you to be in a good head-space, but you still have to jam some jams.

Have a plan to get where you want, but not a plan that’s so locked into place that you can’t see opportunity.  Being deeply mired in the way that you think something will turn out often closes you off to other potential outcomes which may be even more amazing than the one in your mind.  Just like on the track, have a game plan, but be flexible.


I’m currently reading Small is the New Big, by Seth Godin.  In it, he talks about “Zooming”, which he basically describes as embracing change without pain, so that you can be open to all the opportunities that surround you.  Pain is inherent in change – just don’t dwell on the pain.  Example; a new training program will introduce you to new training stresses and you will be sore.  Do you focus on the looming soreness so much that you never get around to starting the program?  Or do you imagine how awesome you’re going to look/feel/be once you have some mastery of the program?  If you’re a zoomer, likely the latter.

Lastly – be accountable.  Which brings me back to my Needs Improvement.  I can post all I want as a fitness and derby advisor on the internet.  I can train clients every night and weekend, and every single spare second I have.  I can take every course and certification out there.  I can do all of that, and be reasonably happy about where I’m at.

But, if I’m honest with myself – I have to decide if this is my full-time job, and how I want that to look.  I have to put my goals out there and be responsible for achieving them.

In my year-end post, I listed some goals.  I didn’t give them deadlines or touchy-feely reasons, because putting information like that into the public sphere (instead of keeping it inside your head) adds pressure, both internal and external.  Now they get some:

  • Finish my Precision Nutrition certification – BAM.  DONE.
  • (new) Pass my Strongfirst Level 1 Certification – November 15-17, 2013.  I love kbs, I want to be the best teacher and practitioner that I can possibly be.  Strongfirst will help get me there.
  • Develop a solid business plan (which goes hand in hand with really having a clear idea of what I want my business to look like) – September 16, 2013.  This isn’t just a random date.  My day job has a big event every September – this date lets me be involved, not leave them hanging, but clarifies an exit plan.
  • Quit my day job – see above.  Also, maybe quitting isn’t quitting, maybe it’s going to part-time.  Or maybe it is quitting.  Either way, I’m going to take steps each day to clarify what I want, and grow in that direction.
  • Captain the Tramps to a winning season – ending Oct. 2013.  This is likely my last season as the Tramps captain, I want more than anything to totally smash it.
  • Solidify Plan B’s place in TCRG (and amongst other similar B-Teams) – ending Oct. 2013.  We’re a new team, with a new outlook, I want us to help the league grow and make a name for ourselves.
  • Jam a full game as a primary jammer – April 20, 2013 – I’ve never jammed a full game, I think it would be awesome to try.
  • Deadlift double bodyweight – KB training is my focus right now, and will be until after the SFG.  Deads are still a part of my training, but I’m pushing this one back to December 2013 – I’m currently at 195lbs, which is over 150% bodyweight, so I’m on the right track.
  • Find a mentor – ASAP.  Like, yesterday.  Since I’m not super clear on what I want my life in fitness to look like, I am sometimes too quick to look past opportunities.  You know what I’m saying – it’s often easier to know what you don’t want than what you do.  I want to be more open to internships, guidance, any experience that lets me learn and gets me closer to knowing where I might fit in.

Those are my goals.  With deadlines.  And reasons to accomplish them.  Out in the world.

Social support doesn’t just mean cheer-leading.  Sometimes it means asking your friends what they did to get a little closer to their goals each and every day.

So, friends, what progress did you make today?


I Can See Clearly Now

18 Feb

I did something that I didn’t expect to do.

It’s a little bit airy- fairy for my normal modus operandi.

I made a vision board.


It’s one of those things that “self-actualized” people tell you to do to clarify what’s important to you. When I first thought about making one, I was like, “sure, arts and crafts will totally help me get my mind right”. Side bar: I totally love arts and crafts, but normally they’re just one more job, so I’ve been scaling back of late.

You know what though, I think I’m going to need to eat my snark about hippie crafts not being useful. As soon as I glue-sticked the pictures to the paper, I actually felt somewhat inspired. And clearer. And like I had a bit more direction than before I made it.

So, the lesson is: don’t dismiss a tool just because it doesn’t look like a tool you would ever use. Maybe those tools are the best one to try when you’re hitting a wall. Maybe doing something you normally wouldn’t will help you see yourself and your situation with new eyes.

Here’s my masterpiece. It won’t mean anything to you, but (somewhat surprisingly) it means something to me. I might even frame it.


Try something new today. Try something you think might be ridiculous. It might be totally worth it.

What I’m Grateful For in 2012

31 Dec

2012 was a big, challenging year for me.

new year 2012

I made some choices about where and who I want to be in the world.  Yes, I started giving my future some real thought in the summer of 2011, but I really got rolling by the end of that year and the start of this one, so I’m giving myself some leeway.

This year I completed my first PT cert, learned to love kettlebells, attended my first conferences, helped run the most wildly successful fresh meat intake our league has yet seen, started getting paid for training people, and started my own business.

I also turned thirty.

It’s been a pretty terrifying process, and I’m just getting started.  There are a number of things that I wanted to accomplish this year; some I did (as I’ve mentioned above), some I haven’t yet.

Off the top of my head, in 2013 I’d like to:

  • Finish my Precision Nutrition cert (well on the way!)
  • Develop a solid business plan (which goes hand in hand with really having a clear idea of what I want my business to look like)
  • Captain the Tramps to a winning season
  • Solidify Plan B’s place in TCRG (and amongst other similar B-Teams)
  • Jam a full game as a primary jammer
  • Deadlift double bodyweight
  • Quit my day job
  • Find a mentor

There are also a number of things that I’m incredibly grateful for that have happened this year.  These are them:

Derby – and the maintaining of my sanity within it.


Derby feels like an old shoe to me now.  At first it was like a new shoe that I was really excited about wearing because it was so sexy and all the coolest people I knew were wearing it.  Then it was like a new shoe that I bought because I thought it was so sexy and all the coolest people I knew were wearing it, but when I got it home it was really uncomfortable and I hated the way my foot looked in it and I couldn’t even stand the thought of putting it on and I wondered if the people who looked so sexy in it were just so much cooler that they were comfortable in it right away or if they were secret masochists who loved a painful shoe.  Then it was a shoe that had made me miserable for long enough, just sitting in my closet not being worn, so I made it fit me – I put in insoles, wore thicker socks, and started not to care about how I looked in the shoe.  Now it’s just my shoe.  I wear it, I love it, and I can’t imagine not wearing it.  Derby and I have finally made friends and we know exactly how much of each other we can take.  And that makes me so, so happy.

Wicked Awesome Clients/Students/Trainees (I really need a boss name for y’all)

I was so blessed to have a captive audience when I decided to start training.  It was incredibly helpful to have friends, family, and a derby community that was SO on board with me.  It made making the choice to pursue training about a million times easier, in part because I knew I’d have people to train, and in part because I really, really cared about their well-being, but knew that they’d forgive me if I made a mess of things.  When you’re just starting out, you are so scared to make a mistake that you can put up roadblocks for yourself, reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t.  Having friends to teach made one less roadblock I could throw up.  And it has made all the difference in the world.  Also, it’s amazing to see my friends making changes in their health and wellness. I’m grateful to have a gaggle of derby girls who are total badasses and let me help them become even badass-er I’m grateful to have clients that trust me to steer them straight, and who give me their all, not just when we’re together, but in the time that they’ve committed to themselves at home as well.  This is Angela:


photo courtesy of Ivan Sorensen

I’ve been working with Angela from the start.  She started with me with a large number of physical challenges, not the least of which being daily pain in her knees and back, and daily anti-inflammatories.  She also was a person who had no interest whatsoever in “working out”.  Now, she wakes up without pain, loves to lift, and plans to tackle the Iron Maiden challenge as her 5-year goal.  We still have a long way to go, but she has realized how strong she is – and the capacity she has to get stronger.  Each time she comes into my gym, I see the hardships of her day fall away with each lift.  When I look at her, I see where she can go and what she can accomplish when she gets after it, and it’s so awesome.  Commitment like hers, her desire to get better, that’s what makes training worth it.

My friends and family

I have lovely and tolerant friends and family members who understand that I have to be doing precisely six million things at once, and who work their lives around my schedule.  I have friends who don’t get jealous of derby and its hold on my time, they just come to see games and learn to like it too – which is amazing.  I have a father who tells me I need to get meaner on the track (and I quote: “What is this, a Sunday skate in the park?”) – all the while loving that his daughter has finally found an interest in sports, and a mother who is, and always will be, one of my very best friends.

My wonderful husband

Among those who learned not to hate derby, was my incredible spouse.  He decided not to fight it, and became one of the best derby announcers in the country.  Not bad Slim, not bad.  He has been the most supportive proponent of my not hating what I do for a living, and has made it easy for me to take this leap.  He cleans when I’m run off my feet, he makes sure I have food when I’m at practice until 11, he looks after the dog, and he looks after me.  He is the best partner I could ever ask for, and I am so grateful that he didn’t just end up being a fling like we’d planned.

My tiny dog, and her continuing health


For those of you who don’t know, I have a tiny dog.  Her name is Stella, and I have an unhealthy attachment to her.  I am SO in love with my dog.  She spent the first half of her life in a puppy mill.  She only has three teeth.  Her jaw was broken when they found her, and had to be reset, hence the ridiculous face.  When we first adopted her, she was 6ish, and the OSPCA told us she might always cower in her crate, hiding from us and the world.  She was the light of my life the first time I saw her, afraid of everything, not wanting to be touched, having to be bribed with hot dog to even come within arm’s reach of us.  Now, she lights up my life with her constant need to be in my lap, her face kisses, her doggish games, and her demands for attention.  She’s getting to be a lady of a certain age (we think 12ish now), and I am grateful every day that she’s with us, healthy and happy.

Clarity and purpose

I think I’m getting clearer about who I am, and what I want from life.  I’m grateful that I’m not as scared as I once was to admit what I want and go for it.  I’m still working on the whole feel-the-fear-do-it-anyway thing, but I’m getting there.

Almond Butter

Yes, I am spending some time away from you now, but you were a big part of my 2012,  and I’ll never forget all of our lovely moments together. ❤

That’s what I’m grateful for this year.

I am sure that 2013 will be full of surprises, awesomeness, and wonder.  I wish all of those things for all of you.  I’m excited for what’s to come.

What I Learned At: The Canfitpro Conference 2012

24 Aug

Sorry I’m late with this one, lots of information to process – Last weekend, I had a whirlwind of a time in Toronto at the Canfitpro International Fitness and Club Business Conference.  Canfitpro is a HUGE conference.  Let me say that again, it is a HUGE conference.  Lots of sessions to choose from, thousands of fitness professionals (of every stripe), and a big trade show.

I started the conference off with a panel session about the state of the fitness industry with Mark de Wit, Jan Middelkamp, Darren Jacobson, Sara Kooperman, Libby Norris and Jennifer Wilson:  Clients drive the trends.  Start with PLAY, do things people WANT to do.  We need to rely on trust, not trends.  As an industry, we lose the trust of our clients, members, employees. 

Fitness professionals love to exercise and use their bodies as science experiments – this, coupled with shiny new fitness toys, is how trends start.  The trend should be that we get back to the basics and focus on keeping out clients engaged.  We need to make exercise fun for a population that may not think that way coming in.  It’s not even necessarily about results right off the bat – it’s about helping people find what they love about moving their bodies.  We need to build relationships, not the bottom line.  If clients trust that we have their fitness goals in mind and their best interests at heart (rather than the newest, sexiest exercise trend), they’ll relax, buy in, and find the fun in fitness.  If we make the gym a space where people come to play, to explore, and to feel good in their bodies, we’re on the right track.

Derby Application: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, be brilliant at the basics before jumping into the sexy.  If you’re a coach, progress your skaters at an appropriate pace, which is not necessarily the pace that you (or they) think it should be.  If you lay the right foundation, your house will stand for ages.

The opening ceremonies featured Simon Whitfield, who was an awesome speaker.  He talked about focusing on the process rather than the product and gave some interesting insight into the mind of an Olympian.  It was especially cool to hear him talk about process rather than outcome after his performance at the London 2012 games.  To bounce back and keep training (now for long course) after crashing and breaking his collarbone is amazing and demonstrates the kind of sports tunnel vision that we all could use a slice of.

Fraser Quelch: Conditions change, standards remain.

I had a great early morning workout with Mr. Quelch.  TRX can be a super valuable tool in metabolic conditioning, so his major point was that form can’t suffer just because we’re pushing hard.  Miss once, try again.  Miss again, rest for two minutes, try again.  Miss again – you’re done.  I like that plan.  It forces you to be mentally and physically tough, but not so much so that you risk injury or become discouraged and quit trying.

Derby application: Exactly as he said – conditions change, standards remain.  Know your skills, execute them perfectly.  No matter what the game throws at you, know that your form will be rock solid.

Todd Durkin: Writing creates clarity, clarity precedes genius.  If you sprint a marathon, you will die. “Contagiasm”. 

Todd is an awesome presenter and a powerful motivator.  His masterminding class was one of my favourite sessions of the conference.  His enthusiasm for the fitness industry is contagious, hence “contagiasm”.  He said that life is not a marathon, it’s a series of sprints and rests.  Without the rest periods, you are trying to sprint a marathon – not a strong choice.  Manage your time – set aside admin time, money generating time, vision time and rest time.  Schedule the rest time first or you won’t take it.  His goal-setting exercises really helped to clarify what my real goals are and the process steps I need to take to get there.

The bigger your dream, the more important your team.   You are as strong as the people you surround yourself with.

Derby application:  There can be tons of derby drama, poor morale, clashing personalities, tense leadership – that’s often par for the course.  Keep in mind, though, if that’s your normal – that’s how strong your team will be.  If you want to accomplish great things together, you need to be great just being together.  You are only as strong as your weakest link – make all your links strong.

Why wait?

Yes.  Why wait?  Not why should I? Not what will go wrong? – Why wait?  There’s almost always no good reason to wait for your dreams to come true.  You need to take action and build momentum to get where you want to be – waiting won’t get you there.

Dr. John BerardiPhysical hunger is not the same as psychological hunger.  Eating is a privilege and a responsibility.  If you make good food choices and control your calories, meal frequency is not that important.

Dr. Berardi’s session on Intermittent Fasting was the highlight of my conference.  He’s a fantastic speaker and he’s super smart.  If nothing else, I’ll try a 24-hour fast to see how my body reacts.  His session was cool for me, because I’ve always been someone who likes to eat one big meal a day.  When I started training regularly, the common wisdom was to eat 5-6 small meals a day.  This was awful for me – I just don’t feel like I can eat that often.  And because I could never achieve compliance, I would get down on myself for not really caring about my nutrition and making it happen.  Dr. Berardi focused on the idea that the science suggests that WHAT you eat matters way more than WHEN you eat.  The common wisdom out there is more about caloric control (don’t eat after 8 at night, etc.), and less about actual biological processing of nutrients.

I love Precision Nutrition’s take on compliance and habit-forming.  Nutrition coaching is the future of health and wellness, rest assured I’ll be hearing more from Dr. Berardi.

 Greg Roskopf: We need to understand the muscle system’s role in pain.  If we avoid the problem, we magnify the imbalance.  What you can’t do is breaking you down.  The neural response to instability is tension.  The system is only as good as its parts.

Muscle Activation Techniques is an interesting system – it’s basically PNF stretching in reverse.  The idea is to repattern muscle function, rather than to stretch the opposers (or in addition to stretching the opposers).  MAT suggests that chronic tightness is an issue of muscle contraction timing and that’s what we should try to address.  It seems like a sensible, back-to-basics approach.  More and more we’re hearing that it’s not about training the muscles, it’s about training the brain – patterning, neural firing, muscle function, improving these elements will help to increase stability and promote tissue healing.

Chad Benson:   Load may help you get into a posture, but it will not solve any problems.  Be empathetic to poor movement patterns, but not to individual complaints. 

Chad ran an assessment-based workshop on the last day.  There were some great ideas, and a few assessments that I’ll add into my personal arsenal.  He spoke a lot about pain.  For genuine pain, always refer out.  We train pain-free.  We can work around injuries, we can repattern faulty movement, but persistent pain needs to be dealt with by a professional before we can help.  Progress at the speed of your client’s progress, not the speed of your client’s (or your) ego.  Don’t load up a bad-looking pattern, take the time to do it right.

Derby application:  When Chad said, “be empathetic to poor movement patterns, but not to individual complaints“, he was suggesting that if you always baby your athletes and give them a pass for each ache and pain, the number of aches and pains will grow.  That’s not to say that we should ignore pain, quite the opposite – real pain, poor patterns, these need to be addressed.  But, as a coach, you can’t be a pushover.  Those skaters who always have something wrong with them, always have an excuse for why they can’t – tell them to go to a professional to get it dealt with.  If they won’t, look at their movement patterns.  If the patterns are sound, push them.  People can achieve WAY more than they think they can.  Be supportive, be encouraging – push them just a little further than they think they can go and gradually you’ll train them to push themselves.

The Canfitpro International Fitness and Club Business Conference was quite something.  The trade show gave me more samples than I know what to do with and the conference gave me lots of tips to take back to my clients.  It was cool to be around so many fitness professionals, and I had a lot of great conversations throughout the weekend.  It’s nice to know that there’s such a vibrant community here in Canada, helping people to define, achieve, and maintain their health and wellness goals.

What I Learned At: The Perform Better Functional Training Summit: Part Two – The Touchy Feely Stuff

6 Jul

In part one, I talked about the mechanics that were discussed at the summit.  There were a lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge to share.  But it wasn’t all prime movers and primal patterns, there were some awesome lessons about life and business to be had.  Which brings me to Part Two, the touchy feely stuff:

Thomas Plummer: Busy does not equal effective. 

BAM!  This one is specifically for me.  I am really good at keeping busy.  I can make lists and take notes for hours.  But those lists and notes are for naught if they don’t lead to results.  It’s the same with each training session.  If an exercise is just keeping you busy, not getting you results – why are you doing it?  And I’m not just talking about abz and guns results, I’m talking about quality of movement results.  If the answer is, ‘I don’t really know’ – find out.  Then decide whether you are being effective or just keeping busy.

Start with your expected outcome and work backwards.    Go big and take everybody. 

Most of the business experts mentioned this – start with your goal and work it back.  This can apply to every area of development; business, social interactions, training, derby, whatever.  Start with your goal in mind, figure out what it will take to get you to your goal (talk to people who can help along the way), make actionable steps to get to that goal, and then get after it.  And while you’re at it, make your goal a powerful one.  Yes, it needs to be realistic, but it can be lofty too.  Dream up the biggest goal you can, and work it backwards in a realistic way – that way your big goal won’t seem so unattainable anymore.

The two biggest barriers to entry are cost and embarrassment.  Fitness is an acquired taste.  

This also got mentioned a few times – fitness professionals are crazytown.  We like carrying all our food around in tupperware, cold showers, and getting up stupid early in the morning to get super sweaty.  The average person might not be a fan of these things.  To be an effective coach, you need to meet people where they’re at.  Same goes with derby – new skaters aren’t always ready for derby to take over all of their free time and to push their body to the limit three times a week.  Here’s a stat for you: 50 to 90 percent of new gym goers stop in the first 8 weeks due to injury.  If we don’t put ourselves in their shoes, we will lose them, we might even hurt them.    Remember, it’s not just physical injury – there’s emotional pain too.  Lots of beginners are terrified of making a fool of themselves on the track or in the gym.  They need to feel safe, to know that what you’re doing is just for them, and to gain confidence.  Without confidence, they’ll stay beginners.  Plan your fresh meat practices, and your training sessions, with that in mind.

We change lives.

If you can get someone through those first 8 weeks without hurting them, if you can forge a relationship of trust, if you can help them to see what they love about fitness and what they love about themselves – their life will change.  If you can stick it out through that first derby season, your life will change.  You will acquire that taste for activity, and you will be so much more awesome than you thought you could be.  That’s why I do this.

Alwyn Cosgrove: Do something better than everyone else.  Even if they don’t join, they’ll know you’re the best. 

While I totally agree with Alwyn (who is hilarious and was totally worth the price of admission on his own), this is a challenging concept for me.  I’m pretty new to the training game, about a year in, and I don’t feel like I am better than anyone at anything yet.  This can be massively discouraging.  One thing I really took away from the summit was that it needn’t be.  Mastery is a journey.  Do you think that Gotham is just like, ‘we’re the best, that’ll do’?  No.  They keep pushing to be better than everyone else all the time.  Figure out where your skills and interests lie, and keep getting better and better.  Eventually, people will start thinking you’re the best.

See the opportunity, not the obstacle.    Don’t get bitter – get busy and get better. 

On that note – if someone is better than you, see the value in that.  Talk to them, learn from them – get better.  If you lose a game, look at how the other team beat you, refine your skills.  Turn your jealousy into admiration, then turn your admiration into action.

Rachel CosgroveYour clients may only have that one hour to give you – make it count. 

We lead super-busy lives.  Getting to the gym can be a challenge for folks with kids, demanding jobs, derby practice, etc.  When you’re at the gym (as a trainer or as a client), make the session count.  Don’t just go through the motions, go after your goals.  Make every session a step on the way to what you want to accomplish.  Same with derby practice – make sure your skaters see the value in every drill, explain how the skills will relate to game day.  Don’t just throw in filler for no reason – make sure that each minute of track (or gym) time gets you closer to being the kind of athlete you want to be.

Who will I be when this is over?

Rachel told a story about her niece, Marie, who has cerebral palsy, who was undergoing surgery to reconstruct her legs so that she will be able to walk with ease.  This is a determined little girl who pushed past using a walker, and is now ready to take on the world.  When asked about the surgery, Marie said “when this is over, I will jump like a frog and run like a cheetah”.  Amazing.  That’s the kind of mentality we all need when tackling a tough goal.  Maybe playing your first game, or going to the gym for the first time isn’t reconstructive surgery, but it is a challenge.  Have a clear idea of who you will be when you’ve made your way to the other end.  I will be an athlete.  I will be strong.  I will be a champion.  See it, say it, get there.


Martin RooneyYou can be tired, don’t look tired.

 I worked out with Martin.  I was tired.  I tried not to look tired.



Dave JackBuild a foundation and an umbrella.

Dave Jack was another of my favourites.  He spoke with such passion and drive – it was hard not to listen.  He was one of the people who helped me to feel like, even though we’re all at different levels of skill and experience, we’re all in it together and we need to help each other get better.  To grow, as a trainer, a derby skater, or a person, you need a foundation of skills and education – your bag of tricks.  You also need an umbrella – your network of support.  People whose skills complement yours, and who you can turn to when you don’t have the answer.

Step up as you, proclaim your rarity.  Only do things you really mean – when you speak from passion, people will listen.  Wisdom is where intelligence meets love.  

Let’s be honest, training roller derby skaters (mostly in Southwestern Ontario) is a pretty itty bitty tiny niche.  However, I know roller derby.  I love roller derby.  And I love me some roller derby skaters.  When I talk about injury prevention and injury rehab, it gets my fire lit.  That’s who I am, that’s what I care about.  I absolutely cherish my non-derby clients too, but they know I’m a derby girl and that’s what they love about me.  Don’t worry that your passion is too narrow, or too silly, or too inconsequential.  It’s yours, own it – when you speak from the place where you are most yourself, people will care about what you have to say.

Rising tides raise all ships.

Fitness people, derby people, people people – we like to point out what others are doing wrong.  How about let’s not do that anymore?  Let’s tell people what they are doing right.  Let’s celebrate each other’s passions.  Let’s encourage each other, let’s share information, let’s all get better.  Why on earth wouldn’t we want to? 

To sign off the way Dave did – I’ll see you all when tides are high.

What I Learned At: The Perform Better Functional Training Summit: Part One – The Sciencey Learny Stuff

5 Jul

I’m home!  Sorry for the blogging hiatus – this one will be a long one to make up for it, so strap in and read on.

Chicago was amazing – what a beautiful, clean, energy-packed city.  Great food, friendly people, I highly suggest a visit.

Perform Better was pretty much the highlight of my year so far.  I woke up every morning at 6:00 so ready to learn that I couldn’t wait to get to the conference centre (probably aided by the fact that I was still on Ontario time). There were incredible presenters, incredible attendees, and an incredible energy.  Every day at the summit, I felt as though I was a part of something exciting, something important.  Each night I would come back to my hotel, go through my notes, pick out what was stickiest for me, and think about how to implement it moving forward.

So, what stuck?  Hopefully lots.  The best way to keep it sticky – share it.  Here are my biggest takeaways from this fantastic event, which I’ve split into two posts for the sake of not going on forever (which believe me, I could).  First, the science-y stuff:

Gray CookOwn Your Dysfunction – when you disadvantage yourself, you get better.  Strengthening the obvious won’t make you better.  If your body senses malfunction, it will inhibit itself.  Injury compensations stick around long after injury.  Example – If you have a vitamin deficiency, will you keep changing vitamins or will you eventually look at absorption? 

What does this mean?  Firstly, we have to assess everyone.  If you are a trainer and you aren’t doing some sort of assessment – start.  If you are in a training program and you’ve never had an assessment, get one.  If you want to start a new training regimen, do yourself a favour and figure out what needs work before just hammering away.  Through our daily habits, the postures we spend our lives in, and our various injuries, we all develop compensations and malfunctions in our basic movement patterns.  Those stick around long after pain is gone.  You can’t just keep changing the exercise that you put on top of dysfunctional movement – at some point you need to address why that movement is faulty and relearn the pattern.

We don’t make movement, we grow it – we need to uncomplicate the patterns, turn off the energy thieves.

Same idea – we all progress through the primal patterns (rolling, crawling/creeping, kneeling, standing) the same way.  We all have the seeds of functional movement inside of us, we just need to find the tools to help them grow.  We need to turn off the habits that inhibit that growth and go back to basics. 

Derby application – if you are having trouble with your stance or your stride, but are trying to work on power hitting, dial it back a few notches.  You won’t find the power you want until the basics, with proper patterning, are second nature.  If you are constantly worried about being outside your power box or tripping over your feet in a sprint – your brain will not be able to commit all of its energy to knocking that opposing blocker off her skates.  Be brilliant at the basics, then build.

And my favourite – Ears are shoulder poison.   They just are.  Keep the two away from each other.

Dr. Stuart McGill Muscles have an effect through the whole linkage, not just their anatomical purpose, therefore their action isn’t always obvious.  Supporting muscles are like a symphony underscoring the prime mover – don’t neglect them.

Anatomy textbooks will teach us the anatomical purpose of a particular muscle.  Human movement will teach us that each muscle has a number of functions, and each function has an effect through the whole body.  We can’t neglect the impact that the whole body has on each movement.

If you train to failure, you steal work capacity. 

Leave some in the tank.  As coaches, our job is to increase movement competency and increase work capacity.  If we beat clients into the ground every session, they’ll learn to inhibit performance.  If we leave off a couple reps, not only will they feel accomplished, they’ll become more resilient. 

Derby application: Not every practice should be an endurance practice.  Not every practice should be a scrimmage practice.  Some practices should leave us feeling like we could do more – that’s what will keep us coming back.  Push yourself, but know when to pull back.

Dr. Craig LiebensonUnschool your dysfunctions one by one.

Treat faulty patterns like an onion.  Peel back one layer at a time.  Trying to coach away all the issues will end up with none of them resolving. 

Derby application: I’ll repeat – Trying to coach away all the issues will end up with none of them resolving.  Whether movement patterns, teamwork, basic skills – take it bit by bit.  Your brain will be glad you did.

Dr. Charlie WeingroffThere are no body parts, just a body, train it with the brain.  Your CNS will prevail on game day.

Echoing Dr. McGill, the body works as a unit.  Our best way to train it is through the brain, to relearn good patterning, and to look at movement through the whole kinetic chain.  Mirroring your sport in supplementary training is not ideal – on game day, common sense and your central nervous system will know what to do.  Training movement patterns, as opposed to sport-specific movements will help to ensure that those aforementioned energy thieves are turned off and that you can focus on the task at hand. 

Derby application: Often we hear ‘practice how you play’.  Sometimes, in scrimmage practice, this is useful.  Sometimes, we need to look at the whole body, and make sure we’re moving in an efficient manner before we start building the intensity.  Don’t worry if your cross-training doesn’t look like derby – it’s not always meant to.

Dr. Greg Rose:  (Sidebar: Greg Rose might have been the highlight of this conference for me – my golf-loving dad couldn’t be more pleased.)  It is easier to lose cognitive skill than motor skill, therefore we should try harder to make our training motor learning.

While a beginner will make gains just doing one skill over and over again in the same way, once we’ve got the basic pattern down we need to randomize our training.  Learn skills a number of different ways, different directions, different intensities.  The initial skill might develop more slowly but retention of the skill will be much increased.

We all have different bodies – ask your client where they feel it, don’t tell them.  Our primal progressions are all the same – our compensations are different.  

We all learn to roll, crawl and walk in much the same way, we learn to compensate for our various differences in many ways.  No two people will feel a movement in exactly the same way, so telling people where they should feel an exercise is often fruitless.  Asking them where they feel it will get you closer to the answers you need to help them move better. 

Derby application: We don’t all move the same way – if you’re a coach, ask your skaters where they are putting the pressure on their skates rather than telling them where they should.  If you’re a skater, make friends with your body, learn its unique quirks and tweaks.  Learn to speak about your body, and learn when something doesn’t feel right.

And finally, this gem – Feel is as important as form.

Both in life and in derby, form is important, but so is feel.  We get so caught up in coaching what looks right, sometimes we forget to remember what right feels like.  When a client nails a pattern, get them to talk about what is going on in their body.  When a skater finds her stride rhythm, ask her to describe how it feels.  The more we can remember the physical nuances of what we’re doing, the more ingrained the correct movements will become.

I also spoke with Dr. Rose a little after his sessions to see if he had any insight on the particular challenges that derby skaters encounter (dealing with golfers, he knows a heck of a lot about sports that only go one direction).

His said that all sports create imbalances – golf, dance, baseball, derby.  And we need to figure out which imbalances are beneficial to our performance and which are holding us back.  We need to be FUNCTIONALLY imbalanced, rather than just all-around imbalanced.

Talking to Dr. Rose was an eye-opener and the things he said really merit their own post, where I’ll get into which imbalances are helpful and which we should take a more critical look at and how we can apply the concept of random training to structuring derby practices.  It’s all about getting better, both on and off the track.

I am SO GLAD I attended this amazing summit.   I’ll be back soon with part two, with the touchy-feely stuff about training the mind and soul.