by Tyler Cote
That’s right, I’ve now been in the fitness industry for 10 years! Don’t ask me where the time has gone — all I can tell you is that when you love what you do, it never feels like work. Today, as I look back, I’d like to share with you 10 things I’ve learned over this period of my life:
1) Make fitness a lifestyle
I assess nearly everyone who starts at The Training Room and have found that most voice similar goals: “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get stronger”, and sometimes both. Rather than jumping straight into an exercise, I follow-up with a series of questions:
A.) What is normal day of eating like for you?
B.) What is a normal night of sleeping?
C.) Based on a 1-10 scale, how stressed are you on average?
Your answers to these questions play a major role in achieving your goals. You can exercise as much as you like, but if you don’t have a strong handle on your nutrition, sleep and stress, none of it matters. Creating good habits and making a life commitment to them will be the game changer. If you’re willing to do this, I promise you that what follows will be easier.
2) Build the foundation
When I think about why the TR has been successful over the years, I accredit it to our ability to form a strong foundation for our clients. Mainstream media constantly advertises the next best exercise or quickest way to burn fat. In reality, all they’re doing is pushing you farther away from where you want to be.
Your focus should be learning how to do exercise basics really well. Learn how to breath correctly, how to brace your core, and how to feel when your glutes are activated. These practices may seem slight, but it is this kind of investment that forms the most stable foundation for you to build upon as you increase your strength and skill over time.
3) Don’t neglect set-up
It can be tempting to breeze past learning the basics and get right into your routine, but focusing on how to set-up for each exercise can be the difference between completing the lift successfully or getting injured.
Always take time to form a mental checklist prior to attempting each set. Begin with your feet and work your way up, making sure each joint is properly aligned before starting. Most experienced lifters will tell you that for the majority of exercises, their set-up will take 2-3 times as long as the lift itself. Remembering this simple lesson will greatly increase your likelihood of success and certainly improve your strength in time.
4) Movement trumps all
When I first joined the TR, I registered to become certified in kettlebells. Part of the requirement was to pass the infamous “secret service snatch test”: one hundred snatches in five minutes using a 24kg kettlebell. Although I was confident in my abilities, during the first day of training, I was shocked to find that I could not perform even one correct rep due to a lack of mobility.
Building strength on a poor movement foundation prohibited me from lifting my arm above my head while keeping a neutral spine. My upper traps lit up with every attempt and I started to have neck pain. I was forced to take a couple steps back and delay my certification. Since then, I’ve put movement at the forefront of every program I execute. Doing so has not only helped me build strength, but do so without pain or injuries.
5) Train movements not muscles
The first fitness book I ever read was The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Once finished, I was certain I knew everything there was to know, and the following week I started an extensive routine. A few weeks in, I reassessed and noticed that although I was enjoying the program, I was always sore, and the time I was putting in was not yielding to my aesthetic and performance goals. Searching for answers, I pursued a degree in Exercise Science. My eyes were opened after learning to look at movement rather than muscles to determine which exercises to choose. Rather than focusing on a specific muscle group, I was now working to find a balanced program that covered all of the basic movements (horizontal push/pull, vertical push/pull, hip dominant, knee dominant and core). I haven’t looked back since and my body thanks me for it.
6) Own your bodyweight
I love having access to all the fun toys at the TR. Heidi and Maren have been extremely thoughtful over the years in filling our facilities with sleds, ergs, airdyne bikes, barbell racks and kettlebells. Though we have all the equipment we could hope for, the most underestimated tool costs nothing and is portable. I’m talking about your own body weight. The ability to push yourself up from the floor or pull yourself over a bar will always hold extreme value. Planking, bridging and crawling are essential to building a strong core and lead to a proper balance of mobility and stability. Master these skills before tackling weights and you’ll be happy with your results.
7) Become “textbook”
Anyone that’s trained with me or taken classes of mine knows how I can get animated- and at times, a bit corny. I tend to use catchphrases such as “put that in a magazine” or “empty the tank” when motivating clients. The word I tend to use the most, however, is “textbook”, meaning the client’s form is so spectacular that it could be in a book. My hope is always that a colleague could walk into a class I’m teaching at any time and be amazed with the form they see from the participants. The ability to perfect every aspect of each exercise is a beautiful sight to see.
Take the time to master an exercise before moving onto the next progression. When you can control tempo, breath and alignment- only then should you consider proceeding. Doing this will help prevent leaks in your foundation and allow you to continuing improving.
8.) Dress warm
As I’ve gotten older, time has become more precious to me. Days tend to fly by and I can’t put two-plus hours into a workout anymore. I need to be efficient and find ways to get the same benefits in less time. One method I’ve discovered is to increase my internal body temperature during my warm ups. Wearing warm clothes such as spandex, long sleeve shirts and a winter hat allows my body to stay warm and be ready to perform at the level I need. This simple change has allowed me to be more efficient in the gym, and no longer having to spend 30+ minutes on mobility drills and dynamic warm ups has been a blessing.
9) Make time for long, slow cardio
When I first started in the fitness field, the term HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) was all anyone talked about. “Train fast, be fast” and “Burn more calories in less time” were what all the experts were saying. Early on that’s what I did — high intensity all the time, no exceptions. I didn’t see a reason to spend a lot of time on an exercise, which made them seem boring.
My mindset has since changed due to informative articles such as You NEED Long Duration, Low Intensity Cardio. Training in this way improves cardiovascular function, allows for deeper more restful sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Who wouldn’t want that? I now make sure long, slow cardio is a staple in my routine and I’ve been amazed with how much better I feel and move. I can confidently say this change has had the greatest impact on improving my mobility, decreased my resting heart rate, improved my movements, decreased my soreness and put me in a better overall mood. Give it a shot.
10) Enjoy the journey
In case you didn’t already know, personal health and fitness is not easy and, at times, can be difficult and exhausting. Life takes over — before you know it, that plan to exercise four days a week, get eight hours of sleep and cut out sweets has been thrown out the window. At this point, it’s easy to get frustrated and give up, but I’m urging you to keep going. My suggestion is to simply concentrate on changing your mindset. For those of you that know me well, I’m a huge fan of self-help books — they have always served to change my perspective and help me find the positive in all situations. This mindset allows me to better appreciate the time, work and energy that goes into any challenge. The phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” rings true for me. Try and grow from every hardship and appreciate the work you’re putting in. If you can enjoy the journey, I promise the outcome will be fulfilling.