First USA Cycling Race at the Encino Velodrome August, 20, 2011

I’ve been training at both the Encino velodrome and the ADT velodrome for a while now. Last year I had borrowed a bike at the Master’s Pan American Games in Cuba, qualified for the pursuit and then won a bronze. Because of that, I’ve gotten into riding the track. I’ve even done some practice races at Encino; however these races weren’t sanctioned by USA Cycling. Today would be first time registering and riding a USA Cycling track event.

Encino is an outdoor track and today was a scorcher! The track is 250 meters with 28 degree banking in the corners, a bit of a downhill on the back side and a bit of an uphill on the finish straight. I signed in and got my number; 808. Today would be an omnium of three races: a flying 200, a point’s race and a miss and out. The rider who has the greatest aggregate points or places the best in all three races wins the omnium.

A flying 200 “Encino style” is when all the riders slowly ride around the top edge of the track called the Balustrade. One at a time the riders “get the bell” which indicates they should go “like at bat out of hell,” for 200 meters. With only 200 meters, everything has to go perfect. One of the hardest things to do in track racing is to learn which gear is best for each event. Track bikes don’t have gears or brakes, so you have to choose the right gear. I had been using an 88 inch gear or even a 90 inch gear, but today I was trying a 94 inch gear. The inches are how far the bike will travel with one revolution of the crank arm. When it came my turn, I gave it all I had. I finished with a 12.79 (that’s in seconds), my fastest time ever! Only problem was, I didn’t wait for the bell so they didn’t time me. Honestly, I didn’t even care. I was so glad the gear had worked. I was learning how to be a better track racer.

The second race was a 40-lap point’s race. Every 10 laps you sprint for the first three places. At the end of the race, whoever has the most points, wins. On lap 10, I sprinted and got 2nd. On lap 20 I sprinted and got first, but the kid who got second passed me after the line and yelled “let’s go.” I was out of breath from sprinting and was reluctant because there was still a lot to go in the race, however since the kid was pulling and doing the work, I got on his wheel. We got a gap! The field wasn’t really responding. By lap 30 we were gone and I beat him again for the max points. This time he was done and couldn’t keep the pace. I was feeling good being out on my own and I was really close to lapping the pack! I hammered and hammered until finally I was on the back wheel of the pack. On the 40th lap I let them sprint it out and won by a long shot!

The miss and out is a fun race. On designated laps, the officials pull the last rider across the line. Sometimes called an “eliminator” race, you don’t want to be in the front, but you definitely don’t want to be pulled in the back. I went early for the first elimination so I wouldn’t get pulled first. Made it on the next two eliminations and now it was down to three riders. One of the riders (Sam) is much faster than I. He’s a brute. At 23 years old, about 6’3 and 220 lbs, he’s hard to beat in pure speed. He was leading it out; he didn’t want to chance losing. However, he kept looking back to see who was going to jump around him. As we went around the last corner for the sprint he looked to his left as the other racer dived under him. With his attention on him, I gunned it and was able to come around him! Now it was down to the last two Mohicans. The kid thought he could lead the old man out, but the impetuous youth ran out of steam in the last few meters as I came around him to win the race and the omnium! What a great day!

P.S. Well, almost a great day. After my races, I decided to remain and watch the Madison races. I have never seen one before. A Madison is where two or three riders trade off throwing each other to gain speed. It involves superior riding skills and impeccable timing. The last team to go was a man and a woman. The woman was Dena Eaton who in 2010 swept the Master World Track races in Portugal with five world titles. As they came around turn four for their first exchange, she lost control of the bike and crashed at about 32 miles per hour! It was horrific! She hit the pavement so hard that she bounced into the wall and then tumbled and spun around like a rag doll, sliding face down the track. She didn’t move…… Blood was pouring everywhere. The officials were told not to move her until the paramedics arrived. I later found out she broke her cheek, nose and her back! So sad…… It was a poignant reminder of how dangerous cycling is and how, in a split second, a life-altering event can happen. It totally took the wind out of my sails and I had to leave the track. I hope she recovers.

Valley of the Sun – 2011

Today was the 15 mile Time Trial.

I did everything right. Had a light breakfast three hours prior. Foam rolled, stretched a little, did 40 minutes on the wind trainer and did three hard intervals to open up the legs. The weather was perfect and I was right on time to climb on to the starting gate.

The course suited me perfectly. 15 miles, out and back. No steep hills, but instead, a straight road with some rises; almost false flats. There was a little wind so I paced myself. I went out hard but not too hard. I could tell I was moving. Within about 8-10 minutes I was catching my .30 second guy (they stagger the racers in .30 second intervals) who was catching my 1:00 guy. All of sudden something happened that has never happened in all the years I’ve been cycling. My calf crinkled! I could visually see it shrivel up! I’ve cramped before but never, ever, at five miles. I couldn’t believe it. When I had warmed up there had been no sign, not even a hint of a sign that I might cramp and I had gone hard three times. I didn’t bring that much water because for such a short distance I didn’t think I would need to drink at all. I backed off for a few seconds and hoped it might have been just some freaky thing. Unfortunately, it kept coming back. I had no choice but to back off and slowly; both of the guys in front of me started to pull away. It just wouldn’t subside. I tried to pull with my right leg in order to fire the anterior tibialis which might stretch the calf. Didn’t work. I had no choice but to pedal with my left leg only. That’s how it went for a while until I approached the turn-around. I saw a volunteer and slowed down and asked for water. He said he didn’t have any “fresh water?” What? I guess that meant no. I continued to the turn-around and had to physically stop. I yelled “Does anyone have any water?” Luckily I nice state trooper said “I have some.” I had to wait for him to go to his car, come back and pour it in my bottle. Because I have a special aerodynamic water-bottle holder I couldn’t just take his Arrowhead bottle and put it on my bike.

I still had 7.5 to go, so I drank just a little bit and then hauled ass. About 100 meters later my bottle fell off my bike. Jeesh! Because the rear disc wheel I was using is thicker than my training wheel, I totally disconnect my back brake. I keep my front brake pretty squishy because in reality, you don’t need brakes on a time trial bike. You can’t draft and no one is allowed to be near you so you only have to slow down for the corners or the turn-around. As a result, it took me longer to slow down, and then, I had to turn around and go back and get my bottle! Now I’m pissed. I’m going as hard as I can go now, but I still have to keep coming out of my aero position to drink. In another mile or so, my bottle falls out again!!! I’m yelling at the universe now. I didn’t want to stop because now I was flying. This time it took me even longer to slow down and I tried to make a U-turn to return to get the bottle. Unfortunately, the course was open to traffic and there was a truck coming so I had to stop again, flip my back wheel around and go backwards on the course AGAIN to get my bottle. Normally, I would’ve left that bottle the first time, but I had to keep drinking so the cramp wouldn’t come back. No such luck. My right calf started to cramp again. I tried to ignore but it, but I could see it crinkling up. I had no choice but to pedal with my left leg again and this is how it went until about a mile and half to the finish. By then, my left leg started to cramp as well. I could see the finish up ahead. I either had to go hard and maybe lose it and have to walk, or instead, soft-pedal all the way in; which is exactly what I did. This had to be the worst time trial I’ve ever done. The only cause I could think of, is, that all week I’ve been thirsty and at night I was waking up three or four times with a dry throat. I guess Arizona is so dry, it crept up on me.

Road Race

I was pretty concerned about cramping, since the race was 73 miles long. Four and half laps of a 16 mile course with an uphill finish. I drank a bottle of Cytomax/water every hour until I went to bed and kept waking and drinking through the night. Repeated the same ritual until I got to the race. Warmed up for a half an hour on my trainer and did three leg openers. The weather was spectacular except it was really windy. I could barely control my bike as I rode with my wheel bag with my spare wheels to the start line to put in the follow-car.

Of course some loco went off like a bat out of hell at the gun. If he can stay off on his own for 73 miles he deserves to win!

The pack was pretty mellow for the first lap until the hill, which was about 3km long. We went pretty hard up that hill but, I could stay in the front. The true climbers hadn’t really drawn their swords yet.

On the second lap, three guys got away and eventually got four minutes up on us. I got a bottle from my friend Karen in the feed zone and drank the whole thing. I was also pounding down salt pills every 30 minutes, plus, some nuts, raisins, a banana and some GU. My plan was to get my mueset bag with another bottle of water and more food on lap three. We weren’t allowed to feed on lap four.

The racers that were in contention now got serious about the break-a-way and organized a chase at the front. On the third lap up the 3k hill the climbers drew their swords and we were flying. No talking could be heard, only the whirring of the chains. I came unhooked at the top, but lucky for me, there was a descent which suits me fine. Dense muscle always descends faster than skin and bones. Unfortunately for us, we were neutralized (made to slow down) as the pro peloton lapped us. Good for the break-a-way though. Now we had to really cook. As we came to the feed zone I knew someone might attack, so I moved up to the way to the front to find Karen. Unfortunately she wasn’t ready and I could see her running to get the Mueset bag as I went through. Bummer….. Down the hill, right turn into a head wind for about four miles and then a right had turn to the hill. Ouch, now it was bloody. I did the best I could and came unhooked again, but so did a bunch of people. We worked together on the descent and caught the leaders.

We had now swallowed up the three man break and we were all back together for the last lap. On the descent we were neutralized again and the race was starting to seem very long. The dry heat was getting to all of us as you could see white salt cached on everyone’s faces. Into the head wind for the last time and three guys just slipped off the front. No attack; just slipped off the front. I was at the front and didn’t see a reaction from any of the racers in contention. (I had written all their numbers on a piece of paper that was taped to my top-tube.) Before you know it, they have a minute as we make a right turn before the hill. It got faster and faster. I got to the front to fulfill my promise to my buddy Mike who was in second place overall to keep him at the front. At 3k to go I was in front of him and said “stay on my wheel.” Just then some little squirt decided to turn it up three notches and attacked. I did everything I could to stay on his wheel, but ever so slowly started to unhook. I looked back and said “sorry” as Mike and the leaders passed me. I felt like I was trying to drink air. Tongue wagging, I somewhat recovered with 1k to go and started to reel some people in to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Long day…


A perfect day for a race. We were supposed to start at 12:05 but because of a crash in the race before us, there was a delay and we didn’t start until almost 1pm. By then there was a serious malaise setting in. However once the race started, that went away in about three seconds. The course was technical; a 1.2 course with a four lane home stretch that went into a one lane left-hander, sweeping right hand into a tight 90-degree right hander for about 50 meters into another 90-degree right hand turn which was a wide four lane street into a one lane tight chicane (s-turn) with a bunch of debris and road reflectors, to a slight four lane descent to another 90-degree right hand turn for 50 meters to the last 90-degree right turn, to the four lane home stretch to the start-finish.

I got to the front immediately and stayed there. Went for the first $50 prime and some 23-something-kid-going-on-12 snapped it at the line. That pissed me off. Two or three laps later I went for a $100 prime and didn’t get that either. Bummer. Got knocked once by some kid on the back stretch, but heh, that’s racing. We were never even were properly introduced! Somewhere in the middle of the race, I was about three back and I could sense a lull. A slight opening appeared so I jumped and barely slipped through it and scared the kid who took my $50. Hah. They pack eventually got me, but right before the chicane I attacked and got away alone for almost a lap until another guy caught me. It was him and I for a bit, but I was too tired from the day before so I sat up and waited for the pack. As we crossed the finish line the announcer yelled “five laps to go!” Argh… Anyone who races knows what happens when they yell that. Needless to say, I went from the front, to the middle of the pack, in about two seconds. It took me another two laps to get back to the front. One lap to go…. I’m in a good position but I wish I could feel my legs. As 45 guys want to somehow make it to the single lane left-hander the speed increases and you have to fight. I’m in a good position and make it through all the corners and the chicane. It’s the straight-a-way and it’s now or never. The attacks start flying up the left and the right. You can hear them coming; so, when they go, I go. On the left, some guy bumps into me. Whatever…. That doesn’t phase me; I just keep going. I get knocked back a few places into the second to the last right-hander. I didn’t have the snap to make up the ground in just 50 meters and rolled into the last turn in about 20th place. I got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had for about 400 meters to the line in 16th place.

I ended up 33rd overall out of 78 racers. My buddy Mike got third overall. He had only beaten me by 14 seconds at the road race but I had a better finish today. It was all about the first Time Trial. If only I hadn’t cramped……

Nothing beats experience. That won’t ever happen to me again

Moving from Zero

“Hey Uncle John, what if we just got one hamburger and split it between the two of us?” “Well Joseph, let’s think about that. If we eat that hamburger, will it bring us closer to our goal or further away from our goal?” He thought about it for a second and replied “it will take us further away.” “Exactly, in order to be extraordinary, you must make an extra ordinary effort.”

My 17-year old nephew was trying to lose weight after a football injury had derailed him from his season causing him to gain over 18 pounds. He is an all-star kicker and has aspirations to be a professional football player. I was trying to drop weight to win a gold medal in cycling at the Master’s Pan American games in Cuba. We had different reasons, but we were both on a quest to lose weight. Lofty goals for us, but no less challenging for those who incorporate little or no exercise in their life.

Why don’t we exercise?

There are many excuses for not exercising. Let me rephrase that. There are many reasons why people do not exercise. No one to go with, lack of time, money, consistency, desire, energy or motivation are the most common. However, the human body thrives on movement. Without movement, the body starts to wither. Let me be clear about something. Movement is not the solution to good health. It’s only part of the solution. Your health is dependent on four main components: Exercise, Nutrition, Rest and Genetics. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something. This article is going to focus on only one component, movement.

What if you don’t like to exercise? Be honest, is it because you’re not that good at exercise; you don’t have the energy, or, you don’t like to exert yourself? Ask yourself these questions? Are you happy with the way you look and feel, or do you hate the way you look and feel? Be honest with yourself. No one else needs to know. What do you hate more, the way you look or feel, or exercise? Which of the two evils would you choose? Whatever decisions you’ve made so far has gotten you the body you have now. Do you wish to continue? Exercise has been proven to help with a host of ailments: obesity, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol, low self-esteem, confidence and self worth. Remember, your physical health affects your spiritual emotional and mental health. They are all tied in with one another.

Unless you’re gifted or talented, any new endeavor will be challenging. You have to stick with it for awhile and then you’ll get better at it. I hear many people complain they have no one to exercise with. Start exercising at a particular place and time; you’ll eventually meet people who are doing the same.

A New Mindset.

If you haven’t been moving at all, then the first step is to establish a new mindset. Once the mind is set, the body will follow.Your present is the window to your future. This is extremely important. Your health is cumulative; each decision of your day affects your cumulative health. However, a misguided present, without direction or a plan to accomplish a goal, can easily go array. I want you to write down this goal, I will start to include exercise or movement in my daily life. This is very important. Write it down. You must also announce it to the universe. State the previous sentence out loud. Once you’ve done this, we can proceed.

Opportunity Cost.
For every decision there is an opportunity cost. If you choose to watch television for an hour, you lose the opportunity to work, study or spend time with your family and of course, exercise. This is where your past decisions must change. This is another important step. Unless you change, nothing will change.

Support Systems.

Be careful of your friends and family. If they truly care for you they will support you. If they don’t support you, seek others that are like-minded who will support you. Maybe your family and friends were supportive, but you weren’t listening. They may now even seem uninterested or just ignore the problem. At some point, you, and only you alone are accountable for your decisions.

Give hope; you will find support systems. Yesterday morning, I cycled at 5:30am in the dark and it was only 33 degrees. Not, ideal conditions to say the least. If I hadn’t met up with seven other lunatics on the ride, I might have gone home.

How to start.

There are many ways to integrate exercise, but you must always keep your goal present in mind. For example, after picking up your children from school and arriving home, most people go off to their rooms. Instead, hold a mandatory 10-minute activity session in your yard or living room. Better yet, play with your children. You don’t stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing. Skate, cycle, play catch, jump rope, etc. Even dance for 10 minutes. If you attend your children’s’ sporting events don’t sit and watch. Walk around the field as you watch them. You’ll be active and as an added bonus you’ll get different viewpoints of the game. Elevators and escalators don’t exist. Take the stairs. If you can’t make the whole distance, stop a few floors before and walk the rest. Plan ahead and bring a change of shoes. Never, ever leave a shopping cart in the parking lot again. Make the effort to walk it back. If you work at a desk, make a pact with yourself to stand up and stretch every hour, 90 minutes or two hours. No more television. It will still be there, you’re just going to limit it for a while. Television will not help you get healthy. It is a mindset. Again, your present is the window into your future!

A Daily Plan.

The plan actually starts the night before. Rest is essential. You have to plan your next day by the time of night you go to sleep. If you wake up at 7am, then you can’t go to sleep any later than 11pm. You can list all the reasons or excuses you want, but your health doesn’t really care. If you ignore or put it off, you will pay the consequences, unless of course you’re a genetic freak. I would not want take that gamble.

Upon waking, go through your normal bathroom etiquette but add these few steps.

  1. Drink a full glass of water.
  2. Stand in front of a mirror and spend five minutes doing these few movements
  3. Reach for the sky and then chop wood – with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and the hips back, reach as high as you can with both hands towards the ceiling. Now, reverse this movement; descend as if you were chopping wood; bend your knees and sticking your butt out, bring both of your hands between your legs. Inhale deeply as you rise up and exhale deeply as you descend. Do this a few times.
  4. From the same position, tilt your body side to side, bringing the left hand over the right side and then the right hand over the left side. Do this a few times.
  5. Same position. Twist like a washing machine.

When you get in the shower, stretch a little more. Squat down to get the soap. It may sound silly, but do it three or four times. Our joint integrity depends almost solely on movement. Stretch your neck as well.

Now go about your day. Keep your mind focused on your goal. Walk at lunch whenever you can. When you get home, walk, do some activity or play with your children. Even 10 minutes will make a difference. Before you go to bed, repeat the same few steps you started your day with. It’s not going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. Your health is worth the effort. You’ll probably stumble and even fail sometimes. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all fail. I’ve done over 150 bike races in the last three years and maybe won only 20 or 30 times. In essence, I’ve failed over 80% of the time. Persevere; it’s how you deal with the failures and disappointments that make you exceptional. It’s really a test of will. Your will must be challenged and exercised just like the rest of your body.

Do you want to be ordinary or extraordinary? Remember, extra ordinary effort will bring extraordinary results!

Editorial of the article “Is this any way to lose weight.”

Anyone who writes or advises you on how to lose weight without addressing activity, rest and genetics is either trying to sell you something or clueless.

Gary Taubes is a real intelligent guy. He holds degrees in applied physics from Harvard, aerospace engineering from Stanford and journalism from Columbia University. He’s also written some books on eating. However, some of his claims make absolutely no sense at all in the context of total health. It reminds me of the surgeon who wanted to operate on my knee when the real problem was my flat-feet that were causing the stress. You can’t isolate one component of how our bodies work. Rest, movement, diet and genetics are what determine our physical health.

For example, he claims that there is “no compelling data that exercise has any effect on losing weight.” Intelligent guy but where’s the common sense? Weight alone is not as important as the type of weight, or body composition. Body fat is what we monitor now. That’s why BMI (Body Mass Index) is now referred to, as a Big Misunderstanding of Information! Show us the compelling evidence that exercise causes weight gain. Yes, exercise or movement can make us hungry but it can also make us tired. Should we not exercise because it makes us sleep better? In fact, there is compelling evidence that lack of sleep causes fat-gain. Besides, most people that need to lose weight have a variety of other lurking problems that can be completely reversed by exercise. Arthritis, heart disease, stress and on and on ….. In fact, in the January, 2011 issue of Newsweek there is an article entitled “Can you build a better brain” where the author states that a year of exercise can give a 70-year-old the connectivity of a 30-year-old improving memory, planning, dealing with ambiguity and multitasking. I guess we should sacrifice our mind so we won’t be hungry from exercise? Plus, the heart doesn’t get stronger from eating; it gets stronger from pumping blood to the muscles. Muscles create, or prevent movement. He states “the kiss of death is exercise?” I don’t think so. Do you really need a study to comprehend this? Don’t see too many cyclists, runners, gymnasts, swimmers, climbers, basketball players, tennis players, etc, that are overweight. Since Mr. Taubes wants to ignore how the body functions and its requirement of movement to maintain itself, I’ll address of few of the dietary comments both Gary and the other guru cited in the article, Dr. Eric Westman (director of Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke) claim to be experts in.

  1. You don’t have to use portion control. That’s right, sausage for breakfast, four hotdogs for lunch and a 24 oz-porterhouse for dinner. The next day just reverse it. Steak and eggs for breakfast, another four hotdogs for lunch and some Italian sausage for dinner. I’m salivating right now. It’s so ludicrous I can’t believe I’m writing it. First, I guarantee you won’t lose body fat or weight and I’ve eaten like this. It doesn’t lower my appetite at all. I don’t know about you, but the more I eat, the more I can eat. Once stuffed, I like to maintain it. What do the lap band and a gastric bypass have in common? They both make the stomach smaller. Eating all this meat won’t keep it small for long. What is ironic is that if you look at Doctor Westman’s typical menu listed in the article, the guy eats like a bird. Two eggs with juice and coffee for breakfast, a salad for lunch, an unce rib eye (good luck trying to find a steak that small in a restaurant unless you’re ordering a filet mignon) and gelatin for dinner! Appears like portion control to me. If this guy tries to do more than 40 minutes of activity in a day, he’s going to run out of gas!
  2. Say no to fruit because it’s got hidden sugars. Have you ever tried to eat six bananas, six apples or an entire watermelon? Why not? Because the body won’t take that much sugar. However, I’m sure you’ve eaten a whole pizza. I guess according to these experts, you’ll have to obtain all your vitamins, minerals and fiber from salami and butter.
  3. Don’t try to limit fat. Eat as much butter and lard as you want. Pack it on. They claim our hunger will go down automatically. No kidding. The gastric emptying time (the satiety effect) for fat is much longer; but how much fat can we eat? Try eating tabs of butter at one sitting. Yeck!
  4. Back when we were hunter-gatherers we ate meat as often as we could get it and no highly refined grains and sugars. Nice point, except that we were also moving (didn’t have to exercise) to catch the food or to not become the food. Don’t think anyone was watching TV or sitting around for hours a day on a computer or a vehicle. Not to mention we were probably dead by age twenty!

I’m not a big sugar fan and agree that high processed foods are somewhat “empty.” However, it’s the lack of movement and sleep along with the large portions that cause the weight gain in most people. It’s not just food. Again, addressing a person’s health without correlating it to their movement patterns, sleep, diet and genetics is very misleading, if not, just ludicrous. Advising people to eat as much as they want, is not the answer. Shame on these guys

Editorial for an article in the November issue of Men’s Journal entitled

I really enjoyed Daniel Duane’s article. He made some great points and delivered some great advice. Basically, you don’t need fancy stuff to get fit. We’re actually born with everything we need. I encourage you all to read it. However, again he’s no different than anyone else. He’s marketing his article and didn’t want to point the finger at the real culprit.

The real culprit is the public, consumer or in this case, the reader; not the gym, the trainer or the person selling you the membership. If the public takes no interest in their own health then they won’t know the difference between the right exercise to perform, whether the article Dan wrote had merit or whether a trainer was good or not.

Why is the consumer so disconnected that they have to be entertained for the lousy 45 minutes to an hour they spend in the gym? Do they watch TV when working, driving or having sex? Why is their health any less important? Why do they continue to buy the same “snake oil” promises over and over again? You can’t get in shape in just 15 minutes a day. In fact, you can’t do anything worthwhile in 15 minutes.

Dan doesn’t want to say it, but here’s why? Because in general, the consumer is lazy, overloaded with no time from all the bad decisions they’ve made, poor nutrition choices from lack of planning and again laziness, poor financial planning made worse from the excessive amount of children they shouldn’t have had, time wasted from watching useless TV like Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and any reality show in existence, plus, they’re being held with “kid gloves” by celebrity doctors (that in most part know less than a personal trainer and doctors go to school for 10 years, and, are just as intent on marketing themselves) that parking further away from the grocery store will help them get in shape. I can’t see how carrying Doritos or hotdogs a little further to the car is going to get you in shape. How much lower can they lower the bench mark for health and fitness?

In essence, for whatever reason, health and fitness is not the publics’ priority. There is nothing more important than your health. No matter what financial or family responsibilities you might have, a person’s health must be integrated into those responsibilities. If not, you’re lazy, an idiot or just in denial. These poorly planned life-choices are affecting the standard of living we currently have and the future of this country as a whole. My intentions are positive and being nice doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere. Sorry to sound so callous but, sometimes “tough love” is necessary to kick some people in the rear end. Think of an alcoholic. Do you keep making excuses for them and applaud them when they’re just a little drunk? At some point you have to get tough and take the alcohol away. When you do, it ain’t going to be pretty.

Since it’s not politically correct to tell someone they’re lazy, unmotivated, uncreative and fairly dumb (enough statistics prove that unhealthy people have a lower IQ) the public will just keep buying the same crapola year after year. Until we stop making excuses, or rewarding mediocre decisions and results, it will never get better. Not everyone gets an A in school. You have to earn it.

It’s time we stop pointing the finger at equipment or fitness professionals. There are good doctors and bad doctors, good lawyers and bad lawyers. The consumer needs to learn the difference on how to choose between good equipment or a good trainer. The public needs to be held accountable for their own mediocrity. Daniel, by the way, 10% body fat for a male is not inhuman. Restraint is a sign of humanity. Stop eating so much.

It’s not up to you or I to force feed people information on their own well-being. It’s up the individual to watch, read and educate themselves regarding their own bodies and what works for them.

I’m sorry Daniel that you had bad experiences with your trainer, but if you had educated yourself a little prior to hiring them, you might have known the difference. In any event, it doesn’t take a lot of common sense to know that squatting on a ball will only help if you’re going to be in the circus. You wouldn’t want to shoot a cannon standing on a piece of ice would you?

I Keep Reading These Articles…

I keep reading these articles about third party accreditation or raising the “standard of credibility” for personal trainers. Are trainers making too much money? Are they working too little hours? Too many benefits? Are they hurting people? I think they aren’t even asking the right questions.

1. Who is asking or demanding some kind of standard of credibility? As far as I know or have seen, there aren’t any members, clients, parents, teachers or politicians writing letters, complaining or demonstrating with signs outside of gyms demanding “higher standard of credibility” for personal trainers. As far as I know, the only people or organization “making waves” in a form of a request for a third party accreditation is IRHSA. I would bet that most members never heard of IRSHA. IRSHA is a fine organization but to my knowledge has never run a personal training department, written a personal training manual or exam, have reviewed certifications nor trained people for a living. Even if the member did ask for a certification, I don’t think they would know the difference between NASM, NFPT, ACSM, NSCA or NCCPT.

2. Why aren’t there articles for “standards of credibility” for group exercise instructors, Pilates instructors, martial artists, indoor cycling, yoga or for that matter, the people who watch the member’s children while they work out? I would gather that all the previous groups I just mentioned affect or come in contact with more people than personal trainers and, I would also gather that with the lack of assessments performed before any of their participants engage in these activities probably account for more acute and chronic injuries than personal trainers cause. How about accreditation, certifications or “standards of credibility” for sales people or management?

3. Why would personal training want to be a part of the allied health team? The system is terrible. In the clubs I managed we would fulfill 2500 sessions a week in just one location! If there were just a 1% error in the system, that would result in 25 customer service problems each week from one location! I am currently fighting with Blue Cross over reimbursement for services I received from a physical therapy clinic in January of 2006! The health care system is so messed up, the physical therapy clinic I attended sometimes has to wait a year for reimbursement. When they didn’t receive it from my insurance company they passed the bills on to me. Mind you, they passed them on to me a year later! I’ve documented six phone calls over a period of four months to Blue Cross and each call I’ve been promised I would receive information on my checks in 7-14 working days. Still nothing. You can imagine how many prompts I had to wade through just to talk to someone.

4. What is the standard? Certification professionals often interviewed define the purpose of certification as establishing a “baseline of competency,” “protect the consumer,” “apply the best science possible,” etc. All fine and dandy, except it’s difficult to find a standard. A person with a degree in English literature, horticulture or mathematics qualifies to sit for the NSCA CSCS exam, but an athlete, coach or personal trainer without a degree who has been competing and training for 10-20 years cannot. How’s that for a standard? Who would monitor the standards? Have you read some of the different certification materials? Although there are many commonalities and great information, some can’t agree on the definition of abduction, range of motion, sets and rep protocols, static stretching, periodización and, it goes on and on. Most of the science has been done on “gym exercises.” With the “functional training” exercises we see now, do these sets and reps still apply? Most large facilities and trainers are performing half hour sessions. How do you perform rest periods of 3-5 minutes between each set in a 30-minute session? I just read a study on static stretching and it’s affect on lowering force production. Is that bad or is it good? Does the average client who wants to feel better and lose 10 pounds care about losing .2 seconds in their 40-meter sprint?

5. How can we increase the compensation, benefits, career path and decrease the amount of hours a personal trainer will have to work to make a decent living? If the average personal trainer earns less than $25,000 a year, how can we expect them to pay for more education? Remember, standards aren’t free. It costs to establish, monitor and employ standards.

6. Qualify the person being interviewed? When interviewing anyone regarding certification these questions should be t asked “How many new people do you meet a week, a month or a year wanting to be a personal trainer?” “Can you describe the average person looking to become certified?” What are their demographics?” “How much money do they need or want to make?’ “Do you hire or interview trainers?” What are their goals or dreams?” “Are you certified?” “How many certifications have you personally experienced?” “How many of their manuals or materials have you personally studied?” “Of the certifications you’ve recommending are you aware of how often they update their materials?” If they can’t answer these questions then they aren’t qualified to comment. This is a new field. Personal Training has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Did anyone hear of Curves five years ago? Stability balls, medicine balls and foam rollers were not the mainstay 8-10 years ago. Most chains didn’t even have a personal training department 10 years ago! There might have been floor trainers, but in 1998 the profession was different than it is now.

7. What is a successful personal trainer? Is it financial? I see many popular trainers with a full client load who aren’t scientifically sound at all. Are they changing people’s lives for the better or the worst? Is Richard Simmons certified? How about Billy Blanks?

8. Does certification or a college degree make a successful personal trainer? Todd Durkin, who you can tell is in the trenches, had the best quote “certification makes up less than 50% of what gets the candidate in for the second interview.” I wish he would have said certification or higher education. Although doctors, lawyers and English literature majors are smart people and have obtained much education, I’m doubtful that many of them have trained clients for a long period of time. Personal trainers might never be required to acquire as much education as a doctor but then again, there are “good doctors” and “bad doctors.”

The truth is, it’s America. It’s great that we have all these organizations to learn from. The NASM curriculum is much different than NSCA. The NCCPT is much different than ISSA of AFAA. This is capitalism at it’s finest Competition creates better products and variety. We should have options and it’s up to the student to educate themselves on an organization before they purchase their products, regardless of whether it’s a certification, trade school or a college. The clients should have options to choose the best trainer for them, regardless of the acronym at the end of their name or the lack of the acronym. An employer should have the right to decide on whom to hire for the same reasons. In my opinion anyone who has taken the time to educate themselves through a certification, trade school, college, the internet or the library has made a move in the right direction. Regardless of the piece or paper in their hand it’s the consumer or the employer’s responsibility to interview wisely, perform a back ground check and to perform their due diligence before allowing a personal trainer, salesperson or anyone to represent them. This responsibility and accountability for all of our actions exists when purchasing a gym membership, personal training or a roof on a house.
Personal training is a service business not unlike, auto-detailers, landscapers, massage therapists, hairdressers, waiters, bartenders, chefs, housekeepers, mechanics, doctors, attorneys, accountants and on an on. You get what you pay for and pay for what you like. Believe me, if a woman likes her hairdresser she doesn’t care if they have a license or not. When was the last time you asked your massage therapist or hairdresser for their license or where your bartender or mechanic went to school? Can a massage therapist or a bartender hurt you? Sure can, if you let them.

It is very difficult to standardize an art, and in my opinion, personal training is more of an art than a science. If a trainer purchases a certification and someone hires them, likes them and gets results, where is the foul? Personal trainers aren’t making supplements or hiding ingredients in their exercises. However, a client needs to ask questions. They are accountable for their decision in hiring a good trainer or a sub-standard trainer. Ultimately, a degree, certification or any piece or paper doesn’t guarantee success. Look at all the marriage licenses that end in divorce. Regardless of how much a trainer paid or studied for their certification or degree, it is the consumer’s responsibility to decide on whether to purchase their services or not. If they don’t educate themselves on how to do so, then shame on them or shame on the company that presented the trainer to their customers. That’s what insurance and attorneys are for.

The focus should be on the facilities and their compensation for personal trainers and, more importantly, the basic education our children receive in regular schooling. It would have been highly beneficial if I had learned about my joints, muscles and how our bodies move in high school so I could make better decisions when exercising, getting a massage or hiring a personal trainer. It might have saved me from the four knee surgeries I’ve incurred in my life.
Personal trainers are studying to become certified or degreed from a variety or colleges and certifications, waking up at ridiculously early hours, working late into the evening, getting people into shape, preventing a host of diseases, motivating and caretaking for their clients for very little money, no benefits in most cases without any guaranteed work schedule. I’ve never met a more empathetic group of people. Could we give them a break?

Maybe next article?