The Fitness “Info” Paralysis Effect

Once upon a time on January 1st….

It’s that time of year.

The magical, almost mythical time when resolutions are made with conviction. Conviction that, “this time, I’m gonna see it through.”

And that’s the end of the story. You all know the typical end.

Fitness and health (weight loss) are probably the most common goals set as a New Years resolution. They are also, like most others, abandoned after a short time of high motivation followed by a realization that “this goal is going to take some real work to achieve.”


Real, consistent, hard work on something that is new to you.

Out of your comfort zone.

The uncharted territory.

Confounding this situation is the over-abundance of fitness messages that bombard you non stop during this time of year.

“Do only this. Don’t do that! You thought avocados were healthy, think again!”

So not only are you going on a journey into unknown lands, all the maps tell you to go in different, sometimes opposite directions.

It’s enough to stop a journey short, or worse, before it even begins.

I know I have my philosophies on health and fitness and I am not afraid to share them. But my thoughts are not the end-all-be-all of fitness.

I know there are many roads leading to the same place. Some roads are more comfortable to some people. Some roads are longer but have a pleasant, scenic drive. Some are short and intense.

But there are many roads, many ways to your ultimate goal.

Choose a path and go. Don’t be paralyzed by competing fitness “knowledge.”

Ask yourself, “What am I most comfortable with right now?” Is it a living room DVD yoga session? Jumping in with a buddy at his CrossFit gym? Hiring a personal trainer or just taking a few laps around the block at work?

Pick something. And do it. Just start to move.

The route you choose may be exactly right for you. Or you may change it to suit your needs.

Just move.

Don’t let conflicting fitness messages that can be overwhelming at this time of year keep you from doing something that could change your life.

It’s your journey. Pick a path and begin.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

You’re Right Sometimes, but You’re Always Wrong

I’m not Mr. Right. I’m Mr. Right Now.

You’ve heard that phrase before.

You’ve heard that phrase when it comes to finding the perfect relationship, job, house and so on.

It’s not perfect, but it will do for now.

It will do for this moment in time… but not in the future.

That’s a true understanding of your position in the world and the current state of who you are.

And that’s exactly where I’ll always be. At least, as far as understanding health, fitness, and wellness goes.

I know what’s right, right now.

Three years from now, my right will inevitably be wrong. And that’s how it should be. In this industry, which is relatively young, new research is coming out every day. Today’s right is tomorrow’s wrong.

And that’s absolutely ok, as long as what you’re teaching represents the current understanding of what’s happening with the research.

Although a cool picture, I rarely use this go to exercise anymore. Most can’t do it well, and the benefit usually isn’t worth the cost.

You must know that things can and should change. Don’t become married to an idea because you’ve become comfortable teaching it.

Normally, you won’t have to wholesale trash everything you’ve learned in one fell sweep. Usually, it’s just tweaking and refining ideas so they become better ideas.

When I look back at some of the articles I’ve published 5 years ago, I realize how far I’ve come in getting a little better at understanding the human body and fitness.

By today’s standard, I was wrong. But I was right then.

Continue to learn. You’ve never arrived. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and don’t be afraid to change that stand. That’s how it works.

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

How much time should you spend prepping for your workout?

“I’ll see ya in a half hour, I have to prep myself for our workout!”

How much time should you spend prepping for your workout?

Once upon a time, like 5 years ago, you couldn’t get ANYONE to do any targeted warm up for their workouts. Outside of a little treadmill walking, folks didn’t want ton”waste time” doing this.

Now, in the age of prehab and mobility, you can’t get people off the stretching table or foam roller to actually work out.

So, in a busy world where workout time is at a premium, how much time should you spend preparing for exercise and what is actually effective at doing this?

Preworkout stretching?

Stretching in general has been a controversial topic in fitness over the years. As far as static pre workout stretching goes, you’re not going to increase the length of a cold muscle effectively, and you may actually be reducing the potential strength of that muscle. Further, any added length is temporary so permanent increased range of motion usually doesn’t happen.

Worth the time? NO

Preworkout foam rolling?

Foam rolling does a terrible job at removing adhesion. It can inhibit a muscle if enough pressure is applied (aka make that tissue feel better temporarily). Ibuprofen does that too. The danger is a damaged tissue that feels better “for now” is not fixed. Loading that tissue with resistance is not a good idea just because you’ve made the pain response go away for a while.

Worth the time? NO

Dynamic stretching?

This is actually movement performed fluidly through a range of motion. Hops, skips, jogs and variations of these dynamic movements are utilized to encourage good range of motion through joints like the hips, knees, shoulders and ankles. These movements increase blood flow to the muscle and encourage a better neural connection to the muscle involved.

Worth the time? YES

“Activation” exercises?

T spine extension with a “T” is a great isometric activation exercise for the upper back.

These are moderately resisted strength exercises designed to increase blood flow and neurally “juice” a specific muscle/joint. These include planking exercises, band exercises, or lightly loaded strength exercises.

Worth the time? YES

With all of this said, over the years I keep coming back to one thought.

If pre workout mobilization is temporary, and foam rolling only temporarily masks uncomfortable spots, then why don’t we just warm up with LIGHTER VARIATIONS of the EXERCISES we plan to do that day???

If you’re planning on squatting, warm up with several sets of light load squats.

If your working on upper body pulling, warm up with low load rows.

And so on…

Just the sum of my experiences and my two cents. Thanks for spending a couple minutes reading!

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

But, But, But…the Research Says So!

“Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”

-Jules Verne (A Journey to the Center of the Earth)

Yeah, but the research says……


After 10,000 hours or so in the lab (working directly with clientele) you’ve done an impressive amount of research all by yourself.

A question:

What if published, popular research doesn’t correspond with your own experience with your clients?

What if…what you do works better?

That’s not a question to encourage doing things deliberately counter to popular research.

But, if you consistently witness something with your clientele that makes you question the norm, you should test it.

Dip your toe in the water and test it.

Does that little dip blow your theory? Then trash it.

But did that small dip do good things? Test it a bit more.

The resisted plank for short bursts are great for lumbar stiffness and are a part of creating a strong core.

I’ve dipped a lot. I’ve trashed a lot of ideas. But I’ve also stumbled across some pretty interesting modifications to common exercise protocol BECAUSE I’ve not been afraid to test something I felt had some merit.

Even if it was unpopular. Even if the book said “no.”

Some ideas have brought me well past the dipping stage into full blown cannonball in the deep end stage. The cannonball worked.

Not a lot, but an important few ideas worked.

After all, how many of the currently accepted norms where once unpopular ideas? All current “yes’s” were once “no’s.”

Do your research. Read all the books. Keep yourself updated with current industry info.

And use your head.

If it makes sense, and you see real life results from an idea, test it and use it. The next big thing might as well be your idea.

For more information or any questions, email me at

It’s Your Turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

The Power of Believing in Someone

Once upon a time, a researcher named Robert Rosenthal conducted a study. In that study, he gave a disguised IQ test to children in an elementary school in California.

Following the test, the teachers of these students were informed by Rosenthal that some students performed exceedingly well, and should be expected to “bloom” and exceed academic expectations in the upcoming year.

The “bloomers” were actually chosen at random, without regard to their actual test scores.

The “bloomers” names were made known to the teachers.

At the end of the year the test was administered again.

As a whole, the group of children showed an average gain in their test scores, but the “bloomers” tested with significantly greater gains than the “non-bloomers.”

So, what happened here?

In what’s known as the “Pygmalion Effect”, higher expectations from a leader, coach, or teacher lead to greater performance by the student.

By expecting more from (and probably giving more positive attention to) a student, the student actually responds with an increase in performance regardless of innate skill, intellect, or natural capability.

Conversely, in what’s known as the “Golem Effect” those students with low expectations, regardless of skill or capability, performed lower.

This study has since been replicated, and the Pygmalion Effect confirmed, in countless research.

Now for the coaching and training application.

In what should now seem a pretty obvious assumption, the Pygmalion Effect can be witnessed very easily in the coaching and personal training arena.

In the training world, expecting more from a client from the very beginning sets the tone of expectation. It also says “I believe in you” enough to hold you accountable to a higher standard.

Korey Toomer went from practice team to NFL starting linebacker in the course of one off season.

By setting lofty (but attainable) goals and not allowing feeble excuses to derail a clients progress, a trainer is re-asserting that belief in their client’s capabilities. Higher expectations lead to higher performance.

The takeaway?

Set your expectations high without being unreasonable. Demand, in a way that shows belief in a client’s potential, that the appropriate amount of effort be put forth to achieve the client’s set goals.

Treat your clients in a manner that shows that reaching their goals is a forgone conclusion because you already believe it will happen.

Simply stated, your belief that they can do it significantly increases the chances that they will succeed.

Those clients will more often than not raise themselves to the level of your expectations because you show that you believe they will.

As always, any questions or comments can be sent to

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

9th Annual Get Fit for Fido

This year marks our 9th Annual Get Fit for Fido, and we are doing it differently this year!

Get Fit for Fido will only take place on December 9th at 9 am.

There will be an adults class and a kids class, so we encourage you to bring your whole family and friends to come get a great workout!

It will cost $10 per person or if you have family of 5, it will cost $40. We will also be selling black long sleeves shirts for $15. 100% of all the proceeds will go to the Lucky K9 Rescue animal shelter.

We will also be serving hot chocolate, coffee, and doughnuts after the class.

Can’t make the class, but still want to donate to the Lucky K9 Rescue animal shelter? You can stop by Emerge Fitness Training anytime before December 9th to drop off your donation or to purchase a long sleeve shirt!

Emerge Everyone

We just finished our first training class for our newest fitness program, Emerge EveryOne today, and we want to tell EveryOne about it!

What is Emerge EveryOne?

These classes are specifically designed for adults with intellectual disabilities, and you do not need to be part of any organization to come workout. We are inviting EVERYONE with an intellectual disability to come enjoy a workout. At each workout, we will have multiple trainers from Emerge Fitness and DASA (Disabled Athletes Sports Association).

When is Emerge EveryOne?

Our next classes will be on November 18th, December 2nd, December 9th, and December 16th. Each class will begin at 11 AM. If you are coming for your first time, we ask that you show up 5-10 minutes prior to the workout, so you can sign a release form and familiarize yourselves with the facility.

How much does it cost for Emerge EveryOne?

The best part of Emerge EveryOne: thanks to Brian Norton and Andrew’s Hugs, these classes are FREE to attend! There is NO cost! We will also be providing complementary T-shirts for each participant.

Where is Emerge EveryOne?

Emerge EveryOne will take place at Emerge Fitness Training, which is located at 920 Hemsath Road, Suite 100, Saint Charles, MO.

Special Thanks

We also want to thank Jason Davis for imagining this program, and BCI and Community Living supporting this idea.

Thank you to Emerge and DASA trainers: Toma Ghattas, Kimi Kemp, Tyler Martin, Beth Pirtle, Kee Russell, Ben Serangeli, Alyssa Speckhals and Kody Welker for their continuing help.

What if I have other questions?

You can direct all questions about Emerge EveryOne, Emerge Fitness Training, or anything else to Ben Serangeli at

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I got a chance to do something special

I got a chance to hear from 7 of the most influential fitness minds in the St. Louis area.

I asked these 7 trainers six straightforward questions about fitness, the industry, and their role in all of it.

I didn’t expect some of their answers, and it has put the fitness industry in a better perspective for me.

First, an introduction to the Coaches:

Jaime Rothermich- Owner and Coach at Functional Elements

With over 15 years of personal training and nutrition, Jaime Rothermich has worked with a wide variety of clients with a wide variety of needs.
A graduate of the University of Missouri, Rothermich is married to wife Jennifer, and lives in St. Charles with their three kids. He is one of only four dietitians in Missouri to be a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

Nick Dudas- Owner and Coach at Dudas Fitness

In 2007 I graduated from Central Methodist University with my B.S. in Business and Accounting. After my first year as an accountant at Williams Keepers, LLC I knew I couldn’t sit at a desk for the rest of my life. Taking a leap of faith, I decided to follow my passion and became a personal trainer in 2008.

I grew from working at a corporate gym, to being contracted at a private studio and finally opened up a studio with my wife.

Matt Wirth- Coach at Emerge Fitness Training

In November 2008, I left 24 Hour Fitness and the corporate gym atmosphere to train independently at a private studio where I trained an average of 40 plus clients week. I decided to take another step forward in my career and become a business co-owner of an exclusive studio called “UBX”. I opened the studio to not only have a place of my own to train my personal clients, but also a place that elite trainers could train; they could graduate from the corporate world and get rewarded with no restrictions to do what they love best. After selling my share of the studio, I decided I wanted to take on a bigger, more aggressive role and train athletes at Emerge.

Beth Pirtle- Coach at Emerge Fitness Training

I have worked in the personal training industry for over 12 years. I have trained a diverse clientele with diverse fitness goals. I’m not your typical personal trainer. I am 62 in an industry where the average age is probably 30.

John Farkas- Owner and Coach at Blue Ocean Fitness

After working in the fitness industry for 9 years, John opened Blue Ocean Fitness in 2011 to create an experience that put the focus on the client.With just a dream and no real business plan, John has grown Blue Ocean Fitness into a 3,000 square foot training gym servicing over 200 clients on a weekly basis with a team of 4 coaches.

John and his team specialize in meeting clients where they are at and creating custom solutions to help them achieve their goals.

Brendan O’Neil- Owner and Coach at KOR Komplex

Angie Nation-Pirtle- Owner and Coach at Emerge Fitness Training

Inspired by her earlier experiences at Wellbridge Athletic Club and 24 Hour Fitness Angie is driven to raise the bar in fitness and sport training. Developing the highest levels of client rapport and success guides all her actions and agendas as both an Emerge Exercise Specialist and Co-Owner of Emerge Fitness Training.

Those are the coaches, here are the questions and anwers. Straight, unfiltered responses from the experts.

Question 1: What got you into fitness?

Rothermich– “Around the age of 13 to 14 years old my brother introduced me to strength training. I saw immediate results, but a few years later I began to realize the importance of nutrition, leading me into the field of dietetics in college.”

B. Pirtle– Initially, many years ago, it was all about weight loss and diet. I started out working for Weight Watchers because I lost weight on the program and I wanted to help other people, primarily women, understand that they could eat plenty of healthy food, lose and maintain weight loss. Exercise was not the critical fitness component back then that it is today.”

Wirth– “I got into fitness when I was younger, growing up with friends with older brothers who spent a lot of time in the gym. My friends and I just followed along.”

O’Neill– “Originally I got into fitness and bodybuilding when I was 15 after my brother had open heart surgery because of a heart defect he was born with. The doctors told him to start exercising regularly for his health. I became his workout partner from there.”

Dudas– “After graduating CMU with an accounting/business degree, my first job out of college was a tax accountant. I quickly relaized I was not meant to do taxes for the rest of my life. Suddenly, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I loved the CMU football strength and conditioning program and when I reflected about what I was truly passionate about, I realized how much passion I had for lifting weights and being fit. I couldn’t sit behind a desk everyday, so I began to pursue education to become a Certified Personal Trainer.”

Farkas– “When I was 15, I started working out in order to gain muscle for sports in high school. By the time I graduated, I enjoyed working out more than I did the sports and I was hooked. I loved being in a gym and couldn’t spend enough time there. When I was 18, a friend of a friend asked me to help them get stronger and the rest is history”

A. Pirtle– “I have played sports my entire life from baseball in the backyard with my brothers and neighbors to team sports through high school. After high school I went to WIU and studied business and marketing and realized quickly enough after the first semester I missed being active. I changed majors to exercise science and nutrition my sophomore year and have not steered from the industry since.

Question 2: Why do you do What you DO?

Rothermich– “I have witnessed and understand the power, strengthening, and healing effects of proper training/exercise coupled with proper nutrition. Through my own journey, along with all the people I’ve counseled and educated, I’ve seen these effects countless times. It brings me so much joy seeing others succeed in reaching their individual goals. Whether it is reducing the risk of or reversing disease, or becoming stronger, leaner, and more confident, helping a person in their own journey is very fulfilling.”

B. Pirtle: “I became a personal trainer because I realized that to be a truly healthy, fit person I needed to adopt all the components of fitness, which included exercise (cardiovascular and strength), flexibility, etc. I knew that the ageing population did not necessarily understand how functional strength training could translate into a much better quality of life. It empowers me to pass this on, especially to older clients.”

Wirth: “I do this because I like to see people improve their quality of life. I also love pushing clients to achieve things in strength that they thought wasn’t possible.”

O’Neill: “Because I truly love helping people better their lives, and empowering them by giving them the tools to do so.”

Dudas: “The only reason I get out of bed every morning at 3:40 AM is to inspire someone to move better, push farther, and live better. That’s why I do what I do. What I do is truly worth it. Doing someone’s tax return could never be as rewarding as a client reporting they can finally get up the stairs pain free or that they made a select sports team that they got cut from a year before.

Farkas: “I don’t believe there is anything more important than your health and I believe fitness is the best way to manage it. Rich, poor, married, single, kids, etc… in my opinion, regardless of your situation, none of that stuff matters if you don’t have your health.

I love helping people and few things are more rewarding than watching someone improve and accomplish things they might not of thought were possible when they started. As a coach, you can truly change someones life for the better in ways that nothing else can.”

A. Pirtle: “I love sharing what I know about nutrition and strength training with clients and seeing them make changes and accomplishments in their life. Not only do I witness physical changes but improvements in mental health and positive energy.

Being a business owner for the past 10 years I have found myself being pulled to the business side of Emerge which in turn took me away from time with clients. This past January I made a decision to get back on the floor and do what I am really good at and that is sharing my passion and knowledge with people.”

Question 3: How did you know fitness was your “calling?”

Rothermich: “As I began my college career in nutrition/dietetics, then eventually training, it was the only educational area I truly felt passionate to learn.”

B. Pirtle: “I didn’t. I’ve spent most of my adult life committed to bettering my diet, eventually incorporating exercise and ultimately becoming a runner — my love.”

O’Neill: “After I rehabbed myself from a back injury when I was in my early 20’s. I was told by a surgeon that I was 20% disabled and was told that I should live an inactive lifestyle to avoid being in pain and injuring myself more. I took control of my own situation and persevered to become a fitness professional.”

Dudas: I knew this was my calling the first time I helped a client achieve their goal of becoming a better version of themselves. The feeling I get when I change someone’s well-being through health and fitness is more rewarding than anything I’ve experienced.”

Farkas: “I honestly can’t recall a single moment where I “knew” this was for me. While it has been a bumpy road with many setbacks, there isn’t anything else in the world I would rather do.”

A. Pirtle: “24 hour Fitness. My first year out of college I started as a trainer at 24 not knowing a whole lot about working with people but fell into it quickly. Within 3–4 months of training I had a full schedule of clients and it soon became my career.

Question 4: Where do you see the training industry going in the next 5 years?

Rothermich: “One area I feel will advance is in our older population. Our total population is becoming older with greater risk of disease due to poor food quality, environmental pollutants, and an increasing reliance on medication. Education and guidance in the areas of nutrition and exercise training will become imperative in this group to reduce the need for medications, reduce disease, and improve overall quality of life. And I believe they are realizing this fact.”

B. Pirtle: “Focusing in on whatever will assist people in our country to get healthy and disease free. We’re overweight, out of shape and sick and it’s costing our country a fortune. Getting people to understand what “healthy eating” is and the impact it has on staying well is going to be critical (food is medicine) along with exercise and activity is necessary.

I think we are going to see more and more the importance to catering to seniors in the fitness industry. We’re planning on being around along time, we’ve got money and we want to feel good.”

Wirth: “I see the fitness industry moving towards getting sedentary people or persons with specific muscle imbalances feeling better through movement.”

O’Neill– “I see it developing into more dynamic functional training focused around sports and outdoor athletic events and recreation.”

Dudas– “Hunching over computers, phones, steering wheels and dinner tables will continue to demand that trainers be excellent at clearing range of motion and building stability where needed in the body as a part of their training expertise. I also see more mental well-being playing a role as well with yoga and meditation growing. Facilities that offer high intensity group training will continue to make their way into the industry but I don’t see that ever replacing a good coach because a program truly needs to be individualized.”

Farkas-”I think culture and community will be more important than ever before. People want to be part of something, they want support, encouragement and a place where they leave feeling better than when they arrived. We live in a busy, stressful world and it’s more important than ever before to have an outlet for that stress. A place where for at least a short period of time, you can forget about all the other stuff going on.”

A. Pirtle:-”Our industry is only on the up and up. This industry will never die and the good trainers will keep it thriving. I think fitness will keep trending towards personal trainers not just being rep counters but movement specialists with understanding of pathology and of the body.”

Question 5: What do you think is the most important attribute of an exceptional coach?

Rothermich:- “Tough question! I’m not sure if there can be only one. I believe there needs to be a solid foundation of education or knowledge of the field as well as passion for the field of nutrition and exercise. Passion, lacking education, may provide a misguided program. Education, lacking passion, will also lack in client motivation. So, in my opinion, equal amounts of both will lead to an exceptional coach.”

B. Pirtle:- “Good coaches have very high client retention rates because they have compassion and the ability to listen and connect to clients of all ages. They understand the importance of ongoing reading and education in the field of fitness and human beings. They know that connecting and talking with other coaches enhances their ability to motivate clients to wellness & fitness. They believe in what they coach and teach so much that they actually do it themselves.”

Wirth:- “Some of the most important things I see from an exceptional coach is a person with a drive for continuous education on how to better their training and having the ability to get through to their clients and athletes in order to help them achieve what they are capable of.”

O’Neill:- “Tried and true experience in what is taught, and truly wanting to help others.”

Dudas:- “In my opinion the most important attributes of a good coach can have is the ability to listen and communicate. Athletes/ clients will have obstacles arise. Their goals may change. A trainer needs to be able to hear exactly what their client is asking for or what obstacle they are running into in order to come up with a plan of action to get them there. Then, the coach needs to be able to communicate clearly and effectively so that the client can shine.”

Farkas:A relentless desire to continually improve. There are many variables that go into helping clients succeed and an exceptional coach is constantly working to better help clients achieve the results they desire through sustainable and efficient methods.

Not only does it take time and repetition to build the skills necessary to provide a well balanced and effective session, you also must be able to guide clients to make behavior changes, work around injuries, learn how to appropriately set goals, and navigate many of the other hurdles that life throws in the way. All of these skills take time and constant tweaking to develop.”

A. Pirtle:- “ The most successful trainers I have worked with have an undeniable ability to give great customer service and to connect with people.

Question 6: One piece of advice for aspiring trainers/coaches?

Rothermich:- “You are the expert in your field but you will never know everything within your field. Don’t let your ego stop you from learning. Your knowledge and education must always continue to grow. Once you stop learning you also stop being an effective coach.

(Side note: I’ve been a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist for almost 20 years, and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition for the past 5.5 years…and over the recent 5–6 years, after throwing myself deeply into a couple new areas of nutrition and nutrition research, I feel like the more I learn, the less I know. It’s amazing how much more I can and need to learn…and that will never end!)

B. Pirtle:- “Dive in and keep growing and learning about the changing world of fitness. It will help to keep it fresh and avoid burn out.”

Wirth:- “Stay humble,be a constant student of fitness, and listen more than you speak when it comes to your clients. I think it is then that you can truly understand people and are able to get the outcome you desire from them.”

O’Neill:- “Knowledge isn’t power. Applied knowledge is power- Paul Chek. Practice what you preach, and never stop educating yourself in all aspects of health and fitness.”

Dudas:- “Surround yourself with people better than you. Being around coaches that continue to learn and grow will only up your skill level.”

Farkas:- “Fitness is hard. We are selling a service that people don’t really want. What I mean is, people want the results that come from exercise but in large part, they don’t enjoy the process- the effort, the time, the lifestyle changes.

You have to keep that in mind when helping clients. Not everyone is going to buy into everything you tell them from day one. You have to be able to meet clients where they are at on their journey and gradually take them to where they want to be.”

A. Pirtle:- “Get as much experience in the field understanding people and different personalities. The more you can listen to and understand people the more successful you will be. If you are person that is passionate in the field, knowledge will come and you will learn from good coworkers. The ability to communicate with people is key.”

So, there you have it. These are the thoughts of some of the most experienced, accomplished trainers in the area.

Stay tuned. I plan to have more specific discussions with these experts about all topics health, fitness, and wellness. I hope you enjoyed the read.

Feel free to comment on suggestions for future discussion.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Finding Balance Can Break You

It’s popular advice.

“Find a balance in life” to be truly happy.

It’s good advice, but it leaves a lot to decipher on your own.

For example, what’s a “balance?” Is that balancing the exact same amount of “me” time with work? It leaves me imagining a teeter totter with the exact same load on each side, the plank balancing exactly in the middle.

Then you add in family and friends. This adds another teeter totter crossing the first. Must all four ends (and in reality, there are many more crossing planks) of the teeter totter be perfectly balanced to find true peace?

That’s a lot to manage. Taking away a little off one side and adding it on to another side to find perfect balance is work in itself.

And sometimes, if you’re like me, taking away from any side leaves you feeling like you’re letting someone or something down. So you add load back to that side, and the balance cycle continues.

Until the boards break.

It’s something I have struggled with as a father, a business owner, a family member, a friend, and someone who likes to sometimes be alone.

For me, the trick has been finding, and being comfortable with, my threshold.

My threshold is the amount of load I can place on the proverbial teeter totter and still breathe.

Even if the planks are unbalanced.

My teeter totter has an unbalanced look, with some planks higher than others. Some sides are prioritized.

And that has to be okay.

I’ve tested the threshold, and I know what happens. Too much load here means neglect here (usually my free time) and you end up in a bad place.

Balance can mean adding more or taking away on one side and not the other.

I’ve learned my threshold is different than others. I’ve often taken on new responsibilities because I see others doing the same. If they can, I can.


They are different people with different variables in their life. Their threshold is theirs. Mine is mine.

What about health and fitness?

When I see the “suck it up, buttercup” style motivational fitness post, it’s irks me a bit because of this.

It can be motivating to some, but to most, this just becomes a catalyst to add load to your teeter totter, or to feel guilty for not.

This is absolutely not saying that you shouldn’t add routine fitness to your lifestyle. You should smartly add fitness to your board with an understanding of your balance threshold.

Don’t break your teeter totter because someone else is bragging about going to the gym 7 days a week at 5am.

Finding a balance means knowing your threshold, and more, being comfortable with that place.

For me, I’m still battling. I know the threshold, now I need to stay consistently true to it. I do know that when I do, I am a better all around me for it.

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Bend Iron to Your Needs

When a coach or trainer is writing a client’s program, he has decisions to make.

Those decisions are based on what that client is attempting to achieve, in a given amount of time.

Other variables factor in too.

  1. Injuries– what do we have to work around or avoid completely
  2. Muscle imbalances– what movement patterns have to be addressed before an all-out strength program can be implemented, and then identify what muscles need “special attention.”
  3. Genetics– some folks are simply more, or less, inclined to benefit from certain exercises. This includes squat stances, grip widths, and so on.
  4. Coordination and balance– Some exercise may be contraindicated at first because your client’s coordination will not support the complex movement.
  5. Client commitment– how often will your client be working out when they are not with you, and how will those workouts (or lack of) affect the program?

These are just a few examples. There are many more to consider. This is the science of program design.

Once you’ve addressed all of these variables, the art of program design kicks in. The trainer gets to focus their attention at this point on their “tool box.”

Something to keep in mind, one trainer’s tool box may be vastly different than anothers. A trainer who has extensive education in weightlifting will have a different looking set of tools from a trainer that has focused more on post rehabilitation training.

Back to the tool box. In a trainer’s minds eye, she can see all of the tools available to her. She knows the clients goals, she knows the clients unique circumstances, now she gets to choose the tools the get the job done. From the tools available to her, she gets to decide which ones would best suit her client right now.

But the art of program design doesn’t stop their. The true craftsman ship is in the molding of the tool (exercise) to fit a particular client. It’s not enough to drag and drop a squat into a program. That’s a rookie mistake.

Use your experience and creativity to mold exercises to fit your clients needs.

An effective squat for one person (a squat that actually gets someone closer to their unique goals) can be radically different from someone elses. Depth, foot width, bar placement, load, tempo and movement mechanics themselves can differ person to person depending on what the client is wanting to accomplish.

That’s one reason that I can’t stand the “if you’re not squatting ass to floor, then you’re not squatting” argument.

A person lifting with a disc herniation wouldn’t be lifting anymore if they squatted this way, and some lifters anatomy simply doesn’t allow for this range of motion without nasty compensations.

Tools can be manipulated to fit your needs. What matters, more than the exercise, is strengthening a movement pattern that will benefit your client. Take a squat, bend it to your client’s needs, and call it whatever you want. It doesn’t matter what the tool is called if it helps your client.

That’s where the creative manipulation of your tool box comes into play. Throw out absolutes. Instead of having one tool at your disposal, you now have 20 variations of the same tool.

Now the exercise fits the client, versus forcing your client to fit an exercise.

That’s why, when I’m at the gym and I witness a trainer with a client doing an exercise “wrong” I try not to judge to quickly. They may have found a variation of an exercise that is perfect for their client.

Make sure you have a sound understanding of human movement and your client’s unique needs, then enjoy the creative part of program design.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS