“The 12 Things in Fitness That are so Insane to Me”

This is the most wonderful time of the year. In just a few days we will begin shifting our focus to “Peace on Earth” and “Auld Lang Syne”. We will be exchanging holiday gifts, connecting with loved ones, and taking time to appreciate what we have.

However, there is still time to poke a little holiday fun at things that we cannot stand…

Which leads me to my favorite holiday movie line of all time:

“Take it Russ”

Russ reminds us that are just some things that we hate and would rather do without. There are just some things in fitness in my opinion that should just go away; therefore I would like to add my own spin to one of the more beloved songs of the holidays.

12. “Twelve” Different Biceps Curls

 In anatomy and physiology, we learned about the joint actions of muscles or the primary movement. The Biceps Brachii or “Biceps” have one joint action they are primarily responsible for.


That’s it. That means the one exercise that make the Biceps independently bigger and stronger are Bicep Curls. I am okay with Bicep curls, yet everyone seems to love biceps curls. They love them so much that there is actually over 50+ “different” Bicep curling exercises.

For the purposes of body building, it is important to “work all the angles” to get the “maximum pump” for the muscle. For the general public, energy might be better spent teaching people how to incorporate the biceps into full body exercises that will help them get fit over all.

 “Talkin’ about the Cayotes…”

Yeah, we don’t need a million different ways to work the Biceps.

11. “Eleventh” Session Free














Big Box gyms want to sell you personal training sessions. In their incentive to get you to buy more sessions, they will tend to throw in 1 more free session.

A few years ago, I went to LA Fitness to do some research. The personal trainer there sat me down to find out my goals, as well as sell me some personal training sessions. As he went over the personal training packages, he said, “The more sessions you buy, the more free sessions you get.” He continued to describe the benefits, and I realized that he was selling me 30 minute sessions.

Therefore, even if I bought ten 30 minute sessions, it would only really be at total of 5 ½ hours of training.

I don’t know about you, but it takes many of my clients 15 to 20 minutes just to warm up (mobility, stability, flexibility).

“Just need one rep…”

 Maybe that’s all we need…

 10. $10 a month

A recent article on UPROXX regarding Planet Fitness has been circulating on Facebook. The article describes how gyms may target individuals that will pay the monthly fee, but never set foot in the gym. This comfort of knowing they have a good deal on a membership is enough for individuals to keep paying, but never-ever going.

For 2016, I suggest you look for the quality of training you could receive, rather than the quantity of money you may be saving.

“Crushed it…”

There is no price on your health.

9. “Nine” DVD’s

 "13 DVD's"

“13 DVD’s”

"11 DVD's"

“11 DVD’s”

"More Options?"

“More Options?”

“How many DVD’s does your set have?




We Love our fitness DVD’s. Every time a fitness infomercial is on, I find myself lulled into watching. For the most part, I want to see if there are any new concepts that these fitness entrepreneurs are bringing to the table.

As I wrote last week –  They aren’t

But they are great at marketing.

Seems like you can’t get fit unless you have the complete box set of DVD’s.


“I guess it looks as if you’re reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?”


“No f***ing way.”

Why can’t they just put all the content on one single DVD or Flash Drive? DVD’s are like records people. All my CD’s are down in my basement, and I occasionally take them out, dust them off, and put on All-for-One.

Otherwise, they stay in the basement.

8. “Eight” Accredited Certifications

“I am kind of a big deal.”

I can be accused of this as well. In my quest for training knowledge, I have found myself with quite a few letters after my name. Enough that I cannot fit them all on a business card.

However, my clients and fellow fitness professionals really don’t care how many certifications I have. The letters after your name only mean something if you apply what you have learned. I still need to list all the letters in my bio so potential clients can see my experience, but I don’t wear it like a sign on my chest any more.

There are also too many certifications out there. In the world of Kettlebells, there are two that stand out. The SFG (StrongFirst) and the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification).

 Now another Kettlebell certification is coming out through Strength Matters – the SMK, and it involves former trainers that used to be SFG and RKC.

“These are O.R. scrubs.”

Now I have to spend more money to get more letters after my name…wonderful!

7. “Seven” Minute Abs

The fitness industry has done very well in creating content that just involves the core. However, if you train the full body, you incorporate the core into every exercise.

The first thing we teach in Kettlebells training is how to utilize and engage the core. The core connects the lower and upper extremities, and is critical to moving well. Therefore, it really isn’t necessary to just do crunches and sit ups at the end of the workout, because you should have already taken care of that earlier in your session.


Why train the core, when you can get this!

6. “Six” Workout Selfies

six selfies

Workout selfies. Hmm.

As a competitive athlete, I never thought of taking photos of myself working out. I never wanted my opponents to know what I was doing anyway.

“I can barely lift my right arm ’cause I did so many. I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand.”

 People should feel good about themselves. Just make sure to get a workout in!

5. No bare feet (“Five Fingers”)


I hate wearing shoes. Ever since I became a Kettlebell instructor, I cannot train with shoes. As a rower, I didn’t wear shoes either. Now shoes hurt my feet. I only wear them to make public appearances, and because my wife makes me.

I really do like the Vibram Five Fingers. I can buy into minimalist footwear. The thing is that they cost over $60, and I refuse to pay that much for shoes. If you train a lot, then you wear your shoes out in 3-6 months. I cannot justify spending this much, just so I can workout for an hour a day.

However, gyms will never go there because of liability.


Whether I am wearing shoes or not, if I drop that amount of weight, I am going break something…

4. “Four”Quad Stretches


“Hold on, I need to stretch…”

If you have a limited range of motion, then you should relax and stretch the muscle. Stretching before training should only be necessary if you cannot get your body in the proper position to train.

Wherever I go, when people are “warming up”, I will see them do the “Standing Quad Stretch”. It is the symbol for all us middle-age athletes trying to “get back in shape”.

Check out the Knee Pain Explained website.

Most of us learned to do it wrong, and we are probably causing more bad than good.

3. “Three” Sets of 10


I can honestly say that the first time I have met with an athlete and client that has experience with strength training they always say the same thing:

Me: “How many reps and sets have you been doing?”
 Client/Athlete: “Well, I have been doing 3 sets of 10…”


Every client. Every athlete.

I believe it is time to retire 3 sets of 10. Whomever patented that program should be collecting royalties. “3 sets of 10” is on par with common fitness phrases like, ” “Feel the burn,” “No Pain, no Gain”, or “Burns up Carbs”…

2. “Two” Calf Machines

Calf machine 813GVCKG+IL._SL1500_






Why are there only two calf machines at any gym? Actually, why are there Calf Machines period? For some people the calf muscles are an attractive feature, however, there does not need to be a giant Hammer Strength Calf Machine taking up space in the gym, just so you can do this:


“One, Two, Three…”

Here is a great way to work your calf muscles, and you do it every day…

Yes, walking up, and running and down stairs works the calf muscles just the same. And you are using your body weight…

1. One “Shake Weight”

When I was still competitively rowing and going to school for personal training, my wife mentioned that QVC was looking for fitness models to advertise a new product called the “Shake Weight”.

I looked at her and simply said,


When she looked up the product. She looked at me and said,


Moral of the Story

 Don’t be a fitness model for QVC and model the Shake Weight.


Happy Holidays to everyone!

(Sing to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas”)

The 12 Things in Fitness

“That are so Insane to me…”

Twelve Different Biceps Curls

Eleventh Session Free

$10 a Month

Nine DVD’s

Eight Accredited Certifications

7-Minute Abs

Six Workout Selfies

No Bare Feet!

Four Quad Stretches

3 sets of 10

Two Calf Machines

And one Single “Shake Weeeighttt”


For more information on training programs for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, DISC, and Process Communication like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

Also check out the DISC2K – Philadelphia Seminar on January 9th, 2016!

Online consulting and Skype sessions also available.


Where have the Jedi Masters gone?

I am excited.

In seven days one of the greatest movies of all time begins a new chapter.

I was born the year that the original Star Wars was released; therefore I have a personal connection to the series. I played with the action figures, I read the post Return of the Jedi novels, and I know that Han-Solo shot Greedo first.

"We all know who shot first..."

“We all know who shot first…”

Though I have not dressed up and attended a Star Wars convention, I believe that I am living the Star Wars life every day and following the “Jedi Code”. As a fitness professional, I believe that my peers and I follow a similar code when it comes to changing the lives of our clients.

I also wonder if some of my fellow peers and mentors have forgotten this:

“Emotion, yet peace”

“But I was going to Tosche station…”


On the internet, people like posting themselves training and working out. Perhaps they just want the attention or perhaps they are looking to inspire others to do the same. Either way, the internet response will be positive or negative. Recently, a video was posted on Facebook in which a person was attempting a Kettlebell Snatch at a regular gym. It is apparent that person most likely learned their technique from the internet or a book instead of with a qualified fitness professional.

My first reaction was “Ah, he had better be careful and not hurt himself.” Others reacted differently. It would be an understatement to say that there were a lot of negative comments. What was more surprising was that some of the negative comments came from fitness professionals. As one continued to scroll down, the comment section was filled with jokes and opinions until someone finally suggested that perhaps the person posting the video should offer to assist this individual.


“Ha, Ha, Ha?”

“Or Help?”

Obviously the person in the video was trying to perform the exercise properly. He may have even thought he was doing a good job. He needed guidance. Our competitive nature drives us to excel at everything we do and be better than everyone else. Therefore it is easy to give into our emotions and enjoy watching GYM FAILS.


 “Our Focus determines our Reality”


As Fitness professionals we are not emotional. We strive to move everyone towards optimal health and fitness.


“There is no emotion, there is Peace.”


“Ignorance, yet knowledge”



Since 2007, I have continued my education to learn as much as I can about the human body and how it responds to different type of training. I enjoy learning new training concepts, and really enjoy becoming part of an expanding network of amazing peers.

“Are You gellin’?”


I have worked under some amazing mentors or “fitness” gurus that have brought about innovative training ideas. The fitness revolution is moving in a good direction, and the general public is becoming more aware of how they should make their health and fitness a priority.

Fitness gurus are like Jedi Masters. They possess the knowledge and the power to change millions of lives for the better. It is almost as if they have learned how to harness this “force” and use it for the good of mankind. Every year, I join thousands of other fitness professionals and pay thousands of dollars to learn new training techniques and concepts from these Jedi Masters. As the Jedi Masters travel the world spreading their message through certifications events and social media their students or “Padawan” flock to them to learn more.


“Think Good. Feel Good. Do Good. Good Things Happen!”


I have traveled to different parts of the country to listen to my Jedi Masters and have noticed there is an underlying theme:

They are all saying the same thing.

This is not a bad thing. It means that many brilliant and unique fitness authorities are coming up with similar theories and conclusions at the same time. Like philosophers, they may deliver the message differently, but there may in fact be an underlying force that links them.

 “There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge.”


 As Fitness professionals we share our knowledge. We also acknowledge that there are other members of our community that share similar fitness philosophies and beliefs. It reinforces the message we are trying to deliver.

 “Passion, yet Serenity”

Since the Jedi Masters around the world are teaching similar concepts it would probably make sense for them to get together and create some kind of “Jedi Order”.


Not so much.


 “If one is to understand the great mystery, one must study ALL its aspects…”


An enormous amount of time and energy is spent on debating on which certification or training modality is the best. In some cases, various groups actually look down upon other groups and try to convince the general public that they are not as great or even “dangerous.” Whether that is true or not is really up for the general public to determine. Any person that can benefit from the training and teachings of a particular training modality is living a better life.

“Primal movements” are the most recent innovation that has become integrated into all training modalities. Rolling and rocking are basic fundamental movements that everyone should be able to do in some capacity. They provide the foundation for us to potentially crawl, kneel, stand and eventually walk. I spend a lot of time teaching my clients and athletes how to roll and rock again whether they are “fit” or not. Whatever I give the name of that rolling/rocking/crawling movement is irrelevant.





Yet, Jedi Masters have many different names for the basic movement – “crawl”, “Natural Crawl”, “Beast”, “Bear”, “Quadruped”, “Quadrupedal”, “Scorpion,” “Lady Bug,” etc. – it really does not matter. It also does not really matter for the client either. They are the ones that have to do it, and it is challenging no matter what you call it.

It would be great for our Jedi Masters to start actually listening to one another. If it is our job is to make our clients’ lives better – make the human race better – then we are all trying to do the same thing.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”


Fitness professionals share their passion about the type of training they are experts in – WOD’s, boot camp, spinning, yoga, etc . Yet, they understand and take solace in the fact there are other forms of training that can also make a difference.

“There is no Passion, there is Serenity.”


 “Chaos, yet Harmony”

It is tough to make it in this business. At the end of the day, I do need to support my family. It is important for me to promote myself to make sure I have clients available to train. As my business grows, I want to make sure that I can keep up with the demand and clients that need me.

“She’s rich…”


Social media has allowed Jedi Masters to promote themselves all over the world, and in a short amount of time. I subscribe to all of their blogs and newsletters because I don’t want to miss any new piece of information or tidbit of knowledge they may introduce. Not every new fitness entrepreneur is savvy on all the latest social media tools, and it has created new business for marketers who know how to maneuver the social airwaves.

Yet it seems social media has created chaos for the general public. They are inundated with fitness catch phrases, trigger words, free reports, and manufactured “fears” that encourages the general public to make impulse decisions.

“The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.”


In my desire to stay relevant, I have had to spend a majority of my time staying on top of my competitors. I wish I could just live off the land, win the lottery, buy my Boathouse, and train clients for free!

There is a fine line between selling yourself and selling yourself.

“Everyone who lives here will be strong and healthy…”


We cannot forget why we got into this profession in the first place.

We wanted to help people.

“There is no Chaos, there is Harmony.”



“Death, yet the Force.”

 “He who dies with the most toys, still dies. No FEAR.”


I bought that shirt when I was in high school. While everyone was wearing the “Big Johnson” shirts, I bought this black NO FEAR shirt above.


"Remember this?"

“Remember this?”

Although I was given a hard time about the No Fear shirt (a little deep for high-schoolers) I always liked the quote because it reminds me that what we do in life and our career is only reflected upon after we are gone.

To my Jedi Masters, I ask you:


What kind of students do you want to leave behind in your legacy?

In your individual quests to deliver your message did you remember that what you are teaching and preaching to us now will impact future fitness professionals when you are no longer with us?

"Original ending ALL the way."

“Original ending ALL the way.”

Will you finally acknowledge one another. combine ideas, and create an even more amazing fitness revolution?

We will continue to  be your students, but remember that we want to be great students and even greater teachers.

“There is no Death, there is the Force.”


In seven days, the new movie comes out and I am excited.

This upcoming week I will be able to watch the original movies with my 5 and 3 year old. I want to enjoy the look on their faces as they watch the movie that came out the year that I was born. I want to answer their questions about the Jedi Code, and why Darth Vader, though a bad-ass, is really not the person they want to be.

“There is still good in you…under ripped and Paleo grass-fed beef ab muscles…”


We all can be Jedi and will restore the universe to its natural order.

Let’s be Jedi and rule the universe as father and son…



Damn you Dark Side….

For more information on training programs for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, DISC, and Process Communication like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

Also check out the DISC2K – Philadelphia Seminar on January 9th, 2016!

Online consulting and Skype sessions also available.

“2K Anxiety” – Is it more simple than we think?

Erg pain

“2k Anxiety” – Is it more Simple than we think?

This week I read two great blogs, one by Strength Coach, Will Ruth,  “Overcoming Erg Fear” referencing RowingRelated’s 2010 blog Winter Workouts: Why do Rowers Fear the Erg?”regarding the rowing ergometer and the “anxiety” that athletes go through. I was very glad to read these articles because there really hasn’t been enough written about how to overcome or address this anxiety. The recent November Issue of Rowing Magazine also published an article on, “How to Beat the 2k” by Katie O’Driscoll.

Trusting in the training plan, developing race strategy, and mapping out everything before the “event” is always a good idea. Using visualization, utilizing self-talk, and “embracing” the challenge are excellent strategies in approaching the “event”. Understanding how to pace oneself, setting realistic performance goals, and drawing upon previous training experiences will definitely lead to success. Challenging oneself, using team standards as motivation, and just racing keeps things simple and the eye on the prize.

Poor Clubber Lang

Yet, athletes continue to “psych themselves out”, which leave coaches looking for more ways to explain how to get through it all.

I would like to offer another perspective.

“Do not try and bend the spoon…”

To be clear, I am not re-inventing the wheel here. Every one of the concepts above are sound strategies and will help. The key is finding what works.

How DISC can help

DISCI was first introduced to the DISC Model while working for FitGolf Performance Center in Conshohocken, PA.  One of my great mentors, Dave Ostrow, who is a physical therapist, would offer DISC to golfers who were having trouble with the “mental side” of their game. Golf is a sport where every shot can matter, and an athlete’s game can soon unravel if they aren’t able to focus from shot to shot.

As I researched the DISC Model, I came across Athlete Assessments. Bo Hanson is a four-time Olympic rower, and the Director of Athlete Assessments. He is one of the few DISC experts that have adapted the DISC model to sports. What fascinated me about DISC was that once an athlete knew what kind of athlete they were and how their behavior affected their results it became easier to eliminate the things that didn’t help.

“Well, isn’t that just a FIIIINE kettle of fish?”

Athletes go through physical and mental stress on a daily basis – in training sessions and during performance. Success is determined in how an athlete responds to that stress. We choose our behaviors, and sometimes we are not sure what behaviors work for us.

In rowing, novice athletes don’t know any better. Their enthusiasm for the sport is based on their instant success in learning something new. Rowing isn’t a complicated sport to learn, but it is a difficult sport to master. Once novice rowers realize how much work is required to be good, their perspective begins to change, and they may begin to behave differently. They may believe they need to act a certain way because they have upperclassmen or elite rowers to model for them. The expectations imposed on them by the varsity coach may be different than that of their novice coach. The team goals and demands of training are different. Either way, their perspective has changed, and their approach to the sport is much different than it was in the beginning. This new perspective carries over into training sessions, regattas, and the dreaded erg test.

The Behavior Styles

D – Dominance

“Move over Pops!”

Dominance refers to how an athlete approaches a “task” – a workout, a race, a team meeting. Athletes with a high level of “D” will attack tasks set out before them. These athletes are competitive and want to be challenged. Athletes with a low level of “D” are more reserved and may hesitate in tackling the same tasks. In taking erg tests, high D’s want coaches to give them a goal, so they can go achieve it. They will want to get it over with right away and on their terms. If the goal is to be the fastest, they will do what is necessary to achieve that. It is important to set the guidelines and then get out of their way.  Athletes with a low level of “D”  will not respond well to a “Rah-Rah” approach.

I – Influence

“The Spartans hate to brag but we’re a real hum-dinger…”

Influence refers to how an athlete prefers to interact with people. Athletes with a high level of “I” enjoy interacting and dealing with teammates. These athletes will thrive in the “team” erg test setting. If given an opportunity to cheer for their teammates, they will do so enthusiastically. It may even be better to allow them to cox their teammates before their own erg tests. They will bask in the success of their teammates especially if they had a hand in motivating them. Athletes with a low level of “I” would rather work one-on-one or a small group. Erg competitions may not the best place for them to perform. It may be better to allow them to test on their own. Give an athlete with a high level of “I” the opportunity to interact and motivate.  Give an athlete with a low level of “I” the space to operate. They are not bad teammates, it just requires a lot of energy to be one.

S – Steadiness

“Slow down…”

Steadiness refers to how an athlete responds to the pace of their workload. Athletes with high level of “S” value stability, therefore it is important for them to have a solid plan prior to their ergometer test. It will be even better if they have advanced notice. “Surprise” erg tests may not work well, because they won’t have time to plan. They will spend a lot of energy and focus trying to come up with a plan. High S’s may do well with rate capped tests or tests where coaches give them rates. They will focus all their energy on execution. Athletes with a low level of “S” will display less patience and prefer a more fast-paced environment. Coaches may need to provide structure for them and keep the training session interesting.

C – Conscientious

Those are the rules of jinx...”

Conscientious refers to how an athlete responds to the rules as well as the accuracy and data of training. Athletes with a high level of “C” pay attention to details and will need a good reason for doing the erg test. High C’s hold themselves and everyone else to high standards. Give them a good reason for why they have to do the test, and provide value in why they need to perform. Similar to high S’s, high C’s need a race plan they will believe in. They will draw upon their previous experiences to ensure their success. Make sure to remind of their past successes and how performing will contribute to the overall success of the team. Athletes with a low level of “C”, will be less concerned with prior data and details and may tune coaches out if they tend to be long winded about such things.

Which behavior style applies to you or your athletes?

DISC for coaches?


Coaches also need to understand what makes themselves tick. We all wear different “hats”. The challenge we have as rowing coaches is that being aware of when we are wearing our athlete hat versus our coach hat.

As an athlete, I definitely had a high level of  “D”. I was very competitive and held myself and my teammates to high competitive standards. I believe my only job was to go as fast as possible, and I wanted to win everything.

As a coach, I have a very high level of “I”. It is very important for me to connect to my athletes and find out what motivates them. I ask them a lot of questions, and try to put myself in their shoes.

This might prove confusing to my athletes.

If I am trying to motivate an athlete into performing well, I may find myself going to that place that made me successful as an athlete. If the situation is stressful, such as a championship regatta, I may tell them to “Just do it!” and go out and execute. How they respond and whether they are successful is directly influenced by me.

Moral of the Story


“Are we asking our athletes to do too much?”

Tackling “2k anxiety” may be more simple than we think.

Every athlete has a different perspective on how they should approach a workout or race. It is up to coaches to recognize what every athlete values and try to support that. If coaches cannot recognize their athletes’ perspective, then it may be difficult to help them overcome performance anxiety. Coaches may even be the cause of it.

It is a lot to ask an athlete to just “improve” themselves. Coaches are not setting athletes up to succeed when they are expecting them to figure it out in a short amount of time. When coaches draw upon their  own experiences as rowers and racers  and share them, it may be an effective way to get their message across. However, if the athletes do not share the same perspective they may believe they are being forced to achieve success the coaches’ way.


Ask your athletes to do LESS, not more.

Every athlete is different.

Give them each the opportunity and time to understand themselves better, and allow them to identify the things that work for them. Help them eliminate the strategies that don’t work. This leaves more time to focus on developing their strengths. The DISC Model is great tool for athletes and coaches to use for this purpose.

Teach your athlete how to be successful.


Isn’t that what being a rowing coach is all about?


You can find out more about yourself and your strengths by getting your own AthleteDISC or CoachDISC Profile now! Click below and get started.



For more information on training programs for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, DISC, and the Process Communication Model® like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.


Strength Coach Will, Overcoming Erg Fear, November 2015

Rowing Related, Winter Workouts: Why do Rowers Fear the Erg, December 2010

Athlete Assessments, Disc in Sport, Accreditation Manual