Stay Positive to Beat the Injury Blues – by Strength Coach Will

I am pleased this week to post a guest article from Will Ruth, also known as “Strength Coach Will.” Coach Ruth writes this week about keeping a positive “mindset”  when recovering from an injury. Enjoy!

PHOTO Tohn Keagle

Photo Credit: Tohn Keagle

Stay Positive to Beat the Injury Blues

by “Strength Coach Will” Ruth

Injury risk is an inevitable part of life and competitive sport. The first step to developing a positive mindset is accepting this risk and destigmatizing injury should it occur. Getting injured is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it is a risk that we all take as athletes and active people. In this article, I’ll explain how you can do everything you can to prevent injury and how to keep your cool should injury occur.

I do want to include a disclaimer here to say that sports are often a huge part of people’s lives, personal identity, and self-esteem, as well as a method for coping with stress, and it can be very difficult when an injury takes this away. If you or one of your athletes or teammates is struggling with depression-like symptoms, please refer to a mental health counselor or sport psychology counselor. The Applied Association of Sport Psychology is a great resource and maintains a list of certified consultants.

Control the “Controllables,” Discard What Remains

Maintaining physical readiness to train is at the forefront of every responsible athlete and coach’s mind. Even though we all accept a risk of injury training and competing in sport, injury prevention is a critical part of maintaining this readiness. Here are the core tenets of injury risk reduction that are 100% under your control:

1. Understand your sport, its injury risks, and safe training practices.

2. Learn how to prevent those injuries and then take action to do so.

3. Learn how to lift correctly to avoid compromising positions, then strength train to prevent imbalance injuries and teach correct motor patterns.

4. Stick to a regimen of warming up, cooling down, and stretching and mobility work to make sure your body is prepared for training and competition.

5. Hydrate and eat well to give your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to sustain hard training and achieve excellent performance.

6. Know your body and be honest with yourself. Know when to push and when to hold back in training to avoid sickness, injury, and over training.

While freak accidents do occur, the vast majority of sports injuries can be traced back to failure to adhere to those six tenets. Think of when you’ve been injured—were you consistently practicing all six at the time?

The next thing that can really derail an injured athlete’s mindset is the ensuing shock and surprise, often followed by disappointment and sometimes depression. This is where it really becomes critical to maintain a mindset of acceptance, positivity, and improvement to focus on the activities that you are able to do while recovering from injury.

Physical discomfort and inconvenience will always remain a part of injury, and what a positive approach seeks to eliminate is mental discomfort and frustration. The mental mindset to adopt is that your sport is now recovering from injury and getting back to rowing. Successful athletes who overcome injury apply the same determination, self-motivation, and drive to their rehab protocol as they did to sport training.

Remember, you’re only focusing on things you can control and positive action that you can take. Don’t get bogged down in the “can’t do’s,” such as, “I can’t row,” “I can’t lift,” “I can’t run.” Think about what you CAN do and apply yourself fully to that. Find ways to train around your injury. Can you use the stationary bike, run, or focus on one half (upper/lower) of your body with weights? Can you use this extra time to improve mobility and flexibility on a non-injured area? PT’s or athletic trainers will be able to provide specifics on what you can do to be as productive as possible during recovery.

You’re Still Part of the Team

An injured athlete is still an athlete and a teammate, so every effort should be made to keep them engaged with the sport and team. So long as it will not negatively impact their recovery, injured rowers can still attend practice and ride the launch, be there for their teammates during erg sessions, and stay involved in the team at social occasions. Often, athletes who are allowed to isolate themselves just fade away and find it hard to return to the team even when healthy. This is also where peers and team captains are relied upon to keep their teammates feeling engaged. A text or phone call of, “hey, we really miss you at practice, will we see you at _____?” can be very meaningful for an injured teammate struggling with motivation to return. Think about how you would you want your teammates to respond if you were the one injured.

Injured athletes are often worried about being in the way at practice. Here’s a list of some things rowers can help with while they’re recovering from an injury:

  • Checking gas and loading the launch
  • Holding a camera from the launch for filming
  • Holding the spotlight if it’s dark
  • Help out by writing down times during erg sessions
  • Is your team short on coxswains? I had snapping hip syndrome and could not row. I showed up for practice anyway. I was heavy for a coxswain, but when one of the coxswains didn’t show up to practice, I was able to jump in and allow that boat to get out on the water.
  • Collecting shoes, oars, and water bottles
  • Benefit from the instruction at practice. Look at your teammates and try to see what the coach sees and it will make you a better rower when you get back in the boat.
Have a Plan to Get Back on Board

One of the hardest things for eager athletes to avoid is rushing back from injury. After days or weeks away from practice, it’s hard to not want to scratch that itch right away. However, there needs to be a plan to return to training in progressive increments. Check out this graphic for an illustration of why this is—in the study, athletes who returned to do 100% of their normal training workload after only doing 40% of that workload during rehab had a 28% chance of re-injuring during their first week back from practice.

info Source:

While an athlete with a week long sickness or slight muscular strain may be able to return relatively quickly, a fracture, broken bone, torn muscle, or serious illness will need a more gradual progression. A general rule of thumb is to start with 50% of your pre-injury volume and add 5-10% (meters or minutes) from there. For example, if you were doing five two-hour practices per week before your injury, start with five one-hour practices for the first week back. This requires the coach to not only monitor training minutes, but to have a plan to swap in another rower for your place. If an erg session was prescribed 3×18’, start with 3×9’ the first week back. Your goal is to leave each session feeling like you could have done more. This may be frustrating to some athletes, but it’s a much better path than re-injury.

One final step that can be difficult for many athletes is mentally moving on from the injury after returning to rowing. A key tip here is to focus on what you DO want to have happen, not all the possible negative outcomes. With great dedication to the rehab protocol, a gradual progression to return to practice, and a positive mindset upon return, athletes can go on to put the injury behind them and focus on performance.

will ruth infographic

Infographic Credit: Strength Coach Will Ruth


Photo Credit: Tohn Keagle – “Strength Coach” Will Ruth

Will Ruth (BS, NSCA-CSCS, USA-Weightlifting L1, US-Rowing L2) is the strength coach for the Western Washington University men’s club crew team and is the author of “Rowing Stronger: Strength Training to Maximize Rowing Performance,” the only comprehensive strength training manual just for rowers published by Rowperfect UK. Will posts new articles every Monday on his website,, where you can find more resources for physical and mental training for youth, collegiate, and masters rowers. A former rower, Will keeps his own competitive fire going with the sport of Strongman and also coaches high school lacrosse.


Thank you Coach Ruth! For more info on AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

“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.