Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yoga Psychology and the Importance of Dreams for mental health

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To understand the cause of all mental conflicts and diseases, we must understand that the mind comprises a conscious part and a sub conscious part.
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Friday, August 28, 2015

Understanding Yoga Holidays

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We all understand that there’s work and after some time, there’s a need to get away from work.
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Understanding Yoga Holidays

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We all understand that there’s work and after some time, there’s a need to get away from work.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to Improve Your Tennis Footwork

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The USTA’s head strength and conditioning coach suggests ways to stay spry on the court.
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Yoga for Teaching Professionals

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Yoga , is definitely good for the body ,mind and overall well being. But what yoga can do for teachers- the people of the noble profession of teaching is amazing. Today an increasing number of teachers over the world are turning to yoga.
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Monday, August 24, 2015

CoCo Vandeweghe’s Amped Up Exercise Routine

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How the rising tennis star changed her workout to raise her game.
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Yoga techniques for Mind-detox

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In this issue, I’m going to tell you of a power-breathing technique that is proven to help overcome blues, negativity, stress, depression – all, in a minute.
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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Reverse Aging Through Yoga – II (Yoga and Lifestyle)

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Last week, we concluded that ageing and disease were dictated by the mind. This time, we will explore the exact steps for attaining the correct thinking and thereby control ageing.
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Roller Skating: A Hip Workout Routine

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A doctor advises how to work past the initial stumbles and get good exercise on skates.
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Yoga in the Office: A quick and effective stretch

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It’s great when we can escape to a full hour of yoga, be it in a class or at home in front of a video, but let’s face it, that’s not always possible. Enter Yoga in the Office, a series of simple but effective suggested positions to help stretch the wrists,
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why advanced exercise and nutrition strategies usually backfire. Make faster progress with deliberate practice and SIT.

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Most people who work out and try to eat well hope to graduate quickly to advanced exercise and nutrition strategies. But these usually backfire. Here’s why it happens. Plus two strategies (deliberate practice and stress inoculation training) for faster progress.


For ten years I thought I knew how to surf.

Okay, I wasn’t exactly Duke Kahanamoku. But I pursued my love of the sport, taking surf trips through Mexico, New Zealand, the US and Costa Rica.

The only problem was… I didn’t really know what I was doing.

I’d certainly received enough lessons over the years. But the advice—stuff like, “When you feel the wave, just stand up!” and “Try to balance better!”—never seemed to help much.

My progress over the years wasn’t great. I wasn’t even sure how to tell my bad habits from the good ones.

I had worked my way into surfing bigger waves, and falling a little less often, but I felt like I was just getting better at doing something poorly.

And then I went to surf school. (The world’s best surf school, mind you.)

In just one week of direct and purposeful instruction at the surf school, I transformed my surfing ability.

After ten years of muddling through, my surfing skills were transformed in a matter of days.

But that’s not all. I also learned some powerful lessons that can apply to almost anything—especially health and fitness.

My two greatest lessons:

  1. “Just do it” isn’t enough.
  2. In order to get better at something, you need a system. More specifically, you need something called deliberate practice.

These lessons can help anyone who is trying to improve their fitness, health or nutrition habits.

And they can help anyone who is trying to get better at being a coach.

Let’s dive in.

How to “learn” exercise and nutrition.

Trying to get into better shape, or eat healthier, is much like learning to surf.

There are waves of conflicting information hitting you from all sides. Other people seem to have “the secret” that you don’t. You fall down a lot.

You’re never sure what you should be focusing on or if you’re doing it wrong.

And most importantly: without expert guidance and a good system, you’re going to waste a lot of time and build bad habits.

A beginner falling off a surfboard doesn’t necessarily know why it happened. Or what to do differently next time.

An exerciser whose back hurts after several months of her workouts, or who hasn’t gotten any more fit from his last program, doesn’t necessarily know why that is either, nor what to do about it.

Someone trying to lose weight or “eat healthy” without a clear plan, feedback, or guidance may feel like they “fall down”, over and over and over, face first.

In all of these scenarios, just practicing “more” can actually do more harm than good.

But deliberate practice, whether in the gym, in the kitchen, or life in general, can dramatically improve your progress, faster.

What is deliberate practice? I’ll explain in a moment. But first, let’s understand the context around when and where you might need it.

The three stages of skill development.

Learning to do anything—whether it’s eat better, ride a motorcycle or do backflips—is really just a matter of developing the right skills.

And learning a skill happens along a continuum, loosely defined by three stages.

Stage 1: Slow and conscious

Think back to when you learned to type.

At first, you were in hunt-and-peck mode, going letter by letter. Learning was slow, conscious and took up almost all of your attention. You made big mistakes, often. You could only focus on one thing at a time, like finding the damn semicolon.

Stage 2: Getting a feel for it

After a while, you could start to tap out entire words and sentences at once, instead of thinking letter by letter. You got faster and more accurate. Your mistakes were fewer and smaller.

You didn’t have to think so much. Instead, you started to get a “feel” for things. When you hit the wrong letter, you could often sense it before you saw it on the screen.

Stage 3: Intuitive instinct

If you kept working on your typing, eventually you didn’t have to work at it, or even think about it. You could just do it.

Letters flowed from your fingers smoothly and you didn’t even have to look where they were. You could type while listening to music, or maybe even having a conversation.

You’re now at the place of “good enough”.

When “good enough”… isn’t.

Now let’s imagine you don’t need to be a typing master. You just need to be good enough.

You’re happy there, at “reasonably decent”. Things are relatively easy.

Here’s the important thing to know: Getting better from that stage forward will take active work.

You won’t become an awesome typist by accident.

You’ll just be… OK.

The research term for “good enough” is theory of par or tolerance. It’s the level of performance that most people are content to meet, but not exceed.

And it’s almost always less than they’re actually capable of.

Now, there’s nothing bad about “good enough”. Unless you do, in fact, want to get better.

This is where deliberate practice comes in.

Deliberate practice

If you do an activity over and over, you’ll get good at it, up to a point.

Past that point, simply adding more practice won’t help. (Consider how many people are lousy drivers, even if they’ve been driving for decades.)

To get better, your practice has to be deliberate. It has to have a goal and ongoing feedback.

In surfing, that’s the difference between “just getting out on the board”, and surfing while trying to refine a specific skill, like a carving turn.

In the gym, it’s the difference between knocking out the reps and moving on, and paying attention to something like how your spine is positioned during a squat.

As a coach, it’s the difference between telling someone to “suck less” or “just do it,” and giving them a specific, strategic action to focus on next.

Getting better means getting worse… briefly

There’s a catch to deliberate practice, though:

You have to allow yourself to suck for a while.

Because to learn past “good enough”, you have to regress back down to levels where things become more conscious again. In other words, the level where you’re not good enough anymore.

A lot of our clients struggle with this. If they’ve got some knowledge about working out or “eating healthy”, it’s hard for them to regress.

“I’m already good enough,” they protest. “Give me something advanced.”

Nobody wants to feel like they’ve been knocked down to Remedial Vegetable Eating or Bench Press 101. But—apparently paradoxically—that’s where they have to go in order to truly graduate to truly advanced exercise and nutrition strategies.

Developing “instinct”

The “deliberate” part of “deliberate” practice is essential.

If we’re not paying attention to what we’re doing, don’t really know why we’re doing it, or we don’t know how well we did it, we don’t improve. Stuff is just random noise.

Conversely, when we purposely try something, observe how well it worked, adjust with awareness, and try again, we learn. We learn faster, and better.

With this conscious, goal-driven feedback loop, we get a deeper, more intuitive “feel for things” rather than thinking about them.

We’re able to see differently, like a carpenter who notices a doorframe is crooked without having to measure it. We make smarter decisions with less information, and ignore distractions.

In turn, this process of consciously developing a “feel for things” helps our brains get even better at learning new things.

Thus, experts’ instinct and ability to respond with seemingly superhuman speed and accuracy isn’t magical.

It’s simply the result of deliberate practice.

The Lego blocks of skill development

So how do we put deliberate practice into, well, practice?

Think about it as stacking a series of “Lego blocks.”

Learning is sequential. We build understanding and insight block by block, stacking one “Lego block” of learning on top of another, clicking them together to make connections.

In terms of movements, we build more complex movements out of “Lego blocks” of simpler movements, all stuck together.

When you learn a sport, you might drill each individual “Lego block”. Dribbling in basketball. Hip movement in grappling. Shuffling your feet in boxing. Serving in tennis.

In surfing, you’ll have to learn how to hold your board. How to lie on it as you paddle. Then, if you’re lucky, how to stand.

At first, it’s clumsy. The surfer’s mind is juggling foot, hip, hand, head and eye position, and learning what each of those pieces feel like.

With practice, those things become instinctive and happen more automatically.

This frees up the surfer’s mind so that they can add more pieces to the pattern, and start making the board actually do stuff.

How to vaccinate yourself from stress

Here’s another reason you need deliberate practice: stress.

Ever tried to do a familiar task when you were rushing and freaked out? You probably did it terribly.

Learning a skill can be challenging enough. Being able to recall it under stressful, real-world conditions (say, when getting knocked off a surfboard, or when your comfortable daily routine of exercise and nutrition habits gets disrupted) adds a whole new level of difficulty.

In general, stress tends to make us worse at things… unless we make stressful situations part of our deliberate practice.

We can do this with what’s called Stress Inoculation Training, or SIT.

You can think of SIT like a “stress vaccination”: a little bit of stress, released gradually and only in levels you can handle, eventually lets you deal with increasingly tough situations.

For instance, you might learn your first skills in a zero-stress environment, like sitting on the beach with your surfboard. You might practice holding the board, lying on it in the right spot, and even paddling on the sand.

Then, you add a little bit of stress: You go into the water. It might be a calm, waist-deep ocean. Or it might be a pool. Just a tiny bit of stress, to start with.

Then, you add a little more stress. Maybe you go out in chest-deep water. You get into bigger, faster waves.

Over and over, you add a little more stress, and a little more.

Eventually, of course, you’re ripping gnarly tubes during a solid swell. Or you’re staying true to your workout and nutrition habits even when your life is truly insane.

To make SIT work, you practice your skills deliberately, at a level that is just slightly challenging—you’re focused on the task at hand, but you’re almost always able to execute.

You want your mind and body to learn that a little stress is okay. All you do is change the definition of what “a little stress” is.

This is key: A vaccination is no good if it actually makes you violently ill. SIT is only effective when the student first masters their skills in a non-stressed environment. Every practice session should end in relative success.

Translation: don’t give yourself (or your clients) way more than you can handle at once. Assess your current positioning realistically. Decide what the next level of appropriate challenge (stress) would be, then go from there.

Resist the temptation to “level up”.

So, say we get “good enough” at the basics. This frees up our brain to try new stuff.

But that can actually be a problem.

If you’re “good enough” to just stand up on a surfboard, you’ll want to jump right away to trying other fancy things.

Remember, though, that standing up is the Lego block that controls all the other Lego blocks. If you never deliberately practice that basic skill of simply standing up—if you don’t get really, really good at it—you’ll never get really, really good at anything else.

Likewise, people who resist learning the basics because “basics are boring” often find that they “fall off the wagon” when their routine changes, or the normal stresses of life hit.

Their crucial “Lego block” of nutrition, exercise, and self-organization skills gets knocked out easily with even small challenges.

Ask yourself: how solid are your basics?

Can your “good enough” ability at the fundamentals be a lot better?

Say, continuing with your established nutrition habits but working on your consistency.

Or learning to incorporate rest and stress management practices into the mix, rather than loading up on more workouts.

Or helping a client perfect their pull-up form in exchange for fewer reps.

Your efforts might not seem as impressive to a layperson for example. (It feels more badass to bang out 20 so-so pull-ups than five good ones.)

But you know better.

You know that becoming an expert means not worrying about looking good, but instead, looking and feeling like a beginner.

By embracing being a beginner, you’re on your way to becoming a master.

What to do next

Clarify your purpose.

The best way to change a system is to alter its purpose. Are you exercising to punish yourself for yesterday’s ice cream? Or, are you exercising to improve something like physical performance or body composition? Workouts geared towards punishment become good at punishing. Workouts focused on improvement help make something better.

Identify the big skill you’re after.

Now that you know why you’re doing this thing, what is it? This could be a sport like surfing, or strength training, or eating healthy meals.

Break that skill down into its building blocks.

What are all the tiny components that make up this big skill? Look as deeply as you can here. Movement during exercise may start with the way you stand, walk and breathe (and those things are made up of other pieces). Healthy eating may start with your relationship with food, or something like eating slowly and mindfully.

Develop a system.

You can’t learn all these components at once, or even in a random order. You need a structure, a progression, and a source of feedback.

Practice, deliberately, in your zone of optimal challenge.

To develop a skill, you have to focus your attention on it and practice it deliberately, at a level of challenge that’s at the edge of your ability, but allows you to be generally successful while making and learning from small errors.

First, mastery. Then, stress.

Remember stress inoculation. Master the skill first in a non-stressed, low complexity environment, and then practice it with the heat turned up. Only add as much stress and complexity as you can while building on success.

Consider a coach.

Breaking a skill down into components, putting them into a system, assessing performance on each piece within that system and providing ongoing feedback and guidance is a big undertaking. It’s especially hard to do by yourself. This is why even great coaches hire other people to coach them.

Deliberate practice with Precision Nutrition

Want some help upgrading your skills?

At Precision Nutrition, we use the ideas outlined in this article in our coaching and certification programs.

Women and men in our coaching programs learn how to use these practices in the context of their real life to achieve their health and fitness goals.

And fitness pros in our Level 1 and Level 2 certification programs use these skills to master coaching techniques that really get results.

Eat, move, and live… better.

The health and fitness world can sometimes be a confusing place. But it doesn’t have to be.

Let us help you make sense of it all with this free special report.

In it you’ll learn the best eating, exercise, and lifestyle strategies — unique and personal — for you.

Click here to download the special report, for free.

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In Brooklyn, How a Bombshell Trains for Roller Derby

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The captain of a team in the Gotham Girls league breaks down her hard-core exercise routine on wheels.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

8 easy strategies for working with difficult clients.

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Working with difficult clients who seem “unmotivated”, “resistant”, and “stubborn” is what personal trainers and health coaches dread the most. Instead of throwing your hands up, here are eight strategies for dealing with the most common coaching challenges.


Imagine this.

A client comes to you for help.

They’ve tried exercise before. They’ve tried diets. (Probably lots of diets.) But nothing worked. (At least not for long.)

They know they need to make a change, but they need help. They need your help.

You want nothing more than to help them. And why not? After all, you’ve gone to school. You’ve got the certifications, the books, the terminology.

You’ve totally got this!

So you create the world’s most beautiful spreadsheet-based meal plan. You balance macronutrients, control timing, cycle calories, get the right fatty acids in there. Color code the bejeezus out of it.

Match that with an exercise program. A periodized, detailed ass-kicking with tiny fluctuations in sets, reps, rest and tempo. Energy systems, motor patterns and 1-rep max percentages. Space station math. A work of art.

The client is on board. They’re eager as heck. “Let’s do this!” High fives all around.

But then, a few weeks later, something’s off. The workouts are half-completed. The meal plan is (kinda, sorta) followed… sometimes. Your client seems like they’re starting to check out.

So it’s back to the drawing board. Your revise the workout. Re-do the meal plan. Cajole, caution and bargain with your client. There is nodding, maybe a hug, maybe a hopeful high-five. This time will be different. It has to be.

And yet… it isn’t.

Your client is still stuck. You know you need to do something, but what?

This is a familiar story.

If it’s happened to you, take heart: you’re not alone. Many trainers and coaches are wondering why their clients can’t seem to make progress, despite what seems like great information at their fingertips.

The fact is, when going through a change process, people can get stuck for different reasons, and at different places.

That’s why, when all else is equal, it’s your coaching skills that makes all the difference.

So let’s talk coaching.

Here are eight common coaching scenarios (where you may find yourself working with difficult clients) and our best methods to address them.

Scenario #1

“I can’t connect with my client. It’s like we just don’t get each other. No matter how many times I address their issues, nothing changes.”

Connecting with clients and coaching them to success depends on saying the right things, in the right ways, at the right times. It’s not always intuitive, but it is something you can learn.

Forging these connections means working on improving your coaching style, language, and listening techniques.

Most importantly, it means moving from “awfulness-based coaching” to “awesomeness-based coaching”.

Much of the fitness industry is based on “awfulness”. Think tough, crossed-arms hardass coaches pointing out your flaws, and screaming at you to fix them. Loud, aggressive, adversarial… and not great for long-term progress.

Awesomeness is pretty much the opposite of awfulness. Awesomeness-based coaching is an empathic coach working with their client, celebrating progress, and building on their client’s existing strengths to produce health and fitness success.

Awesomeness-based coaching is grounded in something we call “client-centered” coaching. In this process we help clients understand their inner motivation and help them own their decision to change. Then, we solidify their decision with clear, actionable solutions.

Becoming an awesomeness-based coach can take practice. But if you start adopting its principles—taking time to ask questions before giving advice, for example—you’ll start connecting better with your clients. And you’ll coach them to better results.

For specific examples of client-centered coaching, check out: Effective coach talk: What to say to clients and why it matters.

Scenario #2

“My client complains a lot. They talk about how much everything sucks, how much they hurt, and how sad and broken they are. I try to keep everything positive, but it seems to make things worse.”

If your client is miserable and you try to compensate with sunshine and rainbows, you’ll never connect. They’ll dig their heels deeper into their own misery. We call this “The Positivity Trap”.

Being relentlessly positive in the face of client struggles (and clients will struggle—change is hard) kills understanding and rapport.

Lifestyle change involves highs and lows and ups and downs. The lows aren’t something to gloss over or ignore. They’re actually an important part of the change process. And unless you can acknowledge and relate to what your client is going through, you’ll seem uncaring and oblivious.

That doesn’t mean wallowing in the misery. It simply means taking time to hear out the resistance and ambivalence they feel. To identify with it. After all, chances are, you probably once felt something similar in some aspect of your life.

The best way to keep your clients moving forward is to embrace the entire emotional spectrum of the change process. Hear it out before moving on.

For more about The Positivity Trap, including how to work better with struggling clients, check this out: The Positivity Trap: How upbeat coaches can kill client results.

Scenario #3

“My client isn’t following my instructions. They’re unmotivated. I’m starting to wonder whether I should just ‘fire’ them.”

In working with nearly 100,000 clients and students, we’ve learned that people tend to fall into one of three categories, each requiring a different coaching strategy.

  • Type 1: Low compliance.
    Struggles to follow the program.
  • Type 2: High compliance, low results.
    Follows the program, gets below-expected results.
  • Type 3: High compliance, high results.
    Follows the program, gets above-expected results.

Interestingly, all three types are capable of making dramatic change. But they all struggle at predictable times unless they’re coached in the way that works best for their type. (Yep, even ‘high compliance’ ones.)

Take a look at your client roster and consider which clients fit into each of the three categories. Then begin coaching each type based on their individual needs.

For a detailed breakdown of each client type and exactly what they need for success, check out: The 3 types of clients: Here’s how to coach each type to success.

Scenario #4

“I’m giving my client the most advanced exercises and nutrition protocols that I can, but they keep hitting roadblocks and falling off track.”

Most skills are built on top of other smaller and more fundamental skills. Without strong “basics” we can’t get very good at more complicated stuff.

For example, to do an effective Olympic lift like the snatch, there are some prerequisites like: good mobility in the ankles, knees, and shoulders, core strength and stability, and nervous system coordination.

This is why beginner (and, often, intermediate) exercisers can’t snatch properly. Because they haven’t spent enough time learning and practicing the fundamentals.

The same goes for every aspect of fitness: nutrition, stress management, sleep, etc.

As training and nutrition experts, it’s easy to forget that everything you ask a client to do is based on the development of some skill set.

Think about something as simple as “eat breakfast”. Eating breakfast requires your client to know what to eat, where to get those foods, how to prepare those foods, how to adjust their schedule so they can accommodate the extra morning preparation, and more.

When we fail to address the building blocks and jump straight to the bigger things, we put our clients on a shaky, failure-prone foundation.

By looking deeper into the skills our clients are learning, and understanding the practices that will help them establish those skills, we can build a strong foundation.

For the exact process we use to help clients develop new skills through daily practice, including a downloadable worksheet you can use too, check out: Precision Nutrition Coaching revealed: A practice-based formula for helping clients change their lives.

Scenario #5

“My client is ambitious at first but loses motivation quickly. They don’t live up to all the things they say they will or want to do.”

Ahh, the catch 22. An ambitious client seems to want a lot in the beginning. Then you give it to them. And they crash.

As a fitness and nutrition professional, it’s your job to know better. Because giving a client multiple things to change at once usually sabotages their long-term progress.

No matter how excited clients are to get going, tackling a whole bunch of stuff at once sets in motion a lifestyle and psychological cascade that few people are really able to manage. Even the most ambitious client ends up feeling overwhelmed, out of balance, unimpressed by their progress, and liable to give up.

Experts have estimated that when people try to change a single behavior at a time, the likelihood that they’ll retain that habit for a year or more is better than 80 percent. When they try to tackle two behaviors at once, their chances of success are less than 35 percent. When they try for three behaviors or more, their success rate plummets to less than 5 percent.

So instead of assigning a whole bunch of changes at once, start with one.

Break the changes down into strategic steps that your client can practice and build upon over time. They don’t have to be small. However, they should follow our 5S criteria.

For more on building the right habits with clients, including detailed instruction and example practices, check out Fitness success secrets: On practicing one strategic habit at a time.

Scenario #6

“Every time I make a suggestion my client counters it with a reason why it won’t work. No matter how much convincing I try to do, or how solid my argument is, they won’t budge.”

You will never win this tug-of-war.

While it may seem counterintuitive, trying to convince your clients to change (“If you ate better, you’d lose weight” or “Trust me, if you exercised more, you’d be able to go off your blood pressure meds”) almost always backfires.

If you push what they see as “your agenda”, clients will usually resist. They’ll take the opposite approach, and start arguing for why they can’t change. Even if they kinda wanted to change in the first place.

Yes, this is frustrating. But it’s also natural.

Most clients feel ambivalence when it comes to changing. Ambivalence is the feeling of, “I want to, but I also don’t want to”. It’s a common human response to change.

Ambivalence doesn’t go away with pressure. Push ambivalence and the ambivalence will push back. The bossier or more insistent a coach gets, the harder the client will resist and stand their ground.

So, instead of trying to convince, cajole, or persuade, try embracing the ambivalence that comes with change. With the right coach talk, you can help clients sort out their ambivalence and make the right choice for themselves. No tug-of-war required.

For more on how to help clients who seem ambivalent and resistant, check out: Motivational Interviewing: Free coaching workshop and Effective coach talk: What to say to clients and why it matters.

Scenario #7

“My client talks a lot about “when.” I’ll do it “when….” But they never do it, so they don’t make progress.”

Who hasn’t put off something important because it’s just not the“right time”?

For each and every one of us, waiting for the “perfect” time can be a great distraction. It can be a way to avoid the risk of actually doing. For others, perfectionism and avoidance serve as armor against potential failure, criticism and embarrassment.

Whatever the reason, this delay can go on for months, years or even decades.

To help a client get started today, help them realize that all or nothing thinking rarely gets us “all”. It usually gets us “nothing”. Show them how they can get started now, with what they have, from where they are.

The trick is to start with starting. This means single, strategic practices that clients feel confident they can do today. The opposite of this is jumping into the middle of the process. This means gearing up for big lifestyle changes that are scary and intimidating.

When doing something totally new (like switching careers or learning a new language or having your first child), which would you rather experience? “Change everything!” or “Just try this one thing.”?

Everyone can start “this one thing” today. Big overhauls always trigger our procrastination response.

For more on how to help clients take action today instead of waiting for some imaginary perfect time, check this out: I’d love to get started, I’m just waiting for the perfect time.

Scenario #8

“No matter how many meal plans I give my client, nothing seems to really work.”

In this scenario, it might be time to re-think the meal plan approach.

For most people, restrictive meal plans aren’t realistic. The often provoke rebound overeating. And, most of all, they aren’t necessary.

For anyone but a physique competitor a few weeks out from a contest, the little details in a meal plan don’t really matter. It’s the bigger trends that make a difference. And these are the things easiest to overlook.

It’s for this reason that long-term nutrition success is kinda like finance. It’s not about super-detailed spreadsheets and rigid rules. It’s about a general awareness of how much you’re making and how much you’re spending, decision making about what you’d like to spend on, and consistently following smart guidelines.

So, instead of hitting people with harsh rules, restrictions, and “follow-this-to-the-letter meal plans”—which usually lead to dietary rebellion and collapse—help clients make eating a low-stress, natural part of their lives.

For an interesting exploration of why meal plans usually backfire, check out: Examining meal plans: Could this one make you fat? And for a solid alternative to calorie counting and meal plans, check this out: Forget calorie counting: Try this calorie control guide for men and women.

Take the next step

Developing your skill set and becoming a great coach takes education and practice.

If you’d like to fast track the process, consider working with us.

Our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification group kicks off shortly and is designed to teach fitness, strength, nutrition, and rehab professionals how to be awesome coaches and help clients get in the best shape of their lives.

Since we only take a limited amount of students, and the program sells out every time, I strongly recommend you add your name to our presale list below.

When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you save $ 200 off the cost of the program.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 program, we’ve got something for you too. Check out this Level 2 page where you can learn more about the upcoming Master Class.]

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Guidelines for Performing Yoga Exercises

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Without doubt one needs to learn yoga from an experienced teacher. On the other hand, because some attempt to perform exercises guided only from a book.
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Brain training for fitness coaches. (Plus Jedi mind tricks.) You know how to train the body. But what about the mind?

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Most fitness pros know that helping clients develop physical skills is critical. But most don’t realize that helping clients develop mental skills may be even more important. Welcome to brain training for fitness.


Changing your body and improving your health isn’t just a physical process.

It’s a psychological process too.

The best coaches don’t just teach physical skills. They also teach mental skills: the psychological capabilities necessary for focus, motivation, resilience, and change.

So what are mental skills?

Mental skills cover a wide range of psychological abilities, probably too many to cover here. But here are a few examples to help point you in the right direction.

  • Mental skill: Staying focused
    Purposely placing attention where it needs to be, even in the face of distraction. For example: Sticking to a healthy eating plan despite a busy work schedule. Or staying on track with a home workout while your kids are crawling the walls.
  • Mental skill: Re-focusing
    Bringing your attention back, as soon as possible, when things get off track. For example: Immediately getting back to a normal healthy eating routine after a holiday weekend of partying. Or finishing a workout after a text message from your boss.
  • Mental skill: Goal follow-through
    Setting a goal, working toward it, and staying on track with it. For example: Deciding that sleep is more important than evening TV and sticking to that priority almost every night.
  • Mental skill: Identifying core values
    Understanding your most important values in life, making them a priority, and taking steps to live them. For example: Realizing that your #1 motivation is to set a good example for your children and following through on that.
  • Mental skill: Developing awareness
    Understanding how your immediate thoughts and feelings are intimately connected to your behaviors. For example: Discovering that different emotions reliably lead to specific eating choices. Or specific external circumstances reliably cause you to attend or skip the gym.
  • Mental skill: Uncovering stories about ourselves
    Realizing that we’re constantly “writing” stories and scripts for ourselves and acknowledging that we have the power to rewrite them with a different ending. For example: “I’m a gym dork” can be re-written to “I’m showing up every day and trying hard” and eventually “Hey! I just did my first chin-up! Gym dork begone!”.
  • Mental skill: Releasing wondering and worrying
    Confronting anxieties, fears, or worries head on instead of shrinking from them. For example: Noticing and naming that you’re “worried whether this will work” or “that you might fail” and that it’s okay to feel these things—everyone does—and that these feelings are no reason to pull back.
  • Mental skill: Limiting factors
    Identifying limiting factors (the things in your way right now) and changing them. For example: Maybe you hate your job, have unsupportive friends, or live in a place unsuitable to your goals. Identifying that and working to change it.
  • Mental skill: Getting “un-stuck”
    Knowing when unhelpful beliefs or patterns are in your way. For example: “I guess I just don’t have any willpower”. And being able to create new beliefs or patterns. For example: “I am in charge of my choices”.
  • Mental skill: Impulse and emotion control
    Seeing when impulses and emotions tend to get the better of you, paying attention to that, and working to improve it. For example: Improving your automatic responses to being angry, sad, or bored.
  • Mental skill: Discomfort
    Embracing and sitting with discomfort. For example: When learning a new movement or habit, knowing it’s supposed to suck. And doing it anyway.
  • Mental Skill: Resilience
    Trusting that you’ll survive, no matter what, and bouncing back from “failures”, defeats, and/or setbacks. For example: “That bad thing happened and it’s okay; I’m going to learn something from it and be better because of it”.

Whew, a lot of mental skills there! And we’re just scratching the surface. There are a host of additional skills your clients will need to achieve long-term health and fitness. But don’t get overwhelmed. These can be built.

As Dr. Berardi outlined in his recent article, when you break down your goals into skills, and skills into daily practices, anything can be improved.

That’s where you come in.

Just like you help your clients train their muscles and energy systems, you can help them build their mental skills.

Why mental skills are so critical in fitness

It’s no wonder 95% of the people who lose weight seem to gain it back. Changing your eating and exercise habits is one of the hardest problems to solve.

Sure, the physiology is easy. Eat the right amount; for most people that’s less. Move appropriately; for most people that’s more. Do those two things and you lose weight, improve your blood markers, and experience better health.

However, when someone attempts to eat less or move more, they’re working against gravity. They’re trying to overcome the inertia of current behaviors. And these behaviors exist for a reason; they fit perfectly into the person’s life as it is now.

That’s why, when you’re trying to change (or if change has found you, and is dragging you along kicking and screaming), you also have to:

  • Manage the discomfort and anxiety we all feel when trying new things.
  • Focus on purposely doing certain things (many of which are new) and not doing other things (many of which you actually want to do more).
  • Listen to your experience by letting go of what’s not working, and considering other new and different options.
  • Negotiate for what you need with the people around you including family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Stay resilient, flexible, and optimistic in the face of inevitable setbacks which are bound to zap your energy, and even.
  • Change some of your beliefs about who you are, what you need, and “how things should work”.

Sure, it’s all doable. But it’s a far cry from the “just eat less and move more” advice we hear in the fitness industry nowadays.

It can be downright tough. And this doesn’t just apply to fitness. Think about something you’ve struggled to change in your own life; family relationships, work environment, etc. Not always easy, is it?

And that’s why the mental game is so important.

When you help your clients build mental skills, you’re helping them become more powerful, confident, and better able to handle whatever life throws at them.

You also help them get better at stress management.

Mental skills and stress management

Along with helping your clients through the change process, brain skills help them cope with stress.

It’s a tough old world out there. That’s why we ask clients about their stress levels the day they begin coaching with us. Not only do we want to learn about their stressors. We also want to learn about how they deal with those stressors.

The result: People generally arrive at our doorstep feeling battered and bruised. Maybe you notice the same thing too?

Not only have clients tried many diet or exercise plans before coming to see us (which makes them understandably frustrated, anxious, and discouraged), they’re also often trying to cope with a host of serious lifestyle stressors.

For example:

  • 40% of women and over 20% of men say they are often on the brink of a breakdown and struggle with stress management.
  • Nearly two-thirds of men and women say their work is moderately stressful, and almost one-third say it’s highly stressful.
  • Almost three-quarters of women say taking care of others (such as children or aging parents) is moderately stressful, and 15% say it’s extremely stressful. The rest are possibly taking care of pet rocks or turtles.

No wonder people feel stressed. They’re balancing work, family and other life demands. Often they’re also students or taking care of other people.

In the face of these other pressures, change gets even harder. And learning mental skills becomes even more crucial.

Because when you’re stressed out, or have other things on your mind, you…

Don’t want to change.

You want to hunker down into what you know, and cope in any way you can (which often includes self-medicating with stuff like drinking or eating too much).

Might not take care of yourself…even a little.

In fact, “self-care”  or “time for myself” to a busy parent might seem as realistic as “win a billion dollars and go live in a moon colony”.

Feel rushed, distracted, and pressured.

Who has time to eat right or go to the gym? I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom some days! you think.

Are on an emotional roller coaster.

Your thoughts and feelings can either get rigid and repetitive, go numb and blank, or swing all over the place from crying jags to stony silence to red-hot rage.

Without practicing mental skills, it’s really hard to deal with all of this. It’s hard to take steps to improve your life. Without mental skills, you stay “stuck”.

Conversely, mental skills can help you navigate the challenges that life inevitably throws your way.

Even better, with mental skills you start to see challenge as a game. A game that you can win. And even—eventually—enjoy.

Bring it on, life. I got this.

That’s why coaches who can teach mental skills get results, big-time.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows

Okay, you’re sold. You’re ready to build mental skills coaching into your practice. Bring on the brain training!

First, let me offer you some advice.

When our clients begin Precision Nutrition Coaching, many are surprised to find out that we don’t just talk about what to eat, or even how to eat.

Sure, we do talk about all that juicy stuff. However, many lessons ask clients to think about and observe their “inner game”: their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and worldviews. And many daily practices are designed for mental skill building.

To some folks, this seems kinda weird. Maybe a bit fluffy. Or intrusive.

Where’s the real nutrition? I’m not here for therapy. Who cares what I think? None of your business. Cut the woo-woo and give me some science!

You might want to prepare yourself for the same thing. When introducing mental skill development, you’ll raise a few eyebrows at first. And that’s okay.

As a coach, it’s your job to acknowledge that resistance. To respect people’s objections, concerns, and make them feel heard.

Let them know you understand. Then you can ask them to come along with you slowly—maybe very slowly—through the process of learning something new.

Even the most doubtful of clients can undergo a major mind-shift after doing this work. Indeed, at PN, most of the early doubters change their tune considerably.

Eventually, people say things like:

I had no idea that was relevant. Wow. What a huge difference it’s made.

You’ve expanded my awareness. Thanks!

I’m having “lightbulb moments” all over the place.

These are the kinds of breakthroughs that come as clients build mental skills.

They can see how learning mental skills directly affects their ability to make smart choices. And perhaps more importantly, to feel good about those choices.

Because once a client starts acquiring mental skills, they see for themselves how powerful those skills are.

For example, they realize:

  • The more you’re aware of what you are thinking, feeling, choosing, and believing, the more able you are to change these things.
  • The more you can consciously calm yourself or proactively plan ahead, the less likely you are to make impulsive, stressed-out choices.
  • The more aware you are that your “life scripts” are just that—scripts—the more you’ll feel like you can change and re-write them.

That is real empowerment.

That is deep, meaningful, life-long change.

Skills for coaches, skills for clients

Teaching you how to coach mental skill development is outside the scope of this article; mostly because you can’t learn what you haven’t experienced yourself.

That’s why I always say that if you want to coach mental skills, you probably need to get some mental skills coaching yourself, first.

For a lot of fitness and health professionals, that can feel weird. Why should you put the time into working on yourself instead of focusing on your clients?

Two reasons:

  1. To build your own capacity.
    Coaching is a demanding occupation. By developing your own mental skills, you’ll be better able to manage stress, work through change, and do the same psychological backflips you’re asking clients to do. This means a better life for you and more energy to help clients. In fitness, we tell moms to take care of themselves so they’re better able to care for their children. The same applies to you.
  2. To feel what your clients are feeling.
    The only way to really understand what someone else is going through is to experience it yourself. It’s hard to advocate for (and sell) coaching if you don’t believe in coaching enough to get some yourself. And we need help in some areas—especially when it comes to mental skills.

What’s next

Understand that outside change depends on inside change.

Trying to help a client change their body without also working on their brain, guts, and soul is a recipe for failure.

They either end up deeply unhappy, surprisingly dissatisfied, or regressing faster than it took to see progress in the first place.

Conversely, if you help them work on their “inner game”, they achieve “deep health”, integrity, and consistent performance.

Recognize that change is hard.

That’s normal. When there’s a lot of stress involved, behavior change can feel impossible.

It’s also why the “Coach Hardass McScreamy” approach doesn’t work so well. “Just do it, you pathetic sack of crap” doesn’t help when you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and incapable.

You can make change a lot easier by adding mental skills training to your exercise and nutrition programming for clients. This will help with their focus, motivation, resiliency, and more.

Get some coaching for your own mental game.

If you want to become a master coach, you need more capacity. Better stress management. And more energy for your clients. All of which require that you build these important brain skills.

As a bonus, by going through mental skills training yourself, you’ll get an inside look into what your clients are experiencing while you train them. It’s a double win.

In the end, if you’re the type of coach who helps clients master their mental skills, you’ll be head and shoulders above everyone else in the field. You’ll build a better reputation, more business, and a rewarding practice.

Mental skills training from Precision Nutrition

As mentioned, we teach mental skills to clients as part of our Precision Nutrition Coaching program.

In addition, our Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class includes the double-whammy of brain training for professionals.

We not only coach fitness and health pros through their own mental skills development. We also teach them how to coach clients through the same thing.

So, if you’d like to take your coaching to the next level—and develop into the best possible trainer and fitness professional—consider working with us.

Our next Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class kicks off shortly and is the exact training program we use to onboard our in-house supercoaches.

You’ll get backstage access to our newest coaching tools and technologies. And you’ll learn our proven system for delivering the results you want and your clients need.

Since we only take a limited number of students, and since the program sells out every time, I strongly recommend you add your name to our presale list below.

When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you save over $ 1,300 off the cost of the program.

[Note: Our Level 2 Master Class is for students and graduates of our Level 1 Certification Program. So, if you haven’t yet participated in Level 1, that’s where you should begin.]

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Abandoned colds through yoga

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With the “colds” season in full bloom and “allergy-time” on the horizon, I just had to tell you of a natural technique that thousands use to keep their colds, headaches and allergies far away.
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Friday, August 14, 2015

How to Exercise While Undergoing Cancer Treatment

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A doctor’s advice for staying physically active while coping with chemotherapy or radiation.
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Ashram Experience

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We are becoming increasingly scientific and rational in our conscious thought. But we are unable to apply the same rationale to our subconscious and unconscious mind (i.e. 9/10th of our brain activity). This creates a conflict, resulting in negative emotio
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ironman Training After Cancer’s Endurance Test

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How a pair of old friends push each other to extraordinary athletic feats after one survived a health scare.
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Why working out causes weight gain. (And what to do about it).

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You’ve probably heard that working out causes weight gain (instead of loss). Well, it’s true. If you see ‘working out’ as an unpleasant chore, you’re more likely to make poor nutrition choices and undo your efforts. But if you have fun with physical activity, you’ll get better results, more quickly.


I was having dinner with my girlfriend recently at a beachside restaurant. We sat outdoors, under a canopy of trees, overlooking the ocean.

There were other tables around us, and a few families. Kids who had grown bored of grownup talk had abandoned their seats and were playing on the beach.

A little girl, maybe four years old, shot past us, ricocheted off a tree and skidded to a stop near our table.

She was wielding an imaginary sword, fighting off a horde of imaginary ninjas or pirates and—thanks to her lightning-fast reflexes and karate chops—seemed to be winning.

After a series of kicks, rolls and sound effects, she popped triumphantly to her feet, hurtled over a stone retaining wall, and sprinted away.

For most kids, physical movement is a joy. It’s an inherent part of play, and it’s just how you get around. It’s what you do for fun, to get home from school, or to escape a band of pretend pirates.

They don’t move around begrudgingly, because they feel like they have to. They move around because it’s fun.

Exit play, enter adulthood

When we become adults, something changes.

We don’t swordfight pirates anymore. We battle our email inboxes. (Which are very unfun opponents.)

We sit in cars or trains on our way to work, where we sit at desks. At the end of the day we return home, and sit down to relax.

Movement becomes a smaller part of our day, and our bodies adapt to this. Joints stiffen. Posture changes. Metabolisms shift.

We put on weight. We’re not happy about this. Hoping to change things, we put movement back into our lives.

The prescription: exercise

As grownups, we don’t do this by cartwheeling across the beach to kick an imaginary ninja in the face. We do it through this thing called exercise.

We exercise at home, with a DVD workout or a dusty set of dumbbells.

Or we join a gym. In which we hamster away on treadmills that face TVs. Or a wall.

Or maybe we try to stay outside, and we go running, walking or ride a bike for exercise.

But there’s a problem here.

This is from the Grand Rapid Chapped Lypse

Exercise doesn’t work.

To save you some time, this article talks about how a bunch of research has shown that people who exercise regularly (even with a top-notch program) without addressing the way they eat often don’t lose much—or even any—weight.

(In some cases, working out causes weight gain.)

People can spend thousands of dollars. Hours upon hours of time. They can work hard. And really, really want to do the right thing.

Yet… after several months the scale will have barely budged. They might switch out a little fat for a little more muscle, but it’s not a big change.

This doesn’t mean that exercise does nothing, of course. It still preserves lean muscle mass and bone density, improves fitness, makes important biochemical changes and enhances cognitive function and mood. Important stuff.

Exercise + nutrition does work

The obvious piece of the puzzle here is nutrition. When exercise is combined with good nutritional habits, the results can be amazing. We’ve seen this thousands of times in our coaching programs.

Nutrition alone can work fairly well for weight loss, in some cases. Exercise without nutrition, not so much.

Combine the two, and the results can be life-changing.

This is still puzzling, though.

How is it that exercise, which can have a massive physiological impact, doesn’t change our bodies without nutrition interventions?

Hedonic compensation

You might know the term “hedonism”, which refers to the pursuit of pleasure.

The theory of hedonic compensation suggests that if we feel like we “lose out” on pleasure in one area, we look to compensate for it elsewhere. (Thus, the thought process of “I’ve had a lousy day; I deserve a treat.”)

In 2014, researchers explored three different studies that help to show why exercise alone doesn’t usually produce weight loss.

In these studies, they found that perceiving a physical activity as “fun”, rather than “exercise” meant that:

  • People chose less junk food during meals.
  • People ate less candy when offered a snack from a self-serve container.
  • People chose “healthy” snacks more often than “unhealthy” snacks.

In other words, because exercise is not seen as fun, people compensate by finding fun elsewhere.

What they learned

Study #1
Thinking of movement as “exercise” instead of “fun” makes people get more of their calories from sugary desserts.

Participants walked 30 minutes around a university campus. Half of them were told that the walk was for exercise, and half that it was for fun. Both groups got a free lunch after their walk, with both “healthy” and “unhealthy” options.

Study #1 Results
People ate the same amount of calories. But there was a difference in the type of calories. People in the exercise group served themselves larger portions of the “junk food” options, and ate more from those portions than people in the fun category.

Study #2
Thinking of movement as exercise instead of fun makes people serve themselves more candy.

In another study, a group of participants were once again asked to walk—some for exercise, and some for fun (sightseeing).

Afterwards, participants were invited to help themselves from a large bowl of M&M candies by scooping some of them into a Ziploc bag.

Study #2 Results
The people in the exercise group served themselves substantially more M&Ms (372 calories worth, on average) than the people who had done the same physical activity but with a ‘fun’ mindset (166 calories, average).

Study #3
The less fun runners have in a race, the more likely they are to choose a candy bar afterward instead of a healthier option.

A third study examined runners doing a race: a relay in which people took turns running between about 5 and 7 kilometers.

Once runners had finished the race, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire about how they felt about the race, then given a choice of a snack: either a “relatively healthy” cereal bar, or a “relatively unhealthy” chocolate bar.

Study #3 Results
 The runners who had the most fun during the race were also the most likely to choose the healthy snack. Enjoying the race less meant a greater chance of choosing the unhealthy snack.

Intrinsic reward vs. extrinsic reward

To understand more about this exercise vs. fun dilemma, it helps to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.

  • Intrinsic rewards mean that we do things for some inner reason. Like fun. Or interest. Or the joy of learning. Or the quiet triumph of solving a puzzle. Even if nobody sees us doing those things, we feel good about them. And we enjoy the entire process, regardless of our results.
  • Extrinsic rewards mean that we do things for some external validation, measurement, or approval. Like a trophy or a medal. Or public recognition. Or a timer or calorie counter. Or other people saying “Good job!”

A theory called activity engagement theory suggests that when an activity is intrinsically rewarding, we don’t feel the need to compensate—or be compensated—for doing it. The activity itself is the reward.

But when we’re doing something that’s extrinsically rewarding, we’ll naturally seek an external reward to follow it. We don’t usually enjoy the process much, since we’re so focused on the results, and making sure other people or things see those outcomes.

Makes sense, of course. After all, we don’t put in 40 hours a week at an office job for the sheer joy of sitting in a cubicle, staring at a glowing white square. We want the paycheck, and maybe the social status of being Assistant Vice Manager for the 11th District.

On the other hand, we usually don’t expect any recognition or reward for doing our favorite hobby. We just like making quilts or fly tying or paint-by-numbers or whatever else we’re into.

This is part of the reason that exercise alone doesn’t work, and why exercise plus nutrition coaching does.

We’re seldom in the gym sweating away because “Gosh, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing with my time right now than pushups,” but because of the future payoff.

And when our motivation has to come from outside the activity, and not from the inherent joy of the activity itself, we’re more likely to fall into the hedonic compensation that these studies highlight.

In other words, we’ll feel (even if unconsciously) like we “deserve a treat” because we dutifully did the chore of exercise.

The good news is that by adding nutrition coaching, or even just awareness of your eating, you can prevent hedonic compensation, and make many other helpful changes.

Turning ‘exercise’ into ‘fun’

But what happens when we exercise and the compensation drive isn’t there, because we had fun while exercising? Remember, the people in these studies were doing the same physical activity; they were just thinking about it differently.

When movement becomes intrinsically rewarding, the whole process becomes easier.

We’re more likely to engage fully and exert ourselves more. (Think about how excited you are to dive for a frisbee if you love Ultimate, or tackling the double-black-diamond run if you love snowsports.)

If we love what we do, we no longer need to “white knuckle willpower” our way into avoiding the hedonic compensation effect afterward.

Nutrition is still valuable, but now instead of focusing our nutrition efforts on avoiding negative things (“Don’t eat the cookie, don’t eat the cookie…”), we can use more of our energy to seek positive things (“Let’s try out this new Gourmet Nutrition recipe!”).

We get better results. We’re happier. Activity is joyful.

That’s a powerful shift.

We can make exercise more effective by making it more enjoyable.

In other words, making your physical activity fun isn’t an indulgence. It’s a powerful—maybe even essential—long-term weight-loss strategy.

For trainers and coaches: Structure training around improving skills

Making exercise fun is a fine line to walk as a coach, because you have to design workouts that are both enjoyable and accomplish your physical goals for the session. You have to balance intrinsic reward with an external purpose.

The bridge between work and play is deliberate practice, which requires focused engagement and constant feedback on a challenging task. It’s not fully play, but people still find it motivating to feel like they’re getting better at something.

If you want to help your clients enjoy deliberate practice, try these tips:

  • Direct your client’s attention to specific parts of the process, such as the way their knees or hips are moving in an exercise. This helps clients tune into their own skill development, which can be highly rewarding.
  • Make sure clients understand and can do what you’re asking. Otherwise, you’re setting them up for frustration and disappointment.
  • Work at a level of “desirable difficulty” that makes the effort challenging, but still allows clients to be generally successful. Winning is fun!
  • Give immediate feedback (either from you, or from their own self-monitoring) about how well they’re doing. Clarity eases insecurity and anxiety.
  • Help them see their progress in the long-term (over weeks and months) as well as short-term (within the workout). Call out and celebrate that progress, no matter how small.

What to do next

Think about what you might enjoy.

Each person has their own ideas about what movement is “fun” or intrinsically rewarding. Experiment. Try stuff.

Make the program fit you, not the other way around.

Work with your body, your lifestyle, your schedule, and your interests. Do what you love.

Build on success.

Sniff out fun and enjoyment like a bloodhound. Look for small victories and little joys everywhere. Then, build on them.

Make it social.

Whether it’s taking turns under the bar in a squat rack or meeting up for a morning run, training is more fun with friends, and we’ll often push ourselves harder than we would if we were training solo.

Think “movement” instead of exercise. Get out of the gym and play.

Things like hiking, biking, walking, running around in a park with your kids, or almost any sport can have the same training effect as exercising in a gym, and they’re more likely to be fun in their own right.

Think of playing instead of exercising, and forget about counting sets, reps and rest intervals.

Of course, you don’t have to ditch formal exercise. Gym exercise can make your fun activities better by improving movement patterns, increasing strength and overall fitness, or helping rehab injuries that might prevent you from playing. Think about exercise and play as a relationship. They work together, making each component better.

For everyone: Make it a game.

What’s a game to you? Friendly competition? Doing goofy stuff? Racing to beat a clock? Coming up with ridiculous bets like “I bet I can hit the basket if I throw backwards over my head”? (Or that old childhood favorite “The floor is covered in alligators and hot lava so you can’t step on it”?) Whatever makes things “game-ful”, add them.

In the end, finding your favorite physical pursuits doesn’t have to be a chore. Think of it as a chance to have fun, feel the joy of movement, and let your inner kid loose for a while. Once you start playing, you might not want to stop.

Eat, move, and live… better.

The health and fitness world can sometimes be a confusing place. But it doesn’t have to be.

Let us help you make sense of it all with this free special report.

In it you’ll learn the best eating, exercise, and lifestyle strategies — unique and personal — for you.

Click here to download the special report, for free.

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Understanding Disease Onset and its Control

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Our stomach is a factory to churn and burn food an efficient workhorse of an organ. In yoga, this corresponds to the Heat center or the Manipura chakra. In association with the Intestines etc., it comprises the digestive system that gives the nutrition one
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The best answers to your clients’ top 10 nutrition questions. Precision Nutrition’s nutrition cheat sheet for fitness pros.

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Paleo, juice cleanses, detox diets, calorie counting, low-carb and six-pack abs. Your clients ask a lot. Here’s how to answer their top 10 nutrition questions and concerns.


As a personal trainer, strength coach, or nutrition coach, we bet you get a lot of questions about nutrition. And we’re sure they’re varied: from young athletes curious about the best supplements, to middle-aged men and women who want to get off blood pressure meds.

Truth is, it’s hard work answering them all. There are different schools of thought, lots of conflicting advice, and so many trendy panaceas promising to solve every problem. It’s tough coming up with definitive advice.

Of course, when you do come up with a single answer, you have to be sure it takes into account the context and nuance of each particular client. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. A helpful response for a college linebacker could be detrimental for a 30-year-old mom.

That’s why we put together this handy ‘cheat sheet.’

In this article, we’ve compiled the most common, and most vexing, questions that clients ask. And we provide answers with context and nuance. This way you’ll know which strategies to apply, how to apply them and when (and with whom) to use them.

Question #1

“I’m new to this whole nutrition thing.Where do I start?”

If your client is new to eating better, or has been stuck in a long-time rut and is ready for change, where do you start?

At Precision Nutrition, the first step is to identify and remove deficiencies.

Clients don’t need a major overhaul on day one. They don’t need to “go Paleo” or “eliminate sugar”. They just need to fix their major nutrient or vitamin deficiencies. Because, until these are fixed, their bodies’ simply won’t function correctly.

This means that, for most of your clients, making sure they get a bit more protein, enough vitamins and minerals, added healthy fats, and more water will get their bodies working better in no time.

Of course, you don’t have to tackle all that at once. Heck, you probably shouldn’t. Instead, you should pick the biggest limiting factor they’re experiencing and start there. Add new practices one at a time as necessary and as clients feel capable of dealing with them.

Then, once nutritional deficiencies are addressed, you can start to focus on things like food quality (i.e. eat whole, minimally processed foods) and food amount (i.e. portions, calories, etc). But go slow. And be systematic.

Remember: one thing at a time.

For a more in-depth treatment of this topic, including exactly how to do it, check out: How to fix a broken diet article and infographic.

Question #2

“What’s the best diet to follow?”

While it seems counterintuitive, you shouldn’t have an answer for this.

The best coaches maintain a neutral position. If you can, strive to be a nutritional agnostic: someone who doesn’t subscribe to any one dietary philosophy.

All dietary protocols have their pros and cons. Your job is to help each client find the approach that works best for them, whether it be Paleo or vegan, high carb or low carb, tight budget or unlimited funds.

The truth is, the human body is amazingly adaptable to a vast array of diets. And the best diet is the one that both matches the client’s unique physiology and is something they enjoy enough to follow consistently.

Indeed, you can make people lean, strong, and healthy on a plant-based or a meat-based diet. You can help improve their health with organic, free-range foods and with conventional foods. They can lose weight on a low food budget or an unlimited one.

It just takes a little know-how and a system for using the best practices across all diets.

For more on each of the various diets, and the best practices of each, check out: Paleo, vegan, intermittent fasting: Here’s how to choose the best diet for you.

Question #3

“Do I need to count calories?”

This may be the most common question we’re asked. And, in some ways, it’s the most difficult to answer.

After all, weight management is a pretty simple equation. Eat more calories than you burn, and you gain weight. Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you lose weight.

Except counting calories isn’t that simple. And human brains aren’t food calculation machines.

For one thing, calorie counting is imprecise. Calorie counts on food labels and within food databases are often as much as 25% off. So “calories in” is hard to get right. Also, calorie expenditure estimates using tables and cardio equipment readouts are also as much as 25% off. So “calories out” is hard to measure accurately.

Beyond that, counting calories is an external system (outside of your body). In essence, you’re outsourcing hunger and appetite awareness to the calorie counting gods. Which trains you to ignore your own interoception (internal signals).

In the end, long-term success relies on you developing, and using, your inborn signaling systems. Which is why calorie counting, while it sometimes produces results in the short-run, can often backfire in the long-run.

Besides, it’s annoying to weigh, measure, and count all your food. Especially when there’s an easier way.

We recommend beginning with hand-size portion estimating instead. Here how it works:

  • Your palm determines your protein portions.
  • Your fist determines your veggie portions.
  • Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
  • Your thumb determines your fat portions.

This system counts your calories for you, and gets your macronutrients lined up too, without having to do any fancy kitchen math.

Plus, your hands are portable—they go wherever you go, making portion-sizing very convenient.

In addition, your hands are generally scaled to your size—the bigger you are, the bigger your hands, the more food you need and the more food you get. And vice versa.

Finally, it’s much easier to practice tuning into hunger and appetite cues without OCD-like reliance on calorie math.

Want to learn more about this system? It’s easier and it’s better. Check out:
Forget calorie counting: Try this calorie control guide for men and women.

Question #4

“Should I avoid carbs?”

Ask almost any client what they need to do to lose a few pounds, and they’ll probably say: “Cut back on the carbs.” As a fitness professional, you’ve probably heard it dozens of times.

However, most clients would do best eating a moderate amount of quality carbs—whole grains, fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and legumes, etc. (We emphasize moderate, of course).

For men, this usually means about 1-2 handfuls per meal. And women, about ½-1 handful per meal.

Of course, the needs of each actual client may differ, based on their activity level, goals, and genetics.

But, bottom line, carbs are not inherently fattening, especially whole food sources. And getting adequate carbs can help most clients exercise harder and recover better, optimizing progress.

Yep, this is a controversial position to take. Read more about why we take it here: Carb controversy: Why low carb diets have got it all wrong.

Question #5

“Should I avoid grains?”

Grain discussions are really trendy right now, as many people have suggested they’re dietary enemy #1 and should be completely eliminated. This is hot news as, just ten years ago, they were supposedly one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

From our perspective, grains aren’t as evil as they’ve been made out to be by the Paleo and Whole30 camps. At the same time, they aren’t the superfood vegans and macrobiotic eaters suggest either.

Bottom line: you don’t need to eat grains. But, unless you have celiac disease or a FODMAP intolerance, you don’t need to avoid them either. (And even in those two scenarios, it’s only specific grains that need to be avoided).

Most people follow a better, more health-promoting diet if they’re allowed grains in reasonable amounts, along with a wide array of other non-grain carb sources like fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, etc.

Remember, it’s the ability to follow a diet consistently over time that provides the greatest results, regardless of what that diet is. And unless you’re intolerant, there’s no good reason to totally exclude certain foods, especially foods you enjoy.

Want to learn more about grains to sort through the conflicting info? Check out: Settling the great grain debate: Can wheat and other grains fit into a healthy—and sane—diet?

Question #6

“How should I eat to get six-pack abs?”

To answer this one, you first have to know if six-pack abs are really what your client wants. (And if they’re prepared to do what it takes.)

Getting ripped abs is a much bigger undertaking than most people realize. There are definite benefits to getting that lean (<10% for most men, and <20% for most women), but there are real trade-offs too.

Alcohol, processed foods, and desserts all need to be severely limited if you’re trying to lose fat and show off a washboard stomach. Social situations often become difficult. Other interests and hobbies may need to decrease.

However, if clients really want to get a six-pack in the healthiest possible way, they’ll need to follow these principles 90-95% of the time:

  • Eat protein and vegetables at every meal.
  • Include healthy fats at most meals.
  • Eat a small amount of carbs post-workout only.
  • Limit carbs at all other meals.
  • Exercise intensely 4-5 times per week.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

Armed with this information, you can have an honest conversation about whether your clients want the six-pack badly enough. (Or if they’d settle for moderately lean and healthy without giving up some of the other things they enjoy).

What must clients do to achieve different levels of leanness? Check out: The cost of getting lean article and infographic

Question #7

“What and when should I eat around my workouts?”

If you train athletes, this is a really common question. But lots of non-athletes are curious too. The answer all depends on who’s asking.

For most people, eating a normal mixed meal 1-2 hours before and after exercise is sufficient. This will provide adequate protein and carbs to both fuel the workout and maximize recovery/adaption.

Contrary to popular media, most clients are best served by eating good quality whole foods in reasonable amounts, without having to focus on specific workout nutrition products or protocols.

However, very advanced, hard-training clients and athletes have more unique needs.

Endurance athletes, bodybuilders, or those looking to maximize muscle gain could add a protein and carbohydrate drink during their workout. We usually recommend about 15g of protein and 30g of carbohydrate per hour of exercise.

Physique competitors, as well as people trying to maximize fat loss, could add branched chain amino acids (or essential amino acids) during their workout. We usually recommend 5-10g of BCAA or EAA per hour of exercise.

In the end, rather than having one stock answer here, you need to be clear about who you’re working with. How hard do they train? How often? What are their goals? How is the rest of their diet?

To optimize each client’s workout nutrition, based on goals and exercise type, check out: Workout nutrition explained article and infographic.

Question #8

“How important is ‘when’ I eat? Should I eat breakfast? Will eating at night make me fat?”

“Nutrient timing” sounds impressive. Science-y. The way sport and exercise people throw it around, you’d think it must be pretty important. And in the right context, it can be.

For folks like pro bodybuilders, physique competitors, and/or weight class athletes, for clients competing in multiple competitive events in a single day, or for clients at the highest level of sport, nutrient timing can make a difference.

But for most people, most of the time, nutrient timing demands extra effort, requires additional planning, and adds dietary complexity… with minimal return.

Which means it’s not that important for most of your clients.

Just like exercise, what’s most important is that clients make high-quality choices, consistently, whenever it works for them.

For the average client, as long as they eat good foods in reasonable amounts, timing doesn’t really matter. Big breakfast or big dinner—it’s all personal preference.

In the end, nutrient timing can be helpful for a very small subset of the population. For everyone else, it can add layers of unnecessary complexity. Once again, it all depends on the context.

For more on nutrient timing, including who it’s for and who it’s not, check out: Is nutrient timing dead? And does “when” you eat really matter?

Question #9

“Does the Paleo diet live up to the hype?”

The Paleo diet is one of the most popular approaches in the world. There’s no doubt that it works for many people. However, the reason it works has little to do with the story the Paleo proponents tell (evolutionary adaptation, inflammation, etc.).

Paleo works because it emphasizes mostly whole food sources of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. (Plus, since it’s starting to incorporate more quality carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, it’s getting even better).

However, it can be too restrictive for some folks. That’s why the Paleo diet seems to be evolving itself, right before our eyes. Nowadays it often allows things like red wine and grass-fed dairy, options that used to be “off limits”.

In the end, Paleo likely gets more right than wrong. And if clients want to follow it, you can help them do it in a sane and reasonable manner.

But for most, it’s unnecessary to follow such a strict dietary ideology. You can take the good from the paleo approach and get rid of the silly dogma.

For more on the pros and cons of paleo, including whether it’s right for your clients, check out: The Paleo problem: Examining the pros and cons of the Paleo diet.

Question #10

“Should I do a detox or juice cleanse?”

Cleansing tends to bring out extreme opinions. But, as with most areas of nutrition (and life), rigidly clinging to any extreme position may blind us to some important information.

The fact is, there can be many problems with detoxes and cleanses:

  • protein deficient
  • extremely low calorie
  • blood sugar swings
  • GI tract dysfunction
  • restrictive eating and deprivation

If doing a juice cleanse or detox diet helps a client get ready to make further helpful and sustainable changes in their life, OK. Just coach them through a cautious and monitored protocol.

However, we prefer helping them build life-long skills and incorporate daily practices to improve their health, performance, and body composition without extreme (and unsustainable) things like detoxes and cleanses.

For an interesting discussion, including how one juice cleanse sent clients to the ER, check out: Detox diets. Juice cleanses. Could they be making you more toxic?

Bonus question

“How can I improve my sleep and stress management?”

Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition.

To help clients improve in this area, the following are really useful:

  • creating a sleep routine, including having a regular schedule
  • limiting alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon/evening
  • choosing de-stressing activities before bed
  • setting an appropriate room temperature for sleep
  • making the room dark
  • keeping the room quiet
  • waking up appropriately, with light exposure and soft noise

As for stress, it’s all about finding the sweet spot. Too much stress, or the wrong kind, can harm our health. Yet stress can also be a positive force in our lives, keeping us focused, alert, and at the top of our game.

It all depends on what kind of stress it is, how prepared we are to meet it—and how we view it.

Since stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, everyone experiences stress differently. Each of us has a unique “recovery zone,” whether that’s physical or psychological, and our recovery zone depends on several factors.

It is critical to teach clients strategies and skills to view and handle their own stress load appropriately. The following can increase stress tolerance or diminish stress load:

  • meditation or yoga
  • outdoor time
  • snuggling a pet
  • listening to relaxing music
  • deep breathing
  • drinking green tea

For more sleep and stress strategies, check these out: Hacking sleep: Engineering a high quality, restful night and Good stress, bad stress: Finding your sweet spot.

Take the next step

Developing your skill set and becoming a great coach who can answer every question with subtlety and nuance takes education and practice.

If you’d like to fast track the process, consider working with us.

Our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification group kicks off shortly and is designed to teach fitness, strength, nutrition, and rehab professionals how to be awesome coaches and help clients get in the best shape of their lives.

Since we only take a limited amount of students, and the program sells out every time, I strongly recommend you add your name to our presale list below.

When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you save $ 200 off the cost of the program.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 program, we’ve got something for you too. Check out this Level 2 page where you can learn more about the upcoming Master Class.]

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