Train For Life

Mobility instructor workshops, courses & online training designed to help you become supple, strong & smart

Squat Like A Boss!

Are you getting the most out of your squat?

Here’s an article I wrote for ONNIT Training Academy on how to improve the range of motion and stability in your squat technique.

Follow the steps and I guarantee you will see and feel huge gains!



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Meet Gerry, 67 & Training for Life

“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” Socrates

Let’s face it. Life is easier when you are stronger, faster and more agile. In training we should always consider the ultimate goal, quality of life. We are all growing older everyday, but its how we train ourselves that will make all the difference.

No one ever says I’d love to feel my body ache with pain, watch my muscles atrophy while I lose bone density and count the wrinkles in my face as the days go by. Instead I would like to train for better quality of life and move through each day with power and grace. For this to be a reality and not just some far off dream, we must pay attention to the way in which we choose to train.

The pinnacle of all training is to master one’s own body. ‘We cannot expect to control resistance from an external force unless we conquer it within our own bodies first.’ Shawn Mozen

Now it is my pleasure to introduce you to Gerry, 67 and training for life.

Here’s a quick interview I did with him on how and why he trains.

When I met Gerry a little over a year ago, he was in great shape health wise. He ate the right, slept enough and worked out regularly. However he was in bad shape mobility wise. He had the drive to participate in various activities such as running and climbing but had hit a road block. He could not longer perform to his expectations. Squats, overhead arm positions and co-ordinating movements and were huge obstacles for him.

I could see how badly he was willing to work at getting his mobility back, not only to train and hopefully one day olympic lift, but for better quality of life. I helped him along the way to his goal, but truly admire and respect this athlete as he did the work each day.

Name: Gerry

Age: 67 in three days!

Employment: Full time editor

Previous Training: I started with running in June,1972. This was a bit before the running boom. One of the best trails in Toronto, Moore Park Ravine, was about one hundred yards from where I lived, so I was lucky. Once my fitness caught up with what I was trying to do (about 5 weeks), I was hooked. I’ll never forget the pleasure of that first “easy” run, when all of a sudden, I felt I could run forever.

Main Goals: At this point in my life, my overriding goal is to maintain mobility. By that, I mean the ability to move easily and with strength. I always want to be fit enough that, when a friend asks if I want to go for a run, or climbing, or just workout, I can say “yes”.

Focus of Your Training: I want to maintain a routine of “balanced” fitness. My routines contain elements of functional fitness, oly lifting, cardio (via running, eventually to include track work and tempo running), stretching and mobility work.

I have a weekly plan and write out each workout before I do it. Now I always do movement preparation, then my workout, and always finish with stretching and mobility work.

Challenges That You Faced: The biggest challenge all along has been to get shoulder mobility. I never thought it would come, but it has. Again, this Saturday I was  doing OH squats, now with 70 lbs with perfect form. Alex (Varbanov) was there and got pretty excited, he thinks I might have a good full-squat snatch in a few months. He could be right.

An important note, my lack of shoulder mobility led to an injury which took me out of training for several months. The snatch was just too hard on my shoulders and I was Oly lifting 3 times a week. This time, I’m confident, if I’m careful, this won’t be a problem.  I did oly lifting twice this week with no problem.

Mobility Work That You Found The Most Helpful: The two exercises I now use most are the concentric and eccentric shoulder stretches you showed me on the day you took my picture. But the best thing I got from you was an appreciation of doing mobility work – up to then I’d done just stretching. Now I really work on movement preparation and I tailor what I do for the workout to come. And I’ve gotten pretty good about stretching after a workout.

A Training Week In Your Life: This is still developing, but I’m aiming for two workouts a day, 2 days on and 1 day off. If I can, I’ll eventually move to 3 days on, 1 day off. Sometimes, I also sneak in a few exercises (dips, supine pull ups) at work.

This is my schedule from Aug 19 – 25:

Sunday 19: Am workout – functional
PM workout – run, functional

Monday 20: Rest day (after workouts on Sat and Sun)

Tues 21: AM workout – functional Noon: Dips, supine pull ups

Pm workout – olympic lifting with Alex, back squats Wed 22: AM workout – functional

Thurs 23: Noon: Dips, supine pull ups PM workout – run, functional

Fri 24: Rest day

Sat 25: AM – run, functional
Afternoon – open gym: wall ball, back squat, push press

What Activities Do You Enjoy: Any sport. Gymnastics!!!!!!!!! Movement with strength and grace, who wouldn’t want that?

Your Inspirations:I’m inspired by athletes, dancers, artists who strive to be the best they can be. I love people who are always searching for ways to get better, who won’t settle with “good enough”.

As a 67-year-0ld Crossfitter, I was struggling with my loss of range of motion. This was giving me a lot a trouble, especially with the overhead squat. Sara showed me a many mobility exercises to fix the problem. Now, I move more freely, am more open and I can do my overhead squats with an erect posture, and my shoulders have opened enough that the barbell is in the correct position – no more falling forward.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought an “old guy” could regain so much mobility. Thanks, Sara!’

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The Number One Thing You Can Do To Make Yourself a Better Trainer

Many of us know that practice does not make prefect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. To become better at our training, jobs and lives, we must pay attention to the ways in which we practice in order to perform to our full potential. To be a good role model, well rounded athlete and teacher we must not forget that whatever time we put into our physical practice, we must put into our mental growth as well.

How can you bring more to your training and your clients training if you keep running them through the same old ‘hamster in the wheel’ routine?

You need to be greedy for yourself and always want more. Finding new training challenges, practicing and conquering them ensures that you will keep raising the bar for yourself physically. However, once your have achieved your goals, how do you go about discovering new ones?

To demand more from yourself you need to be informed. The number one thing you can do to make yourself a better trainer is to study. To be a great teacher, you must be an even better student.

 Here are some easy steps to follow to help you keep a good study practice. 

 -Research Something New:

This is a must and should be done minimum once a day. Set aside time for studying in your schedule. Even if it starts with 15 minutes each day, one topic a week, by the end of seven days, that can add up. If you are teaching people and taking money from them, you owe it to yourself and your clients to keep raising the bar. It can be anything at all. Gymnastics, free diving, jujitsu, ballet, knife dis-arming, olympic weightlifting, aerial silks…etc. If you don’t understand it, research it until you do. Trust me, if you follow this one rule, you will never run out of things to discover.

-Be a Detective:

Explore all the angles of your new challenge. The next time a client comes to you with a question or issue that you don’t understand instead of turning them away or making excuses to yourself, take on their need and challenge yourself to become informed. As the saying goes, ‘the teacher will appear when the student is ready to learn’. You are the student, never forget that.

-Practice it Yourself:

If it scares you, you should do it. We often shy away from things we do not understand, that’s why we are afraid of them. Don’t be afraid to fail. Go take lessons. Make mistakes. It is only through experience that you can truly understand and learn.

Would you rather go through life avoiding all that you are afraid of, regretting things you haven’t done? Or would you rather practice what you preach and be a warrior? That is the sign of a true leader.

-Teach Others:

Once you have completed all the above steps, the best way to put your knowledge to the test is to share it. Write articles for magazines, blog it, present it to your peers, teach it to your kids, create a youtube channel, the list goes on and on. This is also how you market yourself. The possibilities are endless if you keep your up with your studies.

No one wants to hire or train with someone that does not show constant improvement within themselves. If you are lazy at life, then you will be lazy at your job. You will lack passion for what you do. If you find yourself in this situation, you should either switch professions, or light a fire under your own butt and start to uncover all the options and angles your career could take. Challenge yourself to be better. Research, Explore, Practice and Teach. Think of yourself like a shark. A shark must be constantly moving forward or it dies. A trainer must be constantly moving their own training and clients forward or their value as a teacher will die.



You Determine Your Outcome

Never focus on the obstacles that are in your way, but the achievements you have already made.

Everyday we face choices in our lives. Whether it be work, family or physically related, there is always a choice to be made. Sometimes some choices are easier to make than others. When we are faced with a difficult decision we tend to feel overwhelmed and stressed. This often creates shadows in our mental game, which leads to doubt and then fear.  Our focus turns to a sea of back an fourth indecision and frustrations, leading us no where but to chase our tails.

Fear can rob us of our greatest hopes and our potential to succeed.Think of it this way, you are getting ready for a big competition or business meeting that if you succeed could change your life. “IF” is the big variable. When we use this word, we start to feel heaviness and the pressure of the event come upon us. “IF” is a word that defines doubt. It starts us down the path of looking at things negatively. Then we introduce the first obstacle ‘worry’.

Worry that we haven’t trained or researched enough. These thoughts start to affect our physical state and we introduce the second obstacle ‘Stress’ into our lives. Sleeping and eating may start to become affected and as a result work and training sessions feel like more of a chore than an opportunity to learn. Instead we look at that day’s results with a negative eye and start to think about what we have done wrong or ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ the next time around.

This introduces the third obstacle ‘Doubt’. This one is the worst of all. It leads us to second guessing our decisions in the first place. Then presents us with more false choices. We start to make up excuses that take us further away from our goal choice. Once we allow doubt of any kind into our focus we lay the red carpet for the last obstacle ‘Fear’.

Fear can make us or break us. Often we do not attempt things out of fear. Fear of  what if I can’t do it, will it hurt, how much will that cost me…etc and ultimately WILL I FAIL?… If I fail what will people think! How would I deal with disappointing others?

What I offer is this,

People will respect you a hell of a lot more if you tried and failed, then if you made the choice not to try it at all. Do you want to be a sheep, baaing and blinking blankly with the rest of the herd, or do you want to be the shepherd? The shepherd is faced with the most choices and has the most important decisions to make, but the result ‘pass or fail’ is knowledge. You know the saying hindsight is 20/20. Well how can you have hindsight if you’ve never tried. IF you tried no matter the obstacles, you haven’t failed in the least, you have in fact gained information and knowledge on how to better prepare and proceed for your next endeavor.

Two weeks ago, I competed in my second kettlebell competition, a national one at that. My first resulted in a fractured forearm. That was in Nov 2011 and it took until March 2012 for it to heal. That gave me a little under two months to pick up the kettlebell and start practicing again. Before I had injured my arm I had decided that at the next competition I was going to go up in weight. I wanted to go from using a 16kg bell to a 20kg. This presented a big challenge. I trained hard and was careful to properly structure my programming so as not to peek too early. It was grueling at times, as I was traveling for work from city to city almost every 4 days, having to find a new places to train, eating and sleeping on buses, trains and planes. By the end of a full day of teaching and some times voicing as well, I would have find the motivation to train. Needless to say some training days results did not go well.

I could have let all these obstacles frustrate me and stress me out. Somedays I felt banging my head against the wall would have been more beneficial to my practice then the numbers I put up. Instead of letting all the negative thoughts that were beginning to seep in defeat me from my goal, I started looking at each sessions gains. Somedays it was really hard to see any, but at least if the results were not good, I praised myself for showing up and practicing despite the odds.

Two weeks before the event I was demonstrating a skill with a light enough bells, that I had done flawlessly countless times before. But because I had been so exhausted from travel I bailed badly out of it at the end. It looked controlled to the students, they applauded my efforts and went to work on teaching each other the exercise. But I knew better, it was a dumb mistake and I could feel my shoulder throbbing with pain. Yup, I did it. Tore my medial deltoid! Awesome. Well there goes the competition…maybe. Instead of giving up, I put efforts towards healing it as fast as I could. It was a minor tear and if I rested until the day before I had to step onto the platform, perhaps there was a chance I could do it.

The day of the comp arrived and along with it every stomach ailment you can think of. I was in knots. I only had a little under two month to prepare myself to begin with and as a result of the injury ended up only training for a month and a half. I had never completed more than a 6 minute set with this weight and the event lasts for 10 minutes, with only one had change. (Insert expletives here!!!!!) Although the shoulder felt good it was very weak.

Ok so I had a choice to make. I could choose not to compete and sit there cheering on my team mates, or I could compete and ‘chance it’. Two of my team mates had it rough that weekend too. We were organizing the event and needless to say there is always more to be done and stress was at an all time high. They were contemplating not competing at all. Something I could not blame them for as we had not really slept, eaten and had about 5 mins to warm-up before we took to the platforms. At the last moment another judge needed me to sub, write before my flight was up. My head was whirling, I could back out, I was stressed from organizing, my shoulder was not 100% and my team mates who had trained for an entire year where thinking about jumping ship too.

I weighed the options in my head. Making a mental list of pros and cons. Ultimately what I kept coming back to is, “if I choose not to compete, I have lost nothing. Nothing will change.” Nothing will change! Even though I had only worked my butt off for a little over a month and half I was not about to let my hard work and effort be thrown away in vain. If I choose to compete, I have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain. I’ll know what to do for the next time. This will bring me closer to my goal of hitting the rank of master of sport with a 24kg bell.

I looked at my peers and told them I understood their positions and would respect whatever decision they would make for themselves. I had made mine and was ready to accept the results of trying my ass off instead of sitting on it.

My flight was up. 3-2-1 Lift. Wait, wait! Put it the bells down false start, The clock jammed. Ok what’s next?! 10 minutes, 10 minutes of this! Blarg! That seems damn near impossible at this point. I’m exhausted.

Ok here we go again. Lift. First clean HEAVY. Second, third and fourth all just as enjoyably cumbersome. That was it! Enjoyably cumbersome! Change your thought at this point Sara! You are so lucky that you are an able bodied person and can enjoy the chance to do this. As Socrates said “No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” If I waste this I will never discover my full potential in this area of training. Everyone has choices to make. Now stop bitching and focus on the good in this situation. Instead of talking myself into ‘how heavy it feels’ and risk letting doubt into my thoughts, I choose to think about all the people and things I am thankful for in my life. Each rep came and went as I dedicated every lift to one particular person that inspires me.

I felt relaxed and light. I hadn’t even realized that I was near the end until my team mates and friends started shouting at me. ONE MINUTE LEFT! Then I came to and push through like a bat outta hell. Last minute to lay it all out and leave nothing to my imagination on “shoulda, woulda, coulda” train.

3-2-1 Bells down. Total rep count. 78. I not only lasted for 10 minutes, but I came 6 reps shy of achieving my CMS (candidate master of sport) the third highest rank you can be awarded.

At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter how much sweat, blood and tears you poured into your training. What matters is that time and time again, is that you are willing to risk everything you are today to become who you want to be tomorrow.