Oh… the questions i’ve heard…

Someone asked me what are “the most common questions/comments etc… you hear from clients?”… In the past 20 years I’ve probably heard them all… here are a few of the most common ones directed my way 🙂

1)      “I don’t have the time”

So much has been written about the “I don’t have the time” excuse for the very reason that lack of time appears to be a challenge for most of us.  I get it, I have a family, two kids, work long hours, etc… etc… but considering that BBM Canada research shows, 18 – 49 year olds spend 23.3 hours watching TV and 17 hours surfing the web per week (even if both are done at the same time, is that even possible?) is the “I don’t have the time” argument even viable? It doesn’t matter how much I (or numerous others) repeat it, but there is no way to sugar coat it anymore, it’s just a case of making exercise a priority.

2)      “I don’t want too much muscle”

I still hear this (mainly from woman) on an regular basis (I guess our industry is too busy selling get fit quick products and other programs rather than engaging in thoughtful education).  In the past 20 years I have never heard a female client tell me (or any other trainer for that matter) that they’d put on, “too much muscle”.  The time, energy and effort required to “bulk up” makes it a challenge to add muscle to our frames (especially for women who have less testosterone), so becoming “too bulky” is not an issue.

3)      “I want to get more muscular”

Adding muscle is not just about protein powder and eggs. Yes, nutrition is very important but so is your commitment to exercise. Time, energy, and effort required to add muscle will bring your dedication to another level (as it will when wanting to lose weight as well). Exercise periodozation and the use of progressive overload principles will need to be implemented to ensure success and safety.

4)      What should I be eating?

Bahahahaha! What is usually meant by this is “what should I be eating to lose weight”. That’s a loaded question I choose to address from another angle… The most important thing we should do is take the time to address and prepare our food plans. The large majority of us are aware of what is healthy and what is not (eg/ an apple for a snack is good suggestion, while a muffin is essentially cake without icing etc…). If we haven’t prepared for the day we often run out and grab a muffin as a snack to go with our coffee instead of an apple we could have just brought from home (for the record, apples are about 90 calories each vs a muffin which can easily run over 400…). In my opinion the absolute key with proper nutrition is being prepared.

5)      “I have an injury… I can’t do that”

Rule #1: Do no harm, make sure that an activity won’t aggravate the injury (ie/ check with Dr. or Physio). From there, remember the options for exercise are endless. Your focus may change for a period of time (ie/ if you’re a runner with a lower body injury take the opportunity to focus on upper body strength, core stability, flexibility, etc…).  The long term benefits of a varied exercise regime are huge, so make the most out a frustrating situation and remember that the proper exercises will help you heal faster.

6)      I want to lose weight/tone up (or something similar)

This comment of course is probably the most common heard in fitness clubs.  First of all, congrats for taking the first step. The most important thing I tell my clients is that if they implement and are consistent with a proper nutrition and exercise program they will be successful, they just need to be persistent. Our bodies want to maintain a state of homeostasis (in other words our bodies don’t want to lose weight) and it can take time to break this stalemate. Some research indicates it can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks for the body to even begin to make physiological changes to external demands, so stick with it!

7)      I read this article in “Today’s Blah Blah Fitness” magazine.

Great! Wonderful! Ask lots of questions… When clients ask me about something they saw on television, read in a magazine or elsewhere it makes me very happy. First, they are looking for more information to improve their knowledge. Secondly they aren’t taking everything they’ve heard as the 100% end all, be all… There is a lot of very good information out there, a lot of not so good information (aka, crap) and even more of the “in between” stuff (yes that’s true, but only under these circumstances…). So please, keep seeking out new information and keep asking questions.

8)      I’m not feeling well, should I exercise?

Individuals who ask me this question are usually extremely dedicated to their fitness regimes and don’t want to miss a beat. When you exercise your body’s immune system becomes ever so slightly weakened. This actually helps improve our body’s defenses long term when we’re healthy, but not so much if we’re sick.  If you have a chest cold, flu etc… I would recommend giving your body a break, it’s asking for a chance to fight off a virus so don’t utilize your body’s energy for other purposes or you may make yourself even more sick and take longer to recover.

9)      I want to look like Channing Tatum / Kate Beckinsale.

If someone was to pay you 5 million dollars to be half naked on a movie screen for the entire world to see I think your priorities might change just a little. Add in, they will provide you with a full time chef/nutritionist and fitness trainer with a touch of digital magic to make your biceps bulge just a bit more and we might all look like movie stars. The reality is we don’t live in that world, nor would we want to (actors are often unhealthy in an effort to look the way they do, but that’s another topic entirely). I personally believe it always comes back to priorities and if earning a few million dollars for a couple months work…

10)   I want Channing Tatum/ Kate Beckinsale

Comment # 9 always seems to lead to comment # 10… FYI: You’re on your own on this one… 😉

Thank you everyone for your continued interest in my blog. For those who have been considering working with a personal trainer (and you happen to live in Vancouver) I am offering a first time introduction to personal training package. Click on this link to my website for more information or to sign-up!

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On Your Mark, Get Set… Stop!

Alright, what’s going on here? I originally set-out with a modest goal of writing one blog per month. It seemed more than realistic; I have no real deadlines and writing is something I enjoy doing.  Blogging is what many of us dream about and who wouldn’t want to write down their thoughts and share them with a couple million people (or in my case around 37), so what gives?  There are plenty of topics in the world of health and fitness to blab on about, yet I haven’t (and those who know me know I like to talk).  I read an article in The New York Times that indicated 95% of blogs become abandoned and I am determined not be one of them.  So why is writing a blog so difficult? I believe one word can answer why so many things are difficult and that word is, TIME.

Our time is so precious and we (I say “we” because I desperately don’t want to feel alone in this and have therefore chosen to project my beliefs onto everyone… It is my blog after all) are constantly being stretched in so many different directions.  Just think of the many different tasks and responsibilities each one of us has every day which take up our limited time. We have come to the point where we have stopped doing (or feel we are unable to do) the things we enjoy (like writing), or which we know are healthy for us (like exercise), etc…

Where am I going with all this? I believe every once in a while we all need to reset our priorities and focus on the enjoyable things that are important to us, our health /wellbeing and the all the simple things we take pleasure from.  Here are some useful hints that I find work:

1)      Learn that it’s ok to say “no”.

We don’t have to say yes to every request for our time. Your friends and colleagues will understand… They will still be your friends and colleagues and you will be amazed at how much “breathing room” you gain.

2)      Book your “personal appointments”.

I refer to personal appointments as things you enjoy doing but never seem to have the time to do.  In my field this of course would be fitness training or a yoga class, etc… But it can be absolutely anything you want it to be. The key is to make time for it and book it as you would any other important work meeting etc…

3)      Ditch the phone, email, text etc…

We don’t need to be reachable 24/7… Really, we don’t.  Put an auto-responder on your email, change your voice message and give yourself even just a few hours where you won’t be jumping to your device like Pavlov’s Dog salivates to a bell.

4)      Don’t cram activities into every possible opening.

I read an article a few days ago about parents (I have two little ones so I read these things now) rushing kids from activity to activity and how their children (and almost certainly the parents as well) are missing the important opportunity to be “bored”. “Boredom” some experts believe helps nurture reflection and observation, which in turn fuels creativity and new experiences.

So this weekend I took all this “boredom” to heart (since the family is visiting my in-laws). I found time to write a blog post and build a vegetable garden in our backyard (two things I found very enjoyable). Hopefully my wife will enjoy it as well, she’s been dreaming of a vegetable garden of her own for quite some time  :-).

Start…                                                               Finish!


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I’m turning 40… Now what?

I was having a conversation with a client during his workout the other week about how long he had been living in Vancouver. For those who call Vancouver home this is a common topic of conversation since it seems a large majority of us are not actually born here but come to visit and never leave. What struck me during this conversation was not only the date, but also the time of our discussion; Jan 3rd, 2013. It just so happened that my very first work shift in Vancouver started at 4:00pm (I was closing) Jan 3rd, 1996… Exactly 17 years ago! Wow where does the time go? Well, it goes to a wife, two little kids, a mortgage, etc…

So why am I sharing this information with you? First, I just thought it was kind of neat, and secondly (and conveniently) it leads nicely into this blog post’s topic…. I arrived in Vancouver a bright-eyed 23 year old which equates to me Turning 40 this year and what does that (or should it) mean about my exercise program? An interesting question that in my opinion doesn’t have a definitive answer, but hopefully we can think about our own fitness goals and priorities as we get older and maybe I can share a little motivation along the way.

The reality is our bodies do change as we get older. We lose lean tissue, our bodies become less physiologically efficient, reaction time decreases, blah, blah, blah… Now, it’s not all doom and gloom (actually it’s the opposite), research continues to show how extremely beneficial regular exercise is as we age. Not only does it help us maintain our physical abilities but fitness regimes can improve our strength, flexibility, body composition and cardiovascular endurance even as we age. The amount of literature promoting the value of exercise as we get older is astounding, I feel the key discussion now is on how we keep exercise a priority as we confront new external demands in life and face physical changes not even considered in our 20’s and 30’s.

In my teens and 20’s exercise was all about winning and looking good, and it probably was for many reading this as well. We trained to build our biceps, “improve our game”, get scholarships, win etc… and as a result we stayed fit (and hopefully had some fun along the way too). Well, (for me anyway) that has all changed and now I find “winning” has been replaced by “participating” and it’s fantastic! I get to try new activities with absolutely no expectations other than self improvement and it’s a great place to be. At 6’1″ and 225lbs, endurance activities are not my strong point but I’ve found a love for triathlons. I enjoy them in part because, #1) I have no expectations of a podium finish, #2) I get to do a variety of different activites focusing on an important weakness, #3) as a 40 year boy (yes, I said boy) I get to buy lots of fun toys for my bike and it’s all in the name of health (really, for my health), #4) Great social aspects I otherwise may not have, #5) Travelling to events is like a mini-holiday… and the list goes on and on. It’s a win, win, win, win… well, you get the idea. My priorities have definately changed and for the better, the older I get the more winning is no longer about finishing on the podium but more about having fun and I only need my biceps big enough to curl my kids :-).

So next time you’re in a rut with your exercise program and you’re thinking about setting some new workout goals take a moment to consider if your gym workout matches your life’s priorities (continually ask yourself “why”) and always remember, there is no correct answer.


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A few very important things I’ve been reminded of after my first two blog posts:

A few very important things I’ve been reminded of after my first two blog posts:

1) Friends will always be supportive.

2) Not everyone shares my level of sarcasm and are certainly willing to share their, shall we say,”colorful”  feelings with me.

3) People follow these things (blogs that is) from all over the world, I greatly appreciate all the positive comments and interest (and thank you for your patience as I’m definitely still a newbie at “responding”, “following” etc…).

Why am I sharing these thoughts with you and how do they relate to fitness and exercise? I believe these three observations are synonymous with being involved in an active, fitness based lifestyle. They hold true regardless of whether you are a beginner just starting out or a seasoned fitness buff setting new and loftier goals.

Bear with me and I’ll do my best to explain:

1)      “Friends will always be supportive.”  You have probably heard when setting new goals, be sure to write them down and tell people about them (preferably someone close to you). This creates a sense of accountability not only to yourself but also enlists the support and help from others around you.  Our friends (who often believe in us more than we do ourselves) can be incredibly supportive when called upon, regardless of our goals.

2)      “Not everyone shares my level of sarcasm and are certainly willing to share their, shall we say, ‘Colorful’ feelings with me”. Not everyone will always agree with you (which is actually a good thing), people aren’t always supportive and some individuals are just generally negative. In the end, we need to listen to ourselves, set our own goals, set our own paths and reach our own successes.

3)      “People follow these things from all over the world, I greatly appreciate all the positive comments and interest”. This was my favorite “reminder”. Even complete strangers want us to succeed! Do you know how often I’m with a client in the gym and they see someone who is clearly new to the “whole exercise thing” or they see someone else who might be “struggling” in one way or another and the comments I hear are always positive: “Wow, great for them!” Or, “I wish I had their determination!” Or, “that inspires me!” I hear these comments almost on a daily basis. Not once in a while, not every couple months or even weeks, but almost every day! We want each other to succeed. The large majority of those around us want us to come out on top, want us to succeed, reach our goals etc… Let me try and give another example… Have you ever listened to someone give a speech or a presentation who is obviously very nervous and uncomfortable speaking in front of people? How do we end up feeling?  Often, nervous and uncomfortable also. So how do we generally respond? In my experience we make eye contact with them, we smile, nod approvingly and do whatever we can to help them through a process they are clearly struggling with. That is one heck of a large cheering section! Don’t let one or two negative responses (or people) take the wind out of your sails. I think it’s important to recognize that we are getting support not only from friends, but also from a lot more people than we’ll ever know!

These are my own personal observations and I strongly believe they are applicable not just with respect to our fitness goals but in many aspects of our lives.

“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down”. – Arnold H. Glasow

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Not your run of the mill New Year’s resolution exercise blog…

Don’t do it, I beg you! If you’re one of the 6.98 billion humans who has decided that “this is the year” to start exercising, eat healthier, blah, blah, blah… and come January,  1st you’re going to (pardon the pun) “hit the ground running”… STOP, DON’T DO IT, PLEASE SLOW DOWN BELOW BEFORE YOU ACT!

Look, I am all for putting more celery/ less vodka in your Caesar and implementing other healthier habits, but let’s face it, reality is stacked against you. I’ve read that approximately 90% of us fail within the first 30 days.

So, what’s wrong? We have the right idea, we want to get “healthier” but what can we do to maintain our new found enthusiasm past the 8th of January?

The experts, psychologists and other professionals with lots and lots of fancy letters behind their names (a number I know and respect dearly) suggest following the S.M.A.R.T acronym when setting goals. S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound.

If you are unfamiliar with the S.M.A.R.T. criteria or would like further information, please refer to the downfall of the hard copy encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria#Measurable

I agree, the S.M.A.R.T criteria is an extremely useful tool and I’d like to take it a step further by adding a complimentary acronym. My acronym is L.I.B.Y.I.R, which stands for “Less Is Better You Idiot Ryan”. Of course there are no copy write laws on my acronym so please feel free to replace my name with your own but I must you warn against replacing my name with that of a loved one, an employer or even the neighbor’s dog.  When it comes to general wellness and healthy lifestyle, research continually shows that even a moderate level of activity is just as beneficial (and sometimes more so) than a vigorous exercise regime.  An individual who walks for 30 minutes a day is going to be just as healthy, avoid chronic illness, live just as long and have just as high quality of life as the diehard exercise enthusiast.

I am by no means saying we shouldn’t be doing more than just 30 minutes of walking a day.  Consider what your goals are and remember if you want to improve some part of your physical and/or mental wellness you need to challenge yourself . The fancy term for this is “the principle of progressive overload”, which happens to be built upon Hans Selye’s “General Adaptation Syndrome”, a theory on stress which he is credited developing at MacGill University (this is important because while he was born in Hungary, we can still claim him as Canadian…) It’s at this point in my blog that my wife has called me a nerd and instructed me to stop writing… So until next time, L.I.B.Y.I.R!

Happy New Year and remember!

#1 Make your goals:       Specific

#2 Be sure they are:       Measurable

#3 Keep your goals:        Attainable

#4 Keep focused:             Relevant

#5 Stay on track:              Time bound


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Hi and welcome to my first entry in the world of blogging. My goal is to hopefully bring you useful information on fitness and exercise for the sport of life along with a little dose of reality, humour and general randomness (yes, randomness is a word. I saw it on the internet so it must be true).

Some background on myself. My name is Ryan Christison and I have been a personal fitness trainer in Vancouver for about 17 years (check out
www.healthfirsttraining.ca for the “official” bio). Over my many years in the industry (at 39 years of age I’m probably in the top 1 percentile of this seemingly young person’s profession, but we’ll get to that at another time) I have been very fortunate to work with a great number of energetic, caring and talented fitness professionals and I’m now taking up the challenge of bringing some of this knowledge and experience to the net (do we still call it “the net”?). Before I go any further my lawyer told me it’s very important for me to say something like “consult your physician and get your head examined before listening to or doing anything Ryan has to say….”. Since my lawyer gets paid much more than I do, please listen to her…

I am going to be posting monthly (God please let me keep this up monthly) on a variety of topics from “the latest research” found in the daily news to questions posed to me during client sessions or online (and I really, really, really hope to avoid the “which exercise is best for my abs” kinda questions).

So please, subscribe to my blog, tell all your friends, send me stories, questions, comics and cash (large bills, unmarked) and I hope my new venture will educate, entertain and motivate everyone. At the end of the day we need to enjoy life, take things with a grain of salt (too much is bad for the heart) and remember fitness is always best when it’s fun!

All the best, Ryan

Exercise is best when it doesn’t seem like exercise at all
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