Introducing the personal trainer bot

According to a recent article in The Economist, personal training, like therapy, or hairdressing, is one of the few professions not at risk of being automated out of existence, due to the human touch it requires.

This led me to ponder what aspects of my job I would want automated.

Here’s a brief wish list…

1. Counting reps.  Rep counts are very personal to the person doing the lifting.  Turns out people are possessive about their pain.  Go figure.  At least, this is what I’ve discovered by consistently being wrong with my rep counts.

I’ve got a legit reason for it…

I’m studying your form and making corrections, or offering positive encouragement.

This occupies a generous amount of my computational abilities.

Therefore I might be one or two (or five) reps off.

I’ve tried explaining it’s tension that matters, and your body can’t count reps, etc., etc….but since that doesn’t seem to fly, just let a machine count the reps instead.

2. Form analysis.  I’ve gotta rely on visual cues to tell you whether you’re executing the movements correctly, or if there’s something you should do differently.  Presumably an AI could analyze every line more precisely, and contrast these with what perfect biomechanics look like given your body structure.

Then, electrodes could be attached to working areas, contracting and relaxing the muscles involved in the right sequence, thus enabling you to feel perfect form before you master it.

In the future, I’ll conduct our training sessions sitting behind a computer screen, from where I’ll more or less *supervise*, otherwise known as taking a nap.

3. Sympathy.  I’ve been told sympathy’s not my strong suit.

Whatever.

The trainer bot can easily be programmed to convey a range of pre-recorded platitudes such as “I’m sorry to hear that”, “I understand”, or “that looked like it really hurt, how terrible…I wish there was an easier way.”

Sure this one could use a bit more work, but it’s a step up from my standard response, which is to smile with intense satisfaction whenever you complain of how hard the workout is.

At the end of the day, a machine can’t be programmed to care about your success as much as I do.

So if you’re willing to put up with inaccurate counting, form analysis that’s not exact to the millimeter, and a dark void where you think sympathy should be found, call me at (416) 826-4844 for your complimentary personal training consultation.

Your results may not be automatic, but you’ll be miles ahead of what you can achieve working on your own.

And besides, a little human interaction never hurt anyone.  Wait…

Happy Counting,

Conor Kelly

When it’s better NOT to think

Less than a week before the 2004 Ontario’s Strongest Man competition, a vicious attack of gout hit me.

My big toe swelled to painful proportions.  Tomato red and extremely sensitive, it throbbed, and the pain intensified with the lightest touch.

I could barely walk.

Yet in 5 days I was scheduled to suit up in the province’s premiere test of strength.

I was particularly doubtful about the Truck Pull.

In the Truck Pull, you’re harnessed to a transport tractor-trailer – typically 40,000 pounds or more – and tow this bad boy using only your bodyweight and whatever arm power you can muster by pulling on a rope secured near the finish line.

Proper technique is to lean your body into the harness and get low, where you can leverage your weight and use your legs.  But you’re essentially on your toes the entire time.  With the gout doing its worst to slow me down, I had little hope I’d even be able to do it.

But since there wasn’t any chance of my withdrawing, I wrapped my toes in athletic tape, hobbled out onto the tarmac, and signaled the volunteers to harness me up.  When the ref’s whistle blew, I blocked everything out and just went for it.  I ended up somewhere in the top 12 in a field of 24, and my foot wasn’t even a factor.

In 2005, I tore a rotator cuff muscle five weeks out from OSM.

This time I stared down an opponent called the Viking Press.  It’s an ATV mounted on a cubic steel frame with a pivot on one end, and handles at the other.  The idea is to grab the handles, which are at shoulder height, and press the estimated 275 pounds overhead to arms length, as many times as possible.

In warm up, I couldn’t budge the weight.

But when my name was finally called, I somehow managed 6 reps.

Again, I just didn’t give it a second thought.

I have no explanation other than NOT thinking about pain allowed my mind to pick up the slack where my body stalled.  And I’ve experienced this phenomenon many more times throughout my lifting career…a PR deadlift with a sore back, a top 3 finish in log press with a torn pec, a record number of high rep squats while suffering from a virus that hijacked my lungs, the list goes on…

We all know that people are capable of seemingly impossible feats under conditions of extreme stress.

And it’s a power that’s innate within each of us.

Why we don’t invoke it more often?

Let it serve us?

We face challenges every day that are either going to get the better of us, or push us closer to our goals.  We live happier, more fulfilled lives based on all the little (or large) victories we accrue.  All it takes to summon mind power to your aid is a decision to get out of your own way.  You can focus on what’s stopping you, and the reasons you might not be successful – or throw away your excuses and move ahead forcefully.

It’s do… or die.

(Which, in a sense, is true.  You either get the improvement you want, or you don’t.  And you have to live with either result.  The stakes ARE high.  You’re just not always looking at it that way.)

Thinking is useful.  But not when ACTION is called for.  In these moments, too much thinking creates paralysis.  It destroys initiative.  When the time comes, put thinking aside.

Dive in.

It won’t always work out.

But more often than not, you’ll discover the strength was in you all along.

Happy Diving,

Conor Kelly

P.S. Know what else you shouldn’t think about?  Requesting your complimentary personal training consultation.  Do it now by calling (416) 826-4844.  Find out how my 16-week program gets you strong, lean, and healthy.

The epidemic of over-stretching

Back in my days as a nightclub bouncer, I went on a date with one of the club’s female security guards.

She was petite, very pretty, and several years younger.

Apart from realizing we had different interests, the conversation went smoothly, and we had a fun time.

The highlight of the date – which I’ll never forget – is when she pulled a knife on me.

No, not literally.

But once we’d established a bit of a comfort level, she removed a rather large switchblade from her pocket, explaining how she’d carried this concealed weapon on our date in case I’d “try something.”

Heh.

Girl’s got hutzpah.

I like a woman who knows not to let a man get out of line.

(In fact, I’m married to one.  Not the knife-brandisher.  That ended at the implied threat of mutilation.)

In fairness, she don’t know The Conz like you do.

In the part of town she’s from (let’s call it the wrong side of the tracks), you learned to protect yourself.  And when you’re used to men whose idea of small talk is many less-than-creative variations on how they’d like to *tap that* – those instincts get placed on overdrive.

It’s natural to want a little insurance.

That’s kinda how I view my stretching program.

Like routine maintenance for your car, good mobility ensures you get a lot more mileage out your body.

Here’s why: if you’ve got some faulty biomechanics, you’re fighting against yourself every time you work out, play sports…or move.  Not only does fluidity make everything you do seem easier, but it’s a great knife-in-yer-pocket against injuries.

However, flexibility is widely misunderstood and incorrectly prescribed.

In fact, the way I sees it…most people are over-stretching.

Traditional stretching says you relax into position where the muscle being stretched is the longest – then try to go further.  In some cases, you may have someone else assist you to elongate the muscle even more, while you remain passive.  Not only is this likely to cause injury, but it does little to improve your USABLE range of motion (beyond making you temporarily feel loose).

If you want the strength, mobility and injury-proofing stretching can deliver, you need to focus on expanding the range of motion (ROM) in which your muscles can still contract.  The broader your usable ROM, the more invincible you are.

That means you’ve got to actively resist the stretch!

And the more you’re able to resist, the bigger the gains in flexibility.

I know it sounds weird, but it’s a game-changer.

It saved my lifting career.

Before you “knife-up”, keep in mind it’s a dangerous weapon – especially to one who knows not yet how to wield its power…

It takes specialized coaching to unlock the mysteries of an effective stretching program.

That’s why, next Thursday onlyJuly 21st – I’ve opened up a few spots for 30-minute stretching sessions.

Call me at (416) 826-4844 if you’d like to partake.

I usually reveal these techniques only as part of my larger ticket 16-week programs.

So it’s a rare chance to pick up some valuable tips, reduce pain, and move better…without any long-term commitment.

Either way, let this charming tale be a warning to you.

Neglect your mobility at your own peril.

Or at least opt for some pepper-spray.

Happy Knife-Wielding,

Conor Kelly

5 Anti-tips for your best summer body

I used to write a lot of lists.

‘6 tips for x…’

‘4 ways to do y…’

It was the format for several of my most popular emails.

Problem is I’m easily bored.  Lists are overdone.

Anyway, the notion of anti-tips jolted my cerebral cortex into bringing forth what follows.

Here’s how it doth work:  do the exact opposite of what I recommend here, and you’ll b-line it straight for a lean summer body with a coke and a smile.  Minus the coke.

I think you get the idea.

Let’s begin…

1. Eat as much of it as you want as long as it’s healthy.  Healthy food is high in nutrients when compared with fast-food, for example.  Ever noticed how you can railroad empty calories at a mighty clip? That’s because they don’t contain any real nutrition, so you’re body barely registers any satiety.

Non-processed, organic, high-fiber foods are so nutrient-dense that your body thrives on much lower intake levels.  This mirrors the sparse nourishment we received when we first evolved the ability to derive energy from plants and animal flesh.

But if some is good, more is better…right?

Besides, the plump lady behind the lunch counter says I can eat as much quinoa salad as I want because it’s healthy – so it MUST be true.

2. Try a RE-tox diet.  You want to enjoy the fine weather and the fresh air.  The last thing you need is a bunch of washroom breaks slowing you down.  Keep your water consumption to a minimum, and avoid anything high in fiber.  Also, you might like the binding properties of copious amounts of cheese.

Keep that colon on lockdown until the fall.

3. Use a pro-inflammatory approach.  One thing you’d really hate is if your joint pain lessened to the point of inspiring you to be more active.  Really cuts into your investment of sunbathing time.  Just remember the four food groups: pizza, ice cream, beer, and cigarettes.  In fact, eat as much sugar as possible – raw, off a spoon, if need be.

The average Canadian eats 68 kilos of sugar per year.

Ask yourself, are you getting behind?

4. Avoid heavy weights.  God forbid you should build any muscle that might turn your metabolism into a blast-furnace for burning calories.  Then you’d lose your excuse for all that healthy food in #1.  Plus everyone knows that heaps of long, slow walking is how you lose weight.

5. Sleep less, and ‘freak out’ more.  Stress is good for you.  Ever heard of ‘fight or flight’?  Burns fat.  Burns muscle too, and runs your organs on overdrive, but heck, nobody’s perfect.  To really accentuate the effect, fly into a rage at every opportunity (I mean really lose your s**t), and load your system with as much caffeine as possible.

Sleep only when desperate.

Healthy sleeping patterns of seven or more hours per night render #’s 1, 3, and 4 less effective.

Now if your brain hurts from twisting my hints to figure out what I really mean, you’re either taking #5 literally, or you’ll benefit from the un-reversed truths in my 16-Week Transformation Program. 

Call (416) 826-4844 to request your complimentary personal training consultation, and discover the path to your best body – in all seasons.

Happy Freaking Out,

Conor Kelly

Try not to know what you don’t know

Before my daughter was born, we had her name narrowed down to either Gabriella or Nicole.

We’d shared the options with family, many of whom were willing to have their vote counted.

(We didn’t add friends to the mix, for fear of hearing something like “Nicole?  Oh, let me tell you about this total be-otch I know.  Her name is Nicole.”)

Anyway, young Gabriella was talked about in various scenarios pre-delivery, until she was fully baked and ready to be brought forth onto this planet.

When she did finally make her grand entrance, neither of the front-runners among the names we’d considered seemed apt.

She just didn’t look like a Gabriella.

A few weeks prior, I’d been served my espresso by a Starbucks barista like a sitcom character.   Her off-beat sense of humor made me laugh – and this was pre caffeine…

“What’s your name?”  I asked.

“Olivia.”  She replied.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now as I looked down at my newborn, it hit me…

“What do you think of Olivia?” I suggested.

“It’s perfect.  I love it.”  Raya answered.

And so it was.

Good choice too.  She’s definitely an Olivia.

(Nicole became the middle name.)

It’s a perfect reminder that often we try to call it before we truly understand it.

Many circumstances just don’t fit the category we assign them, and only later do we realize it.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not that smart.  I don’t know everything that’s going to happen.  That’s why I try to make it a habit to challenge my assumptions.  I’ve learned that I might not always be right, and, [pause for dramatic effect], I’m often happier to be wrong.

So I try not to let what I don’t know run my life.

You hate your job but you don’t think you’ll be able to support yourself if you quit.  How do you know you won’t find something better?

You have a passion for a different business but you think you’ll make more money in your current business, even though you’re bored with it, so you stay.  But you don’t know that you won’t make ten times the dinero in some other gig.

There’s something you’d rather quit (a food, a medication, a business or personal relationship) but you don’t think you can go without.

I can go on…

The philosopher’s mantra of an unexamined life is not the only life not worth living – so’s a life with without experimentation.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

So don’t pretend to.

Put your assumptions to the test wherever possible.

Make things earn their label.

Otherwise you can end up calling it something other than it is.

And after all…what’s in a name?

Happy Assumption-Challenging,

Conor Kelly

P.S.  Think you can’t follow through on a 16-week program to transform the way you eat and exercise?  Try me.  Reply to this email for your complimentary personal training consultation, and let’s find out.