The Peterson Principle

What’s the biggest scam in the training industry?

Remember Denzel Washington’s quote from malcolm X? “i say and i say it again, you’ve been had. you’ve been took. you’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok.” i do. and i think about it before i buy anything on impulse, on a recommendation or out of desperation. i also consider it before i put a product on the market because i don’t want to ever be seen as the bamboozler.

Anything that says it takes all the work out of something that you know takes work is hoodwinking right at you.

Many products make your training or dieting more effective, but effort-free? a pill that gets you shredded in seven days? a move that’ll add 2 inches to your biceps in two weeks? Sorry, pal. if you bite at any of these, you’ll answer the trendy “What’s in your wallet?” question with a defiant “Uh, nothing.” read up on supplements, exercise techniques and equipment in quality publications. you’ll feel better and save more of your hard earned cash.

You’ve worked with athletes for 20 years. What common traits do the great ones possess?

Besides being in a certain tax bracket, they all have a drive that I don’t see in everyone who crosses my threshold. They possess a simmering determination that drives them to finish whatever program I’ve given them. They don’t show up late. They don’t try to slide out early. They don’t cheat their rep counts, and they most definitely don’t hold back. There’s no economizing of energy — they leave it all in the gym. This doesn’t mean that every workout is a racing, fire-and-brimstone melee. It just means they give their best during every movement. Rarely do they regret having not completed a rep or beaten a time because they know they gave it 100%. Trying is lying; these people do. If I had to choose between giving my kids the skill sets of the great ones vs. the heart of the great ones, I’d choose the heart. Skills diminish over time, but heart can be applied to life — and it should be.

Why do people fail to reach their training goals?

They don’t plan realistically if at all. Hoping and dreaming about your goals isn’t planning. planning means:

  1. knowing what you’re going to do and how you expect it to feel before your workout
  2. factoring in pre- and post-time for your training — the driving, parking, cleanup and return — so you’re less likely to shortchange yourself or skip your workout altogether
  3. planning your pre- and post workout meals so you’re not just spinning your wheels in the gym; and
  4. planning your sleep. The busier we get, the less we can take those precious eight hours for granted. and that’s the short answer. Look, most people can get after it a lot harder than they do right now, and if they look in the mirror they’ll know that’s true. In fact, I dare you to overtrain. Go for it. The bottom line is, how much do you want it and what will you do to get it?

What qualities do the best trainers possess?

Knowledge of training, physiology, biomechanics and kinesiology should be a given for a trainer just like food prep is for a restaurant’s head chef.

I expect a chef to know how to prepare the items on the menu the same way i expect a trainer to be qualified to guide someone through a workout.

But just as you remember more than the taste of the food when you leave a restaurant, consider your client’s overall feeling after the session. was it fun? too fun to be considered a workout? was it serious? too serious to be considered a voluntary activity? are you a personal and personable trainer or are you just a trainer?

I believe you have to be as invested and interested in your clients as you want them to be in your services. i try to provide an unbelievable overall experience: parking, music, cleanliness, lighting and workout beverages, and i focus on ending each session on a high note. personal training is a service industry, so i serve.

Why do so many professional athletes seem to avoid traditional bodybuilding techniques?

At the end of the day, all training should serve to enhance the performance of the athlete (and civilian fitness enthusiast) and hopefully reduce the risk of injury along the way. As a rule, an athlete who uses functional and sport-specific training – and even position-specific training – will likely perform better in that sport.

That said, there’s no harm in doing a few drop sets of EZ-bar curls every now and than. In fact, the feeling an athlete gets from a pump in the world’s “show-me” muscle can be so positive that it may just increase adherence to the entire strength-training program.

I despise cardio, but I know it’s important. How can I break a sweat without suffering 30 minutes of crushing boredom?

Cardio can be a 100 on a 1-10 scale of boring. Here are two ways to make it bearable. For the first scheme, “2 for 1,” do two minutes on the “dreadmill” at your normal pace, followed by one minute at either a 5-10 degree higher incline or 1.5-2 times your initial pace. Continue this pattern for 15 minutes.

For the next 15 minutes, make it two minutes at the higher incline or speed and one minute at your normal pace. Time will fly.

I call the other 30-minute party favor “4,5,6/6,5,4.” Do four minutes on the treadmill, five minutes on a bike and six minutes on any other cardio machine. Return to the treadmill for six minutes at a faster pace than before, switch to your third choice of cardio for five minutes, then finish on the bike for four minutes.

That’s 30 minutes all told, but it’s more productive and infinitely more engaging.