Pearls of Wisdom from the Perform Better Summit

Last weekend I attended the Perform Better Summit in Providence, RI for the first time. I’ve been hearing about this summit for a while, but it generally falls right around the same time as the National Athletic Trainers Association symposium that I travel to every year, so I haven’t had the opportunity to attend. This year, however, with NATA being the last week of June, I sadly decided to forgo attendance at that one due to the close proximity of my wedding — I knew that being out of town for 4-5 days just before the big day would stress me out too much.

So for the first time this year, I made the trade! And I’m so glad that I did. As much as I love the NATA conference, and have a wonderful time each year, it was fun to go to something new with a little bit of a different focus. Perform Better brings together some of the biggest and best names in the Strength and Conditioning, Fitness, and Rehab worlds, and puts them all into one conference center for a few days. There are lectures and hands on sessions for almost each presenter, giving attendees a chance to practice what they’re learning right there on the spot. And if you’re like me and learn much better through doing, rather than listening, than this was perfect.

Throughout the weekend, I was fortunate to hear talks and interact with some beasts in the fitness world — Alwyn Cosgrove, Gray Cook, Martin Rooney, Dr. Stu McGill, Eric Cressey, Kara Mohr, among others. Yes, I was a bit star struck at times, but more importantly, I learned at least one thing from each of these people. Some sessions were focused on rehab/assessment, some were focused on different fitness tools and styles, and some on coaching and motivation.

Today, I want to share a few of these pearls of wisdom that I learned over the weekend, but keep in mind that this is just a tiny fraction of what I brought back in my brain from that summit. Whether you are reading this as a personal trainer/coach or as an average-joe fitness enthusiast, each of these points can apply to you in some way.

“There’s no best, just be better.” Martin Rooney – You don’t have to be the best at something — and as Martin said, heck, who cares who is better between Van Gogh and Degas? They are both masters of their craft, who is “better” is irrelevant. The same can go for coaching/training, and really anything you do in life. You do not have to be the best, just consistently become better than you were the day before. That is what matters. Whether you are using this as a coach or a client, this is what will help to create lasting change. Don’t waste energy on worrying who is better than you, just make yourself better, because that is something that you can control.

“Don’t seek to make people tired. Seek to make them better than before they met you.”  Martin Rooney – This is something that I think many personal trainers should take into consideration. There is a big difference between putting someone through a workout that will just make them exhausted, and putting them through one that will make them better. Create workouts that will enhance your clients well being — not just leave them in a sweaty pile on the floor, hardly able to move their limbs. And this can be applied to the average joe too– do workouts that make you better, not just the ones that leave you the sweatiest. A hard workout and a good workout are not always synonymous, so if you or your personal trainer doesn’t know the difference, I would recommend finding someone who does.

Focus on the “Other 23”. Kara MohrSo you see your clients for one hour out of the day (or on the flip side, you see your personal trainer for one hour out of the day). But what happens to the “other 23”? Creating effective change can’t happen in just that one hour of a workout session, because there are far too many additional factors that shape the rest of that person’s time and lifestyle. If you’re a personal trainer, figure out ways to shape the other 23 hours of someones day — help them figure out how to lead a sustainably healthy lifestyle outside of the gym. And for the gym-goers, make sure that you focus on that additional time as much as you do on your workout, because really, that’s what’s going to make the difference that you’re working towards.

Treat every client/patient/etc. as an individual. Not everyone needs the same corrective exercises, because not everyone has the same problems. Eric CresseyEric Cressey gave what ended up being my favorite lecture of the entire weekend. Probably because it was more sports-medicine based rather than fitness based, and I’m a nerd. Anyway, Cressey is a very well known “shoulder guy”, so his talk was appropriately about assessing scapular mechanics and positioning, and some ideas for corrective exercises for various problems. The big take home here is that nowadays, everyone is told to keep their scapulae (shoulder blades) down and back during every exercise.

We train this over and over again — I’ve told so many people to keep their shoulder blades in their back pockets I’ve started sounding like a broken record.  But the truth is, some people don’t need that cue. Some people have scapulas that are already positioned medially, that telling them to pinch them back only reinforces the problem. This doesn’t just apply to the shoulder, but for every inch of the body. No two bodies are the same, and no treatment or training program should be created for someone just because that’s what “most people” need. And if you are the one being trained? Make sure that your trainer has a reason for everything you do, otherwise, you’re just another name on a template.

Forget about the number on the scale or fat loss. Focus on the “inner athlete”. Alwyn CosgroveTraditional weight loss programs over the past couple of decades have been pretty ineffective — Alwyn showed us a graphic of how obesity  has increased in each state over the years, and while it wasn’t new information, it was horrifying. But what about all of these people going to the gym day in and day out? Why isn’t it making a difference? According to Cosgrove, we should be focusing on other things. We all have an athlete inside of us, regardless of whether you played sports in school or not. Helping your clients focus on abilities and goals will help them to achieve more than a fixation on the scale. And if you are the client? Forget about the scale — find something bigger to train for. Set a PR goal, train for an event, sign up for a triathlon. Whatever works for you, find your inner athlete, and the results will come, along with a boost in self esteem and confidence.

Take Recovery Time! Alwyn Cosgrove. Cosgrove runs a gym that seems like a dream place to work, and he has developed a great system of small group training. One thing that struck me was his description of the work/rest periods that his group circuit classes utilize, namely recovering according to heart rate, not necessarily a specific work/rest time ratio or rep scheme. Using specific heart rate values to determine work and rest can help clients to work out at a high capacity, instead of doing crappy, ineffective reps because they are not recovered from the previous exercise.  This would take some research, but it’s an interesting way to think of circuit training, compared to the usual 30s on, 15s off type of plan. Food for thought!

Again, I learned a lot more than this over the weekend, but this is just a quick snapshot into the awesomeness that was Perform Better.

Readers: Which of these messages resonate with you the most? If you are a personal trainer, which of these do you think is most important? If you are the client (or workout on your own), can you apply these to your own workouts? Were you at the Perform Better summit last weekend? 




6 thoughts on “Pearls of Wisdom from the Perform Better Summit

  1. Sounds like a conference I will need to check out! I’ve heard of it, originally being from the CT area. How many CEU’s does it give for ATC’s? (i’m one too!)
    I think they are all GREAT advice. My favorites are 1. “Don’t seek to make people tired. Seek to make them better than before they met you.” If you look at any type of fitness program out there, there is ALWAYS rest days incorporated and lower impact/intensity days because the body can’t go all out, all the time. It naturally needs recovery time to become better.

    “Forget about the number on the scale or fat loss. Focus on the “inner athlete”. This has been my success story. In high school and much of college I was obsessed with losing weight, but unfortunately ever since I started sports, I haven’t seen anything under 120 (I’m 5’1”) and finally came to terms that as long as I stayed between 125 and 135, I was doing well. When I began grad school and moved to Texas, I stopped counting calories and instead ate what I felt I needed – if I was hungry I would eat, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t. The only foods I don’t eat are the highly processed ones, but you’ll find me eating dessert every day (maybe twice a day…lol) but it’s almost always homemade. I avoid low-fat, low-calorie, reduced-sugar foods if they have a full-version, more natural alternative. And I began running consistently, training for a half marathon, made sure to weight train three times a week for 45-60 minutes and did Bikram yoga two times a week. I checked the scale, no weight change. But I look great, feel great, and I am incredibly happy with my lifestyle. I no longer obsess over food, I almost never feel like I overeat, and I’m stronger/fitter than ever! It’s taken me ten years to hit this point, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
    I agree that the “weight loss” industry is one of the biggest hoaxes out there. If I ever go into personal training/wellness coaching, my tag line won’t be to help you lose weight, it’ll be to change your lifestyle (and weight loss will come with that, if it’s necessary).

    Thanks so much for sharing this advice! It was a great Monday Motivator 😀
    (and sorry this post is so long, haha!)

  2. I think the “Focus on the Inner Athlete” message resonates most with me. I’ve lost 80 pounds so far, but I’m just now beginning to realize the athlete within me. I’m so much stronger and more capable than I thought I was. It’s exciting! And it sounds like you had a wonderful time at the Summit!

  3. It’s so refreshing to hear other people say that the best workout is not necessarily the one that leaves you the most exhausted; I always strive to give my clients exercises that they CAN achieve, rather than leaving them to pick themselves up off the floor and trudge home feeling inadequate, and making sure they don’t hurt so much the next day that they have to stay glued to their seat all day (crossing into the “other 23 hours” thing). Sounds like a great summit filled with very switched on people who can think for themselves. Thanks for sharing!

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