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Personal Training

More than just a Personal Trainer

More than just a personal trainer

Peak Condition – helping you train harder and smarter – written by Paul Collins

In the realm of health and fitness there are many different professionals – personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, nutritionist and instructor to name a few. At Peak Condition we most resonate with Strength and Conditioning coaches. Most of this comes from the personal training philosophy and the atmosphere within the facility.

Personal training and much more at Peak Condition

A personal trainer and much more at Peak Condition.

The focus is always on individualized goals and needs. All our athletes/clients are provided with unique workouts created to maximize their continued progress.  In addition to a tailored workout program each client is given nutritional tips and guidelines. With the right mixture of science, attitude and motivation Peak Condition offers an experience that fuels results. To us this embodies what a strength and conditioning coach should provide; however, there is a lot more to it. For us there are 4 important components that we expect out of all of our coaches – roll models, professionals, therapist and educators. All of them are essential for providing athletes with the best results and experience. Today I wanted to talk about education and easy ways to keep up to date.

I expect to stay on top of my CEU’s, it’s simply part of my job. It also happens to be something that I fully enjoy doing, perhaps to a fault. In the book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell talks about 1000 hours being a factor that contributes to high levels of success. I don’t know if this is true but I do know education plays an extremely important role at Peak Condition. Our athletes need to know what nutritional plan is best for them, which lift are most appropriate during specific times of the year or optimal sleep routines to maximize their training effect. Take into consideration they also have full time jobs, kids and a regular life to live. I know they don’t have 1000 hours to become experts but there are efficient ways stay up to date on health and fitness topics.

Here are a few ways to help you stay educated:

Use technology to your advantage:

I personally have found Feedly to be extremely valuable. It’s a webpage aggregator that you can use as an app or on a web browser. Instead of jumping from site to site you can see all articles on one page. It also lets you categorize sites for easier browsing.

If you didn’t know it Peak Condition is on InstagramFacebook, Twitter and Google Plus. If you don’t follow us already you’re missing out on daily tips, articles, motivational Monday, and quotes of the day.

Read / Listen:

I have a personal goal of reading 3 books per month this year and so far I am on track.  If you interested in a specific topic ask professionals in that area to recommend a book. Here is mine for strength training, Mark Rippetoe put together an easy read: Starting Strength – Basic Barbell Training. If you’re a new personal trainer pick it up.

Listening to audiobooks is another personal favorite of mine. Audible and Smart Audio Book are both great apps, which allow you to listen at increased speeds for time efficiency. In fact I just finished Contagious: Why things Catch On by Jonah Berger. I found it extremely insightful and enjoyed listening to it. If you like the Heath brothers you’ll get a kick out of this book. It is designed more for business owners/managers but I think anyone could learn something from it.


Searching for professional help is an obvious solution. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t have a desire to educate yourself. At Peak Condition we have the luxury of having great coaches and we all constantly learning from each other. If you need a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach in Portland or would like to refer a friend into the facility contact us: Get Started

Teach Someone Else:

One of the best ways to further your own education is to teach others. I believe that if you can’t simply and fully articulate something you don’t know it well enough. Teaching provides a great opportunity to see how others persevere something. We see it frequently when teaching an athlete a new movement pattern. Because everyone learns slightly different (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), in order to train a client we must be able to teach the movement in all 3 learning styles. This takes a much better understanding of the exercise (material) than just being able to do the movement. This is one way teaching can enhance your own knowledge.

To improve in life or sport you don’t need to use all of these strategies. Simply implementing one of them will help immensely over the long term. Aim for a 1% improvement every day, you’ll have better retention and won’t burn yourself out.

What would you like to improve in your life and which strategy will you use to get there?

By |October 13th, 2014|Peak Condition, Personal Training, Semi Private Training, Strength Training, Training, Uncategorized|Comments Off on More than just a Personal Trainer

Schedule it

Recently I finished a book called Managing your Day to Day by Jocelyn K. Glei. Many of the concepts are extremely relevant to entrepreneurs/artists. It discusses strategies for planning your day but it also incorporates an abundance of information about creativity and achieving goals.

How does this help you? It motivated me to get my day planned out much more efficiently, which means I have more time for writing blog posts to help educate/motivate/entertain you.

What are your primary goals? This can be personal, professional or both. For example, my professional goal was to expand how many clients/athletes are exposed to the science based training environment at Peak Condition, while still providing the best training experience in Portland, Oregon. With the goal in mind you determine what actions need to be taken. Then perhaps more importantly you schedule time for those actions. A simple example just occurred with a PC athlete who has a goal of losing weight. Their action item was to become more active during the day. I told her to schedule 30 minutes of walking during lunch. It’s not complicated but life has a way of getting in the way if you don’t have time blocked off.

I’ve noticed two huge reasons scheduling helps.

Stress management: Just like you experienced in school, the stress of a deadline was often worse than actual doing the project. When you have regularly scheduled time specifically for working towards a goal the stress associated with it disappears. I believe this happens for 2 reasons. One, you know you have time to work on it. When I don’t have time for a project it always raises my stress level. Second, the schedule provides a finite time to work. I’ve found that if you give yourself 3 weeks to get a project done it will take you 3 weeks. Even if it’s really only worth 1 week or sometimes 1 hour of time!

Improved Productivity: This builds a little off having a finite time scheduled for an activity. Our lives are inundated with technological distractions, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Youtube….the list goes on. My personal distraction is either Superhero trailers (Spiderman, Captain America, X-men) or strength and conditioning continued education. It turns out that scheduling productive time is only half the battle. The other half is resisting distraction. When possible I find it helpful to remove the temptation by writing on paper instead of typing or disconnecting the internet, plus I always put my phone out of reach face down. This way I can’t reactively look at it or see the flashing notification light trying to distract me, because it can wait.

Perhaps the most valuable part of all of this is Happiness (what happens when I read Calvin and Hobbes). Less stress and more productivity always makes me feel better.

“Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.” – Anne Frank

Through his simple process I’ve developed a much better work to life ratio, which in return has helped me with the quality of my life. Instead of wishing there were more hours in the day become more efficient with the time you have. What is your goal? Schedule time for it, determine what steps you need to take and remove distractions. There is a reason we prefer to have all our athletes on a regular schedule for their personal training programs, it works.

More important than food?

Two of the largest factors that affect how I feel and preform is my nutrition and sleep. I’ve found that quality sleep is highly underrated by most Peak Condition athletes. Most people know that food is important, whether or not their nutrition reflects that is anther story. However many don’t appropriate or understand the roll sleep can play.  Theoretically I could live longer without food than sleep. Which reminds me of my first and only attempt to fast.

A couple of years ago after watching the movie 127 hours. I wanted to see what it would feel like to fast. Keep in mind that I am very accustom to eating every 3-4 hours and during this time I was training for an Ironman (looking back this wasn’t the best time to attempt a fast). The day started normal with a 4 am wakeup (which was WAY too early considering I didn’t have to cook breakfast or pack food for the day), road my bike to Strada then started training clients from 5:30 – 11:30am. Now by this time I was fantasizing about food and had a huge case of hangry (hungry and angry). Next I went through a 60 min strength training routine that was pathetic and not just because I was weak from too much cardio but my energy level from a lack of food was brutal. 15 minutes after my workout (12:45) my fast came to a delicious end with a plate of Lebanese food that had never tasted better. It was an epic failure comparable to the Twilight saga.

Despite a negative experience with fasting many people use it effectively for weight loss and every day eating habits. Sleep is another story. I haven’t heard a single athlete come into the facility and say “I feel amazing after only getting a 4 hours of sleep.” Sleep deprivation has a host of correlated effects; increased bodyfat percentage, more issues with insulin sensitivity, impaired cognitive function, and even a disproportionate decrease in lean muscle mass when eating a caloric deficit.

Knowing the potential negative are important but I prefer to focus on the positives. Here are a few things which make sleep awesome.

–          Improves your memory performance and creative problem solving skills.

–          Increase athletic performance.

–          Triggers the release of human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a huge role in muscle and cellular regeneration.

–          Sleep cuts your risk for the common cold and other basic illnesses.

–          Sleep makes you more resilient to daily stress.

When new athletes come into Peak Condition sleep and nutrition are always talked about. If you want to improve all aspects of your health and fitness both are highly recommended. In fact the results will be comparable to transformers + dinobots….

By |February 5th, 2014|Peak Condition, Personal Training, Semi Private Training, Strength Training, Training, weight loss|Comments Off on More important than food?


With the recent addition of our Energy System Training (EST) program there have been a lot of questions about what exactly EST is; here is the first of a two-part series to help explain.

Many of the athletes/clients at PC are involved in endurance-based sports, through our strength-training programs they have realized greater success and feel the benefit of increased strength and power. This study gives a perfect example of how endurance sport athletes highly benefit from increased strength and power. However as a Strength and Conditioning coach I can’t ignore the conditioning side of things. Thus the creation of EST.

For the sake of simplicity I’ll say there are three primary Energy Systems that our body uses: alactic, lactic and aerobic. Each is responsible for energy production although how and when they are used is dramatically different.

Alactic – This system is capable of producing the most energy in the least amount of time but it only lasts for a short duration, 5-12 seconds. Power exercises come to mind with this system; for a track analogy, the 100M will represent the alactic system.

Lactic – Energy production with this system involves more chemical processes than the alactic system, consequently it can’t produce energy quite as fast but the duration of sustained energy is slightly longer, 15-90 seconds, think 400M.

Aerobic – While the other two systems can function without oxygen the aerobic system can’t. It’s the least powerful in the short term but it allows us to perform for hour and hours. Even though it’s not the most aerobic activity possible, consider Ashton Eaton’s 1500M performance at the London Olympics to claim gold in the decathlon!

Because the three systems create energy at different rates and durations it’s important to train the Energy System most influential to your training goals or sport, however there can be a lot of cross over between systems. A common mistake is to think that the three systems are either “on” or “off.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead they all contribute to total energy production through almost all periods of exercise. A great example of this is in a 400M sprint where almost 50% of total energy is produced aerobically.  Most people training for “general” fitness will benefit from training all three systems, which will make you a more well rounded athlete or potentially a superhero:

**I am Spiderman of course**

In the last decade the fitness industry has shifted away from steady state cardio for more flashy forms of cardiovascular training (intervals). There are a few driving forces for this:

1. Everyone is too busy. Today’s world is full of instant gratification with no time to waste, unless you count the 10.5 billion minutes spent on Facebook daily…by the way visit Peak Conditions page to see more superhero photos!

2. High injury rates associated with high volumes of steady state cardio (running for most people) have been well documented.

3. A certain injury prone and most of the time careless “hardcore” fitness craze is all about high intensity short workouts. And no it’s not dancing Gangnam style.

Despite the latest fitness craze, all three systems are important to being a balanced athlete.  I call our program Energy System Training because it is intended to condition an athlete or client to be able to meet the energy production demands of their sport or fitness goal. For most sports, training will involve a combination of the three systems sequenced together at the appropriate time.

Part 2 will discuss HOW you train each of the three energy systems…

Consistent success

Putting up big weight loss numbers isn’t easy, however it is achievable. On February 28th Anthony came into Peak Condition with a good friend of his, Travis (a long time PC client). Anthony went through our assessment where I measured range of motion (ROM), stability, strength, cardiovascular function and a couple anthropometric measurements.   With the results of those tests, coupled with Anthony’s goals, I created his unique workout program for the next 8 weeks.

As of today Anthony has been coming to PC twice a week for the last 5 weeks and his results are great!

Total lbs lost: 24
Dialed in nutrition: 2050 calories/day, Fat: 31% CHO: 50% Protein: 19%
ROM deficits: increased Supine Hip Flexion and FABER mobility (more details follow)


Now these results weren’t achieved by just doing 2 days a week. Anthony is on a cardio program 4-7 days a week for 45-60 minutes. We alternate his intensity between medium and high to make sure we aren’t over training or just over reaching. Additionally, and probably most important, is the fact that he has been extremely consistent with his workouts and nutritional plan.

This is a perfect example of how dramatic changes can occur when consistency is involved. Working out isn’t about going 110% all the time, instead being consistent and following a program that has varying volumes and intensities will always produce better results. There are entire text books covering the topic of periodization. In fact this is the one I am reading right now:


Losing 24 lbs in the last 5 weeks shows that Anthony is following his nutritional plan and getting in his cardio workouts. However, another number that I am extremely excited about is his increased ROM for two tests that needed improvement.

Supine Hip Flexion:

Original measurement:             After 5 weeks:

Left Leg 61                                                                                 Left Leg 80
Right leg 59                                                                               Right Leg 81


Hip Faber ROM


Original measurement:              After 5 weeks:

Left Leg 56                                                                                      Left Leg: 60
Right leg 65                                                                                   Right Leg: 65


In both cases I am looking for a level of symmetry in addition to total ROM. There are situations where ROM imbalances are warranted and even desired for optimal performance.  However, Anthony isn’t participating in any activities that would require such physiological adaptations, consequently symmetry is more of a focus.

Anthony is a perfect example of consistent hard work paying off in a big way. To learn more about what it takes to have great success check out the Biggest Winner Contest that starts on Saturday.

By |April 6th, 2012|fitness, Personal Training, Strength Training, Training, Uncategorized, weight loss|Comments Off on Consistent success

Results, Faster!

It is your friendly Peak Condition intern here (me, Jonathan) posting on the blog! I’m attempting to make this post informative but not too heavy.

Imagine the perfect workout. It would be quick, easy, and get great results right? Well, there is no easy workout that gets great results but there IS a workout that is quick, gets great results, and will bust your butt in the process. It is called interval training, specifically High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It is basically a strategy of alternating high intensity exercise followed by recovery. For example, if you perform as many reps of body weight squats as you can in 20 seconds and then follow that with 15 seconds of rest, and repeat – that is an example of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The idea is that you expose your body to an intensity it can’t maintain, and then allow yourself a short pause to catch your breath. For everyone from athletes to Biggest Winners (Peak Condition’s team weight loss challenge), and anyone looking for an intense workout, HIIT has a lot to offer.

Until recently, long aerobic workouts, consisting of 30+ minutes of cardio, have been promoted as the best method to reduce fat. While they are definitely a good way to exercise, HIIT has been shown to burn fat more effectively as well as increase your aerobic capacity and muscular strength, with better results compared to steady-state cardio. Additionally, HIIT workouts train muscular strength and speed while participating in steady state cardio (running or cycling) doesn’t. Here is a look at some HIIT methods.

1. Tabata Training: It is a whole body workout that really only consists of 4 minutes of training. It is short and quick but you will be sweating by the end of it. More importantly, it has been shown to actually improve both cardiovascular and muscular fitness. Below is an example Tabata workout, but you can do the same protocol of 20 seconds intense exercise followed by 10 seconds rest, doing any other full body exercise such as squat jumps, plank pushups, or burpees. Go ahead give it a try!

2. The Trapp Study Protocol: I included this because it is from an actual study proving weight loss using a HIIT method. The workout starts by 8 seconds of sprinting on a stationary bike, followed by 12 seconds of easy pedaling, repeating this for 20 minutes. In the study, the group doing this three times per week lost significantly more weight than a group that biked for twice as long at a consistent pace. Although the HIIT workout lasted half the time, it was more effective for weight loss. You could replicate this workout on a running track, elliptical or by alternating exercises such as squat jump, kettle bell swing, burpees, plank pushups, etc.

There are a variety of other HIIT protocols out there but these are two protocols that I specifically researched. I always think it is important to have verifiable information because, it seems, so many in the fitness industry pull their facts out of a hat.

In short, High Intensity Interval Training can be a smart training alternative to just running or biking. The workouts are shorter, more intense, and the payoff can result in greater weight loss and greater cardiovascular & muscular improvement.


By |January 30th, 2012|fitness, Personal Training, Strength Training, Training|Comments Off on Results, Faster!

Choosing a Personal Trainer

If only it was this easy to know if a trainer was worth your time or not…


I’ve literally seen this while visiting gyms all over the nation. Most commercial facilities will have a couple (if not more) of these so called trainers, who are more interested in technology than their clients.

I love technology (embedding for this video was removed, sorry)

Because every year thousands of people try personal training for the first time, I want to give you a short list of things to look for BEFORE you choose a trainer. If you already have a trainer who does something on this list, the ball is in your court. I’d recommend finding another trainer and following these guidelines:

1 – If they text while a client is working out – You shouldn’t be on your phone while driving and you shouldn’t text while working or training. Simply leave your phone in the car or in the locker room, your trainer should do the same. Make sure your trainer is attentive and listens to you.

2 – Form is always the most important – If you see a trainer letting their client lift with improper form, move on. You are more likely to injure yourself than actually make improvements to your overall health.

I had a hard time watching this whole video,  watching someones form should not evoke bleeding eyes and a strong gag response.

3 – One type of workout – If you see a trainer “training” everyone the exact same way there, is probably a problem. Personal training is exactly that, personal. Your program should have specific drills for you, from dynamic warm-ups to strength exercises. Unless you are in a class or boot camp your workouts should be tailored.

4 – No assessment – If your first session is a brutal workout with no assessment, you most likely did not get a personal workout. Some trainers can quickly assess while others simply don’t assess. You should always go through some kind of assessment before training. This gives the trainer a foundation for creating your program, not just your workout, your program.

5 – Programming not just workouts – If you see a trainer taking their clients through: Foam Rolling (tissue quality work), Dynamic Warm-ups and a Workout, you probably found a keeper.

6 – Certified/Educated – A national certification through NSCA, ASCM or NASM, there are other certifications but these are the big 3 that I value. A degree in Exercise Science, Kinesiology or Physiology are helpful but personally I look for a certification first. Training is a specific skill which isn’t necessarily taught in an undergraduate program.

A short rant, when I was back at the corporate setting I had the joy of watching new trainers start their fitness careers (most were very short). Each month was the same, they all thought it was their job to beat the hell out of their clients. It’s true that one thing people look for when working with a trainer is a good workout. However that is just a part of what a good trainer should be doing. As I mentioned in # 5, there are other elements that need to be added to someones program. If weight loss is your goal, nutrition should be addressed and will represent 70-80% of your success. You simply can never out-work bad nutrition. If all a trainer has to offer is a “hard” workout, you’re missing the boat with total body health the fitness. You can easily find someone to kick your a** but finding a professional that will keep you healthy and address your inefficiencies are worlds apart.

Those are my top 6 recommendations for those of you who are searching for a trainer this New Year. The list could have easily been double but 6 points are easy to remember, plus it’s the best number.

By |January 5th, 2012|Core Training, fitness, Personal Training, Strength Training, Training|Comments Off on Choosing a Personal Trainer