Bashing of the Rep Counter in Personal Training – Necessary?

You see the articles: Are you a Rep Counter or a Personal Trainer?

What this line is insinuating is that personal trainers should go beyond just being someone who counts the repetitions of their client in a workout, and in a way I agree with that. Personal trainers have many important roles in their client’s lives that go beyond just counting the number of times someone does a pushup or a squat. Those roles may include, but are not limited to, providing:

  • guidance with alternate ways to exercise based on individual limitations in movement
  • resources for healthier eating options
  • accountability in being consistent with their programs
  • a listening ear when things are getting tough, and external motivation to overcome mental obstacles
  • feedback with how exercises are being performed

One thing that I have noticed over the years is the backlash of trainers who do count repetitions in a workout session. As if just because they count repetitions, that is all they do. Counting reps or timing time-under-tension is a good way to keep track of a client’s strength and stamina progressions.

Practicing intuitive and intentional training in sessions means checking to see when the body begins to break form from when the exercise began. This allows the trainer to record the number of repetitions completed before the body begins to compensate. So there is repetition counting, but not necessarily with trying to get to a pre-selected number. The client’s progression comes from if they can complete a higher number of repsthan the last time they did the exercise with precise form. If that is just one more than they did before, great. They don’t need to jump up to 5 or 10 more reps to see improvement. This also allows a trainer to see when there needs to be more resistance to an exercise. If they can do more than 20 reps in a weight training exercise with good form, then the load can increase.

The same goes for time under tension training. If there is a set amount of time for an exercise, the trainer can see if the client can continue the exercise without stopping for that set amount of time. If they can with good form, then the intensity of the exercise can increase. If they can’t keep good form for 45 seconds, the trainer can keep track of the amount of time they did have good form and look to have them increase the amount of time they can keep good form the next time they do the exercise.

I understand where critics are coming from when they call personal trainers “rep counters”. It is the overall dissatisfaction with the industry standards (or lack there of). All too often there are individuals who put together the same exercise protocol for every person they meet with, explain an exercise once, start counting and call themselves personal trainers. Being a fitness professional goes far beyond that.

However, my point is this – why criticize counting reps as part of an overall personal training program? It is just another way to organize a client’s information to see their progression in their program. In fact, I have seen the pendulum swing the other way where there is no recording of any information in sessions. It is the thought that every session is a new session, and so whatever happened in the last session doesn’t apply to today. While there is a degree of truth to this thought process, I’m not sure how you can keep track of objective data without having some record of previous sessions.

Tracking repetitions is just one small part of the personal trainer’s role, and it isn’t a part that should be completely ignored.


Technology is neither good nor bad when it comes to health & fitness…it just is.

If one spends any time reading the internet, there seem to be two separate camps when it comes to the thoughts on technology and health:


Camp 1: technology is what will save us when it comes to our health and fitness. From step counters to apps that track all of our health stats – technology can give us the data we need to live longer, healthier lives. The newest exercise machines can monitor our reps, how hard we are pushing ourselves and give us feedback as to what we need to focus on. Technology enhances our lives and helps us discover our mental and physical potential.

Camp 2: technology has turned our society into lazy couch potatoes. We don’t need to be physically active because we have everything done for us at the push of a button. Think of car windows – not all that long ago we actually had to turn a handle to roll a window up or down. Voice activation has become commonplace (who has time to push a button?), and segways have replaced our legs for many sightseeing adventures in both urban and nature areas. Technology has ruined our active way of life.


If taken at face value, both camps have valid points. Technology can help or hurt our health and fitness endeavors, depending on how one uses it.

If technology is utilized to set goals, track information, and analyze data to see where we’ve been and where we are headed in all facets of living a healthy life, then it can certainly be an asset.

If technology is used as an escape from scheduled exercise (insert favorite Netflix show here instead of working out), and/or replaces any physical activity during everyday life – from yard work to chopping vegetables – then it can be a hindrance to living a healthy lifestyle.

What both of these views miss is the fact that technology does not choose for us whether we are going to be physically active or not. It doesn’t make us watch that season of The Walking Dead or force us to drive to work when we could ride our bike. It is up to us as individuals to take personal responsibility for the use of technology and how it is going to either advance us to a healthier existence or keep us from experiencing a truly active lifestyle.

Because in the end, it can do both.

Personally, I love technology and can see the many benefits of utilizing gadgets, apps and gizmos to bring us closer to a healthy, fit and strong mind and body. Whether it’s a smart watch or a mindfulness app – brain games or a digital display on a cardio machine – I enjoy how technology can help us with our efforts to be more fit and active.


And what I try to recognize is that it is my choice whether I am going to live a healthy lifestyle. As a personal trainer, I try as best I can to guide people that choose to work with me in a way that will help them reach whatever goals they have. I will provide support when needed, guidance when appropriate, and empathy when necessary to help my clients reach their ideal mental and physical state (whatever that is for them).

What I won’t do is allow them to not take personal accountability for their actions. If they continue to do the things that go against their goals, then they need to be held accountable. They don’t need to be shamed or berated… just be made aware (and be empowered) that they are in control of their outcomes.

If we try to blame or give credit to technology for being in control of our wellness decisions, then we are not taking personal accountability for our health, and ultimately whether we will live healthy, active lives.

So yes, technology is both good and bad…and it isn’t good or bad.

It just is.

One of The Most Important Pieces to Personal Training (Whether you have ADHD or not)

A lot has been added to the field of exercise science over the past few decades. New discoveries of how the body works – whether physical, neurological, or chemical – have led to a multitude of ways to train the body. The more we learn about how it functions, and the more science we apply to training, we can really tune in to what works best on an individual basis.


I have been a fitness professional for over 16 years now, and have trained hundreds of people during that time. I’ve led private coaching sessions, small groups, boot camps, Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) sessions, lectures, nutrition classes, bodybuilding posing training, online training, and more. A lot of education has gone into learning about the inner workings of the human body and how it is designed to function. And now more research is illustrating the role of exercise in helping to enhance the ADHD mind (more about the specifics of that in another post).

With all of the advanced tools, programs and techniques that have been introduced to improve the human body’s performance, there is still one thing that is so important when it comes to personal training and our role in creating a healthy body:




In all of the advances with science and it’s role in the personal training industry, just keeping people accountable seems to have become secondary to collecting data, aquiring vast amounts of knowledge, and using the latest scientific research to create the ultimate workout.

The longer that I am in this field, the more I see the importance of keeping others accountable with their health & fitness endeavors. That is a big part of why I have a career. Setting up appointments so that others can stay accountable should be at the top of the list when deciding to utilize a personal trainer. This is especially true with those who have ADHD.

As Marla Cummins states, “Of all the structures, asking for accountability to help you implement a rule is the one that may really rub you the wrong way.” That’s because we don’t necessarily want people telling us what to do, checking in on us, or keeping our feet to the fire. But why not? We have a hard enough time doing it ourselves.


I own my own fitness facility, so I am there most days of the week. I have to schedule my exercise appointments or they won’t happen…and I am right there! Not to say that you need to be in a gym – many people do well exercising at home, in the park, or just outside somewhere. But being accountable to a partner, friend or fitness professional can be just the thing we need to make strides in continuing to live a healthy and productive life.

The Sport/Health Paradox

Picture this.

A wide receiver cathes a football. He is heading down the field with would-be tacklers hot on his heels. If he scores the touchdown, the game is over and his team wins. If he doesn’t cross the goal line, his team is defeated and their season is over.

As he is running, there is a slight burning sensation in the back of his left leg. He continues to run, and the burning turns into an aching pain – which turns into a shooting pain down the entire left side of his body. With every step, it feels like his hamstrings are going to tear from their origins.

So what is a player to do?

I think most people would say that injuries and pain are just a part of sports, and in a sense I agree with that. If anyone is pushing themselves to be at the top of their game and play at an extreme level, there are going to be aches, pains, bruises etc. that just come with participating in a sport. That’s the nature of the beast – the potential for damage.

So back to our player for SCENARIO 1

If he crosses the end line and scores, but tears his hamstrings in the process, he is a hero nonetheless. Sure, he can’t walk on his own and needs to be carried off the field, but he accomplished what he set out to do and should be awarded as a top notch performer. The fact that he sacrificed himself to win for the team – he could be heralded as the performer of the year.

Hold that thought for a second, as we’ll get back to it….


The wide receiver realizes his leg is going to experience some major damage if he keeps up the pace and intensity he is currently operating at, so he lays off a bit. Unfortunately, the opposing team has caught up to him and tackled him before he reaches the end line. Game over. Other team wins.

But his hamstrings are still attached.

So we have two scenarios, both with outcomes that have positives and negatives associated with them. Here is the question…

Which scenario was the healthier one?

For the sake of this discussion, let’s keep mental health out of this post and focus solely on the physical aspects. I bring up these 2 scenarios because many times the thought is that sports = health. If you play sports your are healthy, or if you play a sport you will get healthy. From Scenario 1 above, I’d say playing the sport was detrimental to his health. Muscle tore from bone…that isn’t healthy.

If we look at the reports coming from media outlets such as ESPN and other sports programming, we see the impact that sports can have on a player’s health in the long term. Broken bones, torn ligaments, sprain, strains, concussions…they all have a negative impact on a person’s physical health both short and long term.

Many times when I am consulting with people, they bring up a sport that they are using to be/get healthy. The conversation may go something like this:

Me: What is your main goal?

Them: To get healthy

Me: What do you feel will get you to your goal?

Them: Well, I want to add some strength training into my routine because I get in cardio by playing tennis two times a week and basketball two times a week. But I’m not sure if I can add in the strength training because my knees hurt, and my back is tight, and (add your favorite injury here).

Me: Is it possible that the sports you are playing are contributing to your aches and pains?

Them: I suppose so. I never thought of that…

I can’t blame them for not having thought of that, because the majority of the time people are told sports = health. I can tell you that the majority of my injuries over the years (and believe me, I’ve had my share) have come from sports I played throughout my life. Not from progressive resistance training, not from a structured aerobic program, not yoga. They came from the hours and hours spent on the field (soccer) and on the courts (tennis and basketball).

My last post discussed my interaction with some hard gravel during rec softball. You can read it here if you missed it.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are many positive things about sports. Whether it is learning about sacrificing self for the team, character building, perseverance, the importance of practice…the list can go on and on. I’m not here to bash sports, as I love them.

My point is this: Playing sports is not the same as being healthy. Many times, we sacrifice health for the sport.

The player in Scenario 2 may not have scored the touchdown, but he just may have saved himself a lot of pain by focusing on his long term health and not short term glory.

The glory will fade. Your health lasts a lifetime.

ADHD, Impulsivity, and Ouch Moments

According to Hallowell and Ratey’s book Driven to Distraction, a symptom of ADHD can be impulsivity – or not a planned course of action. Certain things are conducted as the result of an impulse, and therefore are done “without thinking.”


I like many people tend to think of the negatives associated with impulsivity, although there are times when impulsivity can be a positive thing. Many creative endeavors may have begun with an impulsive thought or action and turned into something wonderful. In the field of Psychology, we hear about the benefits of functionally impulsive individuals and how they can quickly take advantage of unexpected opportunities, think on their feet, and are mentally agile.

Then there is the dysfunctional impulsive. According to Adrian Furnham, Ph.D., “These people say whatever comes into their heads without thinking first.  They make appointments without checking they can honour them.  They buy things before considering whether they can afford them.  They jump in, just do it before considering difficulties, implications, pros and cons.”


And it is this last bit that I can relate to…

Last summer I was playing rec softball. I had not played for a long time, but was asked by some friends and decided why not. Although my skills in the sport are average, they needed someone who could at least get in front of a ball when fielding and take something resembling a swing when hitting. Check both boxes.

Fast forward to a warm summer evening. I hit a double and am on second base. I’m feeling good. The next batter hits a line drive past the second baseman, and I am on my way to third. At first I thought, “I’ll make it no problem.” But then I hear and see my teammates emploring me to get there fast as the ball was quickly on it’s way from the outfield.

This is where things get a little blurry in my mind. I remember sprinting toward third base. I remember seeing the third baseman reach out his glove to catch the oncoming ball. I remember beginning to slide into third base like it was game 7 of the World Series, and everything depended on me getting there safe.

What I forgot was I really didn’t care if we won or lost. What I forgot was me being out there to have some fun, do something different, and play a sport I hadn’t played in a while.

What I forgot was that I had shorts on, and the infield was not so much a soft dirt pad but a hard layer of gravel. Add to that fact I really had no business sliding because of my utter lack of skill in this area, and I was looking at a painful situation. I heard a collective gasp from pretty much everyone participating or watching, and I knew I had made a mistake. I looked down, and saw the beads of blood begin to pop up on my skin.

As the game progressed, my leg began to hurt a bit more, and bleed a bit more. I went home after our second game (of course we had a double-header, and I couldn’t back out!), and tried to tend to my new wound. Let’s just say showering wasn’t fun. The next few weeks (yes, weeks) weren’t fun either as sleepless nights and a trip to urgent care led to a life a little less active for a while.


This brings me to my point of impulsivity. When looking back on the scene, I couldn’t understand what it was that led me to think sliding on gravel with shorts on was a good idea. That is the point…I didn’t think. I had thought about a lot of other things throughout the game, but when that moment came it was as if all rational thought escaped my brain and I had to slide no matter what.

I had created planned courses of action in almost every other situation. Heck, I may have even thought about what to do right before that line drive to the outfield was hit and I was leaving for third base. But in that instant everything went to instinct, and my instinct was wrong. I paid the price, and still have the proof of what impulsivity can do in the form of a scar.

So what did I learn? With impulsivity, there isn’t always a reason why. Or sometimes it’s the most illogical reason and we do it anyway. What else did I learn? That as a personal trainer, when I discuss with my clients that many times sports and health are NOT the same thing, I have experienced just that.

Tune in next time for that topic.

A different view on injuries…

…or in this case, muscle strains.

My previous post explained how I went a little too far with my workout while on vacation, and my body let me know about. I have had a moderate muscle strain on the right side of my mid-back since last Wednesday, and have been dealing with it throughout my travels back home.

Think 3 days in the car and staying in hotels. Ouch.



Needless to say, I am still feeling the injury although it has subsided over the past couple of days. And though the pain still lingers, I feel it is not as bad as it could have been or would still be today. Why?

One of the main reasons, I believe, is because I took a different view of the injury when it happened. When the pain first started coming on, I could have thought “Oh crap. This is going to ruin my whole vacation and I am going to be hurting bad.”

But I didn’t. I made sure to keep myself aware of what had happened, why it may have happened, and what my view was going to be from that point on. The ADHD mind can certainly obsess on things, so it is important to have a healthy viewpoint when looking at a situation.

So I started to take steps to help the healing process as soon as I could, first of which was don’t be in positions that hurt the area. Pain is a signal – like a check engine light – that says something is wrong, and here is the signal to tell you that. If I had positions I could sit in, lay down in, or stand in that didn’t hurt, then that’s where I would be. It almost seems too easy or that it’s just common sense.

It is, and sometimes we just need to listen to our intuitions – if it hurts, don’t do it.

I also made sure to change my view from all of the negatives associated with injuries to have a positive outlook during the healing process. I began to think about some of the benefits that occur with injuries:


1) an increased awareness of the body. It will let one know when they have moved too far, bent too low, or twisted too much. The injury can signal the body’s current (and hopefully temporary) limits.

2) moving slower. The physical act of moving slower allows for not taking things at such a frantic pace.

3) deeper breathing. If not too painful, breathing deeper can allow for faster healing by expanding the rib cage (keeping up movement) and sending more oxygen and blood flow to the injured area.

4) better posture. Isn’t it amazing that many times when we have tweaked a muscle, our posture automatically becomes better? Suddenly we stand straight up and seem taller. It’s like the body knows what position it is supposed to be in and goes to it.

Really I just made sure to have a different mindset towards the injury, and that could make all of the difference towards feeling better faster. I know the injury is still there and will not ignore the situation by pushing through mindlessly – but why not focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives? At least I have a choice, right?


That is how I choose to view this situation, and that alone helps me feel better – both physically ano mentally.