I am who I am

In my last article I talked about the importance of finding your why as it pertains to goal attainment.  As the saying goes, when you find your WHY, you will figure out the HOW.  

So let’s say you’ve taken the time to find your why but you’re still feeling like you’re spinning your wheels when it comes to achieving your health and fitness related goals.  What should you do next?

When all of the fluff is stripped away, we find that every meaningful goal comes from who you think you are (your identity) and what’s important to you (your values and priorities).  I have found that there is a lot of confusion as to what this means, so allow me to take a minute and break it down.

Let’s start with identity.  Whenever we make any decision or choice, we start from the same deep place – our sense of self or who we think we are.  Essentially, how and what we think of ourselves often determines what happens next.

For example, here are a couple of common “identity” examples I hear quite often:

  • “I’m a busy person.”
  • “I like to have a good time.”
  • “I take care of everyone else.”

Taken by themselves, these examples are neither good or bad.  The deciding factor is what they mean to you and how you choose to apply them.  Let’s examine each of these in a negative and then positive light.

What affect might these identity statements have on the outcome of your goals?

  • “I’m a busy person.  I don’t have time to plan, prep, and prepare healthy meals at home.”
  • “I like to have a good time.  I’m not able to get to bed at a decent hour.”
  • “I take care of everyone else.  There isn’t enough time in the day for me to exercise.”

Now compare the above to the following:

  • “I’m a busy person.  My time time management and organizational skills are top notch.”
  • “I like to have a good time.  Getting good sleep is essential so I can continue to play at 100%.”
  • “I take care of everyone else.  But I take care of myself first, because in doing so I’m better able to take care of everyone else.”  

Exact same statements.  Two entirely different ways to perceive and act on them.  Who do you think will be more successful?

When you’re on the outside looking in as I tend to be, it’s not hard to see those struggling with their sense of identity.  Comments like “I’m fat” or “I could never be a fit person” said repeatedly over one’s lifetime can be damaging in many ways and for many reasons.  

Yes, there are certain individuals who can use this as fuel and propel themselves to success, but they seem to be the exception to the rule.  More often, it just leads to more of the unwanted behavior.

For much of my life I identified as that of a runner.  Early on I realized that not only was I good at it but I enjoyed it too.  I thought like one, ate like one, lived like one… I was one, in every way imaginable.  

When I think back to my college years, it was not that of a college student.  It was as a cross-country and track runner.  Most of my choices and decisions were based on this and this alone.  Yes, it did serve me well at the time.  And yes, I did have many great opportunities and experiences that I would otherwise not have had.

However, unless I was good enough to make a living at it (which I was not), there came a point where something would need to change.  For many years this was very difficult to sort out and process because I realized I was letting who I was at the time – interfere with who I needed to be – in order to get to where I wanted to go.

So ask yourself, does your identity – who you think you are, help you succeed when it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals?

This can be hard, so to get a better understanding of your identity, try completing the following statements:

  • I’m the kind of person who…
  • People who know me would say…
  • I want to be known as…
  • Co-workers would describe me as…
  • If I were to draw a picture of myself, it would like…

Next time I’ll talk about the next two pieces – your values and priorities and how those fit into the puzzle.

What’s Your Why?

Given that the calendar just rolled over and many of us have been busy setting and embarking upon new goals for the year, I wanted to take a minute and share what I feel is the most  important part of this process – finding your why.  

Simply put, what it is the real reason a particular goal is so important to you?

For purposes of this article, my focus will be on one’s fitness, nutrition, and overall health related goals.  However, this principle can be applied to virtually anything.

As I begin my 16th year in the industry I’ve learned many things, but one thing stands out amongst all others when it comes to goal attainment.  If you are struggling to achieve your health related goals it’s because you either don’t know what your why is or you don’t have a strong enough why.

Consider the following.  Do you wake up each morning and go to work?  Chances are you do.  Do you take care of and provide for the needs of your children and loved ones?  Do you make time each day for social media or Netflix?  What about vacations?  

So why do you do these things?  You might not even particularly enjoy doing these things all of the time, but you still do them.  Earning an income is important for many reasons, as is taking care of our families.  We might not always want to, but at the end of the day we always do.  Can you see where I’m going here?  We have a very strong why as to do so.  

Some find trolling facebook and taking vacations fun and enjoyable, so we’ll make sure we take time for those as well.  Even if it feels like we don’t have the time.  Either way, I’m sure we can all agree that we have compelling reasons for doing the things we do each day.  

We do them because there is always a deeper meaning than what the given task suggests on the surface.  And it’s this deeper meaning that drives us and pushes us forward each day.  In other words, it keeps us from giving up.

Now take this and compare it to everyone’s favorite health related goal… losing weight.  Virtually everyone wants to do it, yet very few actually do.  Why do you think that is?  Hint, I already gave you the answer above.  

When someone comes to me and tells me that they would like to lose 10 pounds and can’t deliver a good reason as to why it’s important, I know it’s probably not going to happen.  Losing 10 pounds is a surface goal.  It doesn’t have any deeper meaning.  And if there is not any deeper meaning attached, it will not be attained.

If by chance it is achieved, it will not be maintained long term.  That is, unless you can unlock the deeper need or the true reason why losing 10 pounds is so important.

The “5 Whys” was a system originally used by the Toyota Motor Company that cuts to the core of why we want something.  The idea is whenever you want to accomplish something you ask your self why.  With whatever answer you come up with, keep asking yourself why a total of 5 times.

It sounds easy, but I assure you it’s not.  When I use this exercise with clients, most start to get stuck around why number three.  Why?  It forces them to dig deep and that can be uncomfortable.

Here’s an example from a past nutrition coaching client who wanted to lose weight:

What do you want to accomplish?

I want to lose weight.

Why do you want to lose weight?

I don’t know, I just do.  After a long pause…because I don’t like how my jeans fit.  I want to fit into a smaller size of jeans.

Why do you want to fit into a smaller size of jeans?

Because if I fit into a smaller size of jeans I’ll look better.

Why is looking better important?

I don’t know, because it is.  Okay… I guess because I’ll fee better about myself.

Why do you want to feel better about yourself?

If I feel good, I’ll have more confidence.

And why do you want to be more confident?

Because I’m tired of lacking self-confidence.  If I can be more confident with how I look, I’ll be more in control and able to get more out of life.

I could continue but I think you get the point.  While on the surface it appears to be about weight, yet it’s really about control, self-confidence, and wanting to get more out of life.  I think you’ll agree that this is much more powerful than just picking some random number to focus on.  

Past experience has taught me that you’re a lot less likely to give up on the prospect of increased self-confidence and getting more out of life, as opposed to wanting to lose 10 or 20 pounds.

So how do you know when you’ve achieved your real why?  Honestly, it’s hard to say for sure.  However, when you start getting that “uncomfortable feeling”, you’re probably on the right track and getting close.  If you start to notice some tears, I’d say that you have probably found your why.

If you think you might enjoy a deeper dive on this topic or could use some additional help, consider Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why or our on-line nutrition coaching program where we cover this and much more.

It Happens to Us All

I just sent this out to my January online nutrition coaching group.  We started getting into some mindset stuff last week and the need to always be “perfect”.  Here’s a snipit of the original email.

Boy did I blow it yesterday.  Here’s how things went down.  Yesterday we drove out to Rockford for my wife’s grandma’s 95th birthday party.  On the menu was Jimmy John’s sandwiches and all the other stuff you would expect to find that goes along with it.

After eating what amounted to a handful of raw pea pods and carrots, I declared war on those sandwiches.  They were cut up in about three inch pieces and by my estimates I put away somewhere between 7-10 of them.  Also, if memory serves me, 5-6 cookies and two pieces of cake.  And while I’m being honest, the one I ate at home too.

I’m not entirely sure what happened here.  I don’t usually eat sandwiches anymore and don’t come across much cake either these days.  But it all sure tasted really good yesterday.  It’s like the clock turned back 20 years and I was back in my running mega miles and chowing down heydays.  Yes, the above was common practice back then.  Thank goodness there was no booze at this party.  No doubt I would have partaken in that too!  Unfortunately, I’m still not finished.

After we got home I started getting hungry again!  That can happen when you consume several thousand calories void of any real nutrition.  I was feeling lazy and crappy but felt like I needed a little something to get me through the evening.  So, while we were out walking the dogs we stumbled upon a Taco Bell.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten at Taco Bell but I quickly remembered why so much time had passed, and I’m absolutely positive there will NEVER be a next time.

Enter the shredded chicken burrito on my walk home and that aforementioned piece of cake to polish things off.  By all nutritional standards, yesterday was not good.

Why am I telling you this?  To point out that you don’t need to be perfect in order to succeed.  No one is perfect.  Not even the people you think for sure.  Prefect doesn’t exist.  In this instance I could do one of two things.  I could get down on myself and tell myself I suck and I might as well eat like crap tomorrow too because I already blew today, so what difference does it make?

Or I could recognize it for what it was, one bad day.  And the best thing about having a bad day is that you get an opportunity to do better tomorrow, and that’s what I chose to do today.  It’s called life.  Somedays are up, some down, and a bunch reside somewhere in the boring middle.  Unless you plan to stop living life, it’s important to realize that there will always be choices to be made, challenges to deal with, and opportunities to grow.

In looking back, I realize I broke the single most important principle of portion control right off the bat.  I didn’t eat slowly.  Nope.  I started wolfing down those sandwiches like I hadn’t seen food in three weeks.  Sometimes it’s just fun to eat junk food because it can taste really good.  Truth be told, I was going to eat that food.  I knew it was coming.  However, had I slowed down from the outset, I’m fairly certain it would not have gotten as out of control.

Did You Know This About Your Supplements?

A little while back after a training session, a client asked me to take a look at a protein powder supplement that caught his attention.  He grabbed his current copy of Men’s Health and proceeded to leaf through it until he found the the advertisement for this particular product.

To be honest, I don’t even remember what the name of it was because it was one of those ads that just said “advertisement” in small letters across the top of the page without giving you the name of the actual product.  However, you could proceed to read about all the wonderful things that will happen to you should you choose to try this product.

My client’s question was a simple one.  Does this look any good?  A fair question.  And the reason why I’m sharing this with you today is because many of you have probably wondered the exact same thing.

So I proceeded to do what I always do when I evaluate a product – I look at the ingredients.  It listed a few but not all of them.  What was listed appeared to be good quality ingredients but the advertisement was more focused on what this protein supplement could do for you.  And understandably so.  

Notice how I said “appeared.”  Here’s the thing, I honestly don’t know.  And you don’t either.  You might not know this, but vitamins, supplements, or any other health and performance enhancing substance found in the aisles of your favorite store or online are not regulated by the FDA.

What does this mean?  It means that of those ingredients listed on the label, it might have all, some, or none of them and no one is really checking!  Kind of an unsettling thought, huh?

Now compare this to food or a bottle of ibuprofen.  Let’s say you have a can of black beans and the ingredients listed are black beans, water, and salt.  For the most part, you can pretty much rest assured that this is what you are going to get (by law, food labels need to fall within 25% accuracy).  On the same token, 200mg of ibuprofen is 200mg of ibuprofen.  The same cannot be said about a poorly regulated supplement industry.

Here’s what you need to be aware of concerning your nutritional supplements:

  • Anything can be on the label.  What’s listed may or may not be in the bottle.
  • The dose can vary widely between batches.
  • The product doesn’t have to be pure.  You don’t know for sure what’s in it and you can’t simply trust the stated purity of the ingredients.
  • The product can have ingredients not on the label.  These could include banned substances or ingredients you might be allergic to.
  • It might contain things you don’t want.  Sugar, artificial sweeteners, glycerin, soy, artificial colors, etc.
  • The label can claim whatever it wants.
  • A supplement doesn’t have to be proven safe before it can be sold.

I suggest you read that last point again.  Okay, so now that you know much of what’s out there is likely garbage, what can you do?  I have three suggestions for you.  First, you can look for products that have been USP verified.  When you see this mark, it indicates the ingredients listed on the label are actually those in the product in the declared strength and amounts.  It does not contain harmful levels of contaminants, and is made according to FDA and USP Good Manufacturing Practices.

This is all good for the consumer, but there is something else you also need to keep in mind.  When ingredients are sourced for a supplement, they can range from poor to excellent.  Why does this matter?  Poor quality ingredients often will not get the user the intended results.  Unfortunately, this important point is not necessarily addressed under USP verification.

This can also be problematic because the whole reason for taking a supplement in the first place is to achieve some desired result, and not to flush your money down the toilet.  This is why good quality supplements from a reputable company often sell for considerably more.  Excellent quality ingredients are more expensive, and in many cases, just work better than the cheap stuff.

Second, if you or a loved one happens to be an athlete who undergoes drug testing and whose athletic eligibility could be at risk, please only use products that are NSF Certified for Sport.  If you’re randomly using legally purchased supplements right off the store shelf, there’s a 25% chance you’re taking banned substances without even knowing it.  

Third, unless you are lucky enough to personally know someone who works for a supplement company who can vouch for the quality of the products, you need to find someone you can trust and follow their recommendations.

For what it’s worth, I personally use and recommend products from Thorne Research.  Sadly, this can be a pretty shady business where your health and well-being often plays second fiddle to profit.  I hope this information helps you make better-educated decisions the next time you shop for your nutritional supplements.

Could Your Goals Be Getting in the Way of Your Life?

So it happened again.  For the better part of two weeks, I found myself planted in front of the television from 7-9 pm watching the Winter Olympics.  I had absolutely no intention on doing this.  In fact, right before they began, I had basically zero interest and even remember thinking this would be the year I would stop watching.

Then on the second day after finishing what was left on the DVR, I stumbled upon the slopestyle snowboarding competition.  Here were these guys literally flying around, twisting and turning in every imaginable direction, all trying to outdo one another.  Quite the spectacle for those of us over 40.  Anyway, this 17-year-old kid from Colorado named Red Gerard won gold that night and I was once again hooked.

A week or so later, shortly after watching Lindsey Vonn make what was her bronze medal run in the downhill, I started to think about why I got caught up in these Winter Games once again.

Part of it is the my country vs. your country thing.  Learning more about the lives of your fellow Americans who are at the very top of their sport and the obstacles they had to overcome is always a compelling story.

They also take me back to a time when sport and competition were the central point in my life.  Make no mistake, I was nowhere near Olympic caliber but I did manage to successfully compete at the Division 1 level in cross-country and track.  My running heydays were some of the best years of my life and while I would not trade them for anything, I would not want to go back either.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the competition, the training, the making and achieving of goals and the sense of accomplishment when it all came together, my teammates, the road trips, all those who helped me along the way, and even all of the additional hard work that went along with it.

In fact, I thrived on it.  What I didn’t realize at the time was I didn’t have much of a life outside of my running circle.  At the time, I was fine with that.  I loved what I was doing and pursuing and what I was gaining was worth the cost of what I was giving up.

I’m regularly asked if I ever get the itch to run competitively again, and without hesitation my answer is always “no.”  Why?  Because I’m all too aware of what’s involved to get back there.  The time, effort, sacrifice, pain, and almost-certain looming disappointments are more than I am willing to endure at this point in my life.

And in that moment I realized why the Olympics continue to grab my attention every couple of years.  It’s nothing more than being able to watch others excel at the highest level and yet refreshing to not feel the need to be doing it myself anymore.  In other words, it’s a relief that my goals no longer get in the way of my life.

So why did I just spend the time telling you this little story?  Well, occasionally I’ll run into clients or even folks I meet on the street whose well-intentioned health and fitness goals start to take over their lives.  These tend to be aggressive outcome based types of goals, such as a certain body weight or body fat percentage.

Let me be clear.  I am NOT saying people should not have these types of goals.  What I am saying is these types of goals tend to be very demanding, especially as one gets closer to their stated goal.

There are two basic principles when it comes to fat and weight loss:

  1. If you want to make further changes to your body, you’ll need to make further changes to your behaviors.
  2. The leaner you want to get, the more behaviors you’ll have to change.

Basically, doing more of some things and doing less of other things.  Often times, this can be great on many levels.  It only becomes not so great when the pursuit of the goal gets in the way of living a happy, well-rounded life.

2017 PPT Client of the Year

Before I introduce you to our newest client of the year, I need to mention that it was hard (really hard) to choose one person to single out.  Why, you ask?  Because unlike previous years (and we’ve been in business for over 10 years now), we currently have more clients making big time changes in themselves and their health than ever before.

However, there was one individual who seemingly got knocked down time and again over the course of the year but managed to keep getting up every time and accomplished a goal so big, most never even consider giving it a go.

With that said, our 2017 PPT Client of the Year is Michelle Carlin.  Michelle currently resides in Lake in the Hills, IL and is a mother to three young children ages 10, 8, and 4.  Not only that, she also works full-time for United Healthcare as a Sr. Project Manager.  To say that her plate is already full would be quite an understatement.

Michelle and I started working together in March of 2016.  About a year prior, she started running on her own and ran the Disney Half Marathon in January of 2016.  It was such a good experience, she came to me with the goal of wanting to run the Chicago Marathon that October.  For those of you not familiar with the sport of distance running, doubling your race distance of 13.1 to 26.2  in a little less that 9 months is a fairly tall order with no certain guarantees.  A lot can go wrong when attempting that type of increase in such a short amount of time.  Cutting to the chase, yes, we dodged some bullets, but Michelle did get to the starting line heathy and finished her first marathon.

Now this brings us back to this exact time last year when Michelle dropped her next goal on me, and I’ll never forget it.  “Scott, I want to do a 50-miler this October.  Do you think I can do it?”  Well, as Michelle would tell you, I guess my facial expression said it all!  Now just to be clear, there’s a big difference between thinking someone can accomplish a certain goal and the reality or probability that it will actually happen.

So yes, I thought Michelle could do it because I knew mentally she had the will, discipline, and desire to do it, but as a coach, you never know if your athlete’s body is on the same page.  Remember that going from a half to a full marathon was a tall order.  Going from 26.2 to 50 miles in nine months while working full-time and raising your kids is an epic feat!  I remember that day telling Michelle that I did think she could do it, while at the same time mentioning that it would probably require a pretty smooth ride to get it done.  Translation – no major injuries and no big chunks of missed training time because we needed ALL of it.

Well, apparently Michelle wanted to make things interesting.  Keep in mind, we had this discussion at the tail end of December of 2016, and on January 17, 2017, two days after completing the Maui Half Marathon, she found herself in the hospital and the consensus was her gallbladder needed to come out – immediately!  So much for that smooth ride.

So Michelle’s gallbladder came out and all told there was no running taking place from January 18 – March 5.  Definitely not what either of us needed – her more so than I!  Now I wish I could say that it got easier from there through October, and maybe it did slightly, but not by much.  Here are the remaining bumps in the road on the way to 50:

  • March through May: traveled for work and basically lived in hotel rooms with only a few stops at home here and there.
  • April: fell going down a hill in a 5 mile trail race and fractured her shoulder.
  • June: lost her 94 year old grandfather.
  • July: went back to the scene of the crime of the aforementioned 5-mile trail race and this time rolled her ankle 3/4 of the way into a 10-mile run.
  • August: The family dog of 13 years passed away.
  • Labor Day: found herself in the ER with chest pains after a 50k in the 90+ degree heat in Milwaukee.
  • In the week leading up to (including the night before) race day, she came down with both a sinus and ear infection while her husband was out all week for work, leaving her at home alone to care for the kids, which resulted in her only getting 9 hours of sleep…for the entire week!

I’m going to be completely honest here.  There were several points along Michelle’s journey where I thought it was game over.  After all, I was just being objective and of course I never let on I was feeling this way, but it didn’t look good.  And it was not for a lack of trying or wanting to succeed on her part, but things just kept happening ,which kept moving the goalposts further and further back.

Most people facing a similar situation would have given up.  I see it often in my line of work.  But Michelle absolutely refused to give up.  Every time life dealt her a blow and knocked her down, she got back up.  Over and over, and over again.  Keep in mind this was just a goal.  And you know as well as I do that people give up on much lesser goals all the time.  It’s not like her livelihood or health was at stake.  It’s not like she had some big payday waiting for her at the end of this road.  She just wanted this really, really badly because she knew if she could accomplish this, then she could accomplish anything.

So she continued to keep getting up simply because she refused to lose and on October 7, 2017, Michelle completed her first 50-miler.  Sick and having only slept for a grand total of 9 hours the week prior to the race, Michelle accomplished what she set out to do 9 months earlier even when she had more than enough reasons to just “put if off” until next year.

I also need to mention that on race day in Sterling, IL, the runners were greeted with a cold, hard, driving rain that lasted 3/4 of the 12-hour plus race.  A fitting end to a journey that was a battle from start to finish.

So what’s in store for Michelle in 2018?  Her goals include a couple of trail races in the mountains with some fairly fierce elevation gains and a 100k (62-mile) trail race this August.  She has also made it a point to spend this next year dialing in her nutrition.  Eating well just to eat well can be a challenge.  Now imagine having to fuel before, during, and after routine 20-30 mile training runs! While this all sounds pretty demanding, for the first time since working with Michelle, I’m not worried because I know she’ll find a way to get it done.

Congratulations, Michelle, you absolutely crushed 2017!

It’s Never Just 30 Days

Greetings!  Hope you all had a joyous holiday season and that your new year is off to a great start.  By now, most of you are probably aware that I don’t tend to be very vocal on our blog and social media platforms.  However, I had a moment the other day and felt compelled to speak up.

It was Tuesday, January 2nd, and I was running on the treadmill.  It was a quick run of 20 minutes, but just in that time I saw two different fitness “experts” – one pitching their 30-day this, and the other their 90-day that – across the row of five televisions in the front of the gym.  Now to be fair, I don’t know the exact details of what they were selling because I was only watching and trying to read the captions as best I could.  But, they were promoting two different diets that each promised to get me where I wanted to go in either 30 or 90 days.  Too bad for the guy touting his 90-day program when the guy on the next screen could promise 30!  But I digress.

Anyway, this got me to thinking that a whole bunch people were probably watching this right now and believing every minute of it.  Then I started to feel bad… and then I started getting mad.  Why?  Because, being in this field every day for 15 years now, I know the dirty little secret that the television fitness experts don’t want you to know – it never ONLY takes just 30 days.

Certain things might only take 30 days, like establishing a healthy new habit or doing an elimination diet for purposes of self-awareness, but these diets were promising more something like “the body you have always wanted.”  And that, I can almost surely guarantee you, is not possible – especially in 30 days.  Stop and think for a moment. Even if one does manage to achieve the body they always wanted in 30 days, what happens next?

I think we both know the answer to that question.  It’s all good while we’re white knuckling the latest diet, but by day 31, 60, 120, or whenever the tipping point is when we can’t take it anymore, we start to revert back to the body we’ve always had.  It’s been happening since the beginning of time and I predict that it always will.

Now I’m not saying that this is impossible, but what I am saying is that we also need to be realistic and think long term.  Make no mistake about it, major body transformation change is hard, takes a lot of work, and takes a lot of time.  Instead of 30 days, think more like forever.  Yes, you read that right, I said forever.  It’s not a 30-90 day process but a lifelong process.

Transforming one’s body is so much more than “eat this” and “don’t eat this.”  Old habits need to be broken and new ones formed.  New skills often need to be acquired and years of outdated information and negative messages that have been bouncing around in our heads since high school health class need to be dealt with – just to name a few.

The good news is, change that lasts forever is possible.  I help people do it every day.  If you’re ready to move past the quick fixes, shoot me a note and we can work together in getting the body you have always wanted.  And this time, it can be yours to keep.



2016 PPT Client of the Year

When we were looking for our 2016 PPT Client of the Year, we didn’t have to look further than the Boys Basketball Team at Benet Academy.  The Redwings exceeded all expectations to have their most successful season ever at 31-4, and ending with a Class 4A State Basketball Runner-Up Finish in 2016.

Benet Academy is not only one of the top academic schools in the Chicagoland area, but they also boast one of the most solid basketball programs around. Their program has been built on unselfish play, great team defense, and a trust in each other and the system put in place by Coach Gene Heidkamp.

After a 2014-15 season that ended in the regional finals, the expectations for 2015-16 outside the doors of the Lisle, IL school were not very high. When I was given the opportunity to work hands on and take over the team’s off-court conditioning, I was elated to bring my knowledge and passion in providing the most efficient and effective way to prepare each and every player.

The work put in and the team-growth that I saw exceeded my expectations, and the commitment to the process was everything I could have asked for. This focus and effort resulted in them finishing with a 25-3 record heading into the state tournament.  The state tournament brought many battles with bigger, faster, and more talented teams, but their drive and determination lead the Redwings through 5 opponents and a well-earned trip downstate. After winning their semifinal game 49-48 against Simeon, they lost a close one to Curie in the 4A State Championship game.  A place few outsiders ever thought they would make it to.

Our staff at PPT has had the pleasure of working with thousands of athletes over the past 16 years, but this team experience was different.  What I will take from this experience is that when a team can genuinely grow in a challenging environment off the court, the challenges they face on the court will be that much easier.  Our mantra was “Everything Earned”, and this truly would have rung true even without the greatest season in school history and a trip downstate.

Benet Academy Boys Basketball absolutely earned the title as 2016 PPT Client of the Year!

Well done guys,


Youth Performance Training: “A Broken System, Breaking Young Athletes” Part 1: How Do I Differentiate

In 2000, I took the steps to become nationally recognized as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.  The foundation of what was taught started and ended with 2 main objectives:

1 – increase performance, and 2 – reduce incidence of injury.

So why does the rate of adolescent injuries continue to increase so dramatically, even with nearly every square mile in suburban America filled with some sort of club or training facility?  I guess the pull of having your 15 year old power clean 225, your 12 year old baseball player throw 70 mph, or your 7th grade basketball player earn a college scholarship, has overcome the risk of any potential injury associated with the process.  Maybe the larger issue is that the parents of those athletes who are currently “injury-free,” don’t think this pertains to them.  Even though, many of these “healthy” athletes have many of the precursors to serious injury.

So the question as a parent is:  “How do I provide my child with the right opportunity to improve without setting him/her up for injury?”  Let me start by making a short list of what should throw up an immediate red flag when choosing a performance training option.

  • Does the facility train many athletes (10+) together, from multiple sports, of different ages, with the same movements/exercises?
  • Have you ever felt that quality of movement is compromised for quantity, without having a coach immediately make corrections?
  • Has your son/daughter had muscle soreness that has impacted them for days after training?
  • Is there a “puke” bucket in the middle of your facility? (yes, unfortunately I have heard and witnessed this with a company training jr. high athletes)?

I could go on, but let’s instead focus on a checklist that puts a young athlete in a positive training environment.

Here are some must haves:

  • A quality coach/trainer understands that every single athlete is different.  A facility should ALWAYS start each athlete with a full movement based evaluation performed by a qualified strength and conditioning coach, physical therapist, or exercise physiologist.
  • A full report with your child’s results should be provided with a detailed description of what was identified, as well as the corrective approach moving forward.
  • The athlete should then have an individualized program that is tailored to cleaning up faulty movement patterns, while challenging stabilization and improving strength.

What Does This All Really Mean?

In simplest terms, every person should have the ability to perform certain basic patterns of movement with few to no compensations, imbalances, stability and mobility issues.  Unfortunately, most people do have difficulty performing movements such as squatting, crawling, and stepping.  When these basic movement patterns are not “clean”, they immediately start a chain of compensatory actions to perform the movement.  Our body was made to figure out a way to get something done, regardless of ramifications.  If the issue(s) is not identified and corrected, the shearing forces created with each compensation become a ticking time bomb for injury.

With training programs, there is now an increased resistance/load and speed added to compromised movement patterns and subsequently the fuse of injury is shortened.  As physical therapist Gray Cook says, “you shouldn’t load dysfunctional movement patterns.”  Adding weight to a structure that can’t support it isn’t going to make that structure any better.  Exercise can actually hurt those taking part if they first don’t learn how to fix their dysfunctional movement patterns.

I understand we are all trying to provide our kids/young athletes with the opportunities to keep up and continue to progress in an environment that is more competitive than ever.  The problem is that something is definitely not better than nothing when it comes to the work they do away from the field/court.  Every single day “something” is impacting athletes in either a positive or a negative way.

It is time make the change and help lead our children/athletes in the direction of building an optimal foundation that will allow them to compete and grow while limiting their chance of injury.  Please remember that our child getting faster, or stronger, doesn’t always mean it is the best for them in the long run.  It quite often is shortening that injury fuse at an alarming rate.


Coming soon…

“A Broken System, Breaking Young Athletes”

Part 2: What really produces results?

We will dive into the myths that many performance facilities and coaches try to sell as ways to improve, and go into why “cleaning up” movement patterns undoubtedly provides the ideal environment for true performance related results.


Don Schlenbecker has been nationally recognized as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) since 2000.  He has spent most of the last 15 years working with youth athletes from the young age of 7 or 8, up and through high school and college.  He has had the pleasure to play a role in the development of over 100 Collegiate Scholarship Athletes, and the honor to see more than 20 become All-Conference performers, 5 go on to be All-Americans, and 1 become a National Champion.  He currently works as the Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach for 3 Chicagoland High Schools, as well as in conjunction with the staff at Loyola Sports Medicine and Athletico Physical Therapy in providing programs/guidance to young athletes post physical therapy/injury.

2015 PPT Client of the Year

With 2016 now in full-swing, we thought that this would be the perfect time to let you all in on a new tradition that we hope continues for many years to come.

PPT began taking clients in April of 2007 and throughout this time, we have worked with hundreds of clients who have achieved some outstanding accomplishments.

As 2015 was coming to a close, Don and I happened to be talking about some of these individuals and we thought it would have been nice to recognize them for these accomplishments.  Thus, the idea for PPT Client of the Year was officially born.

Our inaugural recipient is truly deserving as he absolutely crushed 2015 by turning his health around in a very big way.  Peter Kendler of Lincolnshire, IL began working with us September 30, 2014 when he came to us at 230 pounds with a waist measuring 45 inches.  He was admittedly in poor health and physical condition, and didn’t like where is life was headed.

So he did something about it.  And boy did he ever!  Peter had his first workout with us October 2nd, 2014 and never looked back.  He has continued to train twice a week, every single week, and in the process, cleaned up his diet, and stopped smoking.

Five months later in March of 2015 Peter’s weight had dropped 42 pounds down to 188 and he lost 7.5 inches off his waist!  He also got rid of some aches and pains in his shoulder, hip, and knee – some of which had been hanging around for 20+ years.

Anyone would surely agree that this is impressive, but what I find truly impressive is the fact that as of today – ALL of those pounds and inches lost have stayed off.  Yes, even through the holidays!

Now Peter’s a man of few words, but luckily you don’t need to talk a lot to accomplish some really big goals.  We’ll let his before and after pictures do the talking.

Congratulations Peter!   You are an inspiration for those looking to do the same.  On a personal note, I feel honored and privileged to have had a front row seat throughout your journey.  It’s been really fun to watch.  This is the kind of thing that keeps me going and why Don and I do what we do.

Be sure to check out Peter’s before and after photos and read his brief story below.  He did it and you can too.  We can’t wait to see who will be next.


2015 PPT Client of the Year – Peter Kendler


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1.) Tell us about your health/fitness story prior to working with PPT.

In my late teens, I was a competitive ski racer and soccer player – so I was in exceptional physical condition.  In my mid-twenties, getting married, starting a business and a family, the sports came to a racing halt (pun intended!).  With no exercise and eating unhealthy, the pounds started setting on.  By the time I was in my early forties, I was officially obese.

2.)  What was your first experience with PPT like?

My wife has been working with PPT for many years, and always spoke highly of them.  After seeing pictures of myself and having some health issues, my family and I decided it was time for me to get back into shape.  My initial experience was outstanding and continues to be.  It is fun and rewarding.  Oh, and having the commitment of scheduled training times ensures that I don’t image1miss a session!

3.)  How has your life changed since working with PPT?

I have become a lot more energetic, and I have become more fit – like in my twenties.  My stress levels have reduced.  And I’m pretty sure that my wife is more attracted to me, which can only improve one’s marriage!

4.)  What have you learned about yourself throughout this process?

I was surprised how badly I had let my physical self become!  In my mind, I was just a little out shape.  With the help of PPT, I was pleasantly surprised that I could turn that around in a relatively short time.  It’s the best money ever spent.

5.)  What advice do you have for those who are not currently physically active and are apprehensive about starting an exercise program?

I would say, do yourself a favor and not be apprehensive about starting.  Being physically active is better for you, your family, and even your job.

6.)  What goals have you set for yourself going forward?

With the results to date, I am very happy.  And I enjoy the ever evolving regiments when working with PPT.  Not only do I want to maintain my gains, but I also want to continue to get stronger, leaner, build some more muscle, and keep working so that I can push myself to do even more challenging workouts.  The challenging workouts they offer will only continue to increase my abilities.  I like that the continuous change means that I will “never win” – it’s ALWAYS a challenge!

7.)  Finally, is there anything else that you would like to add?

Working with PPT has definitely drastically improved my family life, my marriage, and my self-esteem.  It has reduced my stress levels and has made me realize that there is more to life than just working.  It’s amazing what a life changer two hours a week with PPT can be.