In the time I’ve been a personal trainer I’ve gone from feeling like I know everything, to knowing nothing, over and over.

The more I learnt, the more I realised I didn’t know and at times it seemed overwhelming. How could I possibly train anyone without having degrees in physiotherapy, biomechanics and psychology? But the more time I spent training people, the more perspective it gave me on what was important and what wasn’t, and I started to develop a philosophy. Once I realised what I believed, it became much easier to filter what did and didn’t fit my philosophy.

“Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless.” – Bruce Lee

This doesn’t mean my beliefs can’t change, it just means I don’t throw the baby out with the bath water every time a new fad comes along.

Which brings me to the point of this post…


1. You need to be strong first

Being strong will help you be lean. The bigger the engine, the more fuel it burns.

Strength is corrective. If you are doing full body exercises with free weights then getting strong will improve your posture, mobility and stability.

Muscles are like a suit of armour to protect your joints.

Being strong will keep you young because it will help you maintain your independence and ability to do things.

2. Hierarchy of Fat Loss is still the best and simplest article I’ve read on how to lose fat

Nutrition. Nutrition. Strength Training. Interval Training. Cardio. That’s it in a nutshell but you should read the whole article HERE.

3. “First move well. Then move often.” –  Gray Cook

The human body is great at putting quantity before quality. This was fine when we had to run away from animals with sharp teeth and claws, but in the long-term quantity before quality equals injuries. Exercise may cause some muscle discomfort, but if you’re in pain then something is wrong. Get it checked out. Once you can move well, then move as much as you can. For more on this read Gray Cook’s article Organic Exercise.

4. “Don’t run to get fit. You need to be fit to run.”

This ties into points 1, 2 and 3 and I mention it because running is something many people do when they want to lose weight. If your goal is to get fit, then begin by learning how to move better and get stronger. If the only exercise you’re doing is running, then you’ll lose muscle, which will lower your metabolism and cause you to store more fat. In addition, if you don’t move well you’re putting yourself at increased risk of injury. A 2km run is like hopping on one leg 1000 times, then hopping on the other leg 1000 times. With that amount of volume, if you don’t do it well then sooner or later you’re going to get injured.

5. Generalise before you Specialise

A lot of people like to specialise in a sport they enjoy and end up only doing that one thing. This often comes at the expense of their general fitness and movement quality. You need to do more general work to keep your body in balance and help correct the imbalances specialising can introduce. It’s OK to specialise, just make time for the fundamentals.

6. Cardio is not a dirty word

This is a reasonably new one for me. I still think if your goal is to get in shape, then you should be focusing on Strength and High Intensity training. However, after reading Joel Jamieson‘s research into conditioning, I do think there is a place for low-intensity cardio to improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and improve recovery. The caveat is #3 above, if you can’t move well then you have no place moving often. Start with the strength and high intensity work which involve much less volume, and then start incorporating some low intensity work when you’re ready… and if you’ve got time (don’t forget #2). Click HERE to read about the benefits of long duration, low intensity cardio.

7. Provide results, not entertainment

This  lesson has taken me a long time to learn. When I first started doing boot camps I felt there had to be lots of games to keep people amused. But people are coming to me for results, not entertainment. Even if I were delivering the same workout over and over again, if my client is seeing results then I’m doing the right thing. Results are motivating.

Over time my programs have actually become more simple. But simple doesn’t mean easy. I’d rather clients get really good at doing the basics than have them be mediocre at lots of different exercises. Simple and Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline, the man who introduced Russian kettlebells to the USA, is a great book. I got the audio book, and his entire workout program only involves two exercises, the kettlebell swing and the Turkish getup. But it is genius and I highly recommend it. It’s worth it just for Pavel’s life advice alone.

8. Live a lean lifestyle and the lean body will follow

Being lean shouldn’t be an end to itself.  Instead, it should be a “side effect” of a lean lifestyle.  How we live may be even more important than what we eat… read more

9. Talk less. Listen more.

No matter how much you know, there is someone who knows more. Keep learning. Read. Go to seminars and courses. It’s the close-minded who think they know it all, and the open-minded who know there’s always more to learn. Be a lifelong learner.

The same goes for training clients. It’s OK to share your knowledge with them, but remember to listen to their goals and their feelings and their likes and dislikes.

10. Keep learning

This list will keep changing and growing over the years as I continue to learn more. I’m OK with that.


I hope you’ve enjoyed my list. If you’ve got anything you think should be included then please leave a comment below.