Whether it’s coming in and bossing out on the olympic platform, running a sprint for 3 minutes, or maxing out her previous record dead lift, my athlete of the month goes to Karen.

 

It’s crazy to think that this rock star has dropped about 40lbs in a year, started Olympic Lifting and setting Powerlift records nearly every time she touches the bar and – what I think is the most important change – has truly integrated a healthy lifestyle into the daily routine. Day in, day out.

I’m here to write about my experience of working with Karen. I can’t begin to tell you how much I feel as though she has helped me grow as a coach. Not just because I can basically toss any exercise at her and she’ll fine a way to get it done, but because how ridiculously determined she is. This is what it takes to make positive change in your life.

Let’s start with her dedication to getting comfortable in being uncomfortable.

Comfortable

She had never tried Olympic Lifting, let alone even really know what exactly it was one year ago.

I showed her how to throw a barbell over her head… the rest is history.

Just to put it in perspective she clean and jerked 105lbs (that’s shown in the video up there…)

She deadlifts, she runs, she squats, she makes everyone around her happier and she absolutely kills it at work. Sure she might dislike doing the exercise at times, but she puts her head down and goes.

Things sound pretty good, eh? It wasn’t an easy road. Combine daily (sometimes painstaking) lessons and habits to help refocus her relationship with food and her nutrition, overcoming scheduling bumps, vacations, sickness – all the typical excuses… with life’s general random “curveballs” and you’ve still got an individual that never missed a session. A date with herself. A date with change. A date with progress, over perfection.

I’m honoured to get to work with Karen towards her craziest goals. Together with her attitude and what skills I can pass along I really see the sky as the limit. it’s amazing what the power of the mind can do.

Thank you, Karen. Stoked to see what’s next and keep this going.

Stay sweet.

M

 

Advertisements

As the Canadian Music Week approaches this spring, I’ve been fielding a few common questions about how to go about getting into fitness. So we are going to get into the most important part: finding professional help. Get a coach. Seriously. I’ve worked with dozens over the years and I’m a fully certified coach myself. I want to be the best at what I do and I want to get results. Coaches do that!

But, not all coaches are equal. Here are 3 pointers to help you make a quality decision:

1. Look for your Specialist

Be leery of any trainers or coaches that cite that they can train anyone for anything with excellence. Here’s a thought. If it takes 10,000 hours to excel at one thing, and let’s pretend said coach has three years of experience and two strength training certifications (actually a pretty good resume on the outside…), how on earth can said coach be an expert with weight loss, bodybuilding, figure, sports performance and rehabilitation? The numbers just don’t add up.

To paraphrase the legend, Paul Chek  – if you want to climb a mountain and you hire someone who has only made it half way up, once you get past halfway, you’re now paying someone to get lost with you. 

Whatever your goals, whatever your timeline, whatever your obstacles and challenges, the right coach will have the right team behind them to help you where they fall short on expertise. Keep that in mind when you’re interviewing your candidates (yes, I would recommend meeting a few different professionals to get the vibe and the right fit). Ask around in your personal network to see if they have any recommendations. They know you will advise you better than Kijiji or Craigslist (hopefully!) and they will shortlist the potential winners down for you. Think about it. It’s a huge investment. You want the best of the best, right?

A few signs that you’re with the right coach will stem right from the get go, even before you meet the coach. Watch for the following:

  • comprehensive interview process for new clients focused on YOU, not them
  • intake forms, waivers, etc… you know, the boring, but important stuff typically in a file folder system (you’re basically looking for an air tight administrative process)
  • client testimonials and social proof
  • documentation of all certifications, trade name and insurance when applicable

2. Look beyond the credentials. Who are you working with and what are their motives the motives to get up each day?

In my experience, people new to or returning to fitness, wellness and a healthy lifestyle  are generally pumped on getting back at it. Until they’re not. It’s at that pivotal time that I’ve found the true value in keeping movement and the exercise programming fun and encouraging and, as weird as it sounds, not like working out. One question you could pose to your prospective coach would be “what will you do when I just don’t want to be here?” Depending on how they respond, you’ll know if that is a fit for your personality and the reasons you want to get into a healthy lifestyle. Remember, it’s about you, not the coaches ego.

We as coaches are here to help you get to your goals. Which brings me to another good point – the most successful coaches are those that are flexible in modality and teaching, open to new approaches and practices and not too proud to admit when they may be ill-prepared for a situation or inexperienced with what you are throwing at them. It’s simple. If you are engaging in business with a professional, you have to trust that they are serving your best interests. So keep that in mind when you are speaking with them. Again, a few keys that’ll give you a lot of insight to how that person operates:

3. Invest in the phrase, “you get what you pay for”

You better believe it. Take a peek on average rates for coaches and trainers and health pros. Here is my personal take, and I say this to anyone I’m sitting down with right off the get go, “It’s my belief that they’re two types of coaches. One, the most affordable and two, the best. I’m here to tell you that I’m not the most affordable.

Seriously though, It kiiiiiilllllls me to have a conversation with someone new to me and the first question that comes up is something like “how much do you cost per hour?” Like, I get it… money is an important byproduct of hard work. I want you to make a good decision with your coin. But for those that are serious – the folks I want to work with – prepare to pay for the life that they want to lead.

Working with the right coach is much more than the hour you spend per day you’re with them. Countless hours go into my athletes exercise programming, follow up, planning, reacting and the tap into the knowledge of over 12 years of practical experience and exercise theory education. It’s a premium service. It’s a valuable service. That comes at a cost. But the amount you get out of it is priceless.

Check the reviews – Facebook.com/usetheschwartzy or see what some are saying here… Schwartzy’s Success Stories – Matt Murphy

To close, if you want to fix your cars engine, tune up or fluid change, you take it to a shop, right? If you want to keep yourself well-maintained, a coach is the right way to go. Find the professional that has their ducks in a row, some one you can vibe with to keep motivated through the tough days, and expect to pay for the best. Don’t discount yourself, it’s your health.

You’re the only one that has to live with yourself your entire life.

 

That’s it, that’s all. You know where to find me – shoot me an email or comment below if you think we’d be a good fit. 😉

Namaste sweet, y’all!

xo
Untitled design-15

 

 

Stress. It’s a real thing. The last couple of months have shown us how important wellness really is. Unfortunately the repercussions of not being well, physically and/or mentally, have taken the lives of many of our beloved industry colleagues. The darkness of anxiety, depression and addiction is slowly coming to light. And for good reason. Nowadays it’s very rare to come across someone that says “no” when asked if they’re feeling stressed. It’s become engrained to the hustle-bustle, 60 hour work week we all know and love to hate. But does it have to be like this? Not a chance. Here are my top 3 picks to help alleviate stress and get you back to being the best version of yourself.

The number one thing you should do when you’re struggling with something is talk to a professional for help. Yes, your friends can lend an ear, but unless they’re trained professionals you’re not getting the full meal deal. Speaking to a professional counsellor, therapist and/or a psychiatrist will help you identify the root of the stress and they’ll then be able to provide you with the right resources to get you back in action, stat. I still go to therapy and I would recommend it to anyone who’s seeking direction, closure from a relationship, financial advice, how to conquer their fears or anything that’s got them feeling down, stressed, helpless or worse yet – suicidal. It’s serious. Below I’ve included a few links to some services ’round these parts and a brief description of what they do.

Elephant Artist Relief
  • Great local resource with everything from funding options, financial aid to counselling etc… connectors to all aspects of better well-being

Distress Centre 

  • 24/7 crisis support for Calgary and southern Alberta. These fine folks do not define crisis and are there for anyone at any time. This is their 24-Hour Crisis Line: 403.266.HELP (4357) and you can find them on the web at http://www.distresscentre.com/contact-us/

Unison Benevolent Fund

  • Non-Profit registered charity that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community. They help professional music makers in times of hardship, illness or economic difficulties. Here’s their assistance number 1-855-986-4766 and website – http://unisonfund.ca
  • We actually have a “Mental Health and Wellbeing” Download session happening Wednesday, March 21 at 6:30pm in Calgary session for Alberta Music members. Amanda Power from Unison Benevolent Fund will be joining me on the panel, so be sure to head here to save your seat in Calgary (if you’re not a member, get on it! You get free access to the awesome programming – albertamusic.org/membership)
  • I actually had the treat of interviewing the Executive Director of Unison, Shiela Hamilton back last fall. Hear our conversation about Unison Benevolent Fund and how us artists can utilize their services here Shiela Hamilton – Unison Benevolent Fund 

2. Journal and Meditate 

Oftentimes, just putting the proverbial pen to paper (talk about alliteration!) can remedy a lot of stress in our lives. A new brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists reveals why verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger and pain less intense. [Read the full article here]

As far as meditation goes, this is a favourite quote of mine:

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

I personally like to use an app called “Headspace” for my mediation and another app called “Daylio” for tracking my mood and a daily journal entry.

However, I don’t like being on my phone. I find it’s actually quite contradictory to disconnecting and being mindful, as we spend so much time glued to the Snapface and Instabook already. So, if you’re like me, I’d recommend going out and grabbing a journal from a local bookstore for $25. Or better yet, I wrote a 21-Day Self-Love Journal. It’s easy to follow along and start placing gratitude, self-worth and consideration at the top of your charts… Super helpful if you’re struggling to get there on your own. Day by day you just implement the tools I prescribe and voila, you’re on your way to becoming the best version of yourself in just 21 days. Start reading it here for free – Start With U: 21 Day Self-Love Challenge

3. Exercise!

That’s right, in general, findings from research indicate that exercise is associated with improvements in mental health including mood state and self-esteem, although a causal link has not been established. Research on acute exercise indicates that 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic activity results in improvements in state anxiety and mood that persist for several hours. These transitory changes in mood occur in both individuals with normal or elevated levels of anxiety, but appear to be limited to aerobic forms of exercise. [Read the full article here]

So what’s the difference between aerobic exercise and all that other stuff? Well, aerobic exercise is exercise where your body’s cardiovascular system (the lungs and heart and circulatory system) work to provide the main source of energy to the body. Things like long walks, jogging, resistance circuit training (sorta), swimming, hiking, cycling, flow yoga and trail running are all examples of aerobic exercise.

We also have Anna Beaumont a voice teacher sitting in on the “Mental Health and Wellbeing” download session in March with myself and Amanda, so be sure to register if you’re interested in learning more about how mindset, meditation and movement can help your playing, reduce your stress and essentially help you to become the best version of yourself.

Here are a few other ways to get active, try something new and have fun:

Edmonton

MindBodyLogo-1

City Fit Shop – Whip around obstacles and play like a kid again in Edmonton’s premiere

obstacle course gym.

logoss.pngThe Surf Studio – Hang ten, dude. Get your surf on at this one-of-a-kind fitness experience. You’ll understand why those surfer dudes and babes are ripped! Holy core, Batman!

topVertically Inclined Rock Gym – If you’re not afraid of heights or awesome things this might be the ticket to getting a new activity down. Kids programs, adult programs and birthday party specials, this place has it all for veteran climbers and rookies.

Calgary

Unknown.png

Bodhi Tree Yoga – Looking for the best Yoga studio experiences in town? Look no further than Bodhi Tree. Plus Alberta Music’s own, Amy Thiessen teaches here. Incredible instructors and space so this spot is great for the seasoned yogi and first timers alike.

Click here to learn more about the MusicFit Collective Affiliate discount to save some coin on your yoga passes.

15170759_1811327185806750_4575412211478361234_n-2.jpg

Bike and BrewCalgary’s first cycle shop and cafe, these guys offer it all. Have a cup of the best brew in town, snack on some baking from Corbeaux Bakehouse or try a sandwich from locals vendors Peppino while you get your bike serviced. They also offer group rides, information sessions and product knowledge workshops so once the snow clears you’re all set to ride.

Click here to learn more about the MusicFit Collective Affiliate discount to save some coin on your caffeination and select merchandise. 

There are some musician specialty clinics happening in March and April as well:

Sunday, April 8 “How To Effective Load Gear”

Load Gear Without Fear

This is a musician wellness workshop that will focus on practical theory and knowledge combined with practical movement patterns to ensure you’re keeping your body in good form and avoiding injury. Limited space, AB Members only (get your membership at www[dot]albertamusic[dot]org/membership") Price includes taxes and service fees.

C$59.00

Sunday March 25 “Down-regulatory exercise: Working-In”

How To Use Exercise To Inspire Creativity and Performance March 25 (AB Music Members Early Bird)

This specialty clinic will touch on effective down-regulatory exercise and stretching techniques to help alleviate pain, reduce stress and help you increase creativity and performance. You’ll be at 11. Why don’t you just make 10 louder? Because this one goes to eleven. AB Music members discount (get your membership at www[dot]albertamusic[dot]org/membership) Limited space. Price includes taxes and service fees

C$59.00

Well folks, I hope you can take something valuable away from this. If you’re interested in a consult to determine how to organize parts of your lifestyle you’d like to improve, please reach out. For all Alberta Music Members I offer 50% off, all hour long consultations  and I can meet in person and via Facebook video every Friday. Contact me to book a spot.

Quick recap and I’ll get out of your hair:

  1. Talk to a professional if you’re having challenges in life.
  2. Journal your thoughts and take time to be with yourself.
  3. Exercise! There’s plenty of ways to move your body and they don’t all revolve around the gym…

As always, thanks for reading,

Namaste sweet!

Peace.

MUntitled design-13

Ps. Rad photo eh? Check my brother out on Facebook Sean Schwartz Photography

Courage is not the absence of fear. It is inspiring others to move beyond it.

-Nelson Mandela

I think what this legend was getting at was something along the lines of if you lead by example, others will follow. I’m a big believer in having courage when facing adversity, and for a long time it was all I knew. Adversity. Constant struggle and obstacles. I’ve been blackmailed, blacklisted and had all the dirt thrown in my eyes. They say if you continue to have the same recurring problem that problem is likely you, right? Well, I’ll be the first to admit I had the consistent 3-6 month itch while in corporate, every 90 days or so trying to find or reinvigorate my sense of being. I would get super into a particular interest, say – music or a new band I would join, and then find myself playing damage control on the relationships in my life – in particular my now ex-wife, my friends, my family… because everyone else took a back seat (see? relationships take a hit too…) to my new addiction. Sometimes that new addiction was a new person. Be it a co-worker I had the opportunity to mentor or train, or a new friend I could associate with on a different level than my current “circle” (often musicians since my now former “circle” was full of a bunch of pretentious, meathead trainers that were convinced they were the shit while they paraded around with their superficial wives and their girlfriends… doing the same old, boring couples dates to dinner and a movie… you know who you are…). it didn’t matter. I was into it! I’d also get sick, randomly. Hindsight tells me my body just couldn’t take my sensory overload and I have since learned through both professional therapy and my own self-discovery that my90 day itch was purely a distraction as to me not being happy with “content”. I crave success and reaching new highs and for me, I have learned that I don’t get that when I don’t have a few projects on the go and feel as though I’m growing- physically, mentally, emotionally in relationships, personal development or professionalism. I’m so fortunate to have had the courage to get myself out of that hole and am happy to say I have mitigated that pattern quite substantially over the past year and a half. I’m not perfect, hell – it took me at least 8 years of my adult life to integrate the habit. I’m only kidding myself if I think I will rid myself of that one overnight…

Simon Sinek, another favourite thinker of mine, known for his promotion of finding your “why” is also quoted with:

“Admire those who admire others.”

When I heard this, my game was changed. Since having adopted this principle, I have the tools to live my life full of courage and with admiration for the good people that give back to their community and recognize and appreciate others. It’s a pretty fulfilling experience.

I guess without rambling I’d just like to recap my point.

  1. Have courage. Do something without fear of what others think. Or fear it, but do it anyways. It’ll set you free.
  2. Have courage. Stay true to yourself. No one cares about who you want to be or who you were. They only care about you. And if you’re not authentic, they won’t care about you. So be you.
  3. Have courage. Lead others with your skills, attitude and enjoyment of life. You’ll attract others like you and with it, more success. “Success is a team sport.” Another Sinek quote to live by….

Here’s a challenge for you. Think you can roll with me? Set a plan of attack for a routine. I want you to think about a daily habit to integrate. Mine will be a few parts. 

A. No junk or fast food. Why? Training for skating and composition. The 6-pack is made in the kitchen. 

B. Bed by 11, up by 7. Everyday. Why? Training. Rest and recovery is vital to proper execution of my conditioning program.

C. Complete the plan for my book. Send emails, get reviews. Get the buzz. Get the hype. Why? So I spearhead the movement of health and wellness in rockland, wonderland. 

There. My cards are on the table. Let’s see yours now.

Remember, you don’t have to be a rock star to start, but you have to start in order to become a rock star.

Stay sweet, everyone!

 

Coach

Ever wonder why your knee seems to flare up whenever you start running? Or maybe it’s your shoulder that starts to go only after a couple repetitions of chest flys? Well, I’m here today to put some food for thought on your plate on the ideals surrounding two popular exercise principles, load sharing and isolation.

To begin, we need a rough idea of what defines both of these principles.

Load sharing vs. Isolation: Defined
Load Sharing

The easiest way for me to describe this form of movement is from a functional standpoint. In a compounded movement (when two or more muscle groups work together to perform a movement i.e. back step lunge) the load or weight of the exercise is spread across multiple joints or levers. This helps to “share” the load and ultimately I have experienced more efficient use of movement in general application when coaching this style of movement. This, as one would imagine is incredibly beneficial for folks that are looking to become more functional and efficient at completing daily tasks. 90% of the people I have the privilege of working with are in this category. Makes sense? Your body can use more of itself to help decrease the strain on any single muscle group or joint and thus increase the likelihood of completing that exercise, pain free and efficiently. Bingo. Load sharing.

Isolation

The antagonist exercise to load sharing, in that it is actually the exact opposite. In isolation, we want to completely isolate one single target muscle group. Why? Well, theory tells us that promoting a targeted focus on a single group of muscles (i.e. pectoral major muscle in chest flys) concentrates that work load in that specific region. In doing so, what I have seen is a stronger recruitment or breakdown of muscle fibres, thus leading to quicker muscle development. Of course there’s exceptions to the rule, but this is a general consensus and the reason why isolation exercise is so popular amongst the bodybuilding world of fitness.

Over the years I have seen a few great differences between the two countering styles from a practical standpoint. While neither style is right or wrong in theory and practicality, I’ve seen that there’s a right and wrong time to use either and that’s simply based around each individual and what they’re looking for out of exercise. This is why I caution you to do your research when you’re getting back into an exercise regime.

Here’s the thing with isolation. I would argue it is more of an advanced or specialization style of training, even though it doesn’t in theory utilize more engagement. When you isolate an exercise, let’s use the back step lunge for example, you tend to cause all of the load of that exercise on one joint, in this case, the knee joint. Why? Well, generally trainers that coach a compound movement in the isolation style will coach you to force your trunk straight up from the hip, causing all of the force to be exerted through the quadricep in the front leg of the lunge. Over time, what I’ve seen in both myself and in clients is that this exercise promotes more direct strain on that knee joint because of that high load always forcing itself on that specific joint. It has no where else to go, so we tend to see over use injury as a result. things like IT band syndrome and quad tendon inflammation or (the highly over diagnosed) patellofemoral syndrome.

In my opinion, load sharing is a much safer, functional and therefore more enjoyable form of exercise when it comes to fitness, which as I said earlier – 90% of the people are looking for in regards to lifestyle goals. Take that same back step lunge, and now instead up keeping your trunk completely upright, hinge slightly, only about 15 degree forward while still maintaining a flat back (or “neutral spine”). This simple action puts your hips in just enough flexion to take a share of the load from the knee joint and help you to get up more efficiently with all of your body.  This action alone can help prevent overuse injuries of the knee, as you’re not relying on just the one joint to take that whole load all of the time. Overuse injuries are something I see very common with folks coming to me for assistance in getting their lifestyle back on track and let’s face it, if exercise causes pain, you’re likely not going to stick with it.

Conclusion

That being said, I would suggest really doing your research when you’re pulling exercise programs off of the bodybuilding.com’s or womenshealth.com’s of the internet. Because, oftentimes those writers gear the free exercise programming to the aesthetically pleasing goals of what everyone wants – “get a 6 pack in 6 weeks” or “9 ways to bigger biceps”. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to any fitness goals and if you try to cut corners and skip the crucial foundational stage of exercise – your tagline will read something like “6 weeks and $600 for a lot of lower back pain and a physiotherapy bill” or “9 reasons I strained my rotator cuff and now have tennis elbow”.

It’s simple folks, you can’t shortcut. I truly believe that professional assistance is crucial in order to start a lifestyle overhaul and continue to make ground on your goals, be it physically, personally or otherwise.

Hopefully my explanation about the difference between a load sharing exercise and isolation theory allows you at least think about your ego and how much more important it is than effective exercise and injury prevention. There’s a time and place for both styles and I hope this article helps you to decipher where you’re at in regards to using both.

Thanks for reading!

You don’t have to be a rock star to start, but you have to start in order to become a rock star. 

Mike

Ps. Click here if you want tips on surviving the rock star lifestyle delivered right to your mailbox