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 – 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!

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So today marked the first real CrossFit workout I’ve had since I went in Maui about 4 years ago. One word: Community.

Curtis Laughren, an old friend of mine has established his box as so much more than a place to lift heavy things and put them back down again. He’s grown a family of individuals that come together, support and rally each other through the toughest physical demands they can put their bodies through every time they step on the floor. What’s more is that today was a holiday! The floor was packed. Every one to the athletes came up and introduced themselves to me. It was quite a humbling experience to see so many encouraging, forward thinking and mindful athletes together in one space. I was back in my element today. Part of the team. A feeling I haven’t had for nearly two years since speed skating came to an abrupt end in the fall of 2015.

I walked in and immediately felt like I was home. The sweat-culture of sport, intensity and collaborative competition hit me like a hurricane the minute I stepped inside. Greeted by Curtis, peering through the Concept2 rowers (AKA death machines…) standing on end in “park”, to see who the new guy was. Huge smile and big handshake waiting for me, it was at that point I knew that this was the next step in my athletic career.

We spent the first 15 minutes in RAMP (for those wondering, that’s smart trainer talk for warm up [Range Of Motion, Activation, Movement Prep…]) and then we got to some warm up movements on the bar. The workout today was modelling the CrossFit Games workouts that just took place this past weekend, so today “Amanda” and a strength Powerlifting style 5-3-1+ sets of deadlifts was on the docket.

What’s Amanda?

It’s a drop set 9-7-5 series focused around two big, sexy movements. The Olympic Snatch and the Muscle Up. Rawr…

I’m pretty good with the bar, so the snatch wasn’t a problem (insert endless jokes here….), but my shoulders have never been right since I separated the left one making saves in football (soccer) nearly 10 years ago. Actually, side note – that’s one of the biggest motivations for me trying this box out. My overall goal is to be able to complete 10 Muscle Ups before 2018. For today, Curtis and I scaled them down to strict pull-ups so my Amanda was really like a “Mandy”…. The beta version 1.8 and still pretty cool.

I had a nice and light 75lbs on the bar just to go through the snatch patterning and pounded out my modified Amanda in a quick 4:18. In hindsight I should have thrown 115lbs on the bar, but I feel good about my first day. It can still be intimidating to walk into a gym where you’re the new guy…even for an experienced, multiple-certified trainer like myself, guys… so I was pumped to just experience today.

Then came the deads…

I crushed a 265lb deadlift today, which I just calculated to be about 113% of my previous best. So I set a PR on my deads today. Which is cool. But don’t tell my cardiologist yet. She’ll get worried again. I didn’t hold my breathe, Doc. Don’t worry. No Valsalva over here.

The point to my story is that the biggest determining factor of anything you do is your social support system. If you’re around a bunch of people that are in support of your actions, you’ll be much more likely to achieve. If you’re not, you won’t. Plain and simple. They say we are a product of the five people we hang out around the most. As a kid playing hockey I always wanted to play on the top line, I always wanted to be better. I wanted to be around the guys that were better than me. Nothing much has changed.

August 7, 2017 marks the actualization of bettering myself in the areas of my wellbeing that I’ve neglected for whatever reason… injury, laziness, lack of knowledge or special care. I’ve removed those excuses from the equation, and CrossFit Above All is the support system, the community, the family I have been lacking to drive me to progression in my personal and athletic growth. I am beyond stoked to see what happens. Thank you Curtis et al.

Do something awesome today. Until next time, stay sweet.



PS. If you’re in the Calgary area, check out

Curtis hosts multiple free classes each week for you to try out and see what it’s like to be a part of a common goal of personal growth and strength, both in the gym and out.


The title says it all.

He will never actually tell you how awesome he is. Or how much he’s improved. I seriously have to shake my head some days when the Blizzard shows up, game face on and ready to rock. Day in and day out, his commitment to bettering himself is remarkable. From all accounts, this was not the same human being one year ago.

Since the fall, I have been lucky enough to join the Blizzard in helping him to achieve his goals, both physically and (I’d argue more importantly) psychologically. This man has transformed his perspective in ways only an outsider can properly recognize and that’s one of the coolest things to bear witness to.

For me, I get to watch as his conditioning, coordination and mobility improves and watch his spot on mental toughness. I’ll give him a drill that clearly takes every ounce of will power to keep at (ascending-descending KB swings amongst other things..) but yet… he consistently fights through it. Pain free (just about) now, the Blizzard is looking to make another two weeks of solid recovery while I’m away his most worthwhile time to himself. Upon my return, and barring any unforeseen circumstances – we are going to take a serious look at some olympic style weight lifting to see if we can start to accelerate some of the physical goals we set out no more than 3 months ago.

Blizzard, you’re an inspiration for me. Your energy is tenfold from the time we met and you clearly have made significant changes in your life to be able to be where you are now. Keep at it. You push through so much and take care of everyone around you and still take the proverbial bull by the horns and make sure you rock your body like the backstreet boys. Keep at it, man. I’m excited to see what comes after May.

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


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

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.


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.


That being said, I would suggest really doing your research when you’re pulling exercise programs off of the’s or’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. 


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