A Little Story About How I Got Here
A lot of people over the years like to ask “Why did you get into personal training”, and to be honest, I wasn't always eager to share my story.
A little background – I come from a rather unhealthy gene pool. My grandparents, their parents, their grandparents, and so on have always suffered from diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, early mortality – the list goes on and on.
When I was 13 years old, I was 195lbs with a 38” waist circumference and a body fat percentage in the 40’s. My mother was 34 years old, 180lbs at 5’2, with a body fat percentage also in the 40’s. My brother was 17 years old, 295lbs at 6’, with a body fat percentage, you guessed it, also in the 40’s. My father was 36 years old and shared a similar body composition profile as my brother, weighing in around 260lbs.
Needless to say, we were a FAT family. Out of shape, unhealthy, weak, and a sure drain on our healthcare system in just a few more years unless we did something to change it.
While I knew nothing about health and fitness, I saw the magazines and tv shows showing people working out and looking great. Hell, I was 13 and had tits bigger than almost any girl I knew. I was sick and tired of being called fatty, chunky, husky, etc.
Surprisingly, I was a great athlete. Playing baseball, hockey and basketball at provincial levels. But my body was starting to break down. I injured my knees almost every basketball season. My back and shoulder would hurt all summer during baseball and that continued with hockey each winter (probably a combination of the basketball demands and the fat ass I had).
At the age of 14, I realized there was a need for change unless I wanted to continue down the road of being fat, out of shape, constantly injured and carry a large risk for disease and early mortality.
I started simple. Mainly because I had no money for personal training, nor the desire to put myself in a gym where there were so many fit and jacked dudes. My boobs of course were still bigger than most of the girls in the gym, too. So I hopped on my bike and started to bike all over the town I grew up in (Kentville, Nova Scotia), a small place with a population of about 1500 at that time.
At first, I could only make it a few km’s at best before gasping for air and feeling like I would collapse. But soon, I was able to make it across the city to the baseball field I grew up playing on. I’d watch whoever was playing, bike all around the multiple fields with friends, and then would bike home.
Then something funny happened. I stepped on the scale after about 2 weeks and has lost some weight. Holy shit, something great was at work here and I wanted to know what. So I started to research weight loss, specifically fat loss. And noticed most books (internet wasn’t for everyone back then), and said to train until you puke and it’s ok to feel dizzy and I shouldn’t eat anything after 6:00pm. I was up until 11pm most nights and thought to myself, there’s no way I want to puke in the gym and certainly didn’t want to feel dizzy.
So I looked deeper, and asked people that were really fit but looked healthy (not the drained, cranky, bitchy dudes that no one liked).
They started to talk about eating healthy, and specifically, what healthy eating really was. And they told me I really didn’t need to be in the gym 6 days a week for 2 hours at a time, it’s actually a really bad idea to overdue it and if I feel sore or dizzy I’m going too hard or doing something wrong.
Huh, so all the magazines I was reading were lying? My coaches that were telling me to get to the gym and kill myself for 2 hours were wrong? Well shit, who do I believe?
Enter my first ever mentor, a good friend of my older brother that was super fit, healthy, happy, and well respected. He played baseball for the team I wanted to play for when I got older and I always looked up to him.
He would always see me working out at home, doing some pushups and sit-ups and what I thought were “squats”. Boy was I ever wrong. Apparently putting all the weight in my toes, leaning over my hips and almost falling forward was a bad thing, who knew? Well, he did and I thank him all the time for teaching me it wasn’t a good thing.
While my mentor moved away for school, I had now acquired a few tools in my arsenal in the battle against my poor health habits. I took this new knowledge and started to apply it, reading the magazines he had left for me recommending a few articles and tearing out the misguided stuff. He didn’t want useless information like testosterone boosters and garbage workout routines tainting my growth.
I still didn’t want to be in the gym very much at this time, working out at home was working and I was still loosing weight. So I signed up for the school track and field team. Hell, I could throw a baseball farther than anyone my age or even a few years older so I thought maybe I could throw one of those long pointy poll things (Javelin) pretty far! I even ended up competing in the 100m sprint and won my first heat in the county meet.
While sprinting wasn’t a strong point (I didn’t end up advancing to the next round), I was happy with my efforts and it started to build some more confidence. I ended up breaking the provincial junior record that year (grade 8) for both Javelin and Shot-put, and came 2nd in Discus.
I was still biking, working out at home whenever I had a free evening from sports or homework, and eating less bullshit (hotdogs, ice cream, pizza pockets, etc) food that had been a staple in my diet since I knew what food was.
From March to June, I had dropped from 195lbs to 160lbs and went from a 38” waist to 32”.
YAAAA buddy! Girls liked me and dudes wanted to train with me!
Fast forward 3 years, I’m now 17 years old living in Ontario with my family and on the verge of University applications, wondering what the hell am I going to do with my life? I thought it would be a professional baseball player, after all I had numerous scholarship offers to Division 1 schools and was one of the top players in the country on many scouts radars.
Enter my “life incident”. I blew out my back and knees playing football and destroyed my shoulder and elbow pitching too much. 3 herniated discs in my lumbar spine area, severe central spinal stenosis, degraded facet joints, osteoarthritis, and a narrowing of the formina.
That was just my back. AT AGE 18!!!!
My knees and shoulder looked like that of a 40 year old and weren’t getting any better by overhead pressing or performing box jumps until I couldn’t feel my feet.
I wasn’t training effectively for sport, just for physique. I did what my coaches told me to, which wasn’t anything specific for sport. It’s not their fault they didn’t know any better. All the schools interested in me quickly lost interest. A 17 year old with herniated discs in their Lumbar spine, a torn rotator cuff, and damaged elbow tendons in their pitching arm wasn’t someone they were interested investing in.
Depressed, angry, sad, fearful – I didn’t know what to do. Everything I had planned was crumpled up and thrown in the garbage in an instant. My future was uncertain and I had to rethink how to proceed.
Of course no 17 year old needs to know exactly what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. But where do I go from here? What should I focus my efforts on and what the hell can I do with my life?
I reached out to a high school teacher of mine whom I had enormous respect for. He was a talented baseball player that too, wasn’t able to pursue his athletic dreams. He had helped me through the years balancing my academics with athletics and was an inspiration to my growth as a young man.
He helped me realize I had shaped my values with a heavy focus on health and well-being, so I thought to myself why not see if I can make something of this and develop my limited knowledge and passion.
I started to look into “health and wellness careers”. My list included: Chiropractor, Physiotherapist, Athletic Therapist and Nutritionist.
I then looked at schools with great health programs and decided on Brock University. They had both a great Kinesiology program and Canada’s best baseball program.
So there it was, at 18 years of age I was accepted to Brock for Kinesiology. Surely I’d go on to Chiropractic or Physiotherapy and that was my chosen career path.
In my first year I was working out a lot trying to avoid the “freshman 15”, the 15lbs of fat students typically gain from drinking too much and making poor nutritional/lifestyle choices. I was playing baseball for the Men’s Varsity Team but knew I just didn’t have it anymore; the physical limitations outweighed my raw talent (at this time).
While in the gym, I’d workout with teammates and friends. Trainers would approach us and tell us what we were doing was wrong and tried to show us new exercises that would help us get stronger and play better. What a bunch of bullshit that was!
I was no trainer, but the research I had done let me know what they were teaching was bogus and would end up hurting us rather then helping. It didn’t help that they were fat and out of shape but trying to tell us what we were doing was wrong. That raised a red flag and I remember telling my buddies “I’ll never want to be one of those guys, a trainer”. Oh if I only knew!
After 2 months in my freshman year, I was working out with about 10 friends and was putting together our workout plans and helping them with exercise form and nutrition habits. My buddy’s said I should be a trainer. Heck, was I a trainer? Back in High School I did the same thing with my football teammates and would often lead our workouts, recommending exercises and technique. Shit, was I one of those out of shape morons telling people to do the wrong stuff?
I took a step back and thought, well no, all my friends have got great results and keep asking me questions, even though there are “certified” trainers in the gym all the time.
Hmm, maybe I should look into this “trainer” thing and see if it’s something that can help me pay for school until I go off to pursue Chiropractic or Physiotherapy. It seemed like being a trainer was pretty easy and could make a pretty decent amount of money doing it. So I looked into some basic certifications and was on my way as a certified Trainer.
At 19, I had my first “official” clients – my Mother and my Brother.
Let’s start with Mom (the best Mom in the world, sorry I’m biased). She was then 40 years old, 180lbs and her body fat was around 45 percent at a height of only 5’2.
We took a simple approach and I applied what I knew which came from years of self-directed research thanks to my mentor. We looked at her nutrition and her activity levels. She was eating mainly processed carbohydrate junk, not drinking any water or eating any protein, and not performing any activity other that work (personal support worker in a Nursing home).
We started with just 2 things:
She was to eat more protein and drink more water through the day
She was to go for a walk outside at least 3 times per week.
That was it! For a full month, that was the only change/addition my mom made. She lost 8lbs that first month, not bad down to about 172lbs.
Ok onto month #2, we added 2 more things (while she kept her initial 2 habits):
She was to 500ml include water with each meal she ate
She was to add two, 30 minute workouts per week consisting mainly of body weight exercises (in addition to her 3 outdoor walks per week which she loved)
After month 2, she was down to 160lbs, and down to 36% body fat! Those are amazing results, down 20lbs and a bunch of body fat in just 2 months. She was feeling happier, had more energy, and was asking me for more things to do.
Fast forward 6 months. My mom had added a few more healthy nutrition habits and has kept her basic exercise habits. She lost a total of 40lbs, and was down to about 28% body fat at the age of 40! Not too bad for someone that hadn’t exercised since she was 18.
My mom just hit her 50’s a few years ago and we still get funny looks when eating at restaurants together because she looks so young! She’s kept the weight off, now weighing in at a lean 135lbs at a body fat of 25%. She exercises 3 times per week in her condo and eats primarily whole foods coming from mainly plant sources.
Did I mention she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not work properly making it very difficult for some to lose weight or be energetic? Ya, my Mom is awesome! She no longer needs her Thyroid medication that her Doctor so diligently said she would need for the rest of her life
Now onto my brother, at his heaviest he tilted the scale (literally – it broke), at around 315lbs. At one time he was a fitness enthusiast, playing sports, actively boxing and running. During university he was not focused on health and enjoyed a lazy lifestyle with no focus on healthy eating.
His career was rather inactive as he was sitting at a desk for 8-10hours per day, then would come home and watch tv falling asleep on the couch. He was 23 years old and over 300lbs going down the road of my grandparents and I didn’t want to see him with heart disease and diabetes at such a young age.
After looking into his nutrition and lifestyle habits, we took the same approach as my mom (they both started around the same time and were able to motivate each other as they lived together while I was living in residence an hour away at school).
We started with just 2 things:
He was to eat more vegetables each day (attempting for at least 1 serving with eat meal)
He was to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes, 3 times per week
That’s all we added to his lifestyle. After the first month, he had lost 10lbs and about 3 percent body fat, not too bad.
For his second month, we added 2 more things:
Similar to our Mom, he too was to include 500ml water with each meal
Again similar to our Mom, he was to add 3 strength training workouts per week, focusing on total body workouts and mainly body weight exercises
After the second month he was down 15lbs and about 7% body fat. The kid was doing work, lifting much heavier weights (with surprisingly good form) and building muscle while losing fat.
We shifted his focus to more cardio instead of more weight training as his main goal was to lose fat, and the next few months he would continue to shift his body and health towards awesomeness!
Fast forward 1.5years and my brother had lost 100 friggen pounds and 20% body fat!
We went home to Nova Scotia for a family vacation and our family members didn’t recognize him. Our Uncle actually introduced himself to my brother and he just laughed at our Uncle and said, dude, it’s your nephew! Blown away with the transformation my brother had made, he asked how he did it. I remember my brother saying “actually it was really simple, just took a little while and had to stick to the plan”. Huh, maybe I was a “trainer” after all?
My brother managed to keep the weight off, weighing in the low 200’s at 6’2. He runs at least 10km per week and has a home gym in his basement that I’m damn jealous of!
The key here, it was all simple stuff starting with 1 habit, working on it until I was good at it, then adding another while maintaining the previous.
It’s a progression that works with anything, and with health it’s one of the biggest secrets to success you can learn.
I know there’s a ton of trainers and professionals out there that claim they have the “secret” to guarantee results. Well, call it what you want, my “secret” is to keep things simple, get really good at one thing that will guarantee to help you, then only when you’re really good at that one thing should you start to work on another simple thing that’s guaranteed to help you achieve your goals.
Only after you’ve achieved what your initial goals should you begin to contemplate the more complicated stuff. After you’ve added 10 simple habits (outlined below), should you move onto the more jazzy stuff like: intermittent fasting, carb cycling, intricate program design, etc.
Fast forward 15 years – I’m now 35 years old (at the time of writing this anyway), have worked with thousands of people both in person and online helping them achieve their goals and live a healthier lifestyle. These clients range from everyday office employees, to youth athletes, professional athletes and professional organizations, high performing executives, business owners, A-list celebs, and more. I also own a successful high performance gym that boasts a 7500 sq foot facility in Hamilton, Ontario and caters to those seeking a more active lifestyle and care about their performance as a human being. Sure, improving your physique is a part of it - heck my wife competes on the international stage going for her Pro IFBB card - but there's so much more to what we do at ALP beyond just fat loss or muscle building.
I still remember seeing an orthopedic surgeon when I was 20 about my back and he said I should choose a different career path. He offered the advice that being a trainer and constantly lifting weights would only cause pain and exaggerate my symptoms. I said bullshit to that and figured I would prove him wrong.
A year later I went for a follow-up and after a 60 minute consult, he now knew how to eat a little better to reverse his pre-diabetic condition and what exercises he ought to do to help his chronic back pain!
Take that Asshole Doc! I refrained from the little devil in my left ear advising him to keep eating the fatty foods and processed junk. Instead, the little helper in my right ear prevailed and helped him lose 25lbs and take him off his blood pressure medication in just 3 months. He’s not really an asshole, was just ignorant to certain opinions.
I've managed to correct / manage most of my muscle imbalances from a young age, and even though my lumbar spine is still an issue sometimes, I'm able to live my best life because of the holistic approach taken to how I live my life.
I now regularly consult with a few family Doctors and many sports medicine doctors regarding the health of their patients. A large portion of the work I do involves collaborating with my extensive network including Naturopathy, Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, Dietitians, and more. I believe this is a key to the success I’ve been fortunate to have as a Strength and Performance Coach. We even opened our own manual therapy division at ALP-TI in order to better serve our clients and community!
Nutrition coaching is something I integrate with every client of mine. I’ve been very fortunate to work closely with my mentor of the past 8 years, Dr. John Berardi and his company Precision Nutrition. John has taught me virtually everything I know about nutrition either directly, or indirectly. With 8 weeks left in my Precision Nutrition Level 2 Master’s Nutrition certification, I can see why John has been able to help so many people in his career as nutrition can provide us with an immense amount of information regarding one’s health. Take a look at his brand new Change Maker Academy - no doubt it will change the lives of so many directly and even more indirectly!!
I believe taking an integrated, holistic approach to an individual’s health is essential to ensure they achieve quality results in a reasonable about of time. I do not believe anyone wishes to spend years exercising, only to see their body composition get worse. Yet, a large number of people do this at health clubs every single year all over the world.
Being a coach to people excites me everyday.
Whether it’s a trainer on my staff, a client I’m training, another coach seeking advice, it doesn’t matter. I enjoy guiding people to their answers. It doesn’t really even matter the question. I like being asked questions, and I enjoy answering them.
But after 15 years experience working with a large population of athletes and business I now specialize coaching and answering questions in 2 areas:
1) Coaching Athletes and Entrepreneurs / Executives optimize to health and performance. I do this by integrating what I know about being an elite athlete and successful entrepreneur and also coaching professional athletes and ultra busy / successful business titans - to deliver a unique coaching style optimizing performance.
I help athletes think more like intelligent business titans (ie, planning and strategies, forecasting, separating emotion and business for clear decision making, etc), and help the intelligent business titans live more like professional athletes (ie nutrition, exercise, preparation).
2) Coaching and Advising small health and fitness businesses startup and succeed versus startup and burnout (been there, done that). And then, after success (whether I helped you get there or not), I help small health and fitness businesses scale from $100k per year to $500k per year. After that level we discuss your needs and If I'm not right right coach for you I'll happily refer you off to the more experienced coaches in my network - maybe even one of my own coaches?
If you're in either of these 2 categories, and are looking for help, contact me and we will find the best approach that works for you !