“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 Ok, kids – you know the drill.  Here we go:

Dear Mr. Norris,
I have been on a 90% Primal diet since last May, and already feeling great. I have always wanted to have an active career (PE teacher, personal trainer, physical therapist) and so on, but after listening to a variety of Paleo oriented podcasts, I have decided that I would like to get into a very similar career as your own. Helping others achieve fitness/health is one thing I really like to do, even if it’s just a little bit of encouragement to get that last set of squats, or just one more pull-up.

I am really feeling good about myself mentally and physically, mostly thanks to the new diet/lifestyle changes, and I was wondering if you could give me any tips/advice on classes to take for my senior year, years through college, and anything else to reach a similar position to yours.

I’m 16, a junior in high school, living in Wyoming. Probably also going to University of Wyoming for college.
I hope you can get back to me, but it is understood if you can’t. Thanks for reading this anyway!

Sincerely,
Drew

Drew,
My advice on this subject varies according to where one is in life.  In your particular case — young, no family obligations of your own (I would assume) and with the ability and want to go on to college — I would suggest that you major in exercise physiology (or kinesiology…or similar), and minor in psychology, rhetoric or some other form of change persuasion.  You’ve got to know not only what needs to be done from a science/technical base, but also how to get clients to buy into the change required of them.  The best coaches I ever had not only knew their Xs and Os, (and S&C programming), but were also great motivators.  In that respect, training the athlete is no different than training the general population.  Goals and motivations are different, of course — but need need to both motivate and know and apply the science is no different.  Also remember that there are profound differences between training for health, training for the “unknown and unknowable” (i.e, general GPP), and specific sport training.  And, rather ironically, the more one specializes his training, the more one divorces himself from health.

Also, seek out those near you who are experts and do what you can to apprentice under them.  Coaching (and I actually prefer this term to “training”) is so very much an art, and art cannot be effectively learned in a traditional sense — for instance, in the way that the science aspect of this field must be obtained.  More on the apprentice aspect below.

Best of luck to you, Drew
Keith

And along the same lines….

Hello Keith my name is Jerry Morgan. I came across you from your Ancestral Health Society video and then started following your blog and work at Efficient Exercise. I am a 32 year old married Firefighter for the FDNY and living in Queens NY. My wife and I have been living the primal/paleo lifestyle for the past six months and love it. We are both into fitness and nutrition and have seen good results since the transition. Recently I have been considering for a second job/ hobby to get into a personal training/paleo/wellness/ lifestlye coach. I really don’t know what to call it, but I would like to help people realize their full potential in fitness and life. I was wondering if you can point me in the right direction. What kind of certificates and degrees would I need, schools?? Are there any guidelines to this? I would appreciate any help or suggestions. Thank you very much

Hey, Jerry –
You’re in roughly the same position as our friend Drew above.  However, you have the whole “career change” thing to have to deal with.  Somehow, you’ve got to get the same schooling/base knowledge as Drew, while maintaining your current lifestyle.  Most times this means that (1) either your wife will have to sacrifice and work a little more to pay your existing bills while you go to school and apprentice in your off hours, or (2) you significantly scale back your standard of living for a while.  Realistically, both are gonna have to happen.

So the thing to keep in mind is this: the fitness/wellness/performance business is all about results, and results in this business are accomplished by the proper application of art and science.  Think of it this way: if a restaurant consistently produces knock-your-socks-off meals, do you really care that the chef and his staff are classically trained?  Or for that matter, credentialed at all?  What matters is that they constantly nail the final product.

References and “pedigree” matter.  Word of mouth matters (both client and peers).  The people who come to me could care less that I have absolutely zilch in the way of “certifications”, nor do I care to attain any.   What I do have is 35+ years of personal experience in this field.  Also, I was very lucky to have been able to hone my S&C coaching skills even while working in the “real world” (if Big Pharma can be considered “real world”) to pay the bills.  I had friends at the right places who were more than happy to have me come in and help teach, design and implement programming.   I learned more practical applications from just hanging around back in the day with Jeff Connors and the East Carolina S&C staff than I would have ever picked up in any certification study.  Having been a former athlete myself helped as well, because now I “knew” what the programming felt like from the receiving end.  With that in mind, I could better program with an end result in focus.  Science, to be sure — but a hell of a lot of art as well.

This is all to say that, though everybody’s path will be different, the end has to be the same: you’ll ultimately have to prove results, and more than likely, you’ll have to apprentice to get there.  But you’ll have to first “prove your worthiness” to even be able to first put yourself in a position for some sort of apprenticeship with the best in the business.  And this means (for most) having the basic schooling covered.  But because so much of S&C is art, it simply cannot be fully learned in any other way than apprenticeship.  At Efficient Exercise, we are extremely choosy about who we offer an opportunity to apprentice.  And last on that list of considerations are any “certifications” that person may have.  Schooling matters, yes — but we can teach the science and apprentice the art to those who are willing to go through the process.  What we cannot teach, though, are innate interpersonal skills.  Can you effectively teach what you know?  Can you produce consistent results with clients?  Are you hungry, and willing to do the background knowledge acquisition on your own?  Are you able to address a client’s individual needs, and not pigeon-hole them into preconceived category?  These are the intangibles that we look for.

Hi Keith,

I feel like I am intruding on your good will so would like to say from the outset that the free information you continually put out has had a big impact on my life for the better – hat tip to you.

Your article ‘Losing Your Religionreally got me thinking (as your articles often do).  I am a fit 43 year old physical culturist from Sydney Australia who is questioning, or perhaps better said, is searching for direction/a training goal?  I could really blabber on here but I will attempt to get to the meat of this email as quickly as possible.  I am of a different phenotype to yourself, being 5’7 tall, 65kg, muscular/lean build, high school 100/200m champion, drawn to body weight type movements.  I have found myself recently drawn into the world of bodyweight/movement expression, dabbling in hand balancing etc.   I’d really like your viewpoint on the potential damage (to joints etc) of such training (one arm handstand training for example).  I want to be in the physical culture game until the end and put a premium on health and longevity, maybe the above type of training is too extreme, is not sustainable for the long haul, and maybe not a good training goal for a man over 40?  I am sure there are many training goals that would all give me equal satisfaction….. but I must admit I am innately inspired by the culture that seems to have developed around physical expression through more advanced/extreme movement disciplines.

I ask you this as I respect the way you write about and express in your own physical pursuits a good mix of science and common sense, with the innate joy of movement/ physical culture.

Regards,
John

John,

I think the body weight disciplines — MovNat, Parkour, gymnastics of all kinds — are fantastic, engaging and exhilarating.   And I see no reason why these types of things cannot be done into late life.   IF (and this is a big “if”)  general, all-around strength is maintained. Jack LaLanne was a fine example of this.

As Dan John says (paraphrasing, here), strength is a cup — the bigger the cup, the more “stuff” you can put in it.  Strength in the shoulder girdle (for instance), begets bulletproof shoulders with the able to withstand the wear-and-tear of gymnastic bar work and the like.

And we’re not talking about a long, drawn-out process here, either.  A short program consisting of the big 7 (or so) movement patterns rotated through on a 2x/week basis would be more than sufficient.  So you could set up something that looked like this:

Day 1:
Squats (front or back)
Flat presses (floor, bench, slight incline, whatever…)

Day 2:
Deadlifts
Dips

Day 3
Russian leg curls (or GHRs)
Overhead presses

Day 4
Romanian Deadlifts
Chins

Two lifting days/week.  Warm up to a working weight of between 3 and 7 reps for each exercise.  Hit 2 hard working sets, and call it quits.  If you want to get a little more involved, just work a little Autoreg magic on each exercise.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Cycle through other compound movements as you like.  And always, keep the tenants of the Five Ts in mind.

This is just an example, of course.  But you get the idea.  Concentrate on bang-for-the-buck movements; get in the gym and get the hell out quickly.  Then, go back out and have fun with what you love to do!  And just remember, your S&C protocol should support and enhance the sports/activities you love, not supplant them.

In health, fitness and ancestral wellness –
Keith

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for the reply Keith,
    Compound. Bang for buck. Five t’s. Get out and f#$%^& play. Science and art. Longevity and health are important, but I (we) must not forget the passion.
    Cheers,
    John

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