So I’m wrapping up a pretty awesome week.

Last week I attended the Southeast ACSM conference in Greenville South Carolina.

First of all, Greenville is just lovely. It has a familiar vibe: like downtown Franklin TN, but without the historic feel. It has it’s own charm: complete streets, interesting store fronts, and some of the best coffee/breakfast places I’ve been to.

If I retire to a small town that’s not in Tennessee, it will probably be near a beach. If not that, it will be Greenville.

The conference itself was fine. I learned a good deal about the research being conducted in my field right now, which is always refreshing. But, truth be told, I had a better time catching up with ol’ grad school friends of mine.

We had a magic to our group. Think Breakfast Club except we were all cool with each other from the start (or like the dudes in American Pie, except with more chicks).

We collaborated on thesis projects, helped each other during group study sessions, and drank and danced many a Knoxville nights away.

Group photo from another SEACSM conference from a couple years back

Even though we graduated about four years ago, things haven’t changed. We’re all doing some amazing things and it was a stellar time catching up and supporting each other’s successes.

On my way back to Nashville I stopped in Knoxville because I was scheduled for a presentation with a Kinesiology 100 class: just an overview of what it’s like to be a personal trainer and a small business owner. More on that in a minute.

We hit up Hannah’s in Old City. All my Knoxville friends know the place. It’s a janky bar in a old part of Knoxville that, frankly, used to suck. Saturday night though was savage. I almost didn’t get in to the bar on account I was wearing sweatpants, but after talking with the bouncer, and “only because my sweats had pockets” I got in. Dancing and adult beverage consumption commenced–>on a level not achieved in a few years. It was totally worth the terrible Sunday afterwards.

On Monday I gave my presentation to the Kinesiology class. Most of these students are on track for Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant schools, with a few that were interested in Strength & Conditioning and some in health/fitness related fields.

I told them my story: that I was a bad engineering student who liked to bench press. So after floundering in engineering classes, I decided that Exercise Science sounded pretty cool.

And the rest, as they say, is history. (If you’re interested, you can read my story HERE)

The talk did go really well: it was a brief story about how I started as a personal trainer, how things progressed, how I manage 20-30 clients and a booming business today, and more importantly, tips and tools so one day they too can work for themselves and build successful personal businesses (in whatever field they want).

The main point though was this: whatever it is you think you want to do, go do it. Immerse yourself as much as possible. Immerse. Absorb. Learn. Grow.

Topped it off with a quote from The Avett Brothers song Head full of Doubt, Road full of Promise:

Decide what to be and go be it

Mic Drop..

Always playing with my hair..

All-in-all, a stellar weekend.

Now, Random thoughts:

Today I was reading an article about barbell deadlifts and how trainers shouldn’t “force-fit exercises to clients” and instead offered alternatives, like the Trap Bar Deadlift.

This is often said in the industry: “don’t do this exercise” or “never do this exercise” or whatever. First of all, the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Obi-Wan Kenobi taught us that, a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away..

Sure: there are exercises that are better for some people over others certain times. But the answer to the “hows” and “whats” and “whys” are highly specific to the person, group, and situation you’re in.

It Depends.

For example, this particular article said “don’t force-fit barbell deadlifts when you should opt for trap bar deadlifts!”

Which I agree with in principle. However, what if I don’t have a trap bar in my gym?

I got to thinking then that CONTEXT is the biggest determining factor in program design:

Who is the client/athlete?

What’s their training status? Newbie? Intermediate? Sith Lord?

How do they feel physically/emotionally today?

Did they just step off a plane back from LA that took 5 hours?

Were your clients in Paris for the last three weeks?

What equipment do you have at your disposal?

How is that equipment organized in the gym?

Is this a commercial gym space (lots of other people) or a private facility?

…and so on.

These are factors that I have to deal with on a daily basis. When a client walks in the door, I’m already assessing these and probably 5+ more questions to gauge how the session will go, what we’re going to do, and how we’re going to make adjustments as we go.

So again, CONTEXT is the biggest determining factor with program design. Sure, if I have access to a trap bar I’ll opt for it over a barbell when I can, because I do believe it’s a better exercise to “pick up” than the barbell deadlift (see that? deadlift pun..)

But if I don’t have a trap bar I’m not going to sweat it. My client, if able, will pick up the bar.

Because the only thing that matters is what I’m able to do, not what I WANT to do.


Anyway, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading and reach out if you need anything from me!

Andy Van Grinsven

About Andy Van Grinsven

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