Power Surge 2017 Write-Up

This past weekend, I competed at the USPA Power Surge 2017 Powerlifting competition in Carol Stream, IL. It was at a Holiday Inn. In a conference room.


The Weigh-In and Post Weigh-In Meal


I’ve been keeping track every day the week of the meet to see how much I need to dial back on the sodium and carbs. The last few days leading up to the weigh-in are the hardest, especially when you have to do a cut. I’ve been walking around fluctuating between 215-225lbs when I train. Since I know I will weigh-in between 9am-noon, I’ve checked once or twice each day between those times to get a realistic idea of what I might need to do if I’m over the 220 limit.

Though after years of competing I know that I lose water weight fairly fast when I stop lifting (when prepping for the competition). I chose to weigh-in in the morning so I can have the rest of the day to eat.

I drove 2 hours North to weigh-in and headed back to my apartment so I can sleep in my own bed. To me it was worth it and far less expensive (hotel + meals + gas). Plus, it was a nice day out and I enjoy driving. It’s calming for me…once you get off the Dan Ryan and out of Chicago!

After weighing-in at 219 I planned to have a protein shake with Magnum protein powder, fruits, peanut butter, OJ, oats and some ice cubes. I also had Pedialyte I picked up from CVS and had my awesome clients make me a batch of protein balls to snack on.

Lunch was a sammich with chips totalling easily over 2000 k/cals and 2 dinners: 2 rolls of sushi and a sirloin steak with 2 sweet potatoes.


Competition Day

My dog hates it when I pack to go places. It makes her nervous and so she defecates, urinate and vomits all over the place and won’t use the bathroom outside. She’s smart like that. Waking up not knowing how it was going to go, I was under some stress. I was also burying my grandmother 2 days after the meet.

Fortunately, I had 2 hours of driving early enough to watch the sunrise. It was just what I needed. Got to the hotel. Checked-in. Set up camp. Rules meeting and then the lifting begins.

One thing I’ve been focused on getting better at was competition-nutrition. Making sure I had enough of the right foods to keep me from cramping and have enough energy to push 100% every lift. Foods high in sodium would keep me from cramping and simple sugars/carbs that are fast acting would keep my energy up when I need it. However, I’m notorious for vomiting before I lift, but I made sure that I wasn’t too full of food coming into the meet. 

I made myself another shake for breakfast, loaded with calories, but easily digestible. Especially over a 2hr car ride. I got nervous as I always do, but I didn’t get sick. Diaphragmatic breathing and focusing on being in a parasympathetic system when I’m not about to lift really kept things calm and the food down.  My body felt amazing thanks to my Wellness Team: Erica Hartman Massage, Mitchell Family Chiropractic and my Life Coach, Rick Longstreth.

Here’s a video of the full meet:



Squat has become my least favorite lift. With a history of back issues and lack of confidence to go with it, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. But. I had goals. Sure enough, I fought like hell to get that third lift and I was super excited. It was a 17lb PR.


Bench had become one of my favorite lifts. Mainly because it was my weakest. I had a lot of fun training to get better at it because I knew I would improve dramatically. The best lift in the gym I’ve had was 350 (with a slight pause) a couple years ago shortly before I got injured. I knew I had more in me, but I had goals and I wanted to stick to the plan. I know I’ll achieve another personal best in next years competition whenever that may be. Until then, I’m going to be throwing up some big(ger) weights in the gym [finally].


By far my most favorite lift. Not because it’s the heaviest or the last. But because it’s what the audience (and judges) love to see. Brute strength. Picking up dead weight off the ground! It was a bit emotional for me because the image of my grandmother popped in my head. I failed my first attempt but got the second. The second attempt felt good, though it was 13lbs away from my final lift, which was still under my ultimate goal of 625. Nevertheless, I had made my second lift so it was worth taking the chance.



The meet was very well ran. With a lot of mass and broad shoulders. I wasn’t sure where the warm-up space was going to be. If it was in another room or in the hallway outside of the conference room. No. It was 8-10 feet away from the platform (you can see it in the photos). It was interesting. But. It had a “gym feel” to it; close quarters, 2 warm-up areas. Lots of heavy ass lifting and interesting smells. It wasn’t bad!

It helped that I knew all of the judges and saw them 4 weeks earlier when the gym hosted the Illinois State Championships. That and some Powerlifting Legends showed up. It’s pretty incredible all these people live locally and could watch what was one of the best performances I’ve had yet.

I’ve written down my goals on a post-it note several months earlier after my meet in March. I can proudly say I reached 2 out of the 4 goals I’ve set for myself. Check it out.

What’s great is that I still achieved all lifetime PRs:

Previous All-Time Personal Bests:
Squat 512lbs @196.2lbs (2015)

Bench 319.7lbs @196.2lbs (2015)

Deadlift 600.8lbs @177.8lbs (2013)

Total 1416.5lbs @196.2lbs (2015)

Power Surge 2017 Results:
Squat 529.1lbs

Bench 330.7lbs

Deadlift 611.8lbs

Total 1471.6lbs

What’s Next?

I qualified for USPA Nationals in Vegas next summer. I’d like to do a push-pull meet sometime before [for fun]. My Squat is something that I really want to continue to work on as I feel it’s my most uncomfortable lift. This way I’ll have time to get my legs bigger and stronger (sorry jeans…It’s about to get real) so my total can be more competitive and get back into the rankings again. This is another reason why I joined the USPA. For the challenge to push myself to be better than ever.

It had been a couple of years since I’ve been able to compete at a high level, but this meet assured me that I’m on the right track. 




Game. Time. . @uspaillinois @uspapower @trainhylete @hardmagnum #rawpowerlifting #USPApower #powerlifting #squat #bench #deadlift #fitfam

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Predict The Future With Your Thoughts

Ever notice that when you do something it’s usually preceded by an emotion/thought? I know it’s trivial, but if we sit back and think on this for a second: we can predict the future by recognizing how we feel in the moment.

Ever been really happy about something? I can recall many times when I’ve had peak days, I usually have the best experiences with my clients and they tend to enjoy their workouts more so than usual. Even my own. And you know what? That usually starts before I even get out of bed.


Likewise, when you’re angry or have had a negative reaction to something, we tend to do or say things that reflect that feeling. It could be the tone in our voice that someone might take the wrong way or affect your cognitive ability to deciding to watch The Notebook. Alone. I’m not saying that happened to me. I’m just saying.


The simplest application of this thought process is the direction in which you go to achieve your goals. Remember the first time you came into the gym and talked to your trainer and you two talked about what it is you wanted to work on?

“I want to squat my bodyweight.”
“I want to not be tired walking up the stars.”
“I want to do a chin-up.”

What happens next?

You start squatting.

You start doing more cardio.

You start doing chin-ups/row variations.

All these actions begin from how you feel from one single moment in time. This feeling could set the course for action for months and years to come.

It boils down to this: if you do something BECAUSE you feel good [about yourself], trust that you’ll experience a positive result. If an action is born from a negative thought, understand that no matter the outcome you’ll be filled with dissatisfaction.

Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions. They say the future isn’t written, but if you really think about it you can get an idea of how it will be manifested.

The Key To Programming For Your Clients

This is the week of my 30th birthday, one of many milestones this year. This year will also be my 10th year as a trainer/coach. It’s amazing how long it’s been and I’m only getting better. While not many trainers can say that, I wanted to help change that with this video.

Most new trainers are kind of thrown into the wolves when it comes to starting off their careers in the field. The education usually stops when they graduate college. And let’s face it, there’s not really a degree in Personal Training. Personal Training is like shop class, you get good by getting your hands dirty.


With sooo many trainers out there, it’s not good enough to be seen and heard. You have to be good if not great at what you do. One slip up and your client can easily jump ship and onto the next one.

One of the biggest issues that newbies have is knowing how to program workouts for their clients. So, I address the issue in this video.

Please share with any and all new professionals as this concept will pretty much ensure long term success with getting great results and client retention.


How To Make $10 Gyms Work

Yep. If you’re already a member of a $10 gym you’ve probably noticed the rapid influx of people who want to get “results”. You’ve probably also noticed already that the gym attendance is slowly slowing down.

Nah. Not yet. Wait about a month or so. Give or take.

If you’re wondering what a $10 gym is, it’s not really pertaining to one gym, but rather a kind of gym. As mentioned in this article about how gyms set you up for failure, these gyms typically have massive amounts of cardio machines at the forefront, with the weights section behind it. Nowadays some gyms will even have a pullup rig, sleds, kettlebells and other pieces of equipment way in the back of the building. This is to discourage you from doing the very things (like weight training) that get you sustainable results. Truth be told, some cardio is good, yet cardio with weight training has proven to be even better.

You may find a trainer good enough to hire, but those are one in a million in places like these. With how little they pay trainers, it’s no wonder why the quality of personal training is typically low. These places are also revolving doors for trainers. Usually good for getting started in their careers, getting some experience training real people. However, that also attracts a certain crowd of people.

Ever seen “Gym Fail” videos?? Most likely you’d see some of these moves at your local $10 gym. While they may seen entertaining watching them online, they’re pretty uncomfortable to witness in person. It’s almost like you seem to develop an actual concern for their safety. It’s like watching a scary movie knowing that the killer is in the other room, but the character doesn’t know the killer is in there. You’re left going “NO!!! NO DON’T DO IT!!!!”

Speaking of movies, some of these places have mini movie theaters for you to watch while you’re on your bike. Honestly though, if they play ROGUE ONE in there or Dark Knight Rises…I might be in there before the credits even start just to get the right spot (middle-back of the room is the best).

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Now that you know how I REALLY feel about these gyms, I’m one to recognize that it does have a place in this world. I know I know. Hear me out.

If you think about it- 10 bucks is a stupid ridiculously low price for a gym that most likely has some of the latest equipment and some of the top brands. For 10. Fucking. Dollars a month.

To me, that’s an insane opportunity to take advantage of the what you have: top of the line equipment, a fucking cardio theater, sleds, free wifi (it’s the little things), tanning booths, shakes, etc. Yet, for a lot of people, it’s a struggle to go there let alone be in there long enough before you want to take your eyes out with a rusty rake and pour molten lava all over your face.

Though. There is hope.

I’ve been a member at a local $10 gym for several months now. Mostly because the insurance we have has a wellness program that pays for it. Also, they just have stuff my gym doesn’t have and it’s nice to mix it up. When you’ve been coaching as long as I have, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. Of gainz.

“But D, how can you stand going there!? And isn’t that betraying your own gym!?”

I get it, but no. Not even the slightest. If anything, it helps promote my gym to have a 500+ squatter, 330+ bencher and 600+ deadlifter to workout in a place where form turning into baby shit when they pick up the bar is a regular occurrence.

So, I’m going to give you guys some tips on how to survive $10 gyms in your neighborhood. 


Tip 1: Hire you a damn good trainer (Somewhere else)

As I’ve mentioned before- trainers who don’t get paid very well, don’t tend to be all that great. Especially when you pay to go to a gym that costs about the same as the manager special at the Asian Market at HYVEE for 2 entrees-2 appetizers-1 side. You’re likely to get better results from that meal after doing a Les Mills class for 15 hours.

The average trainer costs $1/minute. Emphasis on the “average” part. I believe you get what you pay for. I’m by no means the most expensive trainer, but you definitely want one that has the utmost confidence in their ability to help you. Some trainers don’t charge as much as they should and it’s a shame. I don’t particularly enjoy asking folks to hand over hundreds of dollars a month. So you better be damn sure I’m going to give them the most bang for their buck.

Hiring a good trainer to teach you the basics is invaluable. In a place like my gym, you don’t have as many “toys” much as a commercial gym. Which is perfect because you’re getting results with using less. After several months or years of training under your belt from a master pro, like meself ;),  you’ll be able to walk into any gym and would train better than everyone in the building.

As a bonus- you can actually begin to see what others are doing and feel what we feel as coaches. Like I said before it can be tough to watch, but it gives you a sense of pride and confidence knowing the difference between right and wrong. Hiring a trainer my seem expensive at first, but when you put it in this context, your dollar will go a long long ways for years to come.


Tip 2: Go in with a plan

You’ve most likely hit this part with your coach you’ve hired already. Going into a gym that gives you anxiety not from just the people, but the amount of equipment they have can overload the senses. If you have a well thought out plan, you can avoid some obstacles. Get your workout in and get out.

For instance, don’t plan on doing bench on Mondays. Why? Because Monday is “National Bench Day”. I wish I was joking. For the most part, gym members and meatheads everywhere have adopted this idea. This means that there will likely not be a bench available in sight. So, that’s why you’re going to squat on Monday. Boom. Problem solved.

And if you find a bro in the squat rack doing bicep curls with your squat bar. You call the police.

As the years go by, slowly people are getting off the cardio machines and getting more into the weight room. So it’s a plus, I’ll admit that. However, we’re still in the early stages of this evolution and the fuckery that I see people using free weights is downright inhumane. Most people won’t be doing the basics: pull-ups/chin-ups, pushups, row variations; corrective movements like pallof presses and breathing exercises. The space and equipment needed for those are likely going to be open for you at just about anytime. Take advantage. Make it simple. Keep it simple.


Tip 3: Go at the least busiest times

I know scheduling can be tough. Several years ago, I said I wouldn’t get up before 6am. Now I’m getting up before 4 some days because we don’t have a doggy door or a fenced in yard. We have wooden floors and their nails make for an interesting alarm clock. Some days, they don’t wanna get up either.



For me, I have the flexibility to go late morning/early afternoon as most people are at work. That is probably the most peaceful time. And honestly, people get after it. It’s going to take some trial and error, but once you find that time make sure you stick with it.


Tip 4: Bring your headphones I hate people watching. It’s weird for me. Yet some people like it. Though what are you gonna do when they make eye contact with you. See you. Walk over and try to talk to you. And you don’t have your headphones in. Now you’re going to have to not only focus on your workout, but figure out a way to get out of this situation. For me, music works like a pre-workout.

One day I was done lifting and turned off the music and some slow jams was playing. Followed by “I’m A Barbie Girl”. Great song. For getting ready to go out Friday night. You find that one track or playlist and you’re off. This past week, I’ve been listening to Daft Punk Live Tour “Alive 2007” album. For some reason, it went from my warm-up playlist to getting me through all the way to my cardio workout.

Also, switching to wireless headphones makes a huge difference. I love wireless headphones during training. It makes life a little easier and you don’t feel as restricted.   That being said the headphones provides protection against conversation vultures in the middle of your set and the music gives you a boost.

  Other than that, having a gym bag so you’re not holding everything in your hands and carrying it around the gym with you is a must. You can put your towel in there (in case they don’t have a towel service), your headphone case, keys, pre/post workout shaker, excess layers of clothing, etc.   You don’t have to go to a wickedly awesome-bad ass of a gym like The Bloomington Normal Athlete Factory to get the best workout of your life….

Baahahahahaha of course you do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In all seriousness, the world can be your gym. You just need to have a plan and the right equipment to execute that plan. Keep your focus. Enjoy your training and the life around you! Let’s get after it!!  

The Story of A Rich man

As a trainer, I can see a lot of the things in the world that I can help. Even as I go to commercial gyms and see so many things that leave me speechless. It reminds me of a scene in the show “Fargo”-

A storyteller tells another character a story of a rich man:


“A rich man reads the paper one day. He see’s that the world is in misery. The rich man says ‘I have money! I can help!’ So, he gives away ALL of his money. But. It’s not enough. The people are still suffering.


One day the man reads another article. He sees it was foolish to give away all of his money as the world didn’t have enough organ donors. So, he goes to the doctor and says ‘doctor, I want to donate a kidney.’ The doctors do the surgery. It was a complete success.


After he know’s he should heal good, he doesn’t. He knows people are still suffering. So he goes back to the doctor. He says, ‘doctor…I want to give it all.’ The doctor says, ‘what does that mean? Give it all?’


The man says ‘ I want to donate my liver, but not just my liver I want to donate my heart. I want to donate my corneas, but not just my corneas. I want to give it ALL away. Everything I am. All that I have.’


The doctor says, ‘A kidney is one thing, but you can’t give away all of it. That suicide!’ He sends the man home.


But the man cannot live. He knows the people are suffering. So he gives the one thing he has left. He writes “organ donor” on the bathroom wall. Sits in a tub. And ends his life. On the man’s tombstone it reads “Here lies the man who gave everything.”


The character asks “And does it work? Does it stop the suffering?? Did he kill himself for nothing?? What are you trying to say?”


The storyteller goes “Only a fool thinks he can try to solve ALL the world’s problems.

But the character goes “But you have to try don’t you?”


On one hand, I believe I have the tools and resources needed to help people. Though, I also know I can’t help everyone (and more importantly, not everyone WANTS my help). People need to understand while it sounds great to give the world everything you have, you can’t give it all away.


Don’t spread yourself thin. One person can’t solve the world’s problems, but the world [together]  can. Just like one person can solve their own problems. Sometimes with the help of others. 

Remember to ask yourself when you’re stressed out taking care of everyone else but you: How can anyone rely on you when you have nothing left to give??

5 Things: December

December has been a great month. The last couple months have been pretty challenging, but with challenge comes a lesson to be learned. Taking that into consideration, December proved to be much better. Lots of [good] challenges with positive outcomes made life a lot more enjoyable. Here’s what I’ve learned to close out 2016.


How you train for short term goals should be different from long term goals


This doesn’t mean that you should do different exercises or go down a different path. I’m a MAKE IT SIMPLE kind of guy. I didn’t get where I am doing the most complex things ever. The same things that I started out with in my training experience are the same things I’ve done to get me on the world stage and thereafter. The biggest piece to this puzzle is to make sure you have your short term goals and long term goals in priority. For instance, if you have a meet in March, doing a peaking phase NOW would be ill advised. If your goal is to be at the top of your game AT the time of the meet, being at the height of your strength at a time when it doesn’t matter typically would be counter-intuitive to why you’d do a meet in the first place.


Long term goals should be designed to keep your current training in check. There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the starts and only hitting the clouds. The point is that you’re going in the right direction. Short term goals are like little checkpoints. Think of them as little building blocks to build towards something much larger (the long term goal).


Supplements for back pain (muscle soreness): Magnesium Citrate


This past month my body has been the healthiest it’s been in a while without any compensations or lingering pain. I attribute that to a smart training approach, better hydration, increased emphasis on [consistent] mobility and recovery methods. Along with efficient intake of magnesium. Earlier in the year, I had a huge back injury as you may very well know. My life coach recommended magnesium in the form of magnesium citrate based on his personal experiences.


If you’ve skipped nutrition or science class in school, magnesium is an essential mineral found in food. Hell, farmers feed that stuff to their crops! Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral, and the second most prevalent electrolyte in the human body. Magnesium deficiencies are common in developed countries. A deficiency increases blood pressure, reduces glucose tolerance and causes neural stimulation.


According to Examine.com, “Magnesium deficiencies are common in the western diet because grains are poor sources of magnesium. Other prominent sources of magnesium, like nuts and leafy vegetables, are not eaten as often. It is possible to fix a magnesium deficiency through dietary changes. If magnesium is supplemented to attenuate a deficiency, it acts as a sedative, reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity.”


I’m a huge meat eater, in case you didn’t know, and not many veggies make the trip to my Tupperware container. For me, the best way to get veggies in are in the form of frozen steam-able veggies. They’re typically 5 for $5 just about any grocery store. It’s legit. However, I supplement my diet with magnesium citrate at night before and after a training session to help keep my muscles and nerves calm. Magnesium is also in coffee, but coffee isn’t a veggie. That beings said, it really does make a difference where you get your vitamins and minerals from. Keep that in mind.


The Key to meeting great people is to do great things


The greatest thing about my job is helping people improve themselves. The other part is meeting great people. People who make a difference in the lives of others; C.E.Os, VPs, Executives, Community Organizers, Entrepreneurs, etc. I’ve visited and talked to some of the best of the best in their field and learned their pattern of success. I truly believe you surround yourself with the people who you want to become. Earlier this past month I met with the President of The 100 Black Men of Central Illinois to talk about what I can do for the organization and how he can help me take my business acumen to the next level. From the website:


With a mission to improve the quality of life and enhance educational opportunities for African Americans, members of the 100 continue to serve as a strong force in the world by overcoming the cultural and financial obstacles that have limited the achievements of some African Americans, particularly young African American males. Members of the 100 have made outstanding progress, proving that Blacks can, and do, excel as corporate leaders, community leaders and as independent business owners.


As a result from the meeting, I was able to sit in and participate in the quarterly not-for-profit meeting with many of the organizations in the McLean County area (where I live) to update the goings on of all the business and collaborate. It was an amazing experience being the only representative not just from my gym, but as the only fitness professional in the room. I may not run a not-for-profit business, but sure enough there were several business reps that wanted to talk to me about some opportunities they could see about collaborating with me or the gym. It confirmed that I was doing what I should be doing being in that room with so many outstanding individuals and businesses doing outstanding things. I look forward to following up with these people and doing great things in 2017.


The Best To Do What They Do Go Through Great Pain


I was on my way to work one day listening to Tony Hawk speak on a podcast about how some kids today don’t really like to skateboard because they keep falling off. This is a guy who broke his teeth out, broke bones, and had concussions just to name a few. This is also the same man who turned pro at 14; revolutionized the sport and has been a spokesman for skateboarding since the 80’s (and still skates by the way at age 48). Hell, even I played Tony Hawk Underground back in the day on the PS1.


This made me remember all the injuries I’ve had during my Powerlifting Career: pulled muscles, compressed and herniated disc in my back, ripped off finger nails, injuries so bad I couldn’t put shoes or socks on. The definition of Passion is to suffer. But who prosper are the ones who push through it.


Even as I sit here still as a Personal Trainer coming up on 10 years in the profession, I’ve had some rough experiences that would make the 80-90% turnover rate of Personal Trainers seem eminent for me.


Once your skillset surpasses your passion it really sets you apart from the aforementioned percentage of those who bail on the profession.


Whether it’s Personal Training or skateboarding or whatever it is you do in life, your defining moment is when you’ve gone through some pain. The pain makes it real. It makes you think critically about what you are doing and want to do in your life. You also are in a great position to learn from it. Which leads me to my last reflection.


My 2016 reflections


There’s been some thought-provoking fuckery going on this year (and it’s still not over yet). From this view of the world, there seems to be a lot of forced change that is happening. And I love it. No, I don’t enjoy all the deaths and the murders, and the people getting hurt, but as I’ve said before- pain makes it real. I think many of us have been living in a world where we’ve gotten real comfortable (including me). It takes adversity and some really scary shit to wake us up and decide to take action.


Taking action in our personal lives, professional lives and beyond. It’s all about action. I’ve seen a lot of that and it’s glorious. Some say the greatest time in American History is when shit hits the fan. When stress is at an all-time high something happens inside us that unlocks the code in our genes that allows us to survive the fallout and we evolve. I believe that is necessary for us to continue and live. For Christ sake- the freaking Chicago Cubs won the World Series, people (still unbelievable)!!!

NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Six
2016 World Series Champions, The Chicago Cubs

That being said, there’s been no great triumph without great tragedy. It’s what keeps us grounded. For me, throughout all the injuries, the ebb and flows of the training business and personal challenges, 2016 has been a phenomenal year for overall growth.


The great thing about going into a new year is that once the clock strikes 12, it doesn’t stop there. You don’t get a “brand new” start. The same things can and WILL keep happening until you decide to make a change. Otherwise, “2016” doesn’t really end. For most people 2007 or 1998 hasn’t really “ended” because they’re still carrying some of that stuff with them. All things take time. I get it. Yet- how can we really be able to enjoy the moment if we’re constantly living in the past? It’s something we all need to learn how to do if we want to live a fulfilling life.


2017 is really shaping up to be a great year. If you’re reading this and you don’t agree, you might need to ask yourself why. How is it that we are all going into the “New Year” and already decided it’s going to be a shitty year? “They who think it and speak it, believe it. Therefore it is truth”…or something like that. The difference between what you believe things are vs. what you want them to be is action. But action requires thought. So be mindful of what you think about coming into 2017.

Take the lemons that 2016 has thrown at you and turn it into wine and leave everyone else in awe wondering how the fuck you just did that. Best wishes to all of your in 2017.

Peace and Chicken grease.

5 Things I’ve Learned This Month: November

100% Guaranteed Results Is Done By Doing The Work

This is true in every aspect of life. The things you want may not happen right then and there. There’s another saying. “good things come to those who wait”. These two phrases really go hand in hand. Though, the real magic is in the hard work. I realized this when many aspects of my life that I put in work has really come to the fruition of my own happiness and success.

In particular with my clients results from their training. They’re all doing so well and what’s more is they’ve all learned a little thing called patience in the process. When you have patience, you really do let go a lot of the stress and focus more on the work you put in. I’ve gotten clients that have worked hard for 6 weeks and gain nearly a pound of muscle and lose nearly 3lbs of fat. Another has clothes that used to fit are now literally falling off of them for the first time after training and eating better over the last 2 years. Some are simply finding consistency and enjoying working out again. Absolutely none of this would happen if they didn’t put in 2-4 hours of work each week.

Nothing gets done in your life when you do nothing about it. Put in the work. MAKE shit happen!

Skill set Pretty Much Supersedes Passion

We’ve all heard the phrase “stick to what you’re good at” and it definitely rings some truth. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t/shouldn’t learn a new skill. The only way to get better at it is to continue to practice. Even if you have an unbelievable talent, you can still lose focus. MJ didn’t shoot free throws with his eyes closed from birth. That took millions of free throws throughout his basketball career. The whole planet knows how much that man loves basketball, but he could have the same passion for the sport as much as the most nonathletic fan in the world. Passion is great and all, but skill set is huge.

After finishing the book “The Sports Gene:Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance” by David Epstein, whether you have a natural talent or not, practice is arguably the most important thing with regards to how good you are. Genes are always going to be the “X” factor, but working on your skill will only reveal the true potential of your genetics. The book talked about Donald Thomas, a high jumper who jumped 6’6” on a dare.

In basketball shoes and shorts.

On his first try with no training and horrible form.

With a little bit of practice he was better than most in the world…but he wasn’t the absolute best. Who knows what he can REALLY do. Much like a client who might be chasing a small (read: hyooge) 5lb deadlift PR who has been working at it for 6-12 months. It seems if passion was a vehicle in a race to success, the driver is the skill set. The better the driver, the better the outcome.

Sometimes, people don’t deserve the goals they set for themselves

I’m sure that line got your attention. We all know someone or have heard about people wanting to have a nice car, big house, get toned/swole, get a full-ride to a D1 school. Everyone is deserving of happiness in whatever capacity…but what people miss the boat on is what they have to go and DESERVE those things.

It’s like buying something that has “cable capabilities”, but upset that it doesn’t actually HAVE cable. People misunderstand the difference.

We get what comes our way from the things we do in life. It’s going to take time and deliberate practice to get the things we want.

People who lift heavy ass shit, 9 times out of 10 will put their own stuff away

Remember back in the day you wanted to use the hack squat, and the person before you had a ton of weight on there asked you to help take the weight off?? Member how much weight that was and how strong you thought they were? Then you struck up a conversation about how to get jacked and instantly became friends through your muscles??

Member that time some asshat left a pair of 20’s on the ground?? And you thought to yourself “20’s…seriously!?

People who lift heavy stuff work hard to get there. From the empty bar they use all the way to putting the last 2.5 pounder on the bar to get that nice even number. As boss it would be to put up 4 wheels on any lift, you definitely don’t want to have the rep of being the douchebag at the gym that thinks they’re hot shit. Truth of the matter is, there is always someone out there stronger than you.

That’s one thing I can’t stand about gyms is this power struggle for who is the baddest mofo on the planet. I highly recommend walking into the gym with that attitude, but you don’t have to be rude about it.

Most people who lift heavy stuff have had to work hard to earn it. They too were humbled by the weight they lifted and most likely learned from a professional. Most likely, that professional taught them to respect the gym and the weight they used for it can make or break them. For those of us who lift heavy ass shit, you know what I’m talking about. For those that don’t, if you see the strongest person in the gym and you want to use the bar they’ve got done using, don’t worry. They’ll likely put their weight back.


It seems people who are new to lifting don’t need a detailed nutrition plan at the start

The likelihood of people who have never really worked out (hard) most likely don’t have good eating habits. It’s more common to find this in the reverse since exercise is much simpler than nutrition. In my experience, the majority of people either eat too much, eat too little, eat a lot of “convenient” processed foods or some combination of all of the above.

The photo below is a body scan of my client who 8 months ago was new to lifting weights.

Eating well under 1000 cals a day they weren’t eating enough yet wanted to gain muscle and get strong.


I started by letting them know that calories was going to be huge and to eat more than their basal metabolic rate (BMR) says in conjunction with weight lifting will help reach their goals. Well, the calorie things didn’t work out. Instead of doing something more invasive I knew that nutrition is best done simple. So focusing on eating certain foods more often that are more calorie dense would be a better route. That and keeping them accountable to be aware of how they feel when they work out after eating these foods. Sure enough it did the trick and they started putting on more muscle, losing body fat and managing body weight since that has been a concern of theirs.

The idea is to implement principles before the plan. The plan won’t stick if they don’t have good habits in place.

So if you’re new to lifting and struggling with your nutrition take these points to heart:

1) Eat more carbs around your workouts. If you lifting in the AM, eat your carbs at night. If you lift in the afternoon, eat your carbs during the day. Carbs are the #1 fuel source for your muscles when lifting. The more fuel you have the harder you can go. The harder you work, the better the results.

2) Every Time you eat, make sure there is protein with it. I don’t care where it comes from. Get it into your head that you absolutely have to have a protein source. It’ll help keep the muscle you already have and are trying to put on. When you have more muscle, you get lean(er), strong(er), and more energy.

3) Think of food not as a way to change your body composition, but as a way to give you energy to do the things you need to do to do so. Way too many people worry about what they did over the holidays and go into overdrive and over think their food intake. Change the way you view food and you’ll approach it differently. It’ll make a world of a difference.

5 Things I’ve Learned This Month: October

This month has been an a roller coaster. But who doesn’t enjoy a roller coaster?? I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t, but I do. I’ve got a lot on my mind. Here’s what I’ve learned….

Discipline Provides Freedom

It took 8 years being in the profession for me to realize that waking up at 4am would be the best option for me to maximize my time training and to get things done. I’ve read plenty of literature that says the top 1%-ers “start the day at 4am”. As a result I’ve been able to open up my schedule to training clients earlier (5am) which allowed for more growth in income. With growth in income comes more freedom to do more things that I want to do. I’ve known this for quite sometime, but it didn’t really sink in until recently and I’ve been really grateful for this growth in efficiency. That and my dogs are getting good at using the bathroom outside of the house instead of on the floor/carpet. #Winning

Reading books along the way like Essentialism: The art of doing less, by Greg Mckeown and the all-time great- They Call Me Coach, by John Wooden, really propelled me to create my own S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) for my life.





I have to say it’s paying off when I feel stressed for time. I can always rely on my routine to get me out of it.

“ We don’t rise to the occasion. We fall to the level of our training. “

This is probably one of my favorite quotes recently. I believe this to be true in every aspect in life (I would even consider life experiences as training. That is if you learn from them).  I’m not one to believe in “luck”, though I get the sentiment behind wishing someone well. Rising to the occasion however has the same tone; that somehow your success is part preparation and part magic fairy dust. It really comes down to mindset/mental preparation.

This is probably the longest I’ve gone without entering a competition in Powerlifting. I’ve focused much of my work on understanding different programs and tools I can use to keep myself healthy for much of the year (that and working on mobility so I don’t have the mobility of the tin-man). As a result, I’ve developed a desire to compete again with a healthier mind and body.

The understanding that how hard you work and apply your training will most likely dictate the outcome. Thus focusing on the process and doing your best in training will boost confidence. Sure there are mitigating circumstances that can prevent certain success, yet those are the things that we can’t control. Focusing on what we can’t control disturbs our flow. So, play your game. No one else’s. If your game plan doesn’t workout- you’ll have an opportunity to learn from that situation and adjust. However, always follow through and never give up.

Giving clients autonomy is the best thing you can do for them

The majority of my clients have worked with me for over a year. My professional goal for them is to be able to have the knowledge to take care of themselves in and out of the gym. Many of them have begun training themselves and each other doing extra workouts on the side which is fantastic. I feel this should be the goal of every trainer out there.

Clients who have the freedom to do work they enjoy and believe in will yield better results every time. I’ve learned that the next level of being a personal trainer is that of a coach/mentor. The key is to always be a student in whatever you’re doing. I learn from other great coaches and my clients learn from me and so on. I can remember back in college I took classes that were very open to letting the students do their work anywhere they chose that wasn’t in the classroom. It was very trusting of the professor to let us do that, but I could remember really enjoying those classes and doing really great work. It was the autonomy that I had that made me own the work I was doing.

This was an important lesson given that I work with mainly women. I know and understand that having autonomy in an environment where there is nothing but iron, steel, rubber, turf, loud music and slamming of weights with a small (but increasing) female presence changes the perception of gym culture.

Finding something to commit to when things are bad is extremely powerful

In a world of shit and chaos, what does one do? Sit back and watch it burn? Walk with your head down and “just deal with it?” I’ve learned this the hard way.

Which honestly is the best way. For me anyhow.

After talking with Professor Kate Browne of Illinois Wesleyan University about her situation after surgery, she wasn’t able to temporarily lift heavy things like she once did. Naturally, this is hard to take in especially when training has such a huge benefit that goes beyond physiological benefits. For her- focusing on what she CAN do that was fun and exciting and new really shined a light on a seemingly dim situation. Success leaves patterns. So does happiness.

Kate Browne, Courtsey of “Ramp and Stair Exercise Club” Facebook group


Surrounding yourself with those that genuinely lift you up (and I don’t mean “kiss your ass”) by bring their positive energy into your world and wanting to find something good to focus on can really bring you out of a hole. Studies illustrated in this HuffPost article shows that “positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.”

Not sure how to go about creating a focal point? I do a few things:

1) Writing- I write in a journal 6-7 days a week about all the things I am/want to be, how I’m going to do it, and what I’m grateful for. It’s easy to dwell on all the shit going on in your life, but when you realize how awesome your life really is you’ll be able to recover a lot better.

2) Weight training- it’s not only been scientifically linked to have physiological benefits, but psychological as well. According to a study done by University of New Mexico– weight training is a “meaningful intervention for people suffering from anxiety” as well as “four studies have investigated the effect of resistance training with clinically diagnosed depressed adults. The results are unanimous; large reductions in depression from resistance training participation.”

3) Listen to Podcasts- We all know we spend most of the time in our cars. While we could listen to music or whatever talk radio, I find my time is most efficiently used when I’m learning. It took me several years to compile a list of podcasts that I enjoy for professional and personal development; often times I’m able to find good topics to blog about, ideas for training, answers to help with life situations and so on. Like music, you can find an episode and play it based on how you feel for that day or continue on the one you’re currently listening to if it appeals to you. Having this focus on always moving forward and improving in some aspect of your life will really take the edge off of experiencing the hard times. Plus, if you think about it you’re associating learning good-positive information with tough situations. You’re teaching your subconscious mind that “hey, when times are hard, I’m going to learn something to make my life better.”

Chicago professional sports are pretty damn good

As of this month, since I’ve been alive I have now seen 6 out of the 7 professional sports teams (excluding the Chicago Sky-WNBA team) win or go to their respective championship games.

And I might see another one win a championship 😉



5 Things I’ve Learned This Month: September

Adding more content to my website, I’m looking to make these posts monthly as I find reflecting to be very important in personal growth. So, without further ado here are 5 things I’ve taken away from this month from personal, professional, social, and all things random. Let’s have fun with this.

Whatever you feed will grow

When you feed certain things –your time, energy and focus– understand those things are going to be the priority in your life even if you didn’t intend it to be. Whether it be in conversations, training, at work or personal time, you will find yourself not as present in the moment. That or someone will call you out on it. It’s not a bad thing, but it is important to be aware of that. When you intend to get a lift in that day but your mind wanders to what you have to do afterwards or thinking about what transpired before, it’s hard to get shit done. My work schedule has taken a nose dive over the past couple weeks and I can honestly say I haven’t really been giving it my all when I’m there. As a result, clients have been cancelling or rescheduling sessions. Some are taking a “break”. For me this was a big wake-up call for me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in my life and see what areas are getting too much attention and areas that aren’t getting enough. Once I’ve been able to recognize the issue, I create an action plan to fix it. Balance is key, whatever that looks like for you it’s important to work on that. Now, I’ve gotten some clients back that haven’t been around for various reasons. I’m reaching out to those I haven’t heard from in a while and doing more reading and writing with the extra free time that I have. And working on communicating more/better with those that are important pieces in my life in making it work functioning better.

Recognize the different components in your life and make sure they’re all fed “property” to make your life better. I promise, you’ll have better relationships with others (and yourself), better training sessions, more productive at work (and enjoying it), and a happier life(style).

Sushi is LOADED with sodium

I’ve only been eating sushi for a few years and I’m glad I took the leap (the thought of raw fish for years wasn’t appealing. I decided to become an adult and try it. Even drink coffee!). However, it became apparent that sushi was high in sodium when I went to get a massage last week. I had sushi with the wife for lunch and went right to get a massage afterwards. Once I was done, Erica goes “did you have sushi earlier?? Your skin soaked up 2x more lotion than it normally does!” My jaw dropped. I had no idea it would make that big of a difference that fast. After looking it up, the sushi (rice) alone is 500mg of sodium…in a half cup which is the normal amount used in making 1 roll.

I had to have probably about 1 1/2 rolls =). Muahahahaha!!!!!

Why am I talking about this? Well for one I knew NFL Combine athletes would eat a ton of sushi before the combine so they could drink enough water and soak it into their muscles to keep them hydrated and therefore increase their work capacity. The opposite can be done when you don’t drink enough and can cramp up. In my profession, this was an important finding because I work with people that want to lose weight and look better naked. Well, they all know how important hydration is for not only athletic performance, but in how your body looks and how much water you’re going to hold when you consume a lot of it. Now I don’t know how many of you eat sushi that much on a regular basis, but the point is when it comes to body weight, sodium is a huge contributing factor in weight retention. HOWEVER…do not mistake sodium as a bad thing. Remember what I said earlier about how sodium helps keeps and draw in water into the muscle? Well, if you’re wanting to improve body composition, have better athletic performance/training sessions, you have to train harder and sometimes for longer periods of time to elicit muscle mass and strength gains. How much is too much? Well that’s different for everyone. What’s a lot for you might not be enough for me, etc.

Fat loss is about persistence and consistency

Since I’ve been training all summer to get my competition strength back I’ve changed my focus to gaining more muscle AND reducing body fat. You see, gaining muscle and losing fat aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. With that being said putting on muscle is not easy and neither is fat loss (espeically when with the more experience you have) which means both are going to take some time and and consistency to achieve this goal. Because there are so many factors in achieving fat loss (nutrition, exercise, sleeping habits, water intake, and stress management to name a few) the persistence of achieving lower body fat levels is the utmost important element.


Today at the end of a relatively light #okaybenchday sessh at the hub. After flirting with 300 on the bar last week, the body wanted a break. Went the bodybuilding route for the workout routine and felt really good. No more than 5 movements and a minimum of 6 reps for each set. #### Not going off of a strict program has really allowed me to feel my best and ultimately look my best. At 213 now (up 5 from the previous weeks) it’s been at least 3 years since I’ve been this shredded. No strict crazy diet. In fact, I was up north visiting my buddy Cabbage Patch Kevin in Naperthrill enjoying some drinks til 1:30 in the am after a hefty Italian dinner I enjoyed with his family. Part of getting great results is simply enjoying life and having some fun once in a while. I’m bout ready to get back on the platform though…in due time. #shredded #success #fitspo #consistency #livelife #havingfun #trainhard #trainsmart #eatwellmostofthetime #powerlifting #power #powerbuilding #bodybuilding #powerlifter #thick #gym #afathlete #selfconfidence #appreciatethejourney #dowork #hylete #hyletenation #trainhylete

A photo posted by Donovan’s Personal Training (@train_with_donovan) on



Conversely, it takes no time to increase your body fat levels when you neglect just about any of the previously mentioned factors OR if the method you chose is contraindicated or not helpful. Take running for instance. I love running for what it does for people: Improved athletic performance, general performance enhancement and heart health benefits, stress relief (endorphins/”runner’s high”), and a genuine love of running and competing. However, long-duration cardio such as running doesn’t build muscle. Building muscle is what raises your resting metabolism (how much energy you burn at rest) which is key for fat loss. So, while cardio isn’t a bad thing in general, it isn’t ideal for fat loss goals. It goes to show there IS a specific approach to fat loss and while you may need little tweaks here and there to individualize that approach, it’s paramount to be persistent in training to get stronger and building muscle. To make the best of your training, get outside and enjoy life Earlier this month I visited the St. Louis Children’s (City) Museum with my family. It’s always a great time there because it really makes me feel like a little kid crawling and climbing around that place. I also have a profound respect for the creativity and architecture. Check it in out this video!


It was pretty empty when we got there since they opened up an hour early and we were probably one of 5 cars in the lot. Once I got there and did some crawling around and running up and down the stairs, I had to pause for a moment and appreciate all the things I can do because of my persistence and consistency (there are those words again) to my training and mobility work. Some of the places at the museum are clearly made for kids. Not going to lie there are some situations where I thought I wasn’t going to make it.

I am not claustrophobic I am not claustrophobic I am not claustrophobic….#someonepleasecall911 secall911

A photo posted by Donovan’s Personal Training (@train_with_donovan) on



At times like this it helps me to understand what all my hard work and focus in the gym can do besides help me make cool videos to put on instagram. For the past several years I’ve had clients tell me stories about all the times they’ve done something in the real world that can attribute their success to their training. Take my client Adriane for example. For years, she couldn’t ride her road bike without serious back pain. Goal number 1 was to get her able and functioning. This is an important step because when you have more function, you can do more things. Case in point, any fat loss or weight loss goals you have to be able to perform physically to achieve those goals. Bike riding is great for weight loss and since she enjoys it- it makes sense to get her healthy enough to make that happen and accomplish both getting back on the bike and improve body composition.





“Kim Kardashian doesn’t provide much value and asks for a lot of money, why can’t I when I provide more value to people?”

I heard this knowledge bomb on the “Barbell Business” podcast this week and it totally caught my attention. It’s not easy asking folks for money knowing how hard times are for most people. Early in my career it was painful asking people to pay me for the service I provide. It still is at times. But then your bills don’t get paid and when you do charge people it ends up being overdue and therefore pressuring people in a way you didn’t want them to be in the first place. Reading that out loud it doesn’t make sense, right? I’m sure some of you out there feel the same way. It’s an honest and genuine feeling. I know if I won the lottery, I’d still use my skill and talents to help people become a better version of themselves. Perhaps it’s natural to think this way when you truly love what you do.

Though this quote really woke my ass up. I mean really…why should I feel guilty for placing a monetary value on a service I provide that could help thousands (maybe millions one day) of people in my lifetime when there are folks asking to be paid for being themselves on television? It’s crazy.

For me, the takeaway is this: get really fucking good at what you do and provide a service people will want. If they’re not interested in paying then perhaps they’re not ready and that’s okay. Problem is I want to help as many people as I can. But this year, my most successful year ever, those that are willing to invest in themselves are the best clients and get the best results and stick around the longest. Especially because they pay a premium price for training. Keeping that in mind forces me to continue to elevate my game for these people.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Look for next month’s edition!

Trainer Thought of The Day: September 16, 2016

When it comes to results, you have to have the physical capabilities to make that happen.

If you look around social media, you’ll see testimonials about the results people get from some nutrition program or training program they’ve done for X amount of time. Naturally, you get inspired by these people and what they’ve accomplish and decide you want something similar. What most folks DON’T see is the hard work that’s being put in. Often once they do….they ain’t about that lyyyfe.



Granted, when the bright lights start to dim, we realize we don’t actually want the same things that we might marvel at, like having a body like Ronnie Coleman. Say what you will, like it or not, not many will have the dedication or the time to commit to such a feat. And I think that’s where most people get caught up.

While most of the results you want comes from how well put together your nutrition plan is, there is still the physical work that is a huge variable. Want bigger/stronger legs? You’ll going to need to get lots of lower body work, whether it’s some squat variation, machine work or sled work. Want to get more efficient at running? You’re going to have to put in the miles and technique work to become a better runner. Want to have a better looking upper body? You have to be able to do enough pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, presses and pulls to attain such goals.

It’s important to look deep within ourselves and ask what are we actually willing to do. It’s hard to know this sometimes until we actually get up and start doing. Though it might seem like a waste, if you’re diving into new waters and realize what you want isn’t for you, it’s better to know it then and learn something about yourself you didn’t know before. Which is always a good thing.